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Feature Thu Sep 28 2006

Our Favorite Record Stores, Vol. 1

Remember record stores? We all do our share of downloading, but there are so many great stores in Chicago where you can interact with people who love music and love to talk about it; where you can thumb through the racks looking for some new treasure and walk out with your favorite new band in a brown paper bag. Each month or so, the folks here at Gapers Block: Transmission would love to share with you our picks for the best places to get music in and around Chicago. We'll bring you two at a time, along with some pictures and some basic store stats so you can get a feel for some of our favorite haunts. This week, we take you to Gramaphone Records in Lincoln Park and Laurie's Planet of Sound in Lincoln Square.

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Name: Gramaphone, Ltd.

Location(s): 2843 N. Clark St., Chicago

Hours: M–F 11–9, Saturday 10:30–8:30, Sunday 12–7

Website: http://www.gramaphonerecords.com

First opened: May, 1969 (at 2443 N Clark)

Approx. Size: 1200 sq. ft.

Owner/Operator: Joe Dale

Types of music sold (genre): House, Techno, Electronica, Hip Hop, Rap, Drum & Bass, Downtempo, Trance, etc.

Types of music sold (format): LP/CD

Buys/Sells used cds/tapes/albums? : Yes, everything.

Gramaphone's legacy as a Chicago record store dates back to the late 1960s when it opened as an outlet for people interested in dance music. Its place in Chicago's deep musical history was cemented in the early 1980s when it was a major source for house DJs. The shop has kept up with dance music trends and carries a solid supply of electronica, downtempo, drum & bass, hip hop, house, rap, techno, and even some rock records. There are few record stores that can claim to have actually had an impact on the music that it stocks. Gramaphone is one of them. It's not just a place where DJs from Chicago and around the world can buy music, it's also a place for them to discuss it.

After more than 35 years located at 2443 N. Clark, Gramaphone moved up the street to a larger space in early 2005. The new store is brighter and has enough room that two people can now stand in the same aisle without bumping into each other. At the front are flyers for shows and parties, magazines, and other reading material. A small rack of CDs is located across from the front desk and another wall rack is next to the desk. The majority of their stock is vinyl, which is located just beyond the desk and CDs.

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The sections are divided by genres (or sub-genres), but used records are lumped together as Cut Outs or Mark Downs and sub-sections for huge labels like Kompakt do exist. For this reason, it's possible to find the same record in multiple sections around the store. Along both side walls are bins with new and/or highlighted releases. Most of the genres are common, but a few sections may be confusing for a new customer. Luckily, Gramaphone has many listening stations and there is no limit on how much you can preview. If you find yourself overwhelmed, do yourself a favor by grabbing one or two records from each section and spending some time with them at a listening station. (A new customer should block out a couple hours for their first visit.) The really adventurous listener may want to try their luck with the mystery bags.

In addition to music, Gramaphone has a wide selection of gear. They carry record bags and crates behind the in-store DJ booth. (One of their knowledgeable employees is usually spinning.) They also stock an array of cartridges and styluses for all types of turntables and styles. The wall behind the front desk is full of slipmats and there is even a collection of DJ-related DVDs.

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Whether you're interested in the new Basement Jaxx, a bootleg remix of an AOR hit, a gem from David Mancuso's Loft parties, the latest Derrick Carter track, a slipmat with a pinup model, or even just a cartridge, you will probably find it somewhere in Gramaphone. The only negative is that some prices, especially on new releases and imports, tend to be a bit high. Overall, though, Gramaphone's one of Chicago's best record stores and should be a must-visit for any serious listener.
-James Ziegenfus


lauriesoutside.jpg

Name: Laurie's Planet of Sound

Location(s): 4639 N. Lincoln Ave.

Hours: 10am–10pm M–Sat; Sun 11–7pm

Website: http://www.lauriesplanetofsound.com

First opened: 1996

Approx. Size (sq. feet): 1500

Owner/Operator: John Laurie

Types of music sold (genre): Jazz, Soul, Country, Alternative, International, Hip Hop, Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Christian, Indie labels

Types of music sold (format): CDs, DVDs, LPs

Buys/Sells used cds/tapes/albums?: buys and sells CDs, DVDs, LPs

John Laurie believes that you shouldn't have to spend a bundle to listen to good music.

At his little store, Laurie's Planet of Sound (no more than 1500 square feet), you can buy a used record for as little as $3; a used CD for as low as $6.99. At Laurie's you can feed your passion for music by buying low-priced LPS or CDs; when you tire of them, sell them back to the store and buy something new. Easy as pie.

Laurie's Planet of Sound is the only store of its kind in Lincoln Square. In fact, the lack of a record store in the vicinity was why die-hard music fan Laurie opened the store in 1996, back when he lived in the neighborhood. "I felt like I just couldn't live without a nearby record store anymore," he recounts. At the time, Laurie worked at a Record Swat in Homewood, a job he quit to open his own business.

Laurie's buys and sells CDs, DVDs, and LPs—both new and used. Housing an impressible collection of music genres, from jazz to soul to psychedelic rock to indie labels, Laurie's also has a large "Jesus collection" (Christian rock) as well as a wide array of international music. New CDs run from $11–$15.99; new DVDs (music, film and television) are priced anywhere from $5.99 up to $30 or $40 for a boxed set. DVDs run the gamut of eccentricity: The Office (UK version), The Electric Company and a healthy supply of oddball horror films are among the stacks.

Besides all the good titles, what makes Laurie's extra groovy are the pop culture books, magazines and gadgets, sold at vintage prices. A 1975 copy of the teen heartthrob magazine, Tiger Beat, for example, sells for just $1.99. "I want to sell stuff for what I'd pay for it," explains Laurie.

lauriesinside.jpg

The philosophy at Laurie's is simple: you don't have to spend a lot to get your own music (or pop culture) collection started, and you can always sell it back to buy more. "It's like a rental fee without a timetable," Laurie says of his low prices. Used items are bought by Laurie's for between $1–$4.00; collectables start at $10 and go up. Used record players, which helps you get that LP collection started, are also sold; they start as low at $40.

In addition to Laurie, there are five regular employees holding court at the store: Melissa (a regular DJ at Delilah's and the Bad Dog Tavern), Adam (currently on tour with indie band Catfish Haven), Nick, Sam and Tim, each with their own definitive taste in music, which they blog about on the company's website. "My employees are diverse enough so I get to hear everything," says Laurie.

With a wide range of CDs and LPs, offbeat DVDs and pop culture paraphernalia, Laurie's Planet of Sound offers plenty of good reasons to still buy your music from an actual store, as opposed to the online marketplace. Not only are the prices good, there is an element of mystery. Walking into Laurie's, you just never know what treasure you're going to find.
-Marla Seidell

 
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GB store

Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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Alarm Magazine
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  & Shops:

Alligator Records
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Laurie's Planet of Sound
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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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Editor: Sarah Brooks, sarah@gapersblock.com
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