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« The tension mounts... Transmission Thursday at the Five Star! »

Feature Wed Jun 13 2007

Our Favorite Record Stores, Vol. 5

As spring temps rise, you might be wandering the streets in search of your new summer anthem. Here at Transmission, we hope to help you get those tunes between your ears as we steer you into yet another pair of our favorite local record shops. This week, we head out near Midway to the Record Dugout on W. 63rd Street and just down Broadway to Boystown and Borderline Music.

Name: Record Dugout
Location(s): 6055 W. 63rd St., Chicago
Hours: M-F, 12:00 – 6:30; Sat-Sun, 12:00 – 4:00
Website URL: [n/a]
First opened: 1989
Approx. Size (sq. feet): 1400
Owner/Operator(s): Steve Bitinich
Types of music sold (genre): Soul, Funk, Rock, House, Country, etc.
Types of music sold (format): Vinyl
Buys/Sells used cds/tapes/albums?: Buys/Sells Vinyl


Located in the Clearing neighborhood near Midway, Record Dugout has an unassuming storefront surrounded by homes and a Walgreens. There are some records in the windows, but also baseball cards, comic books, and all sorts of random collectables. In fact, when you walk into the store, the first thing you're bound to notice is everything that's not a record. Other than the hodgepodge labeled as house music (even though it's where I've found a Jesus & Mary Chain single, along with some other very non-house records), the only immediate signs of records are the money bins along the back wall near the checkout counter and the listening station cattycorner to there.

t's easy to be drawn to the money bins because that's where the promise of finding the best and/or rarest music is. In these bins are singles by performers and on labels so rare that many names don't even register with some of the consumers browsing through them. And with the prices fluctuating so much, it's difficult to know exactly why one record may cost so much and whether it's worthwhile or not. (As of a couple months ago, the Dynamic Tints' "Be My Lady" could be found for anywhere between $20 and $45 in either of the soul/funk bins.) Part of the money bin's draw, though, is the potential to learn. It's instinctive of any obsessive collector when they see anything unknown to them and expensive to make a note of it and find out why they don't know it and why it costs so much. And whether you agree or disagree with the prices and selection in the bins, it's a good place to begin digging in this store.


On the other side of the room is the rest of the vinyl. In the racks are 45RPMs sorted by era, label, and/or genre. They're moderately-priced and typically in good shape. (But you can always determine their condition by previewing at the listening station.) The selection usually fits with the section's label and there is enough stock to keep even the veteran collector occupied for hours. On the floor, however, is where the real digging happens. Thousands of records are piled in a variety of manners. None have been sorted. Hardly any are in sleeves. Their conditions range from Near Mint to Poor, even from side to side. (My copy of the Winstons' "Color Him Father" b/w "Amen, Brother" is riddled with scratches on the A and only a little crackly on the flip.) And you wouldn't be surprised by anything found here. It's what makes people set up their Fisher-Price turntable in a corner and listen to everything that might be good. And when you find a song that makes your heart flutter, the pains in your fingers, knees, and back caused by flipping and kneeling all seem to disappear. It's a wonderful feeling. Of course, it takes a little work too. Fortunately, these singles are priced under a dollar and this is the kind of store where someone buying a handful of records will get a few dollars off just because of the volume being taken out.

In addition to singles, there are a few thousand LPs and 12-inches in racks in a U-shape surrounding the singles. Neither the quality nor quantity is as deep as with the 45RPMs, but those bins are still worth a browsing. Other than the aforementioned house section, they appear to be well-organized and convenient.

Now, one other thing that should be mentioned is that the grizzled employees and their friends converse in some of the crudest language I've ever heard in a retail setting. Even a discussion about where to eat downtown can turn into an obscenity-laced debate. So, you know, just don't take your kids. Or make it obvious when you walk in that there are children in the store. But do visit and do have a general idea about what you want to find because it is easy to get sidetracked and end up not getting anything when you notice the overwhelming quantity of vinyl. All in all, this shop is definitely one to check out, as long as you don't mind getting your hands dirty. (And the ventilation works well, so asthmatics won't have to worry like they may at other similar record stores.)
-James Ziegenfus

Name: Borderline Music
Location(s): 3333 N. Broadway Ave. and 5111 N. Clark St., Chicago
Website URL: www.borderlinemusic.com


At their primary location in Lakeview, in the heart of Boystown, Borderline is cheerful little place, decorated with brightly colored posters of divas (Madonna has a whole wall devoted to her, and Kylie, too) and a shimmering disco ball, a throwback to an era when disco was queen. Disco is still queen here, and that's the fun part—even if you don't like dance music, you're more than likely to find something to take home. There's a wide array of rare finds—remixes, and imports as well as DJ compilations, dance classics, world music, lounge/chillout albums and DVDs (both new and used), and some vinyl.

Snooping through the Madonna section, I find several collectors' items, such as Madonna, The Early Years, songs done by German producer Otto van Wenherr. This is Madonna before she did "Everybody", the song that made her a star. There are remixes of "Sorry," and "Let it Will Be" from Confessions on the Dance Floor, both of which were not released in the States. Not a Madonna fan per se (although I loved Ray of Light), I considered buying these unique CDs. I can see how Borderline survives in a time when, let's face it, music stores are a dying breed. By selling music that never made it across the ocean (and can't be found on itunes) but, well, should have, Borderline has their finger on a niche market.

According to the store clerk there on Sunday, Borderline fills the gap in imports left by Tower Records closing up down the street. I note the selection of Robbie Williams (my favorite) imports. In Amsterdam I heard his music all the time; since moving to Chicago I only hear his stuff if I search for it on itunes. It never ceases to amaze me that Williams (currently the best-selling male artist in the world) never peaked in North America— he's the Justin Timberlake of Europe, only a hell of a lot more versatile as an entertainer, and more fun, too.


I move on to the DVD section, noting the humorous selection of gay classics such as Mommie Dearest, Valley of the Dolls, and 9 to 5. Babs has got quite a full section, including her CBS television special from 1966, "Color Me Barbara". In the chillout section I'm impressed to find the Supperclub series from the Amsterdam-based lounge club that I'd be hard pressed to find outside Holland.

Visiting Borderline is not your average trip to the music store. The positive vibe atmosphere is contagious, and it feels like being in a club where you're allowed to shop. Although the emphasis is on Madonna, Robbie, Kylie, Cher, Bjork, Mariah, and the like, there's enough variety here to suit a wide range of musical tastes.

I wander over to the Robbie Williams section again. I've already downloaded Rudebox, so I settle on Robbie Williams Greatest Hits. All the songs I haven't heard in ages— the epic "Supreme," "Millenium," and funky "Rock DJ." Next time I'm planning on buying one of his music DVDs.
-Marla Seidell

GB store
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 »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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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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