It took only three years for Record Store Day to lose its meaning. The annual April event began in 2008 as a thank you to mom-and-pops and the handful of suckers like us who still purchase a tangible music product. About a dozen exclusive vinyl releases were sold for one day. Since then, the release count has proliferated obscenely. This year alone, more than 250 “limited edition” records will flood shops, most of them unnecessary things like a $35 reissue of Eric Clapton’s Unplugged.
So the vinyl purists at the Numero Group, the obscurities-reissuing label run out of a basement in Little Village, are turning the Record Store Day concept on its head. Instead of merely releasing another rare record, Numero is giving Chicago a rare record store, and a rare-record-playing radio station, for one day only, Saturday 16.
“The Record Store Day releases are garbage. We’re making a record store for people who shop at record stores all the time,” says typically acerbic Numero cofounder and co-owner Ken Shipley. Of course, Numero offers a couple of RSD releases as well: the Local Customs: Pressed at Boddie compilation and a collectible Eccentric Soul 45. Shipley is mum as to the latter’s content: “I want it to be a surprise. It’s 5 bucks. Just 100 copies. It’ll be sold out by 10am.”
We asked Shipley for his ingredients for a perfect record store.
Duh. Good records.
The stock of 30,000 records (and a handful of cassettes) will come from seven dealers catering to the crate-digging crowd. It’s a typical hip mix of soul, funk, disco, psych, jazz, folk—only carefully curated. “The problem in Chicago is that quality records are harder and harder to come by,” Shipley laments. For years collectors have picked over the stock. “But we’ll have all cream,” he says. “We bought a collection just to sell at this store.” Numero tracked down an old radio DJ on the South Side and bought his dust-gathering stacks. Shipley again refuses to name the source. Another key ingredient is mystique.
A fruitful dollar bin.
In a great record store, even the terrible LPs are amazing. The guys at Numero dub them “boners,” i.e. “records that suck with amazing covers.” In other words, kitsch. Like religious albums from goofy white people wearing leisure suits and perms. “Considerations have been made for a ‘Wall of Bone,’ ” Shipley says.
A know-it-all staff.
It’s the stereotype of the record-store employee—unwashed and unfriendly. And it will be upheld. “If you know Numero, you know we’re sarcastic and surly. You can expect to be insulted. There will be plenty of surliness,” Shipley promises. “You know when you call a record store and you get the sense the people couldn’t be bothered that you even exist? Something like that.” A request was put out to Jack Black’s people for the actor to come reprise his High Fidelity role.
A private radio station.
While it is uncertain whether Gulliver himself will indeed jet in from Hollywood, other celebrity Numero fans have lent a hand with another ambitious element of the one-day-only business—a fully functioning radio station. Zooey Deschanel and Ryan Gosling recorded station identifications for WTNG 89.9 FM, which will broadcast in a three-mile radius of the shop. Shipley excitedly begins playing us cheesy disco-period sound effects like laser blasts and morning-zoo intros. It’s a nerdy attention to detail for which the label has become known. “We paid $9 for the voiceover work. For the five people that are listening, it’s going to rule.”
The Numero Store will be open from 9am to 9pm on Saturday 16 at 1371 N Milwaukee Ave.