I don't know what people think that record collecting is all about. Or being out and about and searching for records. Probably seems very much 'on the surface', like just sticking my mitts in those crates is all that matters. But the real peak experiences come when you supersede that stuff and hit into something more, and talk to people and forge relationships.
On a Sunday morning I filled my thermos with coffee and drove down to Hegewisch. I parked on Baltimore around 134th and just relaxed. I sat there and drank my coffee in a light rain and watched people go about their business. A time for reflection. As I designed my day, I figured I ought to head over to Beverly Records and have a look around. I knew at minimum I could raid the Tom Jones and Englebert 45 bins for promos, something I've been meaning to do for a while.
I have been to Beverly Records a handful of times. My first time was way back in '13. I should start off by saying that I was sad to see the St. Vincent on 99th is closed. So is the Beverly Woods resturant next door which I had always wanted to check out. Looks like it has been about three years since my last visit!
Beverly hasn't changed really at all. Same old record dump. I had a nice dig. I dug out a total of five Parrot promos, none of which I had and a few of which I had to add to discogs myself. So that was nice. [When There's No You, The Young New Mexican Puppeteer, Till, Memories Don't Leave Like People Do, Ain't No Love].
They have things organized by some odd genres, like 'male vocals' (as soon as you walk in) and 'female vocals' (way the hell in the back). I ventured back there as I have before, the lights were off. I don't know where the switch is so I just dug around using my phone as a flashlight. What do I care.
I was looking for Joni Mitchell back there and finally found it. I found a copy of the live album I paid $20 for (or was it $25?), then again that was a promo and quite mint. Still for $5 I'm cheap enough to have considered the option, if somehow in another dimension I have the choices side by side. But that fantasy aside, I found what I was looking for. There were two copies actually - I grabbed the one that was still shrinked, the original gatefold still never opened. And yes - the vinyl and even inner sleeve look to never have seen oxygen before. Well done.
I was back there digging and looking for polka. I know they stash all their odd genres back here but I couldn't find it even in the dark. Then I was truly taken aback, even more so as it was in the pitchblack and viewed with a flashlight. This looked way too familiar, not just the rack but even the individual records.
I knew at a glance I had everything there I wanted. But odd they had that there. Why? I'd soon find out.
I kept figuring they would see me back there and turn the lights on. Or at least come to see what the hell I was doing creeping around in the dark. I eventually gave up and came to the counter to ask where the polka was. The old timer told me that (with a laugh) that they don't get many requests for polka. He said they were 'in the garage'. I was probably trembling and imagining where the garage might be. Was it nearby? Far away? How much polka was in there? What else was in there?
The other fella behind the counter said 'come with me' and I followed him outside. He led me through the 'parking lot' (the empty lot north of the building) and towards the alley. This was ironic because this was the first time I had ever come from that direction. We went around back and he unlocked a padlock on the back gate and took me literally to the garage. He unlocked it and....
The backyard was filled with spare milk crates piled up high and some other junk. As soon as the door opened I think I gasped when I saw all that vinyl. We both stepped inside to take a look around for the polka section but it was just inside the door!
BANG! I was deep in the game! The selection was out of control. It was a 'polka' section but might have been labeled 'Chicago polka' because 90% was from Chicago.
I saw so many rarities and classics that I began to lose count and my eyes swam. I started making a pile but knew before long I'd have to return at least a couple to the shelf lest I need a milk crate to cart the stuff home.
I picked up a 45 from Bel Aire a while back and I love it. I know there are two LPs and Bel Aire had one (don't remember which), glad to score this one. And guess what else??? AUTOGRAPHED!
There were numerous Versatones records and a few (including doubles!) of some of the really early stuff. This would be their third. I saw two copies of their fourth and I was going to grab it until I saw there was a different record inside. Then I started to play that weird game where you track down that jacket, but there is yet ANOTHER wrong record in there. After a short time I decided to call it quits.
Positively love The Tones, grabbed their other two LPs at Bel Aire on separate trips. They never had this one, in fact I've only seen this on ebay one time (they guy wanted $15). Took me forever just to find photos and a track listing. Delighted to finally pick this up.
This is a real piece of crap but I couldn't resist. It is a 2xLP compilation that I've never seen before. It is really low quality jacket and the records themselves inexplicably skip like crazy even though the vinyl looks ok. It looks like they forgot to put the artist name on the jacket so they applied stickers after the jackets were already printed. Real professional stuff!
There were a couple full aisles filled with fully stacked shelves. Mostly classical and other useless genres. Back to the polka - nearly every Marion Lush album were there, saw a ton of Lenny Gomulka including one I had never seen before, which I photographed for the db. It was just balls out insane! And all through this I am left alone in this quiet, cold and amazing garage with the keys and the place to myself. What a privilege!
When I got back to the counter and had a chat with my finds with the guy who had brought me out there, he did divulge that the Bel Aire store in Bridgeview had closed on October 1st. That really hit me hard. First thought was that I am really glad I got in there, bought stuff, took pics, chatted with people and saw the history. But the larger looming thought is that Bel Aire was a place that will never be replaced. It is kind of like an old relative who has been sick for a long time. When they pass away you aren't surprised, but you know that void will never be filled. No one is going to open another polka record store, ever. That was the last vestige of Eddie's legacy. Thank god I have crates of old vinyl to really relish the times gone by. But this explains the familiar rack in the back of the store, he bought the whole damn thing for probably $20 or something crazy.
So I got taken a bit with the price but that is to be expected. And having just discussed the closing of Bel Aire it makes you realize that while you can buy your vinyl on the internet for super cheap, because the sellers have no overhead, keeping a giant building (and garage!) like this open - taxes, electric bill, etc. - costs some serious coin. So I'm glad to contribute to keeping a place like this open as long as I can. I couldn't be happier with the stash I walked out of there with and it is a memorable day I will hang onto for a long time.