Paul Heinz

Original Fiction, Music and Essays

Filtering by Tag: LPs

Cheap Kiss Records

Note: I recently wrote this article as part of a neighborhood magazine and thought I'd include it as a blog entry on my website.  These guys are class acts working for a great record store.

If you spot a Toyota Venza with the license plate “I BY VYNL” whizzing around the west suburbs of Chicago, consider introducing yourself to Chris (Grey) Ellensohn, who – along with business partner Pete Kuehl – owns Cheap Kiss Records, a store that’s dedicated to buying and selling vinyl and cultivating a love for music for the next generation.  Ellensohn and Kuehl want the world to know: records are still a thing. 

Yes, records, as in those black twelve-inch platters whose grooves contain the stuff of magic.  You may not be one yourself, but chances are you know someone who’s into albums or who laments the collection he traded away for a couple of cases of beer back in the late 80s.  Vinyl is making a serious comeback these days, and now accounts for about twenty percent of revenue for physical recorded music formats, and Cheap Kiss is part of the reason.

Chris, who by day works at Northwestern Mutual, started the business with Kuehl ten years ago after winning an eBay auction to purchase Platterpus Records out of Louisville, KY.  They changed names to Cheap Kiss Records in 2012 and now have two stores: one at Cornerstone Books in Villa Park and another in Glenview at the Rock House, along with a regular inventory at a Schaumburg warehouse where they conduct on-line business and frequent warehouse sales.

What does a normal day look like in the glamorous world of buying and selling vinyl?  Today, Chris is going to meet with an elderly man who purports to own somewhere around 5000 LPs, all in mint condition.  Will it pan out?  You never know.  Chris’s favorite moment is knocking on a would-be seller’s door, because at that point all things are possible.  Sorting through a few boxes of musty LPs might just lead to something amazing, like the time Chris found a copy of an album by the local metal band Amethyst, the most expensive record either Chris or Pete has ever sold.

When approaching a would-be seller, Ellensohn is quick to empathize.  “We understand that albums can be emotional.”  Sometimes a seller can’t pull the trigger, and that’s okay.  “They know that when the time comes, I’ll be here.”

Chris claims he can spot a vinyl collector in just a few seconds.  What are the qualifications?  “Typically a male, age forty to sixty, sporting a concert t-shirt and no females within fifteen feet.”  All joking aside, there’s a certain air that vinyl collectors share, and it’s one that Ellensohn knows well he says because he’s “one of them.”   

“You meet all sort of cool people, actually,” and he meets them in all sort of places.  Chris isn’t a shy guy, and he’s happily approached people at gas stations or concerts to inquire about their interest in vinyl.  At a pop-up sale at the Arcada Theatre last month, Pete and Chris met a woman in her sixties who regaled them with stories about her concert-going days, when she witnessed The Beatles at Comiskey Park and a double bill featuring The Who and The Kinks. 

Chris and Pete don’t have a goal of amassing copious amounts of records – their aim is more virtuous than that.  They view buying and selling vinyl as a way of repurposing LPs and keeping them out of landfills and on people’s turntables.  “We want records to be listened to,” says Chris.  “Vinyl is meant to be played.  It does no good sitting in an attic somewhere.” 

And what about vinyl as a medium in a world in which streaming services can provide almost any song at the touch of a button?  Chris is reminded of something a young woman once told him: “You should have to work for something this good.”  Just as sharing a playlist isn’t nearly as meaningful as creating the mixtapes you once compiled for old flames, vinyl helps the listener connect to the music in ways that streaming can’t.

On April 21st Cheap Kiss Records will host Record Store Day at their Cornerstone Books location.

An Evening Listening to Music

How much music can you listen to in one evening?  A crap-load, and some of the following songs might even be categorized as crap (Glenn Fry, anyone?).  On a recent Friday evening in Kevin’s “Wall of Sound,” five of us gathered to play music, commiserate, and ask important questions like why artists insist on talking politics during concerts (my favorite example: Rufus Wainwright in 2004 telling the audience, “We need to get rid of Bush.”  My friend turned to me and said, “Rufus isn’t even a U.S. citizen!”).

Peruse the list, and excuse and typos and errors.  I believe there was some drinking going on this particular evening, but I can’t remember.

Warren Zevon – Raspberry Beret

Henry Lee Summers – Just Another Day

Prince – Pop Life

Kodaline – Brand New Day

The Band – Ophelia

Smithereens – Crazy Mixed Up Kid

Icehouse – Nothing too Serious

Everly Brothers – Gone, Gone, Gone

Robert Hazard – Escalator of Life

Lou Reed – Satellite of Life

David Bowie – Sound and Vision

Frank Black – Calistan

Devo – Satisfaction (I Can’t Get No)

Guadalcanal Diary – Litany

Robbie Robertson – Somewhere Down that Crazy River

Robbie Robertson – It’s A Good Day to Die

Richard Thompson – 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

Cheap Trick – I Know What I Want

Silversun Pickups – The Pit

David Bowie – Soul Love

Jon Astley – Jane’s Getting Serious

Jeff Buckley – Grace

The Firm – Someone to Love

Rhythm Core – Common Ground

Warren Zevon – I was in the House When the House Burned Down

Jane’s Addiction – Standing in the Shower Naked

Al Stewart – On the Border

Glenn Frey – You Belong to the City

Off Broadway – Full Moon Turn My Head Around

Rickie Lee Jones – Last Chance Texaco

The Church – Under the Milky Way

No Doubt – Spider Web

Tom Petty – Change of Heart

A-ha – Cry Wolf

Edie Brickell – Little Miss S.

Jimi Hendrix – Bold is Love

Four Non Blondes – What’s Up

Innocence Mission – Deep in this Hush

Bob Mould – Wishing Well

The Crystal Method – Name of the Game

Jimi Hendrix – If 6 Was 9

Subdudes – Late at Night

Paul Simon – How Can You Live in the Northeast

Jail – The Stroller

Tears for Fears – Mad World

AC/DC – Long Way to the Top

Keane – Broken Toy

Jimmy Buffett – I Don’t Know (Spicoli’s Theme)

Psychedelic Furs – Ghost In You

The Doors – The Soft Parade

Supertramp – The Meaning

INXS – One Thing

Seal – Prayer for the Dying

Led Zeppelin – Custard Pie

The Cult – Rain

The Kinks – Destroyer

ELO – Do Ya

Little River Band – Lonesome Loser

Joe Jackson – Cosmopolitan

?? – ??

April Wine – Talk of the Town

Making Music Matter Again - part one

One of my more obnoxious qualities circa 1985 (and there were many) was, upon hearing a song on the radio, reciting the song title, artist, album, year, album side and song number.  So, when a particular song crackled on WQFM, I might say something like, “Goodbye Stranger, Supertramp, Breakfast in America, 1979, side one, third song.” 

It goes without saying that I didn’t date much circa 1985.

At that time in my life, records weren’t just purchased; they were digested.  After all, an LP at K-Mart cost the equivalent of two hours of dishwashing at Seigo’s Japanese Steakhouse – I needed to make the most of my record-buying binges by not only listening to the record, but studying the album’s cover, lyrics and liner-notes.  (One of the biggest disappointments was purchasing a record that came in a blank white sleeve; it diminished the whole listening experience).  Even albums that fell flat initially called for repeated listens, as I forced myself to justify a poor purchase until something redeeming was revealed, and with the exception of Gregg Rollie’s solo LP, I always found something positive to take away from a record purchase.

Today, music can be accessed, purchased, copied and shared with one click, often a song at a time, so the idea of reciting an album side and song number has become an anachronism (and has probably allowed music geeks to land a few more dates).  More importantly, the access to free music has resulted in its devaluation.  Music has become disposable, no more valuable than a paper plate.  Unless you’re talking about sunsets, love and air, that which is free generally has little to no worth.

Recently, I’ve made strides to making music matter again in my life.  There are a number of steps a music lover can take to become more actively engaged in music listening.  Number one: listen to vinyl.

I am not a vinyl snob.  I never got into expensive stereo equipment.  I haven't refrained from purchasing CDs.  I love listening to music on the go.  And the lower quality of compressed music on-line has never been a big deal to me.  I don’t listen to vinyl for the so-called superior sound quality.  I listen to vinyl because I can only do it when I’m in my basement where there’s nothing else to do except listen to the music, and because there’s something magical about placing a needle into the groove of a record – it’s one of those mundane acts that transcends the act itself, forming a link to generations, artists, and eras gone by.

I asked  Chris Ellensohn, co-owner of Cheap Kiss Records in Schaumburg, Illinois, to explain why vinyl matters.  He said it was summed up best by an intern his company hired a few years ago: “I feel like you should have to work a little bit for your music so that it is not taken for granted.”

A good summary, but Chris elaborates more eloquently than I ever could.  “Retrieving the record, carefully removing it from the jacket, cleaning it if necessary, gingerly dropping the needle into the groove, perusing the liner notes as the first strains of that particular band’s attempt at a first impression greet you, are all moments of connection to the artist.  Compare it to a painting by your favorite artist hanging on your wall vs. having a picture of it on your phone.  Having something tangible can make a big difference. 

“The fact that we can hit play on iTunes and shuffle our way to hours of uninterrupted background noise just makes us more removed from the point of musical inception, that moment in time when a fleeting thought fleshed itself out into a melody, harmony and rhythm intended to worm its way into your brain and not let go.”

The idea that we’ve become “more removed from the point of musical inception” resonates in other areas of our lives: the clothes we wear, the food we eat and the furniture we sit on.  Listening to vinyl is akin to growing your own vegetables, building your own bookshelf, or knitting your own sweater.  There’s something pure, perhaps even noble, about listening to music like it truly matters.

Give it a try sometime.  And if you’re in the western ‘burbs of Chicago, come and join Chris and Cheap Kiss Records tonight (March 18) from 6-8PM at Cornerstone Used Books in Villa Park.  They’ll be talking – and spinning – records.  Tonight’s theme: 70s AM Radio Hits.

Copyright, 2017, Paul Heinz, All Right Reserved