Twenty years ago this month, Amoeba Berkeley opened its doors and we began this mystical journey that continues and has spread over the years to San Francisco, Hollywood and around the world! For the next few weeks, we will be celebrating here on the blog with various posts -- an interview with one of the store's owners, Marc, about opening Amoeba; pics of the Berkeley store while it was still under construction and in its first year; special top 10 lists from the employees who have been with us the longest; highlights of some of our most memorable instores; and today, we kick things off with testimonials from various fabulous customers -- including Adam from Doseone, Good Word of BPos, Yoni Wolf from Why? and more!
Read on and check back for more additions over the next few weeks! To get info about the Anniversary Events scheduled at the Berkeley store on Nov 13 & 14 with DJs, live performances from Foxtails Brigade, and Lyrics Born and prize giveaways, click here! You can also get involved by entering our contest -- share your own Amoeba story for a chance to win a shopping spree and more! Read about it here. You can also read Part 2 of this Anniversary series, an interview with co-owner Marc Weinstein about getting the Berkeley store up and running, what Amoeba means to him and more right here!
Yoni Wolf of Why?
Amoeba Music: Definitely all 3 stores are in my top 5 record stores in the world. (That only leaves room for 2 other shops...You do the math!) They believed in our label and supported us from the label's inception, which I will never forget. They have anything you want...and I mean ANYthing. I sometimes like to just wander around in the store for hours. Happy 20th birthday!!
Adam Drucker - Doseone
Amoeba for me,
Was far more than job
or a place to purchase records...
It was a beautiful bottleneck of all things that would later become me...
My co workers suggested my entire record collection, and became both friends and band mates....
Amoeba's patrons found my music...
And its owners cared for my best friend,
fellow band member, and employee,
Dax Pierson, like you only read about in fairy tales....
It's an amazing record store run by wonderful people...
you big brilliant buildings full of music....
Love, adam doseone drucker
GoodWord of BPOS
I love Amoeba for a million different reasons. I'd say 99.9 percent of the beats I've rapped on were made using samples from records purchased at Amoeba (Berkeley/San Francisco). My favorite moment at Amoeba was probably when I saw Leslie Hall 'Keeper of the Gems' name her latest gem-sweater creation live on stage. It caused an instant acid flashback, Something that hadn't happened to me in 10 years.
-GoodWord of BPos
John Howard - Artist
Amoeba Music's Used New-Arrival section is a great place to serendipitously find great music. I don't know how many times I've come across some wonderful curiosity that became a favorite, or opened up a new vein to me.
So I went for the music, but I found myself secretly smitten with a particular girl on the Berkeley Amoeba store check out desk. I kept an eye out and alas, figured out that she had a boyfriend. But, like the New-Arrivals aisle, persistence can pay off. I eventually got a chance, and now we are nearing twelve amazing years together.
Scott Carroll - Berkeley Free Clinic
When Amoeba first opened I was working and volunteering as a DJ with KDVS while I studied at UC Davis, returning to my hometown of Berkeley for breaks and weekend visits. Amoeba in 1991, even before expanding into the neighboring building, had a massive quantity of music and amazing variety. I'd spend about half a day each trip digging through the store.
Two gems I scored from early visits are a vinyl copy of Black Star Liner: Reggae from Africa, and a CD copy of A World Out of Time: Henry Kaiser & David Lindley in Madagascar, music I love to this day. My favorite recent music purchase is the 2010 album The Happiest Lamb by the talented young singer songwriter Audra Mae. Her track "The River" is great storytelling in song form.
A couple of weeks ago I found myself without a trusted copy of Mark Kitchell's classic documentary Berkeley in the Sixties. I was supposed to use some scenes from it for a clinic history class I was teaching with new volunteers at the Berkeley Free Clinic, but our copy had gone missing. I told the class to take a 15 minute break and ran up to Amoeba, where a new copy was sitting on the shelf.
Thanks, Amoeba for saving my rear, keeping great music and independent label music available locally, and thanks for including the Berkeley Free Clinic in your 20th Birthday events! Happy Birthday!
Funding Coordinator, The Berkeley Free Clinic
DJ Platurn - The Oakland Faders
I remember when I got the job. I had tried countless times in the past, but Amoeba [Berkeley] was that record store -- that record store that every person that ever wanted to work at a record store hoped to work at some day. It wasn't the job that I wanted. I applied for the Hip-Hop buyer position and I didn't get it. My friend did. I think he's an A&R at some big time label now. So I did security for well over a year. Chased down a buncha punks that lived on the Ave, one time with one shoe for 10 blocks. Then I became the security assistant, and when he took off, I took over. I worked for another 4 years as half a head honcho in the Hip-Hop department along with my dear friend Joe Quixx. I don't think I took home a single paycheck. Amoeba went to music and my DJing went to bills. It was great.
I have incredibly fond memories of working at that store and go back to the shop and say hello as often as I can. Amoeba is important. It's an institution and it means so much more than just a place to go buy music. It's an experience and a place that supports those things in the music world that the big chains never did -- important things, like supporting the indies and making sure the general public, even if you're broke, can come and feel welcome and buy a few cheapies and collectibles to take home and enjoy.
And it's especially important today, cuz while the Ipod generation takes over, a place like Amoeba and other independent record stores play an even more important role as an avenue where you can still experience browsing through music in a real world environment and take home something tangible that you can not only enjoy but enjoy holding in your hand as well, time and time again.
Much love to you, Amoeba Records, and all your history. Keep those 45s warm -- I'll be in there soon.
Jake Hout - Everything Must Go
Everything Must Go played an in-store appearance at Amoeba recently and when we were done there was blood, beer and sweat all over the Jazz section. They loved it! They bought more of our records! ~Punk. We have a full blown vinyl fetish; our new record is available on vinyl exclusively. Amoeba helps make that possible and does a lot to keep the vinyl subculture alive. ~VERY PUNK.
~JAKE/Everything Must Go
Caleb Nichols of Grand Lake
How in the hell do you make money making music? This is the question parents like to ask their wayward musician children first at Thanksgiving, then again at X-Mas, and of course every time you call them to beg for rent money. John and I from Grand Lake actually had a good answer for inquiring relatives -- we work at a record store! They give us time off to play shows! It works! We swear!
Amoeba gave me a job, even though they knew I was an unstable, slightly crazy guy who plays in bands -- and then they gave my boyfriend/drummer a job to boot -- how sweet are they? They're that sweet. But this underscores a serious point about independent record stores, and Amoeba Music in particular -- not only do these stores deliver customers the best selection of vinyl, CD's, cassettes, DVD's and VHS possible (and usually with a smile), they often times provide people MAKING new music support to keep the music-making possible.
Record stores are an integral part of indie-music culture, and Amoeba Music Berkeley is the best of the best!
Zola Goodrich of Bam!Bam!
Happy Birthday, Amoeba! Some of our favorite good times at Amoeba include CocoRosie’s instore on June 29th, the day copies of Bikini Kill’s Peel Sessions, Frumpies Frumpies Forever and The Spells Age of Backward were found in the used 7” new arrivals section one after another. And when Zola, Wes, and Spencer played Amoebapalooza as Polaroid Babies. Looking forward to many more good times at Amoeba Berkeley!
Jody Colley - East Bay Express
Happy Birthday, Amoeba Berkeley!
Each year the East Bay Express polls its readers to find out their favorite restaurants, bars, retail stores, people and places in the area. Amoeba has been the "best record store" pick time and time again. And it's no wonder our readers are so loyal to your local institution. Amoeba, you have become the heart and soul of Berkeley's music community. Whether it's a college student, musician, intellectual, hipster, activist, anarchist, stoner, or punk, there is a home and great music discoveries for everyone under your roof.
For twenty years, you have opened your doors to independent musicians, giving them shelf space and live performance opportunities. And your Home Grown music series put an extra spotlight on the East Bay's locally grown musicians. You have given all of us access to a quality and diverse range of music that otherwise we would not have been exposed to.
And as a local, independent business in our community, you have generously given back to the community over the years. Whether it's donating to nonprofits, raising awareness on local issues, or hiring local staff and vendors, you have played an important role in helping to lift up our community.
We at the East Bay Express are so proud to call you our friend and partner. Here's to twenty more years of rock-n-roll!
Publisher, East Bay Express