Posted by Billyjam, February 19, 2009 08:55am | Post a Comment

"Amoeba has so much more vinyl and is a much more happening store to forget about life worries ... it's therapy for me. Amoeba has always been THE BEST!" So recently wrote Amoeba fan "Lovedrop Says" in a posting on the NBC website as part of a poll amongst Bay Area residents intended to decipher which is a better store, Rasputin or Amoeba.

By end of the voting Amoeba had beaten out Rasputin with 68% to their 32% of votes by Bay Area NBC website visitors. The poll was actually about the Berkeley Amoeba but what Lovedrop Says about the Telegraph Ave. Amoeba is equally true of the Haight Street Amoeba, as reaffirmed about a week or so ago when I stopped by the San Francisco Amoeba Music store for some therapy myself.

Besides that feeling of "therapy" described by Lovedrop Says -- when you get so lost in the rows and rows of vinyl and CDs that time just magically slips away and what seems like ten minutes can be two hours -- there are many other reasons to love visiting the Amoeba Music San Francisco store. I made a list of ten of the top reasons to shop Amoeba right here, including what Lovedrop Says wrote about Amoeba as therapy -- reason #1.

As an art lover, especially graffiti, I have almost as much fun outside Amoeba SF gazing at the walls of colorful art on the store's outer walls (reason #2) including the image above (minus the photoshopped in Tony Bennett I Left My Heart in San Francisco LP -- that record can found inside in the used LPs section). So impressive are the colorful outer walls of Amoeba SF that they have been used in many photo and video shoots including in Bored Stiff's most recent video "@ A Distance." There is also lots of other graf art on walls nearby all within a block of Amoeba SF. It is like a free outdoor art gallery. Well wicked!

The listening stations (reason #3) are something most music fans appreciate because reading the back of a CD can only tell you so much about what something might sound like. The Amoeba SF listening stations (on your left after you walk into the store past the registers and buy counters and before you go down the few steps or ramp) are outfitted with damn decent headphones packing lots o' volume, while on the computer screen you can scan through literally thousands of titles -- many featured right behind you in the same aisle. It is there that you will find the "Now Hear This" (reason #4) section where the first display of new and featured CDs which, as well as being featured on the listening station in audio, come with a concise written description of the music contained therein. Also the first listening booth, conveniently situated at the start of the row of listening stations, is designed for those disabled folks in wheelchairs. There is also a ramp to get down into the main level -- a few steps down -- of the cavernous store which was formerly a bowling alley. Nice! (reason #5)

In that same general area of Amoeba SF (to your left after you walk into the main body of store) is the rancidseven inch singles collection (reason #6) which usually causes collectors who have never been to the store before, like my buddy Dave who accompanied me there once, to utter the two words: "Holy shit!" Variety? Hells yeah. And if you have the time to dig there is a lot of 7 inch vinyl to work your way through. And some good bargains too! Like whole sections for a dollar a pop where you never know what you might uncover.

Also particularly good is the punk seven inch section up on the wall which includes countless classics (many out of print and collector's items) such as Crimpshrine and Rancid singles. Lots of cool picture discs too! Further down on that same side of store (on your left when you enter) is the wonderful poster section (reason #7) which, even if you never buy one, is like going to an art exhibit or museum for a wonderful music history lesson with posters (mostly old concerts) featuring many jazz and blues greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Louis Armstrong.

Besides the theraputic benefits of getting lost in a great record store as outlined by Lovedrop Says, there is also that wonderful feeling of finding a bargain. And this is something you are always guaranteed to find in the vinyl and CD albums sections of Amoeba SF (reason #8). There are so many great LPs and CDs for cheap, like a dollar, that you can find at Amoeba that it is unreal. And anyone who has shopped at Amoeba or worked there for any amount of time has witnessed firsthand seeing music collectors from overseas -- in a state of bliss over the value and quality of music at Amoeba -- loading up on records to lug back home to Europe or Japan. I have had more than a few friends from Europe visiting find themselves in a major dilemma before taking their flights home, when they realize that they are so over the weight limit with stacks of vinyl purchased at Amoeba, that they have to pay a lot extra to the airline to get their prized purchases home with them.

Besides vinyl and CDs are the cassettes. Now I don't know about you, but sometimes I miss everything about cassettes, even that noisey hiss between songs or at the end of a tape when you would have it turned up too loud. That fat analog sound is comforting, as it reminds me of a bygone time when Dolby was a big deal and digital was still a ways away -- back when your choice as a music fan was LP or cassette, and for a while also CD, until CDs took over completely. And the Hip-Hop Tapes section of Amoeba SF (reason #9) reminds me of all this. Cassette tapes (including mix tapes) have always been an integral part of hip-hop more than any other genre. Sometimes the cassette release would come with extra tracks.

And on my recent visit to Amoeba Music San Francisco's really neatly laid out Hip-Hop Tapes section (near the posters) I uncovered such finds as Mac Mall's Untouchable on Relativity from 1996 for $3.98. I also stumbled upon the 1988 forgotten hip-hop gem Coolin In Cali on Geffen by 7A3. This was the only album by the mostly slept on group that was composed of the brothers Brett and Sean Bouldin and a guy named DJ Muggs, later of Cypress Hill. A quick online search of this out of print cassette yielded two copies at approx $11 each so the Amoeba price of just $1.99 is a proven deal.

Another good forgotten find in the Hip-Hop Tapes section was New Jersey hip-hop/house duo Twin Hype's 1989 debut on Profile Records for only $1.00, used but in very good condition. Twin Hype included brothers Sly (Glennis Brown) and Slick (Lennis Brown) plus DJ King Shameek (Jose Matos) and they only released two albums. This 20 year old debut of theirs may not be a hip-hop classic a la Eric B & Rakim, but it's still a very good album to have if only for the still-good sounding single "Do It To The Crowd" (see video below) which very nicely incorporates house -- this being a time when hip-house was the new flavor.

The average price for a hip-hop tape is $1 to $2 but there is no guarantee that you will find exactly what you are looking for in this defunct format. I asked Luis who works in the Amoeba SF hip-hop department (Amoeba's always friendly and hella knowledgeable staff is reason #10) if many shoppers sought out hip-hop tapes and considering everything is old or used, if it's always hit and miss as to what you might find. "You'd be surprised. People come in and ask a lot about tapes. People are always looking to pick up good cassettes cheap," he replied. "And yeah, you never know what might be out there. It really is random as to what we might have. But on occasion someone might sell off an amazing collection of hip-hop tapes and it goes right out there." 

Of course there are dozens of other reasons (including quality free instores) to love Amoeba Music SF and also Amoeba Music Berkeley and Amoeba Music Hollywood. Feel free to add your fave memory or fave thing about spending time at Amoeba Music in COMMENTS down below the Twin Hype video. Thanks for reading!

"Do It To The Crowd" Twin Hype (Profile) 1989

Relevant Tags

Graffiti (52), Dizzy Gillespe (1), Rancid (8), Amoeba Music San Francisco (33), Cassettes (12), Posters (17), Disabled (4), Luis (14), Therapy (1), Twin Hype (1)