photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
like a lot of people, i was pretty bummed when the INDEPENDENT NEW JERSEY record store VINTAGE VINYL closed abruptly seemingly without warning in the middle of the summer of 2021. i had been going there for years since the early 2000s when i effectively relocated to the area for college after randomly spending my senior year of high school in SACRAMENTO. in fact part of my yearly ritual during my years teaching abroad was a trip to VINTAGE VINYL during my brief stateside vacation. id even argue the experience made me feel connected to a sense of "home."
i remember learning about the FORDS, NEW JERSEY store through a plugged-in classmate and friend of my brother, who were both still in high school at the time. in the early 2000s there was an UNDERGROUND ROCK N ROLL scene that centered around RUTGERS UNIVERSITY in NEW BRUNSWICK that included bands of varying genres (POST-HARDCORE, POP PUNK, HARDCORE and METALCORE) from various relatively nearby northeast cities such as THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN (MORRIS PLAINS), THURSDAY (NEW BRUNSWICK), MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE (NEWARK), MIDTOWN (NEW BRUNSWICK), STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO (NEW BRUNSWICK) as well as more established acts like THE BOUNCING SOULS (BASKING RIDGE) and LIFETIME (NEW BRUNSWICK) among others. interestingly bands like THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM (NEW BRUNSWICK) and THE SCREAMING FEMALES (NEW BRUNSWICK) also came from the embers of this scene years later.
VINTAGE VINYL was only a ten minute drive from the heavily congested streets of the NEW BRUNSWICK campus and proved to be quite the quiet respite during my years as an undergraduate there. i can only imagine what that store meant to musicians from the surrounding area. did i mention the place also put on in-store promotional shows for UNDERGROUND and established bands? i recently came across their YOUTUBE channel which has in-store live performances by the likes of everyone from BAD RELIGION, CAVE-IN, THE USED, MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, JIMMY EAT WORLD, CIRCA SURVIVE, MXPX, THE GET UP KIDS, THURSDAY, NEW FOUND GLORY and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE (all embedded below) among many others. if you dig through their channel you will find in-store signings by the likes of OZZY OSBOURNE, DESCENDENTS, KERRY KING (of SLAYER), DARRYL "DMC" MCDANIELS (of RUN-DMC) and ROB ZOMBIE. its all unedited single shot tripod footage with unmixed in-camera audio. in essence its mostly uncompelling, shitty footage, except for the fact that as a cultural artifact these videos are invaluable as markers of a local and national musical culture at a certain place and time.
whats sad is that the hurried manner in which the store closed, at the behest of the owner who wished to move on after 40+ years and had no interest in having it continue under new management, effectively meant that a community had no opportunity to celebrate it. there was no send-off or concert by the local musical community that no doubt had embraced this obscure INDEPENDENT establishment for many years. for me that is the unfortunate legacy of VINTAGE VINYL. it was a private, locally-owned business that was embraced by a culture and in the end the owner did not embrace them back.
in the wake of VINTAGE VINYL there are several local and independently owned and operated record stores (some new, some long established) in NEW JERSEY that i frequent which have largely replaced it, including STATION 1 BOOKS & VINYL (POMPTON LAKES), REVILLA GROOVES & GEAR (MILLTOWN), LOFIDELIC RECORDS (BELMAR), VINYL ADDICTION RECORDS (NORTH ARLINGTON), FACTORY RECORDS SHOP (DOVER), SOUND EXCHANGE (WAYNE), GROOVY GRAVEYARD (ASBURY PARK), JACK'S MUSIC SHOPPE (RED BANK), THE RECORD COLLECTOR (BORDENTOWN) and yes, even the dreaded PRINCETON RECORD EXCHANGE (PRINCETON). id also include the NEW YORK record stores GENERATION RECORDS (GREENWICH VILLAGE), ACADEMY RECORD ANNEX (GREENPOINT) and LOONEY TUNES (WEST BABYLON) as well as the PHILADELPHIA store REPO RECORDS (SOUTH STREET) in the mix as well. unfortunately none of these stores have live in-store performances at the same level of impact as VINTAGE VINYL.
a little over a year later it still feels like a loss.