Friday, June 25, 2010

“The Next Level”

c. 2010 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: The enduring culture of Rock ‘n’ Roll has always provided inspiration for this column. But occasionally, I have missed an opportunity to write about the subject while pondering other things. What follows here is my confession, and penance.

I first met my friend Archer while doing volunteer work in Chardon.

His knowledge of motorcycles, guitars, and personal deliverance was immediately appealing. But what sealed our friendship was a shared love of Rock music.

Long after we had both moved onward to other pursuits, I continued to enjoy his stream-of-consciousness observations about post-war history, theology, and Steppenwolf. One bit of streetwise wisdom missed my personal radar, however.

It happened when he spoke about a store called ‘The Next Level’ opening in Geauga’s Capitol City.

I was fascinated to hear of a new venue for vinyl conquest, particularly so close to home. Archer boasted about buying a Dire Straits concert poster there, and other musical artifacts.

Several writing projects were on my desk, but I promised to pause at the store, very soon.

“You gotta get up there, man!” he said with a grin.

Of course, it didn’t happen.

Weeks later, my friend displayed Beatles memorabilia discovered at TNL. Reluctantly, I admitted not having found time to see the store.

“Ain’t been there yet?” he howled with disbelief.

Again, I took an oath to visit, and explore. And once more, other ideas held sway.
Eventually, many months had passed since the first mention of Geauga’s newest record shop. Over a cup of homebrewed coffee, Archer celebrated finding a pristine copy of ‘An American Prayer’ by The Doors.

The revelation struck me like a bolt of lightning, not only because of Jim Morrison’s poetic stature. But also, because I still hadn’t visited.

Shortly afterward, I made my pilgrimage to TLN.

Bob Adams was at the counter as I walked inside. When I introduced myself, his reaction was friendly, and positive. I could tell immediately that we were kindred spirits.

“My wife Deena owns the store,” he said. “We’ve been here about a year and a half.”

I had expected the store to be a typical vintage vinyl hangout for ‘boomers’ to relive past glory. But Adams explained that instead, their business was a crossroads of sorts – where yesterday and today were able to coexist.

“We kind of mashed up all our ideas into this,” he explained. “It’s a safe place for the kids. They can rent time playing Xbox, hang out in the game room, and enjoy water or soft drinks.”

While we talked, a group of kids bounced on the couch, while one of the bunch plucked an acoustic guitar.

Their enthusiasm made me smile. For a moment, I flashed on personal high school memories from the 70’s.

“We’ve got CDs here, vinyl albums, and used games,” Adams continued. “I also try to keep six or eight guitars on hand.”

I scanned the room while he spoke. Relics were everywhere, almost as if I was standing in the bygone studios of WMMS with Jeff Kinzbach and Ed ‘Flash’ Ferenc. Images of Bruce Springsteen, The Clash, Bob Marley, The J. Geils Band, and John Lennon glowed with enduring vitality.

“Don’t give me credit for this, it came from Rolling Stone Magazine,” Adams observed. “But there’s never gonna be a used MP3 store. If your computer hard drive crashes, what do you have? Listening to vinyl is a personal experience. You have to invest the time.”

I confessed to being fascinated that younger listeners, born after the election of Ronald Reagan, were suddenly embracing the old, analog format of music delivery.

“A couple of boxes of 45s sat here for a few days,” Adams remembered. “Some of the kids looked at them. Finally, I held one up and asked ‘Do you know what this is?’ When they shook their heads I said ‘You know when you get a track from iTunes for 99 cents? Well this is what we got for 99 cents and it had two songs!’”

He also said that many 18 to 30 year-old customers have come to his store to find tangible versions of classic recordings.

“They’ve spent time with the downloads,” he mused. “Now they want a physical copy. And they know their stuff. Grand Funk Railroad, Joe Walsh, Hendrix – that’s what they want.”

Later that day, I found Archer doting on a new purchase for his plectrum collection. The instrument was a Guild acoustic, made in Rhode Island.

My excitement couldn’t be hidden. “Okay, I did it! I went to that music store in Chardon.”

He looked over the top of his wire-rimmed glasses. “Finally?”

“Yes,” I cheered.

“Did you buy anything?” he said quizzically.

“No,” I replied. “Just got an interview and photos for the moment.”

He laughed out loud.

“They had a Domino Californian Rebel guitar on the wall,” I wheezed. “In need of some work, but very unusual. That got my Guitar Acquisition Syndrome going…”

“Huh?” he snorted.

“A strange 60’s Japanese axe,” I explained. “From the Teisco – Kawai family tree.”

Archer bowed his head.

“Better get back up there before it’s gone!” he exclaimed.

“Trying to resist the G.A.S. vibe,” I said.

My friend returned to strumming a Neil Young tune.

“Don’t fight it,” he chuckled. “Just open your wallet, and be happy!”

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