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Sunday July 23rd 2017

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“I’m the Khrushchev of record stores”

Celebrating 10 Years of Record Store Day and 30 Years as the “Record Store Guy” with Eric Jones
By C.S. Satterwhite

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this Saturday, Record Store Day (RSD) is now observed on every continent except for Antarctica.

If you’re still a newcomer to the annual music lovers holiday, here’s the basics of how it all works. RSD is always celebrated on the third Saturday of April, making it April 22 this year. Since it began in 2007, RSD has worked with artists and labels to offer special re-issues and limited-edition releases, mostly on vinyl. Fans line up early, partly to get their hands on those rare releases, but also to support the stores that sell them. Since only stand alone brick and mortar indie record stores can participate in RSD, the day really is just a great excuse to come together and celebrate your local record shop, if you’re lucky enough to have one—which Pensacola is.

In anticipation of RSD 2017, I visited Eric Jones of Revolver Records. With the Pet Shop Boys playing in the background, and a nice spring breeze mixing with the familiar feel of the location (I used to work in the bookstore that resided in the same spot a decade earlier ), we spoke of his 30 year anniversary selling records, the struggles of a small business owner and the upcoming big day.

Eric, or “Elvis” as some know him*, is the former proprietor of the East Hill CD Exchange, which operated from 1995 until 2007. After a brief hiatus, he opened Revolver Records downtown, but this time his intention was to flip his previous model and focus mostly on vinyl.

When Jones first opened Revolver in 2010, several people asked the question: In an age of digital downloads, why open a record store? Seven years later, he continues to slug it out, because in case you didn’t get the memo, vinyl is far from dead. The success of RSD and shops like Revolver prove that.

SATTERWHITE: How did you get into selling records?
JONES: When I was a kid, we’d trade records like you would baseball cards. Or sometimes, if they had something to trade, they’d give you a quarter or fifty cents for a Jackson Five record. But officially, getting paid, it was working for the Sound Box. That was a great record store. I mean, it must’ve been, because I went in there all the time and spent a lot of money.

SATTERWHITE: That shop was actually my first introduction to the local scene too.
JONES: It was a great, great record store that a lot of people forgot about. I was in there all the time. I spent a lot of money, and the owners knew me. I had this really crappy corporate job in Tallahassee. I eventually quit, moved back here, and a friend told me they were hiring at the Sound Box. I went in and got hired on the spot. I think the owner knew I knew my shit. They knew I knew a lot about records and that I loved records because I was in there all the time. It’s that simple. They needed someone, and I got hired. I loved it. I did it for six or seven years before I struck out on my own. I often wonder whether I’m some alpha male dude, where I have to be the boss. I have to be number one. I’m not really that much of an alpha male type, but I do like doing things my way. Like Sinatra. Like Sid Vicious. I wanted to own my own friggin’ record store after seven years, so I started doing that. [That was the aforementioned East Hill CD Exchange.]

SATTERWHITE: So, when was that, that you started working at the Sound Box?
JONES: April of 1987 is when I started. I should be hyping that on Instagram—that I’m celebrating 30 years [of selling music] in Pensacola. In fact, an old friend of mine came in and he asked me, “Elvis, how many records have you sold in your lifetime?”

SATTERWHITE: Damn, that was one of my questions!
JONES: Really? You got scooped! That’s a brilliant question. No one has ever asked me that before. That’s what I told my friend too. So I sat down and calculated, including CDs, tapes, 8-tracks or whatever, I came up with 300,000.

SATTERWHITE: 300,000—jeez! What’s that based on?
JONES: That’s 10,000 a year. Either way, a few every day adds up.

SATTERWHITE: That’s a lot.
JONES: Yeah, I’m kind of proud that I’ve stuck it out through thick and thin.

SATTERWHITE: What records would people be surprised to know that you’re really into?
JONES: Henry Mancini. The CD playing before this was the soundtrack to the original Pink Panther from 1964. One time I was playing either that or some cheesy jazz…like Cal Tjader, some people look at me and say, “What? This is lounge music.” But stuff like Arthur Lyman or Martin Denny, I’m a big fan of… and Pet Shop Boys or Depeche Mode. When you work in a record store, you’ve got to be diverse. So if it’s Egyptian belly dance music, and it’s good, I don’t care what genre or what era it’s from. There’s probably a lot of stuff that I like that people are like, “What, you like Steely Dan?” or “Do you really like Phil Collins and Genesis that much?”

SATTERWHITE: Do you really like Phil Collins?
JONES: How can you not like Phil Collins? But somehow people think I’m serious when I jokingly pick on him [on social media], so it just snowballs from there and I run with it.

SATTERWHITE: So now it’s official: The Phil Collins Fan Club meets here. But before the meeting begins, let’s talk about Record Store Day. What are the plans?
JONES: We’re going to have a couple of live bands. Kent Stanton and Precubed are going to be playing in the parking lot right outside. I’m planning on them starting early, before I open, to prepare the crowd while they’re waiting in line. I stay pretty busy prepping [for Record Store Day]. But I won’t have the giant inflatable wavy man on the roof or the inflatable King Kong gorilla. I’m a one-man operation, so there’s not going to be free soda pop and hot dogs or barbecue grills or breakdancing contests—although that would be cool.

SATTERWHITE: I could still bust a move.
JONES: Maybe next year.

SATTERWHITE: I’ll hold you to it. Do you have a moment, or any specific moments, where you’ve looked back at the end of the day, locked the doors, and said to yourself, “That’s why I do this. That’s why I sell records.”
JONES: I’d say every now and again. I guess I’m jaded, and old, and like “Whatever, I’ve been doing this so long.” I definitely did that more in my first record store on 12th Avenue. After about a year, a year and a half, when I was able to eat two meals a day instead of just one. I lived in the back when I first opened. People seemed to like me and my rent was dirt cheap there. I remember thinking, ‘I think I can do this. I can just keep plugging away.’ There were definite times when I was driving away when I looked over my shoulder and said, “Goodnight, little record store.” It was like it was my precious angel. It was my offspring. It was something that I created out of the fruit of my loins, not just my sweat equity.

SATTERWHITE: I remember looking at all of those articles that came out when you first opened Revolver, and people were asking, why now? Everyone is digitally downloading everything. But it seems to be working out. Would you say the key to your success is persistence?
JONES: Some people can really make a lot of money because they’re really brilliant businessmen or great marketers, or they have a lot of charisma. People just love to support their venture, whether it’s a donut shop or a greeting card store or record store. I don’t really have great business skills or great charisma, but I do have bullheadedness. If I had to credit anything for my success, it would be my stupid, stubborn, bullheadedness. Sometimes I credit being stupid, not that bright. I wasn’t smart enough to quit while I was ahead. I just kept barreling ahead like the bull in the china shop. Eventually, I smashed enough china to make room for a bunch of records. Bad analogy, but this is what I do. This is my identity. In fact, I referred to myself just twenty minutes ago as the “Record Store Guy.” But there are other record stores in this town, and thousands of record stores in the world. I’m just one. I’m just some guy in a retail shop. I use the analogy of Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver. I feel he didn’t have an identity until he saved Jodi Foster. He brutally murdered these people, but he was a hero to the parents, his co-workers and the media. Hopefully, I don’t have to kill any pimps to get my identity [laughter], but this is it.

SATTERWHITE: So that’s the secret to your success? Not the killing part, but just sticking around?
JONES: I was just too stupid to not to quit and try something else. That’s it. Just don’t give up. That’s what the Russians did in Stalingrad. I just finished a book on the Battle of Stalingrad. One of the bloodiest, most vicious battles in human kind. They were almost wiped out, but they beat those Nazis.

SATTERWHITE: So you’re the Stalin of record stores?
JONES: Uh, well, [Stalin] was off in Moscow. The main commissar, political non-soldier commie, was Khrushchev. That’s what made his career. That’s why he was the premier after Stalin. He was the hero. The political, if not military, hero of the Battle of Stalingrad was Nikita Khrushchev.

SATTERWHITE: So can I put this down: You’re the Khrushchev of record stores?
JONES: Uh, sure. I’m the Khrushchev of record stores. [laughter]. I mean, I’m a good capitalist. How about “I’ve been beating Nazis since 1987.”

SATTERWHITE: Either one sounds good to me. You should put it on your business cards. Happy Record Store Day!

*For those curious, the self-identified “Record Store Guy”was given the name “Elvis” by none other than PNJ’s Troy Moon when the two were in the band Fudgepop, so as not to confuse Eric Jones with Troy’s brother Eric (who was also in the band).  Many moons later (pun intended), clearly the name stuck.

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RECORD STORE DAY 2017
WHEN: Saturday, April 22
DETAILS: recordstoreday.com

Local Participating Stores:
Revolver Records
9 E. Gregory St.
facebook.com/RevolverFL

Music Box Pensacola
3960 W. Navy Blvd., #3
facebook.com/musicboxpensacola

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Record Store Day Tips

•Do your research
Make sure you check out the official list of RSD releases before Saturday and plan your wish list accordingly. Some stores, like Revolver, posts teasers on social media of what they’re getting in, so make sure you’re following along too.

•Wait it out
Any RSD regular will tell you the good stuff goes fast. So if you really have your heart set on a particular record, you’re going to want to get there early and get in line with the rest of the diehards. And remember that even that isn’t a guarantee you’ll get it—individual record stores have no control over what exclusives they get and what they don’t.

•Don’t be that guy or girl
Don’t try and cut the line, don’t get pushy and don’t buy records just to try and resell them on eBay.

•Buy, listen, repeat
RSD is an exciting special day, but record stores are open for business just about every other day of the year too.  So if you love having record stores in your town, remember to support them as much as you can year round.

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A List From The List
From singles to soundtracks, this year there are more than 300 RSD releases in the US alone. We know a list that long can seem daunting, so we went ahead and highlighted some standouts to help you start planning.

•Animal Collective “Meeting Of The Waters”
A four-track live EP, recorded in the Brazilian rainforest, featuring all new material

•The War On Drugs ‘Thinking of A Place’
A 12″ single, marking their first new music since 2014

•Prince ‘I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man’
As expected, there are quite a few Prince releases this RSD, but this one is our favorite

•The Cure “Greatest Hits”
Available on vinyl for the first time since its release in 2001

•André 3000: ‘All Together Now’
A 7″ single of André covering The Beatles classic

•Miley Cyrus “Bangerz”
Don’t lie—you liked this album too and kind of want to add it your vinyl collection, especially since it’s being released on 150-gram hot pink vinyl

•Bruce Springsteen “Hammersmith Odeon, London ’75″
First vinyl pressing of this live album

•Thelonious Monk “Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960″
Songs from the film “Les Liasons Dangereuses,” released for the first time as a 2LP box set

•David Bowie “Cracked Actor”
Collection of previously unreleased live recordings from a 1974 performance in LA

•Allen Toussaint “The Allen Toussaint Collection”
Originally released in 1991, this reissue marks it’s first time on vinyl

•Ra Ra Riot “Ra Ra Riot”
Their self-titled EP, available on vinyl for the first time

•Danny Brown ‘Ain’t It Funny’
A limited picture disc

•Sharon Jones with the E.L. Fields Gospel Wonders ‘Heaven Bound’/‘Key to the Kingdom’
7″ reissue of the group’s very first gospel recordings

•”Space Jam Music From and Inspired By The Motion Picture”
Who doesn’t want to own ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ on vinyl?

•The Notorious B.I.G. “Born Again”
Out of print since the early 2000s, it’s getting repressed on gold vinyl

•Patti Smith ‘Hey Joe’
Her debut 1974 single, reissued for the first time with its original picture sleeve

•The Smiths ‘The Boy With The Thorn In His Side’
7″ featuring two unreleased versions of old songs

•Sara and Tegan “Under Feet Like Ours”
This is their self-released first album from 1999 (and yes, you probably know them as Tegan and Sara now)

•Neil Young “Decade”
The career-spanning triple album from 1977 is back on vinyl, featuring two photo prints

•Spoon ‘Hot Thoughts’
A 12″ single featuring two new tracks— a ‘Hot Thoughts’ remix and a cover of Elvis Presley’s ‘Love Letters’

•”Like A Drunk In A Midnight Choir: Record Store Day Celebrates The Music Of Leonard Cohen”
A tribute on vinyl, featuring artists like Glen Hansard and Avi Buffalo

•Sunny Day Real Estate “The Rising Tide”
Reissue of the band’s 2000 album on double colored vinyl.

•Vitamin String Quartet “Vitamin String Quartet Performs The Music of Kanye West”
From ‘Jesus Walks’ to ‘Famous,’ VSQ is covering Kanye’s greatest hits, pressed on black 180-gram vinyl

•Field Music “Tones of Town”
Available on vinyl for the first time in ten years

•The Black Lips “Cassette Box Set”
Four albums on cassette, in a limited edition Happy Meal style box

•Dolly Parton ‘Puppy Love’
7″ single, featuring one of the earliest recordings ever released by Dolly

ªEvan Dando “Baby I’m Bored”
A  2LP ‘bookback’ reissue, includes unreleased tracks, singles, b-sides and rarities

•Sun Ra “Janus”
A compilation of rare material from tapes recorded between 1963-70, on psychedelic swirl colored vinyl

•Corey Feldman ‘Go 4 It’
Yes, that Corey Feldman, is putting out a 7″ single, with a cameo by Snoop Dog

•Drive-By Truckers “Electric Lady Sessions”
Seven live tracks, recorded at Electric Lady Studios, on clear vinyl

Remember, these are just a few select highlights. Make sure you visit recordstoreday.com for the complete list.