Ciao, Rhino

I was struck by the demise of Rhino Records Westwood. Totally. There was one last day, so said the LA Times that morning. So, after gathering the kids to show them what a real record store was, we headed to Westwood. We parked. And then, when we reached the door to make one last tour of the place, it was over. Closed. No entrance.

I walked back to the car and drove away more disappointed than I had been in years. Why? I have no idea since I had never stepped into “that” Rhino. And it’d been years since any one there even had a clue who I was…

Rhino for me was 1720 Westwood Blvd., one block north of Santa Monica Blvd. Those were the directions I gave a thousand times over the phone when I worked there at the end of the 80’s and into the 90’s. My days and nights and days were spent discovering obscure Japanese-only jazz imports and the latest indie 7″s. It is where I evangelized on the brilliance of the Arc Angels. Overplayed an under-rated band called Bedlam. Where I made sure we had every KCRW hit of the week. I arrived at Rhino as they were expanding – moving into selling more CDs, less vinyl and opening the traditional “hipster” conclave up to the masses. But you better not come looking for a Britney Spears CD or you’ll get chased all the way to Wilshire!

But the music business moved on. Aron’s is on the way out, Rhino is shuttered. My friend Sherre’s classic rock haven Disc Connection in STL is still there, although I am sure she has had her fair share of second thoughts about maintaining a bricks and mortar retail store in the days of LimeWire and iTunes.

In my days at Rhino, I remember constantly mentioning that there were probably only 3 great record stores: Rhino, Waterloo in Austin, and Amoeba in Berkeley. And not always in that order. Waterloo was notable for being completely alphabetical, Coltrane next to Colorbox. Amoeba overwhelmed me the first time I visited there. I remember mentioning the store’s amazingly deep catalog selection once to some folks at Rhino, inferring that we should expand that way. Alas, it didn’t happen. And Amoeba was probably the dirt thrown on top of the Rhino coffin that was already being lowered into the ground by downloading and discount stores.

So, I grieve.

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