Behind the Record Store: Rockaway Records, Silverlake
February 17, 2015
We are set to release our vinyl record debut album on March 10th, and we will be playing a whirlwind one-day tour of 5 top LA record stores on March 14th. We are honored to that Rockaway Records has invited us to play at their store - after all, we have been going to this store since the 90's, and this shop really gets classic rock. We sat down with store manager Dave Kent to ask him what makes Rockaway tick, what makes him excited about music, and of COURSE... what's his favorite title track!
Title Trackers: How long has your store been in business? What is your name, and who are your employees?
Dave Kent: I'm Dave Kent, and we have been in business since 1979. We have a small but mighty crew of 10, including the 2 brother owners, Gary and Wayne Johnson.
TT: What is your favorite title track of all time? Why?
DK: John Lennon "Imagine". Simply because it's one of the greatest and most universal songs ever written.
Runners up: Bobby Bland "Two Steps From The Blues," because it's so deep.
Richard & Linda Thompson "Shoot Out The Lights," because it's so badass and Richard's guitar playing is so dangerous sounding.
TT: We’re sure you are as shocked and disappointed as we are that so many artists forgot to write title tracks for their albums. Looking back, what album do you feel is most in need of a title track?
DK: Miles Davis "Kind Of Blue."
Runners up: Ramones "Rocket To Russia" Rolling Stones "Between The Buttons" Pink Floyd "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn"
TT: What initially made you want to work in/own a record store?
DK: I began working at a wholesale music distributor and shifting to retail seemed more exciting, involved and "on the front line". I was right!
TT: What was your most memorable/sensational vinyl “find” in your years at the store? Why?
DK:Again, many possibilities but I recall the day a few years ago when a guy came in to our store unannounced to sell about 30 still-sealed, vintage LPs by a variety of artists/groups on Verve Records. Turns out he was selling them on behalf of former-Verve recording artist and comedian Shelley Berman. I was going through them and there were OK titles but nothing spectacular, at which point I gave him my assessment and mentioned offhand that if Shelley had had a sealed original Velvet Underground & Nico album, THAT would have been a game changer. He grinned, slowly reached down to the floor in front of the counter where he was standing (where I couldn't see), lifted up and presented me with exactly that! And it was a MONO copy, no less! Goosebumps all around!!! I think we ended up selling it for about $4,000.
TT: Is there a particular patron of your store who stands out over the years for their support? Who? Why?
DK: A gentleman named Gil - a soft-spoken guy who has bought gazillions of DVDs and CDs from us over the decades, all with kindness, patience and zero gripes.
TT: What was your favorite concert experience? Why?
DK: There have been too many over the years to narrow it down to just one but I recently saw Jazz musician Tom Harrell play and it was one for the books. His playing, and that of every single other member of his band, was so mind blowing, so amazing that I was literally tingling from head to toe by the end of the performance. Every top notch show I've ever seen has something special about it - some "X" factor that defies words and is all about feelings. For me, it's akin to something spiritual. Prince at the Troubadour a few years back. Stevie Wonder doing his first-ever live performance of Songs In The Key Of Life two years ago. U2 on their 1981 first US tour in an 800 seat venue...twice. The late bluesman Honeyboy Edwards at the tiny (and late) club Cozy's. Grant Lee Phillips, Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch impromptu jamming with Robyn Hitchcock in the Small Room at Largo. King Sunny Ade at the Denver Zoo circa 1995. The Clash at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in 1984. I could go on and on.
TT: There is an ongoing debate regarding the sound quality of vinyl vs. digital. But this is a boring debate. What is your favorite local band and why?
DK: Favorite local band? Dirt Dress, and not just because one of the band members works for us!
TT: You are one of the oldest record stores in LA. How do you account for your longevity?
DK: For one thing, we have maintained a very high level of quality of our inventory that many other stores don't match. Also, we not only pay more for most pre-owned product than many others do (especially for high-end items), we collectively have a really wide variety of knowledge that allows us to buy very diverse collections in total. Where some shops might only be able to buy the vinyl or CD portions of a diverse collection, we can knowledgeably and fairly buy (and sell) it all --- vinyl, CDs, DVDs, music memorabilia, music collectibles, etc. And we get really amazing, cool stuff that buyers just don't see elsewhere. For instance, Jimmy Page shopped our store recently and, among other things, bought a rare 1956 Elvis Presley-themed glass tumbler that made his jaw drop and caused him to comment that he would never see anything like it in England.
Please check out Rockaway Records, in-person and online. Here's their info, and please check out our set at Rockaway!
The Title Trackers, Live at Rockaway Records: March 14th, 4pm. Free, but tickets available to ride along on the tour bus all day (including drinks.) Click HERE to purchase!