Charlie Edwards’s parents used to play a game called Quaker. Object: whoever stays quiet the longest wins. Edwards always lost. He was told, “If you don’t quit talking so much you’ll go deaf.” He heard this more often as his taste in music veered to increasingly loud rock ‘n’ roll, and now his story has become the name of a new record store: The Quaker Goes Deaf.
Along with his partners Mark Swindle and Elisa Keir, Edwards opened the store this May on North Avenue in Wicker Park, offering new and used imports, indie CDs, vinyl records, and videos. The neighborhood may be known for its alternative music scene, but until recently there weren’t many places to buy records. Now the area around the intersection of North, Damen, and Milwaukee boasts Wax Trax, Reckless Records, and the Quaker’s shop.
Edwards traces his musical development to the late 1960s. “I sent my mom out to buy “Haunted House,’ and she came back with “House of the Rising Sun.’ It was the best mistake she ever made.” He later became a bit of a legend in Champaign-Urbana. He worked at the store Record Swap, hosted a radio show on WEFT, and in 1980 started the popular “new wave night” at Chester Street dance club. Eventually Edwards moved to Chicago and worked for Reckless on Broadway for six years.
When Swindle and Keir came up with the idea of opening the Quaker Goes Deaf, Edwards jumped at the chance to finally run his own store. “When I’ve had enough of this, I’ll know, because I won’t care about the music anymore,” he explains. “The pleasure of being an owner is turning someone on to something they wouldn’t ordinarily buy.” Edwards labels products with comments to help the uneducated buyer, a practice that made him a favorite at Record Swap. These notes mostly give synopses of records and tell you something about the sound, often comparing it to other music. Sometimes the notes have a personal touch, adopting the slant of a friend who happens to live and breathe music. For example, a 1968 record called Touch by a “progressive/psychedelic” band of the same name carries a label that confides, “This is the LP I was listening to when I freaked out on mescaline. It was at least three years before I could deal with hearing it again.”
Edwards’s partner Swindle hopes to enlarge their audience by having a Web page on the Internet. “We’re going for a narrow slice of the market,” Swindle says. “We can increase our customer base in alternative music through the Internet.” The page includes the store’s top ten picks of the week, event listings, photos of the store and staff, and comics by Swindle and Keir. In the works are a map of how to get to the store, sound clips from CDs, and a direct-order catalog. The page will also provide access to other Web sites, including the Underground Music Archives.
For those not surfing the Internet, the store plans to offer a mail-order catalog, as well as postcards to alert collectors when it’s bought their favorites. Edwards makes house calls to purchase large collections. He finds it doesn’t pay off nine-tenths of the time, but “the other tenth you find something really special. The LP market has increased in the last two years, and it’s much more of a collector’s market. The sound is appreciably better, and the artwork is a 12-by-12-inch field of something only you or a few people have.”
With the store staying open as late as midnight, audiophiles can walk up the street from a concert and buy music by the bands they’ve just heard. The store’s extensive categorization can also help. “We made an effort to create our own subgenres,” Edwards says. Like Ambient Industrial Experimental. “Most stores would put it under dance or rock or jazz, but this is more oriented to the store we all envisioned.”
The Quaker Goes Deaf is at 1937 W. North. It’s open 11 AM to midnight Monday through Saturday, noon to 8 PM Sunday. The Quaker’s Web site is at http://www.hooked.net/users/jblack/quaker.html. Call 252-9334 for more information.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Nathan Mandell.