Perhaps on a spring day, when the falling water draws out the musky smell of earth and everything seems to be coming alive, or maybe in the fall, when the cold shards of rain feel more menacing than welcome—no matter the season, there’s no better place to be than a record store on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Each store invariably has its own idiosyncrasies: One day at Beverly Records, I met a son of 1960s Chicago soul legend Major Lance who looked strikingly like his father (a frequent collaborator of Curtis Mayfield). That afternoon he found a Major Lance LP among the stacks and held it up to his own face to hammer home the eerie resemblance.
He went on to share that one of Major Lance’s signature songs, 1963’s “The Monkey Time,” was inspired by an actual monkey that Major owned at the time. And this sort of thing is far from an isolated incident at Beverly Records: the 50-year-old far-south-side shop (11612 S. Western) is known for attracting a colorful array of old-school local music notables. We in Chicago are blessed with myriad vinyl-centered shops, with enough variety to suit nearly every taste. Perhaps you’re looking for a store with a deep sense of history, and you delight in having an inquisitive yet remarkably low-key cat jump in your 45 RPM box mid-dig? Then Out of the Past Records (4407 W. Madison) is the place for you.
Or maybe you’re looking for a delectable selection of original vintage jazz and soul, with a surprising collection of Black studies books and ephemera? Hyde Park Records (1377 E. 53rd) is right up your alley. Also, extra points because their reggae section smells like incense, years of nag champa smoke having permeated the cardboard sleeves.
Certainly a music fan could listen to a Spotify playlist and never risk confronting inclement weather, but there’s something desperately romantic about wandering aimlessly in a record shop, selecting a stack of pretty faces, and ultimately dropping the needle on a dusty new love on a rainy Sunday afternoon.