For Bay Area record stores and the entire music industry, Record Store Day is one of the most important public events of the year. Held the third Saturday of April since 2008, Record Store Day was created to celebrate the unique culture of independent record stores across the country and all over the world. But it should also be meant as a way to help prevent local businesses from shuttering its doors like Village Music, Big Al’s Record Barn and Odyssey Records have done and another one set to close any day now. In honor of Record Store Day on April 18, here is a look at five of the best record stores in the Bay Area.
2455 Telegraph Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94704
With two Bay Area locations, Amoeba Music is billed as the World’s Largest Independent Record Store. First opened along Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue in 1990, Amoeba Music quickly gained a loyal following and now offers about 100,000 new and used vinyl records, CDs, audiotapes and some video games. Like its two newer locations, the original store has an incredibly diverse selection of music genres including enormous collections of rock, jazz, reggae, soul hip-hop, electronica and classical. The San Francisco store is located at the western end of Haight St. near Golden Gate Park. The newest location along Hollywood’s Sunset Strip covers an entire city block and is one of the world’s largest independent music stores.
Related: Best Vinyl Shops In San Francisco
1055 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Located in San Francisco’s Mission District, Aquarius is the oldest independent record store in San Francisco. It’s not an exceptionally large store yet is widely acclaimed, carrying a wide selection of music styles amongst its estimated 36,000 titles including Latin, folk, blues, hip-hop and every variation of rock music imaginable. One service that makes Aquarius stand out above its competitors is its new arrivals list archive, appearing online about twice monthly ever since the business moved to its present location on Valencia St. In 2013, Aquarius Records gained international attention when it was named the world’s third best “record store to shop before you die.”
2401 Telegraph Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94704
It’s hard to imagine two independent record stores operating within a block of each other. Yet, perhaps as a testament to the Bay Area’s loyal interest in vinyl recordings, Rasputin Music and equally popular Amoeba Music have done just that. Along with the flagship store on Telegraph Ave. and its high profile store in San Francisco’s Union Square, Rasputin Music has six other local stores, making it the largest independent chain of record stores in the Bay Area, in addition to three more locations in California’s Central Valley. For the first Record Store Day in 2008, Rasputin Music helped kick off the inaugural event by hosting Metallica at its Mountain View store.
1377 Haight St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
There is no greater concentration of Bay Area independent record stores than on Haight St. in San Francisco. It’s fitting that stores like Amoeba, Rasputin, Rooky Ricardo’s Records, Jack’s Record Cellar, Groove Merchant and Recycled Records can all be found in the neighborhood that shook up the music world during the 1960s. First opened in the North Beach neighborhood in 1977, Recycled Records is best known for carrying a sizable assortment of rare records and vintage collectibles like rare books and classic movie posters. Store owner Bruce Lyall, who has likely seen it all along one of the city’s most famous streets, has helped supplement his brick-and-mortar business over the years by selling an assortment collectibles on eBay and AbeBooks.
980 S. Bascom Ave.
San Jose, CA 95128
Earlier this year, the Castro District’s one remaining record store announced it would be closing its doors after 35 years. But that doesn’t mean it’s also the end of the line for Streetlight Records, a longtime Bay Area favorite that’s been continually praised for a stellar vinyl collection and outstanding customer service. Thankfully, the other two stores in San Jose and downtown Santa Cruz are likely to be around for quite some time. Along with great prices for CDs, vinyl, DVDs, video games and music memorabilia the remaining two locations both host a number of special events and live performances.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.