tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 8: the record store edition

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera is a usually weekly but not always, sometimes substantial but not making any promises glimpse at some information and news related to Generation X in the Deep South.

“Alabama record stores of the past: gone but still loud” on al.com

This article, published in November 2018, shares stories about now-closed Alabama record stores, like Vinyl Solution Tuscaloosa and Wild Man Steve’s in Auburn.

Criminal Records, Little Five Points in Atlanta

From the website: “Established in 1991, Criminal Records is a locally-owned and independently operated record store located in the in-town neighborhood of Little Five Points in Atlanta, Georgia.”

“Charlemagne Record Exchange closing after 42 years,” on al.com

Birmingham, Alabama’s Charlemagne was located in an upstairs storefront in the Little Five Points district near downtown.

What was the go-to record store where you lived? Post the store name and city in the comments below.

level:deepsouth is an online anthology about growing up Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The anthology is open to submissions of creative nonfiction (essays, memoirs, and reviews) and images (photos and flyers), as well as to contributions for the lists.

Book Review: “Cool Town” by Grace Elizabeth Hale

Cool Town: How Athens, Georgia Launched Alternative Music and Changed American Culture
by Grace Elizabeth Hale

(University of North Carolina Press, First Edition 2020)

Reviewed by Jim Hodgson

This should be something we do: gather people interested in art, give them time to create it, and enjoy the result. So it was with Athens, Georgia, in the ’80s as described in Grace Elizabeth Hale’s Cool Town. The results are undeniable.

If you were a kid then, you probably remember the cigarette smoke, the K-Mart knock-off version of parachute pants with broken zippers, the aggressively uninteresting Chrysler economy cars. Maybe you remember fundamentalist Christians howling about morality, then sobbing about their own deeply flawed lives. Tylenol could murder you. Halloween candy was full of pins and razorblades. The president was a famous guy, but not a politician. What must it have been like to put those things together into music that somehow made sense?

As long as we’re asking, what about now? Who can put American culture over their shoulder and drag it into the future with Christian fundamentalists, Republicans, and other so-called “conservatives” doing everything they can to hold it back?

Cool Town is a thorough and beloved answer to these questions. It explores the place, the players, and the music in impressive depth. The answer to the latter question being, of course, “young people.” All they need is a little time and maybe a few people off their backs while they’re at it.

Speaking objectively about the hardback book, it’s a detailed work of art. It has gorgeous paper, carefully-chosen – and even better, listed – typefaces, detailed epigraphs from the songs it describes. There’s even a Spotify playlist. Fans of R.E.M. and the B-52’s will find plenty of material to enjoy, but Pylon, Love Tractor, and others as well.

The book’s author, Grace Elizabeth Hale, co-founded the Downstairs, a café and music club open during the ’80s. It’s hard to imagine an author better qualified or a book more up to the task. Cool Town has done its job admirably. But we still have work to do. Why don’t we gather people interested in making art? Why don’t we give them time to create? We know we enjoy the result. Cool Town is proof.


Jim Hodgson is a filmmaker and published author. He has written bestselling books, is a produced playwright, is an Ironman finisher and an ultramarathon finisher, and has climbed two of the world’s tallest mountains: Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua.