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July 03, 2007

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brian eff

i went there a couple of times in '95/'96 (passing west and then east on cross-country drives). personally, i found the place to be a nightmare hellhole of overpriced garbage ("please, sir, can i give you $40 for this beat-ass a;grumh album?") and the owner seemed like a jerk.

but i did get the teenage jesus & the jerks anthology for $10. i guess that's something.

DaveX

What's the deal with the insane love of Ben Harper at Bill's site? The neon "Ben is my heart" sign is just plain creepy.

Trent

Brian - totally something.

Malty - I definitely reserve judgment on his music tastes of late. Don't know what to tell you about that, except there are much worse things for a 60 year old man to be into than Ben Harper. But yeah, a little bit weird I guess, I think Ben was really nice to Bill a bunch of times.

special tommy

far more rare than "guitar face" is "clarence-clemons-maraca-face"

Mark Allen

I'm so happy someone blogged here about this. I was a part/full-time employee of Bill's Records for about three years during the mid/late 80's - mostly during high school. It was one of the funniest, fun-est, weirdest and most memorable jobs I've ever had. And I've had a lot of weird jobs. I still roll with laughter remembering some of the absurd events that used to happen in that place - on a daily basis, all day long. The entire infrastructure of how the store was run was totally bananas - gargantuanly so - and all of it controlled by Bill, who is (especially looking back now) one of the nicest, kindest, honest and most eccentric people I've ever known. Just walking in there once was memorable, but working there every day was like living in some other slapstick, dysfunctional, warped dimension. Oh the stories! I couldn't believe I was being paid to be there every day (99% of my paycheck went to buying weird records - from there). If you thought the store was chaotic and endless - you should have seen the warehouse-sized store rooms in the back. Mountains - literally - unscalable mountains, higher than people, of merchandise and vinyl as far as the eye could see. There was a whole locked storage room reserved for Sigue Sigue Sputnik merchandise ONLY (and it was totally full). That always baffled me. And the bathrooms back there rivaled CBGB's. Of course my heart broke when I read online that he was closing down due to changing times - but it was inevitable. I've seen Jeff Lile's recent documentary "The Last Record Store" online, and while I thought it was very thorough and quite good - I of course was watching it and constantly wishing that there had been cameras running during the store's earlier years to capture it all. But isn't that how it always is? Every time I'm back home I go in and visit Bill. I plan to be back in Dallas later this year - and this will be the first time I drop in on him at his new location. I hope Bill and his phenomenon are around forever. Thanks for sharing Trent!

Bay Area Bozo

Looks like a cool place. But no prices on the records? I hate stores that pull that s--t. It's a giant red flag that says "overpriced", probably run by an aging hippie with a chip on his shoulder. Dude, I'm buying a record, not a house.

PS - if you're a chick you're price quote will probably be about 20% higher than if you're a guy.

Brian Turner

I am simply blown away at the thought of a whole room set aside for Sigue Sigue Sputnik.

Clayton

Bill's is awesome, but yeah - it helps if you're a guy. Anyway, there were lots of rumors about Bill all throughout Texas, possibly stemming from the fact that, unless you knew him, he did come off as sort of a gruff asshole. I thought he was A-OK, especially since he never tried to rip me off or sleep with me.

Lucinda

Bill lost every freakin' penny of my hard-earned record-buying money when he insisted anything on Dischord (remember "pay no more than $___ on the back of each release?) was an import because the sleeve said "Printed in Canada". Import pricing -- if I remember correctly -- was $20, which was a lot to pay for a record in the '80s. Especially a record he paid $3.50 for.

You'll not see me dabbing away wistful, sentimental tears for that place.

sugar

i wouldn't have survived the suburban teenage years if it was not for bill and his shop to let me know
there was a big ole great world outside of mine.
bill will forever be and it is because of the senimental sweet guy he is and his love for music and people.
the man has the rare vision not many do....

bruce

Bill's Records in the 1980's was intimidating because of everything about the place, but it taught me to be a digger and to put effort into looking and traning my eyes to see that one record that would change my life, amongst all the other stuff. I first hung out on Spring Valley in the late 70's spending my allowance on survival tools neopreme life rafts and snakebite kits at the Army Nave store on the end of the shopping center. I saw House Of Wax and 2001 Space oddesy etc.. at that theater. I bought records that changed my life there. Bill has worked to follow his dream from a booth at Garland's Vikon Village fleamarket with his mom, to an insane out of control larger than life record store. Thank You! Bill you are a true DYI original and you have inspired me to collect as much stuff as I can. How the fuck could Bill price catalog all the stuff that came in and went out. If you bought records at VVV,Metamorphosis,of Cellar Records in Richardson, or the few other places that sold punk rock you realized that Bill always had that rare record others happened not to have, and you would cry that you paid the price you did but it was totally worth it in retrospect, to have that Misfits album play it and be taken to another world. Get out of your cave! And off Amazono and head on down to South Lamar and buy something from Bill now! waxtexo

Well you have to understand: there was only really one place in Dallas that was like this when I was growing up. Maybe it was exploitative to charge that much, but shit, it wasn't because the guy was trying to make his fifth million. He likes the music and likes to stay in business, not something I can fault him for. Even Dischord just had to raise or eliminate its postpaid prices recently.

JT

Obviously a true eccentric. Or, crabby old hippie, depending on your point of view. I'm not there there's any difference. So all you collector scum should love going in there and trying to get one past him. You buy the Sigue Sigue Sputnik half speed master for $12 because you hope he won't notice the 1st pressing VU/banana that you're convinced he won't think is worth squat. I love Lucinda's story. That's just crazy shit. It tells you there's more than just some gouging old skinflint at work. Madness trumps method. And I'm jealous I had no place like that. I had to travel to Boston, where I bought my copy of Walk Among Us and was, because the record was unavailable for so long, sneered at by my hometown punks who thought I "didn't deserve it". Worth every penny even if it weren't a record that changed my life. Then again, we have a local record store run by an alcoholic old curmudgeon who can barely keep from spitting on you if you fail to buy one of his arbitrarily priced, occasionally interesting ole slabs. I don't enjoy him.

LO2

Bill is a conundrum. I go in about twice a year when I'm visiting Dallas, and I always find several things I'd like to have. Then I ask for prices, and usually end up paring down my choices to one or two instead of seven or eight, simply because I can't afford it. Of course, I'd get angry (not openly) and silently swear never to return.

Then I return.

One interesting sidenote: About every fifth time you go in and get pissed at Bill and his prices, there's one time where he's generous to a fault. I bought a slightly overpriced 7-inch off him once, and he threw in a Jellyfish LP (signed to Bill by the band) for nothing. I still have that record, and I love the hell out of it. So go figure.

nh_dave

My father lives in Richardson (right next door) and one of the highlights of visiting him was going to Bills. Totally a pain with no prices and lots of times you would leave saying 'I think I just paid $40 for this super rare special edition that is exactly the same as the domestic issue'. But it was fun talking to the employees who actually knew genres and had funny stories about chasing the ex bass player from janes addiction at his last dallas show or something.

My dad sent me a newspaper article about the move, totally a bummer but overdue. Last few times I was in there I was usually the only one in the store :(

Peckerwood

This amazing note from a 2-year-old Dallas Observer article: "Not only does he have this expansive mess to clean up, but also three warehouses full of clutter, including one he hasn't been inside since the 1970s." ... Wow this is Texas, I hope all that warehoused vinyl has been air-conditioned all these years ... god knows what's in that time capsule!

Mark D

Bill's moved into the shopping center near where I lived. I am not sure that I ever actually purchased anything from Bill's. I browsed a lot and went away often frustrated, because although he had tons and tons, I rarely found something I wanted. I always felt he had what I wanted, but we could not find it because of the disorganization. One day I thought maybe I could get some new music without letting go of any cash. I went to Bill's and took some vinyl I thought I would never listen to again. He traded me one record for every four I gave him.

Some years later I was looking through my record collection and wanted to listen to some Soft Machine albums. When I did not find any (I had at least two), I realized the ones I had were among the records I had traded at Bill's. I went there expecting to find them, willing to pay whatever he asked. We couldn't find any Soft Machine.

El Misto

Everytime I've been to Bill's at either location I end up disappointed. Impossible to find what you're looking for, his prices are out of whack, and the vinyl and sleeves are often in poor condition. I much rather recommend Forever Young Records in Grand Prairie. The organization and quality of material they have speaks volumes of the respect they have for the music and their customers.

Liles

For what it's worth, Bill is not an old hippie. He has never tried drugs in his life.

He also hasn't turned a profit for over 15 years. At 65 years of age, he continues to do this out of a sheer love of people and music.

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