Growing up in Dallas, there was really only one place I could buy weird music. It was Bill's Records and Tapes - two warehouse-sized rooms of the most dizzying disarray of media I've ever been lucky enough to browse. It was there I bought my first Foetus CD, my first Coil tape, and eventually my first slab of vinyl, before I even owned a record player. And if I wanted to pick up some late-80's Depeche Mode 1" pins, a Lollapalooza '95 t-shirt, or maybe even a tube of vintage but still minty MC Hammer toothpaste, well, I could do that too. When I went back for a visit last year I was greeted by huge handwritten signs on neon posterboard that said Bill was moving to a smaller location on Lamar Street in South Dallas after 26 years in the same North Dallas storefront. And while I can't say it came as much of a shock - Dallas is just as hungry as Manhattan is for high-density real-estate - my heart did skip a beat.
The process of buying a record at Bill's was completely awkward and intimidating to me for quite a long time, especially as a penniless teenager. No price tags on anything, and there was always a looming fear of how much money chain-smoking 60 year old Bill might want as a toll for asking him to part with pieces of his collection.
But when I went back over Thanksgiving, I realized just how much I had learned from this guy over the years. Bill is closing in on a decade where's he's seen his once-thriving business dwindle into serious amounts of debt (he told me he'd been losing $100,000 a year for the past couple of years). As I was checking out (a pink 10,000 Maniacs 7" bootleg of Joy Division covers that sounds terrible at any speed, a Sisters of Mercy live record from 1981, a Pop Will Eat Itself CD single, and a Cardigans remix EP), I could see Bill's eyes light up at my selections - he told me a little bit about where each item had come from, and told me he was happy to see someone coming in and buying stuff he was sure he'd have to sell on eBay. There just aren't a whole lot of kids out there right now who are willing to trek to Bill's, deal with an intimidating and largely unorganized inventory that requires to the quickly disappearing art of browsing, and not be able to immediately assign a dollar value to what they're purchasing - things that you won't have to deal with at Best Buy or the iTunes Music Store.
Appropriately, Bill has an amazing collection of rock pics from shows that came through Dallas over the past 30 years or so. He told me at one point business was so good that he hired photographers to go to the shows and bring him the prints to sell at the store. Rifling through them, I was immediately reminded of one of my favorite parts of WFMU's internet presence: Scott Williams' Guitar Face gallery. So it is to Bill Weisner, unwitting architect of my pre-teen musical mind, and his storefront on Spring Valley that I dedicate this outrageous photo set in the spirit of Guitar Face.
Oh, and if you ever find yourself in Dallas, you owe it to yourself to head to Bill's new storefront, even if it's not quite what it used to be. Good luck on Lamar, Bill - you'll need it.