By Wayne Harada
Hungry Ear Records, which owes part of its legacy to the era of the long-playing vinyl records, will mark its 31st anniversary this week with a three-day sale Thursday (Aug. 18) through Saturday (Aug. 20).
The store, at 418 Kuulei Road in Kailua, will give away any five vinyl LPs — remember these oversized record albums, also called long-playing discs (33 1/3 r.p.m.)? — priced $4 or less for free (limit: one visit per customer). You’re talking hundreds of vintage (used) rock, soul, jazz, pop and hip-hop records, from the generation when albums were large (12 inch discs) with like-sized jackets with photo or graphics and liner notes you could read, unlike the miniaturized CD versions of the recent past and current times.
Hungry Ear owners Dennie Chong and Ward Yamashita, who are Kailuans who were employees at the record emporiums in their younger days, returned to the fold in 2008 to continue the store’s legacy. The sale is a means to thank the fans and friends of Hungry Ear over time.
“Hungry Ear is part of a dying breed of independent record store that thrives on the rabid music fan rather than the casual mall customer,” said Yamashita.
“We’re also glad to support local musicians, carrying their recordings and promoting their live shows,” said Chong. “We want our store to be a place where you can enjoy a couple of hours, talking and listening to good music, old and new.”
As part of its sale, the store, which also boasts new CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays, will offer 20 per cent discount for new product, and used recordings will be 30 per cent off. The inventory includes used classical and opera CDs at $1 a disc, meaning that a three-record opera set will be sold at $3. Hundreds of merchandise will be on sale for $1.
Think Borders or Barnes and Noble, without the coffee shop, without the national corporate office, without the fancy and flurry of racks of books, magazines and stationery components.
Hungry Ear is a spin-off of the traditional music store, from another time when folks bought singles and albums from a storefront shop, as opposed to ordering from an online source, and purchasing hard copies of musical recordings instead of downloading via YouTube to enjoy on iPods and iPads and computers.
Times and formats and habits have changed, but vinyl has been somewhat stable, enjoying periodic comebacks. Club deejays are credited with keeping the vinyl format a viable form of the biz.
Yamashita noted there’s a resurgence of interest and sales in vinyl product, with a short list of contemporary artists releasing latest projects both on old-fashioned/new-fashioned vinyl, as well as through favored online sources.
“There’s a wide range of customers buying albums now, from high school kids just discovering the beauty of the format to the older crowd who bought records in their youth and are still drawn to the sound, graphics and even smells that only come from a vinyl record album,” said Yamashita.
The vinyl component at Hungry Ear can include titles that will fetch $500, if highly prized and rare, with budget LPs in the $2 to $4 range. Like a old record or old book sale, the joy is in the discovery of a prized title, and Hungry Ear’s collection runs the gamut, from hard-to-find rockery and reggae rhythms to Hawaiian titles that are out of print, or hard rock and jazz favorite recovered from a swap meet to await a new home in the used bin.
Used doesn’t necessarily mean a scratchy disc, said Yamashita. “We feel that the sound quality of a record that was well cared for will often outshine the sound of its CD equivalent.”
And Chong said newbies discovering the ways of vinyl include “teenagers buying their first Beales album (and) older professional types.”
Equipment to play the old LPs are frequently available at affordable prices, too, with multi formats, to listen to CDs and cassettes, as well as vinyl 45s and 33 1/3. A few updated phonographs also offer a 78 r.p.m. option, though availability of these discs is rare — unless you know someone who has box of really old oldies in a dusty box.
The rebirth of vinyl also is bring new respect for the old form. “In its heyday, a record was thought of as a work of art, both musically and graphically, and not just a piece of product,” said Yamashita.
These days, many music fans don’t even get to physically touch a recording, since they don’t buy a physical disc at a record shop that also is a dying breed. Think Borders going out of business as an example and the dwindling selection of CDs and DVDs available at such big box merchants as Costco.
Information: Hungry Ear Records at 262-2175.