By Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho)
Like many people of his generation, Paul Epstein’s first encounter with the Beatles came via The Ed Sullivan Show, and it completely changed his life. It was the genesis of his lifelong fascination with music that eventually gave birth to his now 23-year-old record store, Twist & Shout.
Including his seven-year stint (Trade-A-Tape) before his present venture with his wife, Jill, Epstein has been selling records for three decades. His current shop, which has moved several times in the past, is now settled on Denver’s Colfax Avenue, donning a spacious and sparkling look that shatters the common notion of an independent record store. From its immense vinyl collection, to its quirky collectible toys, the shop’s vibe transcends L.A.’s Amoeba with the spirit of brick-and-mortar independence yet still roomy interior. What has started serendipitously, with Epstein buying a ceased record store via tax auction, has grown into the city’s foremost music destination.
Epstein, who’s a former English teacher and a traveling Deadhead for 25 years, still has a firm belief in sharing physical music with the world. He further shared his story by answering our Wax Nostalgic 7 Question Survey.
What’s the first record you ever bought?
Paul Epstein: The Hollies’ Stop! Stop! Stop! 45 was the first record I bought. This was either 1965 or 1966. I was probably six or seven years old? I first heard the record on radio station 77 WABC. There was always music around the house. My father’s an author, and he’s a very artsy guy. He was a huge classical music collector, and he had a big record collection that he was very serious about. So that kind of inspired me.
What’s your favorite record this week?
Paul Epstein: Well, for this week I’m going to say the new singles off Rome, the project album with Danger Mouse and Daniel Luppi. From that, I like the song with Norah Jones (“Black”), and the song with Jack White (“Two Against One”). I’m not a dinosaur. I love the ‘60s music, that’s where my heart really is, but I’m very in tune with what’s going on right now. You can’t run a store like this if you didn’t know what was happening.
What’s the most valuable/expensive record that you own?
Paul Epstein: It’s a record by a band called The Smack. Only a 100 of them were made in 1968. And a copy costs around a $1,000 each. It’s psychedelic music. I got this record within the last year. Someone brought in a big collection of records, and it was in there. I got this for like a buck, and then I took it home, and listened to it. We buy tens and thousands of records every week. We’re very serious about buying vinyl. And I get all kinds of crazy shit, so I just took that one out. I’m sure if I looked there would’ve been more, but the value of the record doesn’t matter to me, I only care about the music. It matters to me as a business, but as a collector I don’t care about the value.
If you didn’t own a record shop, what would you do?
Paul Epstein: It’s hard for me to imagine not owning a record shop. I’d hate to think that I’d still be teaching. The only way I could have gone, it seems to me, is remaining a teacher, doing this, or maybe I would have gotten into radio, or taken my guitar playing more seriously, or tried to join a band or something. But I can’t imagine not ending up in music, one way or another.
Why should people buy records?
Paul Epstein: As opposed to downloads? Because downloads mean nothing. There’s no cultural transmission involved in a download. It’s just an idea. Art is supposed to be a thing. A real physical thing that you can touch, smell, look at, and believe in. Downloads aren’t that. That’s why people should buy physical manifestations of art—because it means something.
Vinyl will never die because…
Paul Epstein: I think everything will die out eventually. I think our culture is such that, we love things, and we hate them. We embrace them, and we despise them. We throw them away. Ultimately, everything turns to dust.
Have you ever played a certain record and gotten laid?
Paul Epstein: Yes. The group was called Traffic, and the album was The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. It’s a psychedelic, jazzy, sophisticated rock album. It set the mood correctly, and it did its job.
Twist & Shout (Denver)
2508 East Colfax Ave, Denver