By Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho)
From '83 to '85, John Timmons, 55, sold records out of his apartment and trunk, taking mail orders, traveling to record fairs across the Midwest, and even doing door-to-door services. Exhausted by customers asking for vinyl at 11 p.m. in the evening, the record store employee since '73 realized it was time to open up a physical store. ear X-Tacy, named after the English band XTC, opened in Louisville, Kentucky. Starting off with a space of 500 square feet, the store slowly expanded, at one point covering 10,000 square feet of space. The current location, boasting 6,500 square feet full of music-related items, recently opened its doors after moving from its previous spot, its home for the last 15 years. Relocating up and down the same area for the last two decades, this upcoming August will mark the store's 26th birthday—truly, an impressive feat for a brick-and-mortar record shop in the current music business climate.
Though tracking down Timmons wasn't easy, Complex got down with the cheerful vinyl advocate who answered our Wax Nostalgic 7 Question Survey.
What’s the first record you ever bought?
John Timmons: Let me preface this by saying I have an older brother. He’s four years older than me. And growing up I had access to his record collection, and record taste. It was a little bit late for me buying records, just because I was digging all the stuff my brother was into. This was back in the ‘60s, so the Beatles, the Rolling Stones—all the British invasion stuff—he turned me onto that. American stuff like the Doors, we got into that. So the first record I bought was something he would never buy. And that was the Monkees’ first record. [Laughs.]
What’s your favorite record of all time?
John Timmons: There might be a couple of things I can point out. I just have a hard time nailing it down to one thing. I named my store after a British band named XTC. And their album Skylarking is one of my favorite albums. It’s also because another favorite artist of mine is Todd Rundgren, and his album called Something/Anything? is one of my favorite records, too. What really got me into XTC’s Skylarking is because Todd Rundgren produced that record. So it’s a combination of two of my favorite artists at the time. I’d have to say Skylarking is my favorite, but Todd Rundgren would be up there.
What’s the most valuable/expensive record that you own?
John Timmons: Oh, man. I don’t know. If it’s not valuable I don’t keep it. [Laughs.] To me, they’re all priceless. I’m not really wrapped up in what’s valuable or not, but I might have some early Beatles or Stones records. But to me they’re all the same, and they’re all valuable. I don’t place a value on one record above another one.
If you didn’t own a record shop, what would you do?
John Timmons: Going back to the Beatles again, when their second movie, Help!, came out I went to the theater with couple of my grade-school friends, and we saw that movie. At that point, I decided I wanted to be in a band. I didn’t know how to play anything, but it didn’t matter. So my next-door neighbor, he had a guitar, so he was going to be a guitar player, and I went out and got a set of drums. I started playing music from fourth grade on. If I wasn’t doing this, I’d probably be some sort of unemployed musician? [Laughs.] I actually studied both architecture and photography when I was in college. Architecture was too much math and science for me, and photography, I was a better photographer before I took classes. But, yeah, I think photography would be up there with being a musician.
Why should people buy records?
John Timmons: Because stealing is not a good idea. [Laughs.] I can only speak for myself, but I can’t imagine a day without music. I’m still looking. When I think I've heard it all, somebody will turn me onto something that totally blows my mind. It just adds so much to the quality of life. I can’t imagine people not wanting to have music.
Vinyl will never die because…
John Timmons: I think vinyl will eventually die out, but I also think there’s always going to be a need for a physical good. Something tangible. And the album, while it’s not the most practical format, there’s something about holding that artwork, and something about looking at those liner notes. It’s art. The music is art, and the graphics are art as well. I just think that it may come down to vinyl and downloads. Everything’s going to die out, but I just have to think there’s going to be a physical format out there. There’s always going to be books, there’s always going to be magazines. I see it in kids now, since they’re buying records. They discovered the coolness factor. It’s not practical to have a record player in your car, but at home, it’s a totally different experience when you’re listening to vinyl records.
Have you ever played a certain record and gotten laid?
John Timmons: [Laughs.] God, I hope that it wasn't because of the music, but obviously music sets the mood. I can’t say that it’s actually helped me get there, but then again it’s an important factor of all aspects of my life. So I’ll just leave it at that.
ear X-Tacy Records
2226 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, Ky.