20/20 Sound, Northtown Mall, Blaine, MN


I first knew of 20/20 Sound at the Northtown Shopping Mall in Blaine, Minnesota, as one of those CD stores that sells their stuff at way more than I’d ever expect to pay for music. First starting off as a kiosk in the mall in the late 1980’s, just outside the Food Court, before moving into it's own store in early 1990. It would be one of the stops on the wandering route during my mall visits as a teenager, though it's expensive inventory made it the last option for music purchases in the mall.


One day, I noticed 20/20 Sound had a They Might Be Giants cassette that I didn't already have (They’ll Need A Crane EP). That would be the first purchase I ever made at 20/20 Sound, and last for quite a while. I wasn’t into buying as much music then, the majority of my discretionary income went towards stuff like this...


1991 Stadium Club - Chuck Knoblauch

MTV still played videos and I could get my fix from VHS tapes of 120 Minutes. I didn't need to buy the latest albums all the time, and was usually disappointed when I did.


Faith No More - Angel Dust

Other than that, I stuck by my cassette tapes. I already owned them and didn't feel like re-buying music. However, by 1993, it became apparent that the rare and harder to find stuff that I was chasing, was only available on CD. The cassette market was rapidly dying. Justly.

So I was late to the Compact Disk game, not even buying a CD Player until late 1993. Northtown's original anchor, Montgomery Wards, sold me a 6 disk changer at a nice pre X-Mess discount. That was my regular source of music until 2003, when I'd moved on to playing pretty much just mp3's.


The Captain Honkass Media Center (top shelf) of Basement World, pictured in early 1995. 

Surprisingly, I had no better picture of the CD Player than this. It can be seen resting under the 1989 K-mart stereo here. K-mart's stereo shockingly lasted until 2010, before finally crapping out on me. I still have the CD Player, but it's tucked away in an unpacked box, and I didn't feel like digging to take a new picture of it.


Columbia House Membership Form

Of course in the mid 1990's, the easiest way to pick up all those common CD's you are after, was the mail order music clubs. Both BMG and Columbia House offered cheap and convenient, as well as other annoying options arriving in your mailbox. I remember studying these catalogs during my gas station late nights, trying to decide what albums I would buy each month. When ordering multiple disks, CD's would become relatively cheap. Careful to return the form in time so I don't automatically get sent a Hootie and the Blowfish CD that I NEVER wanted...


BMG Discovery

BMG offered a deeper selection of albums that I was looking for. I also felt that BMG produced a better monthly catalog, with their Discovery title. BMG also seemed to be superior to Columbia House in nearly every other way. Catalog, shipping speed, return policy and free bonus disks! The most important thing...


Columbia House B.R.E.

With the seeming demise of record clubs these days, I'd imagined Terre Haute, IN being a ghost town now. That address was ingrained in mind since the mid 90's after seeing it so many times. I don't recall anything else coming from that town. Well, a quick check of the Google Machine shows that Columbia House still exists at this address, but it appears they are only dealing in DVD's these days.

Another dying market...

In the Spring of 1993, we were taping an episode of 201 Proof Television, and Dr. John wasn't there that night. I asked our producer Ben, who informed me that John had gotten a job, and was working at 20/20 Sound in the Northtown Mall. Several calls that night asked why John wasn't on the show, as he usually was. Playing foil to Kerrie trying to be serious, while he and I made our own fun. Since he wasn't there, Kerrie, Sixx and I kept having a brief conversations about John and 20/20 Sound on live cable access TV. I think she wanted to talk about AIDS or something.


(Note: I do not have any screen captures of our crappy 1993 "live call-in" shows. so this still from the sketch: "Aaron & Kerrie, the Lost Episode", on the August 18, 1994 episode will have to suffice...)

(Note x2: The identities of those inside 20/20 Sound have been cleverly obscured. Who they are isn't important to this story, but the backdrop is. They know who they are anyways... The in-store of 20/20 Sound images used are not intended to represent a chronological order. They're all that I have to tell this story. Wish I'd taken more... This first photo was donated by fellow 201 Proof Television star and longtime Wasted Quarter contributor, Danno.)


Not long after that episode of 201 Proof Television was shot, I was talking to John at 99 Spillihp, during my overnight shift. I asked him “Isn’t that the store that sells CD’s for $3.00 more than the other mall stores? And just how do they stay in business anyways?” He mentioned that I should go down there and check out the 20/20 since they had a really cool selection of stuff I'd be interested in. I went down and looked around one day while John was working.

Much to my amazement, they did indeed have tons of good stuff that I needed to purchase.

But before I get into more about 20/20 Sound, I need to take a step back to cover the building that store was located in.


And go see Sanctus at the Back to School Bash!


Northtown Mall Sign

Northtown Mall opened in October, 1972. The mall had a nautical theme in signage and decor at it's debut. It's anchors were Montgomery Wards, Powers, Walgreens and Woolworth, with a decent amount of mall shops filling the space to varying degrees. However, partial demolitions have shrunk this space considerably over the last twenty years. In 2007, I wrote a forgotten Wasted Quarter piece about the changes to Northtown (and the greater retail climate) as I was sitting in the actual food court.

Here's an excerpt from that:

Other than Best Buy, there is no CD store here. Musicland closed at least ten years ago. (Perhaps they shouldn’t have yelled at Danno for playing Faith No More too loud on the store speakers?) 20/20 Sound is probably only remembered by me. I bet Jay probably hasn’t stepped foot inside here in a decade. Their space makes hats now. There is no toy store. No video arcade. The bookstores have either closed or moved to other nearby properties. The interesting fountain has been replaced by an uninteresting one. The aquarium is gone. There are no cheesy diners located within any of the existing businesses. The fake cobblestone walkways and streetlamps are gone. Overall, it’s just not very interesting in here. Not that it once was fascinating, but it used to have a few things to offer. These days, I can’t see much point in ever coming here again.


Dedication Plaque

This plaque used to hang on a wall outside of Montgomery Wards, and was photographed in 2012. The Wards store was demolished in 2006, in favor of a Home Depot, that chose to use the space as a parking lot, building their store west of the mall. The wall this plaque hung on was later demolished in favor of Hobby Lobby, I doubt it was moved. Renovations have killed the nautical theme that was once prevalent here, and this plaque was likely the last remaining reminder of it.

Fun Fact: Actor Ernest Borgnine was a co-owner of the mall when it first opened.


Club Rio / Mervyns

It's kind of hard to see in this picture, but the exposed dirt in the center used to be the Club Rio bar & restaurant, which was demolished in April, 2001. Before Rio, it was known as the Bombay Bicycle Club. Before Bombay, it was the Smuggler's Inn. Now it's an Applebees. Who used to be inside the mall, but moved to the front yard at some point in the late 2000's. Behind where it was, you can see the old Northtown Mall sign. It's blurry as hell, but it's the best I've got.

On the right side of the picture is Mervyn's. They opened at Northtown in 1995 and lasted nearly a decade in this anchor position. Once Mervyns closed, this was used as a giant mall entrance for a few years before Herbergers moved to this spot in 2008.


Herbergers

In 2004, Herbergers lost their Apache Plaza home, and found themselves at Northtown 4 years later. Until last fall when Herbergers went out of business... The Northtown anchor curse continues...


Northtown Theater

Northtown's old 4 screen movie theater sat on the northeast corner of the mall's property. It stayed open until the late 1990's before closing due to decreased traffic brought on by the much larger and newer, Coon Rapids Showplace Theater. Built a mile or so to the west in 1997. The shell of the old Northtown theater was demolished in April, 2001, as part of a major mall renovation. With a row of in-line retail going up in it's place.

I'd once intended to write a story dedicated to Northtown Mall, but I don't see that happening anymore. If the mall were indeed dying, that would be different. But from what I've seen of the place, it doesn't have a lot of vacancies today. Likely because it's so much smaller than it used to be. That, and I'm completely detached from any emotional involvement to the building. The last time I cared about any of it, is what I'm detailing in this story.

So this will serve as my big Northtown story. (Just wait for Apache Plaza...)


Northtown's old Aquarium

(Photo courtesy of unknown sources, found on the internet. Wish I could claim it as mine...)

From where this photo was taken (likely in the early to mid 1980's), if you looked directly to your left, you'd see 20/20 Sound. Well, if it was 1994... But the aquarium was long gone by then. The old aquarium sat in a recessed circle, just outside Woolworths. They had piranhas in there, and an electric eel as well. I remember sitting on the benches in the middle, watching the fish swim around. Waiting for my mom to finish doing whatever she was doing.


Best Buy

The "Double B Ranch" now occupies the space once home to Woolworth, but they first opened a space directly to the east of this store. Moving over once Woolworth ceased operations nationwide in 1993. Best Buy was a pretty cool store in the late 1980's. Their music section was huge and carried all kinds of rare imported albums and odd collector pieces. Plus a great selection of NES in the case behind the registers. Once the Woolworth space opened up and Best Buy took it, the store started a rapid slide downhill. Today -despite the chain being fairly healthy- the inventory is sorely lacking in all areas. They quit selling music altogether last year.

Which is sad, because I not only bought a lot of CD's there, but the store itself provided an interesting side angle to hanging out at 20/20 Sound. On one side, you'd hear people loudly complain about how the prices were cheaper at Best Buy. They were, and the people working at 20/20 would more often than not, tell them to go buy their shit at Best Buy then. On the other side, it was also a common occurrence to see kids bring a stack of CD's into 20/20 Sound, trying to sell what they just shoplifted from Best Buy.

The ultimate David & Goliath battle re-enacted in a shopping mall.

But the winner of the battle never could have been...


2020-Sound

Apologies for the crappiness of this photo. My camera wasn't that good, and the dim mall lighting didn't help. Here was 20/20 Sound in July, 1997. Next door to Karmelkorn and it's inflatable light-up Icee (that I always wanted to steal). A rack of free City Pages newspapers sits on the opposite corner of the store. Pass through the anti-theft barricades and pick up your metal T-shirts and bootleg CD's!

From my first visit onward, I would often go to 20/20 to hang out with John while he worked. Later with whoever else was working there. Usually during the daytime hours, it would be Jay, who managed the store. Jay would special order things I couldn't get anywhere else, and give me "the cool guy discount" on everything I bought.

How do you get the cool guy discount? 

You never ask for it! 


And he likes me!

20/20 Sound employed a bunch of my friends during the mid 1990's stretch they were open. We'd share stories about the mall, goings on in life and other friends that would stop by. This was hardly exclusive to me, that store had a pretty decent following in the "Alternateen" crowd. (We know what's under the phat pants...) All while browsing through the cool shiny CD’s I'd never seen before, from artists that were well known sellers.

And they are called “Imports” and not bootlegs... 


The Cure - Success, Corruption & Lies

In late 1991, I was in downtown Minneapolis at Northern Lights Music (damn was that an awesome store), where I picked up this book. Basically an unauthorized biography of the band, with some great photos and archival images mixed in. Set me back $33.99, because it was imported from England.


In the back of that book, there was a chronological discography of their albums and singles. The next two pages listed the "Unofficial Albums", a bootleg discography. Being a young collector dork, who had purchased a copy of nearly every legitimate release to be found, I was fascinated by this list. Where could I possibly find these recordings? I have all the major label releases, I want some albums that no one else has!

But I couldn't find any of this stuff... 

In the Fall of 1992, I was hanging out with a friend who had access to a BBS server through his computer. This stuff was completely foreign to me as he was explaining the concept of a computer hundreds of miles away that would be communicating with his, via phone line. Feeling inspired by this printed list of bootleg recordings, we were looking at people who were tape trading in 1992 for rare Cure concerts. Helped that he was a fan too...

We found a guy with a huge list of recordings he had available to trade. But we had nothing to offer up. I remember feeling somewhat jealous that this guy had collected such a vast amount of live concerts, and wanted to have my own list that was similarly formatted. Sorted by show date, with city, country, duration and a grade for audio quality. This format was the inspiration for the fabled Bootlist. But I had nothing to put on mine...

Until 20/20 sound allowed me to start checking off some of these rare items.

This was back in the day when you really had to put in effort to find cool stuff.


The Cure - Italian Lyric Book

The first time I hung out with John at 20/20, we flipped through a catalog of "imports" that he was able to special order, and have shipped to the store. On said list, I found this lyric book with most of the text in Italian. The book came with a 3" mini CD, that had two early studio recordings of songs that weren't on any of their albums. A great item to add to my collection, and the first bootleg item I would own that was listed in the Success, Corruption & Lies book.

Technically, bootlegged recordings were called by nicer names in attempts to fly under the radar in America. Records, Cassettes and Compact Disks were pressed with the phrase "Archival Performances" on them, to fool customers into thinking they were buying legitimate releases. Most of these originated in countries such as Germany, Italy and Australia, who had more lax rules on copyright than America.


You going to Sanctus on 420?


Nirvana - Roma

Nirvana was the understandable king of bootlegs sold in 1994 and 1995, and 20/20 Sound couldn't keep them in stock. Roma was arguably one of the best live CD's of Nirvana to come out. KTS Records put out an almost complete FM radio broadcast of the Palaghiaccio, Roma show from February 22, 1994. The only edits are a few seconds shaved off on several songs from radio ID's.


Nirvana - Unhappy

While a metric ton of live Nirvana bootlegs hit the market in 1994 and 1995, likely just as many CD's were made compiling different 80 minute compilations of early demos and live recordings. Apparently many people had copies of early Nirvana recordings of various quality, and it was easy for them to find their way to bootleggers. Unhappy featured a really good and high quality mix, compared to some of the very subpar comps that were floating around the shops willing to carry them. Unhappy was an often featured overnight soundtrack to 99 Spillihp when I was in the building.


I was rather surprised to find that Faith No More was one of the more heavily bootlegged bands of the early 1990's. These 6 CD's came from 20/20 Sound, but there were a whole bunch of others available that Jay wasn't able to get in stock. Some of which I was able to acquire through tape trading. And much later on, mp3.


Frank Black - The Return Of Fu Manchu

A few bootleg CD's were even made available for Frank Black's 1993 solo work. Back when he still wrote interesting music and wasn't milking his divorce for years and multiple below average albums...


Siouxsie & the Banshees - Bootleg CDs

Bootleggers have always been able to sell top classic rock acts, but surprisingly 1980's synth pop accounting for many of the top selling bootleg CD's. I know of many Siouxsie & the Banshees unauthorized live recordings, but 20/20 Sound only ever had these two that I found. The Sweetest Chill is a show from 1986, while 92 Degrees is from 1981. Both are very good quality.

In many countries, as long as the word "Unauthorized" appeared on the CD, it was legal to be sold.

The RIAA lobbied the US Government in the early 1990's to not sign international copyright agreements that gave specific intellectual property rights. This enabled record companies to maintain control of their own recordings. it also allowed underground record companies to release unauthorized live recordings, as long as they came from a different country, which were then legally imported into US thanks to wording in copyright law.

The "Italian Authors Society" was established to pay artists royalties on bootleg recordings. As long as the CD had a stamp on the back, it proved the label deposited a small amount of money into an account set up to distribute royalties to the artists, from sales of bootlegs. No one really bothered trying to collect. Rumors are that Sting and Bob Geldof are the only artists that ever inquired about the money owed to them.

The GATT agreement closed this loophole (and many others) in international copyright law. Effective January 1, 1995.


The Cure - Dreams Come True In 92

I was surprised to see that even KTS Records bought into the "Italian Authors Society" idea. With as above the law as they tried to fly, I figured they would have laughed it off and ignored it. But as of 1992, KTS was using the stamp.


Here is a close up of the "Italian Authors Society" stamp. This one branded to the back of a live CD recording of The Cure's January, 1991 show at the London Town & Country Club.

Despite the rapidly changing laws regarding bootleg recordings, of course it was still socially acceptable to purchase legitimate major label releases at 20/20 Sound, which I did fairly often.


Then you should go see Posh! 

I actually recorded a couple of Posh shows (At the Tokesadero and the Cafe Ami) with their permission back in these days. Still have those cassettes somewhere... I did not sell them at 20/20 Sound.


Two years after Danno's photos, 20/20 Sound had changed a bit. There was only about 1/10 of the cassette tapes now available for sale, and all that former cassette space has been taken over by new CD racks. T-shirts had a larger presence in the store. 20/20 had also expanded their used CD section. About a third of which probably came from Best Buy. Directly.

I almost always bought a used copy of a CD at 20/20. Jay once explained to me the higher profit margin for the store in selling a disk purchased from a customer, versus what he made from off new disks from the typical distributors. Amongst the many legitimate CD's I picked up at 20/20 were these...


Greta - No Biting

Greta was a band that was heavily featured on 201 Proof Television. Their label sent promotional videos for three of their songs for us to play, including the fantastic song "Love Is Dead", which still gets a lot of spins in my world. Fathom and Is It What You Wanted were the other videos featured on our little show. Liking all three songs, I picked up a used copy of No Biting for $5 from 20/20 Sound, which soon filled the smokey air inside 99 Spillihp almost every night for a while. Still a very solid album.


Soul Coughing - Ruby Vroom

Picked up the used copy at 20/20 Sound, from recommendation of Danno. This album (and Irresistible Bliss) became a staple of late night 99 Spillihp muzak.


Dead Milkmen - Stoney's Extra Stout (Pig)

In the fall of 1995, I found the newest Dead Milkmen CD, Stoney's Extra Stout (Pig), freshly released and on sale. A sticker on the cover announced it would be their last studio album. I felt really sad. I loved the Milkmen years ago, but had lost track of them, post-high school. I loved this album from first listen. Quickly becoming my favorite album of 1995, I had previously ranked it as one of my Top 5 "Desert Island" CD's.


Dead Milkmen - Pretty Music For Pretty People

This held true until 2014, when Stoney's was bumped out of that top 5 by the Dead Milkmen's "Pretty Music For Pretty People." I'm glad the Milkmen lied about Stoney's being their last album, Pretty Music has been a top play since the day it was released. It's just so good, and so fitting how I feel about life today. Just as Stoney's summarized how I felt about life in 1995.


Not retired from music anymore, the Milkmen recently announced a June 1st show at the Gothic Theater in Englewood, Colorado. Exactly one year to the date of Laura and I moving away from my favorite address.

Sadness...


The(n) abandoned Gothic Theater in November, 1997. 

The Gothic was renovated and reopened in 2000, and has been a major player in Denver area music ever since. But those years it sat abandoned are burned in my mind. It was one of the first abandoned buildings I specifically took pictures of to write about later.


Mr. Bungle - Disco Volante

My most anticipated album of 1995. As per my usual routine, I skipped classes at Anoka Ramsey, and was at Northtown when it opened. First checking Best Buy, even asking a minimum wage earning tool if they had it in. The kid played off like he knew what i was talking about, but Best Buy had zero copies. Which was fine, I wasn't going to buy it there anyways... Jay at 20/20 Sound knew this was a release that his market was very interested in, and was ordering accordingly. When I entered 20/20, Jay was going through boxes of the day's new releases, and handed me one of the five copies of Disco Volante that came in from the distributor.

If Stoney's Extra Stout (Pig) was one of my Top 5 Desert Island CD's, Disco Volante would have still ranked ahead of it. While it didn't immediately blow me away, this album changed the way I listened to music. Instead of hearing the songs and just liking them, Disco Volante made me listen to all of the layers of sound in the music. Some complex bass here, screaming Patton there, broken trumpets, fascinating speed metal for a spell, and some eerie cartoonish keyboards scattered throughout. Disco Volante had so much going on that it forced you to pay attention to it.

That album is still a masterpiece to me today.

And I bet you would HATE it!


Wasted Quarter issue #20

Late In the Summer of 1995, I asked Jay about expanding Wasted Quarter's sales to the 20/20 Sound. He agreed and WQ would now be sold at the front counter of the store, starting with issue #20. Which coincidentally featured a Xerox of John's hairy ass for a front cover. Even though he quit working at 20/20, his ass was still resting on the counter. As per our agreement, Jay would keep the singles of dollars that WQ was bringing in, safely tucked away in a white envelope under the cash register.

The relative few I sold -and the many more who flipped through it- gave me a new audience. For the first time, someone other than my immediate friends were reading what I had to say. (Despite it not being very much at all.) After I moved to Colorado in 1996, Wasted Quarter would still be available at 20/20 Sound, up until it closed in 1998. Trav would be my designated company rep, keeping me posted on how my nearly non-existent sales were going. Bringing new issues in as I'd send to him, he'd hold onto those singles of dollars, until I came back to town.

But while I still lived in town, every visit to 20/20 Sound featured a check of the C-Section of the CD racks. The Cure was one of the most heavily bootlegged band, and Jay always tried to keep fresh ones coming in. I'd buy pretty much anything that wasn't a duplicate show.


The Cure - 17 Boys Have Faith In Pornography

The first bootleg CD I ever purchased was this compilation of BBC recordings made in 1979 through 1982. With a clever title, hitting the names of their first four albums. Some interesting recordings on here that I'd only read about before. I was hooked and needed more of these disks.


The Cure have always been big movers in the bootleg CD market, and there's no shortage of titles under their name. Much to mid 1990's me's delight. Looking at those 8 CD covers, I'm imagining how many hours of 99 Spillihp "work" went into funding these purchases...


Yes, I paid $56.99 (plus tax) for a 2 CD set of The Cure playing in Munich, Germany, on October 12, 1992...


The Cure - Pornography Tour 1982

As soon as I found this CD at 20/20, it had to be purchased. A personal "holy grail" when I first saw it named in the Success, Corruption & Lies bootleg list. Pornography being one of my favorite albums of theirs, a live CD from this tour sounded too good to be true.


My $30 got me a live CD that went beyond my lofty expectations. This show was broadcast on French radio in June 1982, and is near pristine soundboard quality. The performance is fast, aggressive, angry and -at times- almost scary. If what you think of The Cure is the fluffy and somewhat sad pop music, you'd never imagine this was the same band.

Even today, I would still rank The Cure's Pornography Tour 1982 bootleg as one of my top 5 Desert Island CD's...

Except for...


The Cure - M

The single disk Pornography Tour 1982 release is missing two songs from the radio broadcast. Both of which are included on another bootleg CD of this show, simply titled "M". In order to make them fit, M packaged the full 80 minute CD, along with a second 3" mini disk, to allow the additional songs to fit. Oddly enough, I was able to buy both pieces of M from Twist & Shout in Denver. But this was done with more than three years between them. I bought the main CD, used in 2009. By amazing coincidence in 2012, the used bin had the 3" mini disk on sale for $15.

Whatever the price, I need them both.  

By 1996, I'd pretty much dropped both BMG and Columbia House as a factor in my CD buying habits. I'd already acquired what I wanted from their service. Now it was easier to just go buy the new stuff as it came out.

Even if it had to be the record breakingly awful new album by The Cure. Which was a feature in BMG's Discovery issue, promoting their 1996 album Wild Mood Swings...


What are you guys so happy about? Your new album absolutely sucks!


I should have just went and saw Sanctus!


The south wall of 20/20 was filled with metal T-shirts and Limp Bizkit posters, during the Summer of 1997. Most of the posters in 20/20 Sound had zero interest to me. I'm just not hanging Korn on my walls. Ever. One day, Jay asked if I wanted to look through the poster catalog to see if there was something I wanted him to order. 


Dead Can Dance - Poster

Shortly before moving to Denver in 1996, I had him order a Dead Can Dance poster to help decorate my new apartment. This poster eventually moved to Minnesota and back to Englewood in 2006. It is now rolled up in my basement. With Scotch tape holding several rips from tearing further.


Wasted Quarter issue #23 was printed in March 1996, and immediately brought to 20/20 Sound. I felt that I needed to get to know my new readers. The idea came to me that I should do a little reader survey, to learn about who was now reading Wasted.


From my survey, I got four whole letters from people I didn’t even know answering my questions! 


I like letters that compliment AND include money!

And don't ask about Wasted Quarter Online... 

Here's Kelly's answers to the Wasted Quarter #23 Readers Survey...



And while I never declared it a contest...


Kelly won it with the best drawing of "Newt Gingrich with a Rocket Ship in his Ass..."


Columbia House Nirvana Unplugged 

Always wondered how many copies of Nirvana Unplugged Columbia House shipped in early 1995. I got my copy at 20/20 Sound, as I know a bunch of other people did. And a lot of people shoplifted a copy from Best Buy... This 2 page spread was deemed worthy of saving in the Archives. It was taped to my Basement World desk until I moved out in late 1995. Actually, it stayed there even after I moved out, and was rescued after I moved to Denver.

2 CD's for $20!

2 Tapes for $12!


And here's page 30 for those details!


A 1996 gift from the 20/20 Sound, given to me from Danno. This Kurt Cobain poster has been displayed in my various living quarters since 1996. Also rolled up in the basement and taped together today, just as the happy skeletons are.


I think they were dancing to Posh.

Wasted Quarter #23 also featured a story titled: "A Teary Eye'd Tribute to (Name Redacted) Star". My former sidekick from 1992-1994, had gone missing when his parents told him he wasn't allowed to hang out with me anymore. Despite living across the street from me. I wrote a very tongue in cheek salute to our friendship in this issue. He saw it via 20/20 Sound, read it, then emailed me in the Spring of 1996.


Shortly after that, (Name Redacted) Star visited me one night at Ninja School. He is very khaki...

One night that Summer, (Name Redacted) Star stopped in to 99 Spillihp, interrupting an in-store  water fight with this guy!


As I was writing this, I thought of putting an mp3 of the legendary Bort song, (Name Redacted) Star. But then I realized that it would give away his name that I really cannot reveal. On the internet of all places!


KTS Records - Spin Magazine Ad

In the Summer of 1996, I started finding ads for KTS Records that hinted at what they were doing, without coming out and saying it. I wondered, was KTS now selling something that was legit? If not, the balls on this company for advertising it in major entertainment magazines.


KTS Records - Alternative Press Ad

By late 1996, KTS Records got even more bold with their print advertising campaign. Putting out "Columbia House" style ads in Spin, Rolling Stone and Alternative Press, among other magazine covering the 1990's music scene. Knowing that the US Federal Government had been cracking down on bootleg CD sales, I wondered how KTS Records was getting away with this.

In 1995, the RIAA joined powers with US Customs and the FBI to shut down overseas importers, as their CD's were shipped into America. Many labels ceased operations rather than fight. KTS Records chose a different approach, moving their operations to Singapore. Soon, they had increasing trouble getting their products into this country. Even single CD packages were intercepted and opened at customs, then refused entrance.

KTS Records closed down in April 1997.


The Cure - Visions Of Domino

Once I set up residence at Ninja School with Crazy Carl, in December 1995, I was able to access the internet via his America Online dial-up. (Remember those days?) Most of my time was spent reading various usenet groups dedicated to bands I liked, with the goal of either trading for or buying rare stuff, that I suddenly had access to. Including a couple of vinyl bootleg records, also noted on the Success, Corruption & Lies bootleg list.


The Cure - Dressing Up

I picked up this 2 record set from a guy's posting on alt.music.thecure, in early 1996. Bootleg CD's, like what I used to buy at 20/20 Sound, were usually more expensive through private sales on Usenet, but vinyl was an ice cold market in the mid 1990's.


Faith No More - Reading Festival 1990

The late 1990's saw another crackdown on bootleg albums, this time on ebay. Although that was easily circumvented by creative wording in auction titles. I do remember following quite a few auctions that ebay cancelled early, due to the legality of the item up for bids. I was very happy to win this auction, as vinyl Faith No More bootlegs weren't easy to come by, and this is a really great show (albeit brief).


Autumn 1995 saw me try my hand at community college. I may have attended three classes before deciding that I had zero interest in going to community college. But I kept up the illusions of going for an entire semester. Showing up every morning after the 99 Spillihp graveyard shift. Sitting in either my car or the cafeteria, writing in my notebooks and selling Wasted Quarters in front of the library. Once it became 10am and Northtown was open, I'd often go hang out at 20/20 Sound for a bit, before going home to bed.


Sometimes stopping here for a Bigger Bacon Cheeseburger. I miss this place.


Wasted Quarter issue #24

The title of this issue was: "I Hate Wasted Quarter"

A short time after dropping off a stack at 20/20, someone wrote: "So do I." underneath the header. 

Brilliant!


Corruption

Jay also let a kid from Elk River put his little poetry rag next to Wasted Quarter on the 20/20 Sound front counter. I was told of it by someone who worked there (can't remember who) and grabbed one on my next visit. What I read was some of the worst hack high school creative writing class whiny suburban anarchist wannabe garbage to have ever been committed to paper. John and I shared many laughs at his stack of plain angry white boy rants against the man, the following night at 99 Spillihp. We also decided that we needed to take him up on his "submissions welcome" tag. After work, we collaborated on the worst teenage angst poem we could write, and mailed it to his PO Box. In one of the biggest oversites in Wasted’s history, I forgot to keep a copy of our masterpiece before I dropped it in the mailbox.

My hopes were to motivate Mr. Corruption into a zine war between WQ and Corruption. Which would play out over the countertops of 20/20 Sound. However, neither John nor I heard back from Mr. Corruption. As far as I know, there would never be a Corruption issue #2. When I first heard of Corruption, I was somewhat flattered. I felt proud that WQ had inspired someone to commit their own ideas and personality into a zine. Then I felt disgust. In that I influenced someone who could only come up with the worst of terrible poems with their efforts.

I hate poetry.

“Commie bastard three piece suit... Into your ass my combat boot!!!”


Plenty of Korn posters are available as well...


How about we all go see End Transmission (featuring former members of Posh)?


CDNow 

By 1996, the internet was proving to be a viable option for buying music. Quickly, it became easier to look at what online retailers had available, than looking at nearby stores for rare and interesting music. As awesome as this was, I knew it was going to lead to the end of a lot of brick and mortar retailers. Especially the independent ones.


Bootlist

When I started collecting bootlegs and rare recordings, I started to compile them on my new (in 1994) computer. This way I could have a record of what I had, and could reference it for tape trading. I named the list of bootlegs, simply "The Bootlist". And my friends never let me live that down. It became my trademark, and was an in-joke referencing me just as much as a customary BAAAAAAUAAAAAAAAAA sound. I stopped updating the Bootlist in 1996, and it never really was that relevant. But there is a group of people that if you ever mentioned my name around, the word Bootlist would be one of the first to be uttered.

It's nice to be known for things...


As mentioned before, the recordings I picked up at 20/20 Sound allowed me to conduct all kinds of tape trades. Which was a big hobby for me in 1996 and 1997. I'd make copies of stuff that I had, then send them out in exchange for shows that other people had. It was a simple plan and made getting the mail cool. To this day, I still have a large box filled with cassette tapes of concerts by my favorite musicians.

Cranes.... BAAAAAAAAUAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA....

I enjoyed tape trading because it was a personal way of connecting over thousands of miles over the shared appreciation of music. While agreeing to the trade, you'd get to know your trading partner a little. Especially given the convenience of email...


Even though I doubt it was from the real Tom Waits, Tom Waits sent me a VHS copy of Mr. Bungle playing the Fillmore Theater in San Francisco, in December 1995. He didn't have a whole lot to add, but was kind enough to type out Bungle's setlist in an email.

And thanks for reminding me of Melt Banana... 

Sheesh...


Other inquiries were more direct. Although usually half of them also asked about my name...


But tape trading was personal. And sometimes you'd get fun letters along with your cassettes. Like this guy who just wanted to tell me a short story about a Tori Amos concert with my Cure bootlegs.


Another photo courtesy of Danno. Our friend Matt worked at 20/20 Sound for a stretch of 1995, and can be seen here behind the register. What else is behind the register? Bootleg CD's and (Sanctus posters and) VHS concerts and DUGOUTS!

And they are for tobacco use ONLY!


Danno also drew the art for this particular Sanctus flyer. You could often see flyers for local bands at 20/20 Sound. I still have a few that I picked up from there. And they were scanned for this story!

Just before I moved to Colorado in October 1996, I bought a bootleg Alanis Morrisette CD (I know...) for a certain female. She never took it with her after leaving my apartment for the last time. When I visited Minnesota in the Summer of 1997, I brought it back to 20/20 and told Jay the story. He laughed at my misfortune. However, being the awesome guy that Jay was, he let me trade it for any equally priced CD in the store, for no extra cost! A Mr. Bungle bootleg CD immediately popped into my hands, as I never saw one before, and honestly... It's Mr. Bungle...


Mr. Bungle - Excrement (The Lost Demos)

The CD itself is just a copy of Mr. Bungle's OU818 demo tape from 1988. One that has a half second skip in the middle of Mr. Nice Guy, just to irritate me. Other than that, the quality is pretty good.

At least it's better than Alanis.... 

And You Outta Know! Mr. Bungle will go down on you in a theater...


Wasted Quarter issue #30

April 1997 saw Wasted Quarter issue #30 being printed, with another small shipment headed to 20/20 Sound. My friend Jeremy was working there at the time, and a story about my recent failed relationship struck a chord with him. Apparently we were both going through break-ups at the same time. He wrote me a really nice letter during his shift at 20/20, after reading the issue.


His story of working at 20/20 Sound reminded me a lot of the general malaise I felt while working at 99 Spillihp. It is really hard to tolerate the public while working retail. And the grind of it day after day sucks the life out of you. That's true no matter what you're selling. Be it petroleum products or Will Smith CD's...


As a thank you gift, he sent along a CD-R of the new Faith No More album (titled: Album of the Year), which had just arrived as a promo for in-store play. Over a month before it would be released to the public. He was right, I did love it. Even if the album itself was kind of a let down.

Of the year...



Sorry to let the secret out Jer... Hopefully Jay doesn't read this story, I'd hate for him to get pissed at you for it...


Faith No More - Album Of The Year

Even with my free advance copy, I didn't want to cheat THIS artist out of their money.


I would be at the Denver Tower Records in the Cherry Creek Mall, the day it went on sale.

In September 2011, I found out that Jeremy had passed away unexpectedly, at the age of 33. I hadn't talked to Jeremy since 1997. We hung out for a bit while I was in town that Summer, but lost track of each other. Which happened with a lot of my friends from that time. it's hard to maintain friendships with 1000 miles between you and the people you were once close to.

The news of his death came to me just after I returned to Denver after visiting Minnesota. He died while I was there, but I didn't know until later. I missed his funeral by a few days.

That's always kind of bothered me. 


Rest in peace Jer. 

While we were never overly close, you were a good dood...


By July of 1998, 20/20 Sound had closed it's chain link doors for good. I don't remember where it came from, but before I left town from my vacation, I placed a plastic rose at the closed gate in remembrance.

I always wondered who picked that rose up and what they thought when they did...


Today, there is no indication that 20/20 -or even a store- was once in this space. The store has been walled over, and a display window for another store that is elsewhere in the mall, now lives here. Karmelkorn is gone as well. Today the giant inflatable Icee is just a table, and Karmelkorn is Addie's Gourmet Donuts.

Very few CD shops have survived the internet retail death kill off, which has seemingly now taken the CD with it. You could see signs on the horizon of technology and economy making much of what we knew in the mid 1990's, completely obsolete 20 years later. And I wont make the argument that we are better for it.

I miss specialty retail, and it aint coming back...

Comments

  1. As a fellow coon rapids resident and growing up in mid to late 90's it does bring back the memories. Your stories are very well written and detailed. Keep it going

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  2. I too have fond memories of 20/20 Sound. Growing up in Anoka in the '80s and early '90s, I spent a fair amount of time at Northtown. I didn't know anybody who worked there or anything, but they tended to stock a deeper selection of albums than you could find at the chain stores, despite their small size. What I remember most was that they had a thick catalog you could special order out of. I was never into bootlegs, but remember ordering a Sam Kinison album that way, and maybe a few other things to fill in holes in my collection. I didn't know of any other local stores that would do that. I also moved out of state in 1996, so I never knew what became of the place. Thanks for the recap.

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