Out with the new wave

VVV Records closes its doors after 17 years

Even more to the point, the so-called mom-and-pop record stores--the independent and specialty outlets--are a dying breed, stomped into extinction by the likes of Best Buy and Blockbuster. Quality has vanished in the wake of quantity, and even the chain outlets have gotten into the import business, for better or worse. In the past year, both Direct Hit and 14 Records (which specialized in eight-track tapes and used vinyl, the food of dinosaurs) have closed down, and though Direct Hit continues to function as a label, its output has dwindled since the demise of the store.

The few remaining specialty stores are also feeling the impact of the chains: R.P.M. in Garland is in danger of having to move because of the impending arrival of another Blockbuster store; Pagan Rhythms on Greenville at Lovers Lane must now compete not only with CD Source on one side and CD World on the other, but the new Borders Books and Music across the street; and Last Beat in Deep Ellum has almost become a secondary business to Last Beat's record label and recording studio.

"It's great I can walk into Best Buy and can find offbeat stuff and it's cheap," Griffin says, "but they still can't be a store that can stock some scary industrial records with rotting corpses on the cover. If you want something eclectic, you have to go to a place like VVV, and it's bad when the marketplace squeezes stores like that out of existence."

So now Caldwell will sell off the remaining stock with a clearance sale, then turn the property back to the landlord and resume his life of grace and beauty. He made a good run of it, but in the end, VVV probably lasted longer than it should have: Metamorphosis and Direct Hit came and went in Exposition Park, and VVV outlasted them both.

"I went into this with more of a creative purpose in mind than the other record stores," says Caldwell, who will now concentrate on finishing the Enablers' debut. "It was more out of a need to bring alternative culture into Dallas rather than to make a killing. A lot of it was done unpremeditated. I never studied business. I was always just a musician. Everything was done by the seat of my pants, pretty much. I loved doing it, and I hate to have to do it like this, but I do want to give it a proper burial, and I think I'm the only person fit to do it."

Scene, heard
Local guitarist Regina Chellew has landed a pretty damned decent gig--playing guitar and keyboard with Ruby. Chellew, who has played in such local bands as Neurotica and Spitfire landed the job after Last Beat's Tami Thomsen introduced her to the band--which just so happened to need a guitarist--and she will join Ruby for shows at the mammoth Redding Festival in England this summer.

Tips and comments for Street Beat can be sent by e-mail to robert_wilonsky@dallasobserver.com.

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