Dallas has no shortage of decent record stores, from Good Records to CD Source to CD World to Bill's. (Though, honestly, I haven't darkened Bill's door since he charged me damn near $20 for a Pearl Jam single in 1994. I've always believed in price tags, after all, even at 14.) But they all serve their niches—indie fans flock to Good, those looking for used bargains hit CD Source, etc.—and I'd be remiss if I neglected to say I'd take a comprehensive joint such as Austin's Waterloo Records up here any day of the week. Little did I know, however, that out in Grand Prairie lies the type of record store even Austin would kill for.
I first heard of Forever Young Records a couple years back, but thought little of it, being largely confined to a comfortable East Dallas bubble at the time. After all, the only reason I ever went to Grand Prairie as a kid was to go to Ripley's Believe It or Not. But spurred by a recent reacquaintance with vinyl—thanks largely to indie labels such as Merge and Matador offering free downloads with vinyl purchases and access to my girlfriend's sweet Numark turntable—I decided to stop in one afternoon while running an errand nearby.
I quickly learned Forever Young is not the type of record store you just poke your head in, however. It's a relic from another age, the type of record store you can get lost in, flipping through records till your fingertips hurt, adding dollar amounts in your head, trying not to spend your entire paycheck in one visit. Actually, "visit" doesn't accurately describe it; it's more like a quest, especially when you factor in the scenic Loop 12 to Interstate 20 to Highway 360 route. And as any record nerd can attest, the quest of finding records is often half the fun (which is why we spend hours every week perusing music blogs and reading reviews of old records on allmusic.com).
As you enter through a charming jukebox façade, it's hard not to be overwhelmed by its majesty. The store claims 50,000 new CDs, 20,000 used CDs, 20,000 new cassettes, 20,000 used cassettes (if this is where you get excited, swing by my laboratory so I can run some tests on you), walls full of RIAA gold and platinum record awards, posters, and other memorabilia and—wait for it, wait for it—80,000 LPs, all meticulously arranged and lovingly placed in protective plastic sleeves. And according to manager Taylor Eckstrom, these numbers are conservative estimates; the store has much of their inventory in storage.
What's really shocking is how much of it is worth buying. Just a few minutes spent combing the racks can reveal a plethora of treasures: near mint, original pressings (and high-quality 180-gram vinyl reissues) of classics by The Band, Aretha Franklin, The Replacements, James Brown, Faces, Richard Thompson, Mott the Hoople, Big Black and Neil Young; cult classics I've read about but never actually seen in a store such as The Beau Brummels' Bradley's Barn and Brinsley Schwarz's Silver Pistol; local treasures such as Mazinga Phaser's '96 debut LP and of course, plenty of great, forgotten band names to chuckle at (Beavertooth, anyone?).
"Would you like the tour?" says Eckstrom, clearly proud of his store. Pointing to a wall high above the floor, he draws attention to a display of more than a hundred Bear Family collections. Holy crap. Bear Family is a German record label that caters mostly to collectors of country and rock music from the '50s and '60s. Their boxed sets are exhaustive, even daunting, collecting, say, every track George Jones laid to tape between 1962 and 1964 or every take of every song Johnny Cash ever recorded for Sun. Once again, these are things I'd only read about previously. And here they were before my very eyes.
And did I mention the Collector's Den? Under lock and key, this room houses such rarities as mint, original copies of The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, test pressings, half-speed masters and strange finds such as a $150 Japanese copy of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Street Survivors or a platinum record commemorating sales of Beck's Odelay.
Obviously, the good folks at Forever Young are quite aware of the riches they possess, and they charge accordingly. But a quick check on eBay reveals the store's prices are far from exorbitant. Since I've never felt comfortable buying vinyl I couldn't hold in my hands first, I have to give the edge to the brick-and-mortar store, especially when record store experiences such as this are harder and harder to come by.
But how does a store build such an impressive inventory? Well, they'll buy your old LPs, for one, probably for a much fairer price than you'd get at Half Price Books, where much of the vinyl sits in overcrowded bins without slipcovers, gathering dust. At Forever Young, you get the feeling that your records are getting a good home too. In fact, they don't just care for their inventory; they baby it, and they carry all the necessary supplies for you to baby your collection too, from white paper record sleeves to album cover frames.
People of all ages and tastes walk the aisles. Fathers and daughters searching for old country records, middle-aged couples browsing for soul classics, pony-tailed metalheads completing their Randy Rhoads collection and teenagers looking for the latest radio rock hits all congregate here. In fact, I haven't seen such a diverse clientele at a record store since Tower closed their doors late last year.
I can already hear the collective groan of some local collectors—"Don't let the cat out of the bag, man!"—but this is a place so special it deserves to be patronized by every music-loving North Texan, including you, Dallas Observer readers. Obviously, a place like Forever Young can be dangerous too—with such an incredible selection, it's hard to be frugal. As one friend so eloquently put it, we've "opened Pandora's box set." So consider this a friendly warning (or a challenge). Either way, we'll see you in the stacks.