I was in Dallas the week of 10/14 for an I/T conference. While I was there I wanted to visit what is considered the best record store in the area– Bill’s. Bill’s Records has been around for over 20 years and is known for the extensive vinyl collection as well as its in-store performances.
Unfortunately, I visited the store while it was in the middle of moving locations so there was apparently quite a bit of inventory still at the old location. Apparently this new location is a bit smaller, too. I visited on a Sunday night– they are open until 10PM every night of the week. The store was dead the night I was there and the store was staffed by Bill himself and another guy who was busying himself with getting their eBay auctions ready.
Bill’s Records new location is downtown in what seems to be called “Southside” on South Lamar. It does not have a parking lot, so you have to either park in the paid lot next to it or on the street at meters. On Sunday afternoon, however, the parking on the street is free. The store is good sized with rows of library-style stacks of records on the right side of the store and along the right wall. Down the middle of the store are CD racks. At the back of the store is a cozy area with sofas and a small stage where the live performances happen.
As far as inventory is concerned, the focus of the store is really vinyl. There is a selection of used CD’s, but it pales in comparison of the mountain of vinyl. There are some new titles in the CD area as well. The CD section has a dedicated area for country and Americana, which is where I found my copy of Cold Roses. The vinyl is loosely organized by first letter of the artist. I say “loosely” because things are generally organized by the first letter, but you could find a particular artist spread throughout that area. This aspect of the organization makes one need to comb the entire section to make sure you found everything. I understand the challenge of organizing a collection of records, and with the sheer volume of records in stock they would spend every day sorting things. The majority of the vinyl is vintage used titles. I don’t think I saw any new vinyl. Quite a bit of “still sealed” though! Bill is a fan of Depeche Mode, The Cure, and The Smiths– so there is a lot of rare and import vinyl there for those artists– in most cases multiple copies of titles. He also has 10″ records separated onto a couple of shelves and there was quite a selection of those. While I was flipping through those looking for the OOP Stereolab EP that was rumored to be in there I found a very rare import Cure 10″. When I talked to the assistant guy about it he immediately showed it to Bill at which point it went on eBay!! Good thing I didn’t want it!
Another disappointing factor to shopping at Bill’s is that nothing is priced. So, Bill needs to be there to tell you how much something is. In fact, Bill does a quick lookup on the Internet to see what the going rate is for something which pretty much guarantees that you won’t get a “deal” without haggling. While I was there I saw a big collection of Full Fathom Five on Link Records from the 90’s STILL SEALED and MULTIPLE COPIES! Full Fathom Five was an Iowa band from the late 80’s and early 90’s who played a lot in the Eastern Iowa area. With two of the records in hand I asked Bill how he came to have these. He didn’t remember. I was hoping he maybe had some Head Candy vinyl as well– another Eastern Iowa band who was also on Link at the same time. He looked them up on the Internet and said I could have the two records I had in my hands for $25, which he thought was fair– in fact that was probably what they were worth since they were still sealed and out-of-print. Well, that was more than I was willing to spend at that time– I was looking for bargains. Later, when I checked out– purchasing only the Ryan Adams CD– he said I could buy the records for $9 apiece. I was just finishing signing my Visa receipt at that time, so the offer was too late. I might have purchased those instead of the Ryan Adams CD if that offer had been earlier!
So– I think that Bill’s has great potential for finding rare gems, but it takes some work to get there. If I end up in Dallas again with a lot of time on my hands I’ll try my luck again.
What I bought:
Cold Roses – Ryan Adams and the Cardinals (2 CD, Lost Highway 0602498820209, 2005) ($17.99) An import version of the album with the bonus track “Tonight.” Came in jewel case instead of domestic paper cover. At this price it wasn’t a “deal” per se, but convenient and I wanted a copy.
What I Didn’t Buy:
Paingiver – Full Fathom Five (12″ Single, Link, 1988)
The Cry of a Falling Nation – Full Fathom Five (LP, Link, 1987)
Smoke Screen – Full Fathom Five (12″ Single, Link, 1989)
Multinational Pop Conglomerate – Full Fathom Five (LP, Link, 1989)