The jam-packed Cheap Thrills Music, just on the Dedham side of the West Roxbury-Dedham line, across the street from the Olde Irish Ale House, is filled to the gills with albums.
Robert Walsh likes to describe his record shop as the result of 40 years of collecting. The jam-packed Cheap Thrills Music, just on the Dedham side of the West Roxbury-Dedham line, across the street from the Olde Irish Ale House, is filled to the gills with albums — all kinds of albums — and we’re talking about big slabs of vinyl inside a 12 1/4-by 12 1/4-inch jacket, not miniscule hard-to-see CDs.
Bins include copies of major and minor releases by pretty much every popular group and artist you can think of, from the Beatles to the Stones to the Doors to Springsteen to Steppenwolf to Zeppelin to the Starland Vocal Band … you get the idea.
But the display wall on the right goes a lot further into eclecticism. It’s there that you’ll find “Mrs. Miller’s Greatest Hits,” “Belly Dancing for Everyone,” “Yma Sumac: Mambo!,” “Hear How to Train Your Dog” and “Pat Boone Reads from the Holy Bible.”
No doubt, there is something for everyone.
Walsh, a longtime Dedham resident, who settled here after an Air Force brat childhood of living in California, New Mexico, Louisiana, West Virginia, Europe and finally Sandwich, had, in recent years, worked in the music business, both as a manager and buyer for Tower Records and at WZLX.
“I was part of the team that put the station on the air in 1985,” says Walsh. “They actually used my record collection at first, because there were no CD players there in 1985.”
That collection is a massive one. Walsh believes there are approximately 3,000 albums for sale in the store, and another 27,000 in a storage facility. (Yes, there are also about 1,500 CDs in the store, and an additional 15,000 in storage.) He initially got the collecting jones when he was attending Boston University and met some guys who were selling used records out of the back of a van. Those guys eventually opened the used record shop In Your Ear, where Walsh eventually landed a job for a couple of years.
“But the first used record store I ever shopped in was in Boston, and it was called Cheap Thrills,” he recalls. “That was in 1972. I thought to myself, ‘Used records, what a concept!’ I had never seen secondhand albums before. That store is long gone, and the name has multiple meaning — there’s the Janis Joplin album, the Frank Zappa track from the ‘Ruben and the Jets’ album.”
And there are the relatively inexpensive albums that can be found in his store, most of which are in excellent condition and can be bought for around $5. Although the place opened only two months ago, Walsh has had the space, which was formerly a hair salon, for almost 10 years.
“It was there for 30 years,” he says. “When it closed, I jumped in it and used it for storage. If you came in here a year ago, it would have been floor-to-ceiling boxes. It would have looked like the final scene of the warehouse in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ I used to let some friends come in here to shop, and every one of them said that I should open a store. But I didn’t want to because I’ve been selling records on the Internet and I was content with that.”
He’s either not willing to say or really doesn’t know why he finally relented and opened the place up to the public. There’s a hint that his wife is a little happier with some of the clutter gone from their home, and in fact, there’s plenty of memorabilia in the store, from posters to magazines to toys to a Life Savers turntable.
His customers — and there are already loads of regulars — are happy about his decision. Part of the reason is that they can often buy albums cheaper there than online, because there are no shipping costs involved.
But there are many other reasons to stop by. Walsh likes to talk, and he’s been around the business. So he will regale visitors with stories about going out drinking with Iggy Pop or hanging out with Elvis Costello at Night Stage or playing guitar in a band called Orion in the 1970s.
It’s clear, though, that Walsh, who also teaches guitar to young players, gets a great deal of satisfaction by selling vinyl to young listeners.
“I think their parents are turning them on to it,” he says. “I have one 15-year-old girl who comes in and buys Clash albums on vinyl. But then two 13-year-old girls came in and each one came up with an Aerosmith album and put it on the counter. I asked them if they had a turntable and they said, ‘No, we’re just gonna hang these on the wall.’
“But I do have metal kids who come in to buy Ozzy and AC/DC,” he adds. “And they want vinyl.”
He brings out a handwritten list that had just been given to him the day before.
“This woman wants all of these on vinyl,” he says excitedly. “She wants the Stooges’ first three LPs, the Doors’ first one on the original brown label, ‘Morrison Hotel’ — on any label — an original copy of ‘My Generation’ on Decca, an American copy of ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ Television’s ‘Marquee Moon’ and a copy of ‘Aphrodite’s Child.’ ”
He smiles and says, “I have all of these here, and I get lists like this every day. That’s what I do here. I find stuff, and go the extra mile.”
“The trick is finding really good, clean copies,” he adds. “And everything here is guaranteed. If you have a problem with it, bring it back. I’ll find you another one.”
Ed Symkus can be reached at email@example.com.