Music, Stories Told

Headstone’s

I first told this story when this blog was young, eight years ago. I haven’t been back to Headstone’s in almost that many years. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I still have the tie-dye shirt I mention in this story.

Headstone FriendsWhen I was in college, I should have just had my work-study paycheck direct-deposited into Headstone Friends’ bank account. I spent most of it there anyway on used records and CDs.

Headstone’s is a music store in head-shop trappings. Step inside, and suddenly it’s 1969. Or at least it is after your eyes adjust to the dim light. But you smell the sweet incense the second you enter. Heck, you can hear the loud music way out in the parking lot.

The counter is on the left, offering jewelry and silly buttons and, at least at one time, scales and rolling papers. On the right are ceramic dragons and fabric Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix wall hangings and a rack of incense sticks. Then racks of CDs line the wall all the way to the back where a few bins of records remain. In the corner, next to the drinking fountain that has never worked, is a room aglow with black-light posters.

Things do change at Headstone’s. When I first set foot in the place thirty years ago it was half the size it is now, full of waist-high record bins. They expanded into the building’s back section a few years later, and slowly tall homemade CD racks crowded out most of the record bins. And every so many years, when the building’s mural and sign are faded and worn almost beyond recognition, they repaint. On the day I visited it looked pretty fresh.

Headstone Friends

Headstone’s is seriously old school. They have one location, on Poplar at 12th Street in Terre Haute. They’re not on the Web. They don’t take credit cards. The owners, aging hippies who were younger than I am now when I first visited, work the counter. They keep inventory records on index cards in cardboard boxes. When you find a CD you want, you go to the counter and have someone come unlock the cabinet for you. Then they total your purchases on paper receipts and calculate the tax by hand.

The staff is very low key, but while I lived in Terre Haute I visited so often that they came to recognize me. One fellow named Harold became friendly and came to recognize my buying habits. One day a college friend came by my dorm room and said that I should see Harold next time I was in. He had set aside a promotional poster from a Paul McCartney album for me. The album wasn’t Paul’s best, but the the cover photo, of Paul and his wife taken with the kind of camera used for 1940s Hollywood glamor shots, was outstanding, and larger than life on the poster. “We get this junk all the time and never use it,” he said. “You buy all kinds of Beatles and McCartney so I figured you’d like to have it.” Sure enough! I had it framed. Despite generous offers from collectors, it still hangs in my house.

Tie-dye

Harold was there that day. I hadn’t seen him in at least ten years, but he looked just the same – long brown-and-gray hair curling halfway down his back, reading glasses at the end of his nose, and a round, tan fisherman’s hat covering his head. There was a glimmer of recognition on his face when he saw me, but it had been so long I wasn’t sure he’d remember me even if I did give him my name, so I kept to myself. I didn’t find any CDs I couldn’t live without, but just for fun I did buy a tie-dyed T-shirt. It filled my car with Headstone’s scent all the way home. I hated to wash it.

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10 thoughts on “Headstone’s

  1. This resonates on several levels. I used to love record stores. I also love little mom and pop operations of all kinds and places where you as a customer become one of “the regulars.”

    That said, I never frequented the stores with the “head shop” vibe. My tastes had gravitated towards jazz and those stores had little music to offer me. But I am glad it has been there for those whose tastes line up with theirs.

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  2. Jason Shafer says:

    In the Summer of ’89 I spent two weeks at ISU in Terre Haute. My roommate was from Indianapolis and asked me if I wanted “to go turn over headstones”. Uh, not really. But upon learning it was a record store I did go.

    Sadly, I don’t remember a lot about it other than the dimly lit interior like you mention.

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  3. When I read your remark “the album wasn’t Paul’s best”, I absently muttered, “NONE of them were.” After about ten seconds what I’d said struck me and I spent half a minute laughing. Thanks for that. :) Ah, I’m one of those people who’s persuaded the Beatles were far greater than the sum of their parts, and the music they all released separately in the course of the 70s is Exhibit A for me. But you’re right, for all that, that is one heck of an album cover. I’ll bet any money Linda set that shot up herself. Did you ever see that video the two of them did in the early 80s, “Coming Up”, in which between them they play 12 different characters on stage at the same time?

    It’s a terrific stroll down Memory Lane, and what a joy that so much of what made it great for you is still there, so many years later. They always say “you can’t go home again”, but I think you’ve just put the lie to that. Sometimes you can. :)

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    • Yeah, I’ll bet if I walked into Headstone’s this afternoon, at least one of the old hippies would still be there. Their hair would still be long, but it’d be gray.

      As a giant McCartney fan, I’m well aware of his highs and lows. There are really solid tracks on almost every album he’s put out, solo and with Wings. But several of his albums just don’t satisfy me much. Press to Play is one, and so is another called Flowers in the Dirt, and another called Off the Ground. But there is at least one really stellar song on each album.

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