Farewell to the New Frontier

Today was payday, and my day off, so I decided to drive a half-hour south to the used record store in Appleton, Wisconsin.

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I visit the used record stores only on or just after payday, if only to avoid financial ruin. I also spread out my visits, lest I wind up looking at the same old stuff month after month.

When I pulled up in front of the store, there was a sign on the door. After 25 years in business, the New Frontier Record Exchange is going out of business. Stan Erickson and his partner Fred and thousands of old vinyl albums have to be out of the building by Tuesday.

As used record stores are wont to be, New Frontier is cluttered. You have to move old stereo components and pieces of guitars and drum kits to look at some of the bins. You can’t look at all of the bins, either. There’s just too much stuff piled on top. No complaints, though. It’s just the way it is.

Or, in four days, the way it was.

New Frontier sits in a narrow old storefront on a side street on the east end of Appleton’s downtown. It’s just off the main drag and a couple of blocks from the Lawrence University campus. I can only imagine New Frontier’s heyday in the ’80s, in the time before CDs arrived.

So I spent more than an hour at New Frontier this afternoon, leisurely going through the bins. Because it was the last trip, I picked up a handful of albums, if only as a way of saying thanks.

Today’s haul included:

“Local Hero” soundtrack, by Mark Knopfler, from 1983. (Now that I think about this, we may already have this on vinyl. Oh, well. It’s one of our favorite movies from that time.)

“Greatest Disco Hits,” a 1978 compilation album by the Salsoul Orchestra. Upon closer inspection, there was another album inside the jacket — “Disco Boogie Vol. 2,” also on the Salsoul label and featuring some early Tom Moulton mixes. “Just take it,” Stan said.

And a couple of Christmas albums — Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” from 1984 and still another vinyl copy of “Christmas Jollies,” the 1976 album by the Salsoul Orchestra. I bought a copy of the latter a couple of months ago, but it was in pretty bad shape.

I took another Christmas album up to the desk, but Stan had to look up the price.

“You don’t want this,” he said quietly. He pointed to the price guide.

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That album, “Merry Christmas Baby,” a 1956 compilation of R&B Christmas singles from the Starday-King label and put out on the Hollywood label, goes for $100 or better on vinyl.

Well, yes, I do want it, but $100 is beyond my budget today. “I’ll put it on eBay,” Stan said. Guess I’ll have to settle for the CD version.

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Another Christmas oldie but greatie also was beyond my financial reach today: “Charles Brown Sings Christmas Songs,” from 1962. Guess I’ll have to pursue the CD version of that, too. (Update, five or so years later: I eventually found a vinyl copy of this.)

However, having picked up the following album this afternoon more than made up for the disappointment of not being able to get the others. Enjoy these cuts.

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“O-o-h Child” and “Wake Up to What’s Happening,” both by the Edwin Hawkins Singers, from “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” 1972. The album is out of print.

“O-o-h Child” is a terrific pop-gospel rendering of The Five Stairsteps’ hit from 1970. I have four versions of this song, including the original, and they’re all great.

“Wake Up to What’s Happening” is fairly self-explanatory, a song of its time. However, the message applies now as then. And, yes, it cooks! It has a great mix of rhythm section, strings and horns.

“O-o-h Child” is available on “Oh Happy Day! The Best of the Edwin Hawkins Singers,” a 2001 compilation on CD.

“Wake Up to What’s Happening” is available on “The Very Best of the Edwin Hawkins Singers,” a 1998 import compilation on CD.

5 Comments

Filed under January 2008, Sounds

5 responses to “Farewell to the New Frontier

  1. Thanks for the great tracks! But I wish I could have had the chance to rummage through the bins at New Frontier. Oh, well. There are still a few places like that in the Twin Cities that I get to from time to time.

  2. Shark

    I lived in Appleton from 1983-1985 and in nearby Wapaca from 1987-1991. I wish I knew of Frontier Music when I lived there. I would’ve been a regular.

  3. Pingback: The unwanted album « The Midnight Tracker

  4. Steven Larsen

    I was a regular at the record exchange in Green Bay the mid-80s and earlier this week was listening to an old compilation tape Stan had made for me some 23 years ago. It reminded me of the influence Stan and Fred and their store had on me. I’ve lived on several continents and traveled extensively and whereever I am I search for the vinyl record shops. I never thought of this before , but because of Stan, I have an expectation of what I will find when I walk in the door. I assume that I can approach the person working there with questions about the local scene and whether I am in Brazil, Poland, Iceland or Slovenia once we get communicating I will get their heartfelt recommendations, sampling and much more and leave happily with an lp in hand of either an amazing Polish Jazz trumpet player, or a teen punk band from Iceland or Brazil that has their own sound. I was saddened to hear that Stan and fred closed their doors in Appleton, but I did not expect them to stay open forever. With all the surge in record sales in the last few years it is a shame they no longer have a store front as teens need a place besides the internet to get information from. Stan turned me onto some of the coolest books and though Fred was more soft spoken I remember seeing him reading Naked Lunch so I wrote down the name of the book when I got outside the store and found myself a copy. I was never a reader before, I was a guitar player from age 11. Somehow I ended up with a Lit degree. I know there must be many like me who went to their store alone looking to burn some time because it was a place I could learn something, hear something and feel accepted for who I was and the opinions I had. I think that no matter how knowledgable Stan was about music and the world, he was wise in a way that allowed him to related to a younger generation that was not there yet….and he helped us along. Thanks for the memories and for giving me a feeling that I can revisit whenever I walk into the corner record store that is plastered with posters of local shows.

  5. Paul Drewry

    New Frontier Record Exchange was my favorite place, a cramped place populated with crate upon crate of records. It had that certain smell, musty yet welcomed like spring flowers. The entrance always had a stack of local zines and the photo copied posters for local shows. Fred and Stan you could relate to, music junkies with arcane knowledge. For a short time they had a store in Oshkosh, where as a college student I spent what little funds I had. Sadly missed!

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