Mr. Tepper's Threatened List of Los Angeles Area Classical Record Stores

Version 2007G, dated 21 December 2007

Extra! Extra! Be sure to read my picks for the Best of 2007, appearing now on your very own monitor!

Changes, changes, changes. Some of them for the worse, and others -- well, let's face it, none of them are for the better. As the recording music industry collapses in on itself due to the mediocre talent on hand, not to mention its own dishonest business practices, the moguls desperately trying to pin the blame on everybody but themselves, and consumers revolting against same, brick-and-mortar stores go out of business. And we are much the poorer for it.

The landscape is now strewn with the hollowed-out corpses of once-great stores. "But the Internet is where we'll all buy our music via downloads!" squawk the media parrots (who have been fed this line by the moguls who hold the mortgages on their souls), and those credulous idiot consumers blindly believe everything they read. Well, sure, I enjoy buying something at Amazon.com and getting it in a few days, but there's nothing which compares to the feeling of standing in an actual, physical store being able to look at the available choices, to turn them over in my hand, to carry them to the counter, to pay for them, and then stride triumphantly back to my car.

Anyway, I'll be continuing this list as long as it makes any sense to do so. Since the Compact Disc was introduced in the U.S. in 1983, there have been many millions of them produced, and some people actually still buy and sell them! So let's get right to it. Well, after the rest of this introduction, anyway.

Why "threatened"? To make a long story short, this was originally a sort of a response to an irritating newsgroup spammer who was repeatedly trying to dump a heap of non-classical miscellany in rec.music.classical.recordings. When I pointed out to him how non-productive and obnoxious his posts were, and suggested that his ISP might be persuaded to take action against him for violating their TOS, he affected the first resort of the incompetent, namely ad hominem arguments, whining shrilly, "Mr. Tepper's threats continue!" As it happens, I had been planning for some time to produce a convenient list of places for the serious classical music shopper in Los Angeles, so the silly and taunting title kind of automatically came to mind. I should note a few things first:

  1. These are, after all, very personal choices.
  2. I live in the San Fernando Valley, and prefer not to drive much farther than the 118 (to the North), Glendale/Pasadena (to the East), Torrance (to the South), and Tarzana (to the West). Thus you might find a geographical bias.
  3. I buy both used and new classical music recordings, principally on CD. I am not an audiophile, so if there are any stores which specialize in that material, I may not know (nor care) about them. My ratings below are based solely on the classical product. A store may have a terrific selection of rock, or of soundtracks, or of DVDs, but a poor or nonexistent classical CD selection; if so I won't care about them here. This criterion is absolutely immutable.
  4. I receive no consideration for any of the below recommendations. It so happens that the staff at my favorite stores treat me very nicely, but if they do so it is not on account of my remarks here. And in the case of the one store which has banned me (!), I nevertheless feel that my negative impression as stated here is fair and honest.
  5. As Dr. James Liu (of fond memory in r.m.c.r.) enjoyed saying, YMMV, etc.


The Good Places -- Don't Miss!:

Record Surplus, 11609 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles CA 90064-2908, (310) 478-4217
(Last visited: December 2007)
This is simply the best place to shop for used classical LPs and CDs in the Los Angeles area! Lots of stock, reasonably priced, and they put out more of it just about every day. Good prices especially on operas and other boxed sets. I used to shop here at least two or three times a week, when I lived a mile away and the store was directly on one of my homeward commute paths; so visits are less frequent, but that much more special now. Note that they throw a "Super Sale" a couple of times a year at which they put out lots of stuff they've been holding back, and everything is 10% off.

Amoeba Music, 6400 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles 90028-7307, (323) 245-6400
(Last visited: November 2007)
Quite near the Cinerama Dome, the newest major addition to the Los Angeles used music scene takes up about the size of an entire warehouse. The store buyer seems to have gone out of his way to purchase several collections, and/or move stock from the Bay Area stores, and there's plenty of good classical product on CD (new and used) and LP. They have a particularly fine subsection off to the side devoted to contemporary classical music. This is roughly equivalent to what Aron's used to be like, albeit rather larger, and I'm still getting a feel for the place. However, if you're planning to spend much time there, I recommend the use of noise-cancelling headphones. Really. Oh, and shoppers who fondly remember Charlie from Tower and Virgin will be happy to find he's here.

Borders Books and Music, 1360 Westwood Boulevard, Los Angeles 90024, (310) 475-3444
(Last visited: December 2007)
100 South Brand Boulevard, Glendale 91204-1308, (818) 241-8099
(Last visited: February 2006)
14651 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks 91403-3617, (818) 728-6593
(Last visited: August 2007)
330 South La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles 90048-4118, (310) 659-4045
(Last visited: August 2005)
2110 North Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach 90815, (562) 799-0486
(Last visited: October 2005)
475 South Lake Avenue, Pasadena 91101, (626) 304-9773
(Last visited: December 2006)
6510 Canoga Avenue, Canoga Park 91303, (818) 887-1999
(Last visited: January 2007)
(And many other locations, not reviewed)
With the sad demise of Tower Records in Westwood, the Borders a few blocks farther south is now the only thing left in a college town which once boasted many worthwhile shops. (Anybody else remember Vogue Records?) The selection is still okay, and they get a smattering of small labels and imports (when HQ lets them do so). Prices are not the lowest, but these days one is simply lucky to find anything acceptable. Keep your eyes open for Internet-based coupons, as well as special sales for educators, students, librarians, etc. My favorable rating applies to the Westwood and Glendale locations only; the Sherman Oaks store has a mediocre selection, and the staff can't be bothered to keep things in order. La Cienega not only has an unimpressive selection, but bizarrely arranges the classical by type (orchestral, concerto - keyboard, concerto - strings, instrumental - keyboard, instrumental - strings, vocal, choral, collections, opera, etc.), and then within type by composer, which is both frustrating and infuriating. One last note: There have been so many coupon sales for Borders Rewards members that it really looks as though they are trying to get rid of their stock, and not sell CDs any more. If this turns out to be true, I may take my book-buying business elsewhere as well.

Counterpoint Records & Books, 5911 Franklin Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90028-5515, (323) 957-7965
(Last visited: May 2007)
Not only a fine varied selection of used CDs, but thousands of LPs, not only in bins, but also lining the high shelves on the walls of one side of the store! There are lots of 20th Century American music goodies. (Many of these are from the KUSC library, tossed when they decided to go to all CDs.) This is also a first-rate used bookstore, so be prepared to drop lots of green. Parking is dire in the neighborhood, but the Mayfair supermarket on the corner of nearby Bronson Avenue has a huge lot, and who's gonna know?

Canterbury Records, 805 East Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena CA 91101-2192, (626) 792-7184
(Last visited: November 2007)
The grand old store of Pasadena is commendable mostly for its large, fine selection of new CDs at competitive prices. This includes lots of imports, and a considerable selection of CDs devoted to singers. The used section is still a bit on the small side, but contains lots of good items, though many of them are priced slightly higher than what I would have expected to pay for them elsewhere. The rub is that there are far fewer of those "elsewhere" places around these days. Still, this is one store which has not bowed to the downsizing seen just about everywhere else, and definitely worth a visit if you happen to be in Pasadena.

Dutton's Brentwood Books, 11975 San Vicente Boulevard, Los Angeles CA 90049, (310) 476-6263
(Last visited: May 2007)
It hadn't at first occurred to me to include this store, as it's primarily known as one of the best independent booksellers in Southern California. But any place with such a wide selection of classical/opera CDs that they have seven different Prokofiev operas, some of them in multiple recordings, and including the early Maddalena, can't be ignored! There is a noticeable emphasis on what might be called the mainstream of contemporary classical music -- Esa-Pekka Salonen is reportedly a regular patron, so you'll find plenty of music by him and his fellow Finnish composers. And, of course, it is a fully-stocked bookstore, with sizable departments for greeting cards, children's interests, and even a sidewalk café.

Could-Be Places -- Worth a Try:

Second Spin, 14564 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks CA 91403-3771, (818) 986-6866
(Last visited: November 2007)
1332 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica 90403-5411, (310) 395-4334
(Last visited: May 2007)
Well, maybe they need more than a little effort to be truly worthwhile, as their classical bins mix crap with the good stuff; but they have had a few rare and interesting items at times, and with the demise of Tower and Moby Disc, they're just about all that's left in this neighborhood. (The Borders down the street has a mediocre selection, as noted above.) I am sorry to say that the Santa Monica store has all the crap and very little of the good stuff, and parking is next to impossible. (Typical of that city, Iím afraid. Iíve pretty much decided that if they donít want my car, they donít get my money.) With the closing of House of Records, and before that of the Wilshire Boulevard Wherehouse and Moby Disc stores, Santa Monica has now ceased to be a primo destination for classical CD shopping. And shoppers on the Westside are much the poorer for it.

CD Trader, 18928 Ventura Boulevard, Tarzana CA 91356-3212, (818) 705-3544
(Last visited: March 2007)
A not-bad store with a decent if unexciting selection of classical CDs in good condition, at fairly good prices. Their main stock in trade is really DVDs, and unlike most places they actually have some classical music ones. Nothing special, really, except during the occasional big sale when lots of promo copies are added into the regular stock; but I saw no reason to leave it off of this list.

Bagatelle Records, 260 Atlantic Ave, Long Beach, CA 90802, (562) 432-7534
(Last visited: November 2007)
I donít often get as far south as Long Beach, but I had heard about this place and stopped by while there for other reasons. The classical CD selection is mostly old and uninteresting stuff; but what I saw of the LP selection appeared to be largely early-1950s, including a number of import editions. The owner is a friendly old cuss whoíll happily share his opinions with you, too. Definitely give it a look in if LPs are your thing.

Has-Beens Places -- Only If You're Bored:

The Record Collector, 7809 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90046-7209, (213)467-2875
(Last visited: 1998)
LPs only (you'll be chastised if you confess to even liking CDs!), incredible selection (at least, last time I was in, at the old Highland Avenue location, several years ago -- I was banned from the store for telling a dealer pressed for time to visit Counterpoint instead!). Sharply unfriendly proprietor (with an eidetic memory), very high prices, no browsing. They did, however, manage to supply me via mail order with an exceedingly rare Australian LP which had headed my wantlist for years, though I had to pay top dollar for it.

Virgin Megastore, 8000 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles CA 90046-2439, (213) 650-8666
(Last visited: May 2007)
The Sunset store made a temporary comeback into acceptability, but then sank back into mediocrity. They still get some interesting imports, especially in Universal Music's Eloquence series from Australia. And they finally moved the classical section back upstairs from the noisy and crowded downstairs where it had been exiled for so long. Unfortunately, where before it took up most of that upstairs area, it now constitutes no more than one-third its former space, the rest being given over to jazz. Enthusiastic but knowledge-challenged staff complete the unfortunate picture.

Rockaway Records, 2395 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles CA 90039-3245, (213) 664-0956
(Last visited: January 2003)
Minuscule, unimpressive selection, chiefly of recent promos from the Warner and EMI classical labels; at least the prices are low, but then who cares?

Poo-Bah Record Shop, 2636 East Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena CA 91107-3726, (818) 449-3359
(Last visited: April 2004)
Nothing special; a store which engages in heavy boasting and self-promotion turns out to have a fairly small classical selection. So what else is new? In addition, it's one of those places where the CDs themselves are kept behind the counter somewhere, and all you get to browse through are the booklets, which have been removed and put into grimy plastic liners. Still, you could possibly take a peek there after a visit to the far superior Canterbury Records.

Wherehouse Music, 1551 West Olive Avenue, Burbank CA 91506-2407, (818) 842-2349
(Last visited: January 2007)
A time there was when Tower Records truly reigned supreme, but one could not rule out the Wherehouse. The stores peppered the Los Angeles cityscape (and that of the San Francisco Bay Area too, when I lived there in the 1970s), and some had stock and sales that could give anybody else a run for the money. But the "greats" have shriveled up to dust and blown away. This one has a microscopic classical selection, and that of low quality, shoved into the back-of-the-store ghetto as we can always expect. No need to waste your time. I may weep for Tower because it is gone, but I weep for Wherehouse because it still exists in this feeble and pitiful form.

Never-Were Places -- Don't Bother:

Penny Lane, 1080 Gayley Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90024-3402, (310) 208-5611
(Last visited: 1999)
(And other locations, not reviewed here, and I really don't care)
Looking for classical music here? As Daffy Duck says, "Ha, ha, it is to laugh!" A shame to find such a poor selection in what is, after all, a "college town" (UCLA's main campus is located in Westwood), but the used stock here is minimal. You'd find more at Borders.

CD Warehouse, 6338 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, North Hollywood 91606-3213, (818) 766-4545
(Last visited: January 2004)
This place once had the useless distinction to being the used CD store closest to my residence. It has no classical music whatever (well, okay, there was one Gershwin CD), and so nothing to recommend it here.

Backside Records, 139 N San Fernando Boulevard, Burbank 91502-1208, (818) 559-7573
(Last visited: late 2001)
Despite an intriguing name, this store has a mingy and laughable classical section; worse yet, they have mixed it with "easy listening"! For this vile offense, may they lose their lease and vanish from the face of Burbank.

Freakbeat Records, 13616 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks 91423, (818) 995-7603
(Last visited: September 2007)
Here's something unusual -- a CD store actually starting up, rather than closing! Unfortunately the distinction ends there. The classical selection (shoved all the way to the back of the store, as usual) is poor, exhibiting the typical neither-know-nor-care features: Three columns in a shelf obviously devoted to miscellany, a few section cards blissfully confusing composers with performers in one column, and the rest of the stock all jumbled together. Yawn.

Dead Stores:

Tower Classical Annex, 8840 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles CA90069-2105, (310) 657-3910
R.I.P. (as of December 2006)
This was the king of them all. It will be missed!

Tower Records, Sherman Oaks Galleria, 15301 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks CA 91403-3102, (818) 789-0500
R.I.P. (as of December 2006)
1028 Westwood Boulevard, Los Angeles CA 90024-2903, (310) 208-3061
R.I.P. (as of Summer 2002)
(And other locations, all R.I.P.)

Eastside Records, 1813 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90027-4407, (213) 913-7461
R.I.P. (as of January 2006)
This was one of the better used stores for some years, for classical CDs and LPs. But the owner evidently wanted to retire, and sold it off to somebody else who changed the name and decided that classical music was just some clutter he didn't want to deal with.

Heavy Rotation, 12354 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City CA 91604-2508, (818) 769-8882
R.I.P. (as of December 2006)
They will be regrouping as a website, or so the owner tells me. He had lots of customers, but the landlord raised the rent so much that it was just not possible to keep it going as a physical store any more.

Virgin Megastore, 851 North San Fernando Road, Burbank CA 91505-1029, (818) 295-6905
R.I.P. (as of January 2005)
This store closed "temporarily" when a section of the roof caved in during the torrential rains of Winter 2004-05. It has simply never reopened.

Aron's Record Shop, 1150 North Highland Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90038-1205, (323) 469-4700
R.I.P. (as of December 2005?)One of the great stores of the 1970s through at least some of the 1990s.

Rhino Records, 2028 Westwood Boulevard, Los Angeles CA 90025-6329, (310) 474-8685
R.I.P. (as of January 2006)
I just want to get in a final jab at this vastly overrated store. For so many years, guidebooks and newspaper articles proclaimed Rhino as one of the best places for used recordings in Southern California. But for the classical music lover, it was utterly insignificant. For a brief time in the 1990s, the staff gave up their condescending attitude and finally set aside a small section for classical CDs. And for a while, it was acceptable, but that did not survive their move in late 2001 or early 2002. I do not mourn them.

Wherehouse Music, 100 North La Cienega Boulevard, Beverly Hills CA 90211-2207, (310) 659-0542
R.I.P. (as of September 2006?)
3015 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica CA 90403-2395, (310) 394-1060
R.I.P. (as of December 2003)
5542 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles CA 90028-8522, (213) 463-9115
R.I.P. (as of September 2004)
1100 Westwood Boulevard, Los Angeles CA 90024-2902, (310) 824-2255
R.I.P. (as of December 2002)
(And other locations, most of which may be R.I.P., but I haven't checked them all; my experience at the Burbank store, shown above, does not allow for much hope.)

Moby Disc, 14622 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks CA, 91403-3600, (818) 990-2970
R.I.P. (as of November 2003)
2114 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica CA 90403-5704, (310) 828-2887
R.I.P. (as of November 2003)
(And other locations, all R.I.P.)
This chain simply disappeared overnight. They were apparently bought up by something called Django's, which however failed to do anything that has come to my attention.

House of Records, 3328 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica CA 90405-2116, (310) 450-1222
R.I.P. (as of Summer 2007)
This was another case of a store closing not because of diminishing profits, but because the owner just got tired of it. It was a mildly funky store which, at its best, had a relatively small selection of used classical CDs, with too much Krossover Krap (most likely unwanted promo copies dumped there by employees of NARAS, whose offices are practically across the street). But occasionally there would be surprises: on one visit I found Reger and Telemann discs I'd never seen anywhere else, and another time a Sibelius CD which I had been told was nearly impossible to find, even in Finland! Iíll always remember this store for having a big plastic "Nipper" dog out front.

Record Trader, 7321 Reseda Boulevard, Reseda CA 91335-3048, (818) 708-0632
R.I.P. (as of early 2001)
Turned into a furniture store when I wasn't looking. It's possible that the same people went and opened CD Trader (see above), but I forgot to ask.

db Cooper's, 1725 West Verdugo Avenue, Burbank 91506-2147, (818) 563-2222
R.I.P. (as of March 2006)
They're history now.

Important note, in case it isnít sufficiently obvious: The stores listed in this section are all out of business. They are no longer there. They do not exist any more. I have seen with my own eyes that this is so in most cases, and have had it reliably reported to me by trusted witnesses in some others. If you see a Web-based listing of record and CD stores in the Los Angeles area which includes these stores, it is out of date. Capisce? Too many online listings of area record stores don't even bother to update; one famous one hasn't been changed in seven years! Címon, Ernie, either update it or shut it down!


I hope this list helps those investigating new and interesting places to shop in the Los Angeles area. If you have any further additions, suggestions, or other comments, or if you just feel testy and argumentative (<g>), or especially if you want to produce such a list for your city or town, don't hesitate to email me about it!

Copyright © 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 by Matthew B. Tepper

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