As far back as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with music. When I was a small child, instead of begging my parents for the latest action figure, I would beg them to buy me Echo & The Bunnymen’s self-titled album on cassette tape or a VHS of The Cure’s music videos (being the youngest of 4 by several years, I was raised on mostly 80’s music). My favorite places were Sam Goody, an overpriced record store in the mall and Tower Records. But I rarely got to go to these stores and even more rarely did I have enough money to buy anything.
As I got older, I started helping my dad at as his office after school for extra money, which allowed me to buy records here and there. It was literally the only thing I spent my money on. I remember I was about 12 years old the first time I set foot in Pasadena’s Poo-Bah Record Shop on Walnut Street. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced. It was an independent record store that had been there since the 70’s, right next door to the notorious Pasadena head shop “1109”. The store was in a converted bungalow-style house, the cash register and sales floor located in what was probably the dining room and living room. From the street, it looked like an old house. If it wasn’t for the small sign in the front yard, you would never know. The foot traffic-worn floor boards creaked as you walked through the front door. You were immediately greeted by several racks of the latest underground music zines along some more popular magazines like Filter and Rolling Stone. When I was 13, I even made my own music zine, using the xerox machine at my dad’s office to make copies. The clerks at Poo-Bah were nice enough to let me give away my zine free next to the local show flyers and stacks of LA Weekly. But the main event was the selection of CD’s and vinyl. They had the coolest selection of hard-to-find and obscure releases. They even stocked unofficial (i.e. bootleg) releases from many of my favorite bands of the time. This was heaven to me. I still remember fawning over a 3-CD set of the stolen demos from U2’s Achtung Baby sessions. I had heard their tapes were stolen and here was a bootleg copy. As a working musician now, I can only imagine what a nightmare that must have been for U2 to have their session tapes stolen, especially when they were trying to reinvent themselves. But as a 12 year old kid, I thought that bootleg CD collection was the coolest thing ever. It was $40 though, which I couldn’t afford.
Over the next several years I spent all my allowance money at Poo-Bah. It was because of Poo-Bah that I discovered Krautrock bands like Can, Tangerine Dream, and Faust. I started reading the underground punk zine Maximumrocknroll and buying records from many of the obscure bands that were profiled. This was before the internet had taken off so zines were crucial. And whether it was Japan’s incredible Ramones-inspired Teengenerate, the legendary post-punk noise of Unwound, or the cinematic post-rock of Mogwai, Poo-Bah always stocked their records. Most days after school I would ride my bike directly from school to Poo-Bah Record Shop just to browse the racks and take it all in. I’m sure the older hippie clerks always tripped out on this little kid, still dressed in his catholic school uniform, asking about records by Amon Düül II, John Zorn, or Kraftwerk. But they never treated me like a kid and were always ready with a recommendation. I owe much of musical maturity and exploration to Poo-Bah. I cherish the memories of that dark and musty little record shop to this day.
When I had gone away to college, Poo-Bah moved a couple miles away to a smaller store front on Colorado Blvd, where it is still open for business today. It’s still a funky and weird little shop and you can still find great hard-to-find vinyl and CD’s. But, for me, nothing will top the Walnut Street location. I’ve yet to find a store anywhere that felt as special as the original Poo-Bah record shop. When you were there, it really felt like it was YOUR record shop. It was sacred to me. It’s rare to come across someplace that feels that special. Maybe it’s because I was so young and impressionable but Poo-Bah Record Shop will always have a very special place in my heart.
Favorite Record Store
Poo-Bah Record Shop in Pasadena, CA
Favorite Concert Venue
(Past) Jabberjaw Coffeehouse in Los Angeles (Present) Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA
Adult Karate, the moniker for LA-based singer/songwriter K.C. Maloney, makes shimmering, fluorescent music. Songs that place you in the middle of a skating rink, songs that transport you to a midnight drive down the highway, songs that echo and bounce around your head long after listening.