When I was in the Army (shocking revelation to many) from 1985 – 1989 I spent most of that period stationed in the Monterey Bay area. There were a couple of record stores I would frequent in these musically formative years, but perhaps none other as influential as Lighthouse Records.
On Lighthouse Avenue, the main road going through Pacific Grove, literally adjacent to Monterey, within a sort of inside mall in a small office building, tucked in the back was this record store. And I mean it was small. It had two aisles. The rectangular room was about 12 foot wide by maybe 30 foot long. The walls were lined with racks of records and in the middle was an “island” filled with records. Basically you navigated the store by walking around the center in a counter clockwise manner with the register taking up the final spot by the door on the right before you exit.
Why was this one record store so important in my musical awareness? What was it about this one place that is so indelible that it still sticks with me 25 years later?
The proprietor, an Asian man whose name I can’t remember (but *think* his name was George), would always remember me and my best friend. He would come up with recommendations for us, despite the fact that we only went in together one or two times. Usually we went separately, but he always remembered us both. I remember distinctly one day I was browsing the racks when he came up to me and said “You like punk music, right?” and pulled out the newly released 1989 compilation album by The Dickies – Great Dictations.
He was right of course. His recommendations were usually correct. I have since become a fan of the band as documented in other blog posts here.
“The Sounds Of Silence”
One of the other things I distinctly remember about Lighthouse Records was is prolific selection of 12 inch singles. There are a number of great remixes and extended versions of songs that I picked up simply because I was there. I saw a video by New Order on MTV, wound up picking up the 12 inch version of the song, then I picked up the compilation album Substance and, as you may have guessed, became a fan of the band.
“Shellshock” (12 Inch Extended Version)
I picked up a lot of great singles there, usually in the 12 inch format. Eurythmics, New Order, INXS, Big Audio Dynamite, even Dee Dee Ramone’s first solo single released as Dee Dee King, which is a bit of a challenge to listen to, but I won’t ever give it up. It was only ever released on a 12 inch single, not on any album.
Dee Dee King – “Funky Man”
Since leaving the Army in 1989 I have been back to Monterey twice. The first time was a few years later before Laura and got married. We took a trip down the coast and of course stopped overnight in Monterey. One of the various places we went to was Lighthouse Records, and the owner was still there and he still remembered me! I picked up a couple of CDs (he had finally made the conversion from albums) and was glad to see him, and I think he was genuinely glad to see me again.
A few years after this we returned to Monterey, this time with Kyle. Lighthouse Records was gone. We dug around and searched, hoping simply the location had changed, but we couldn’t find it anywhere. This saddened me. Lighthouse Records was an important part of my life and the formation of my musical identity. Wherever you are, and whatever your name was/is, thanks.