Tucked within the quaint row shops of Bryn Mawr, Gold Million Records supplies residents of the Greater Philadelphia area with their fix of rock ‘n’ roll, blues, funk, and soul — and has done so for the past four decades. These vinyl proprietors have been lovingly buying and distributing fantastic plastic records since 1976, back when their store was aptly called Plastic Fantastic.
Fast-forward 40 years to 2016 and Gold Million is a certified treasure trove, a remarkably well-kept time capsule for those who wish to travel through a few eras in the history of recorded music. Entering Gold Million is a sensory overload in the best possible way: psychedelic colors collide with melodies wafting from the turntable, both intermingling with the stale-yet-soothing scent of aged record sleeves.
I discovered Gold Million this past year, when I ventured to the shop on Record Store Day 2015. Never in my life have I ever encountered albums as organized, staff as friendly, and atmosphere as engrossing as I did that day — and each time I return there, the experience surpasses my expectations.
But although I know about Gold Million, I don’t really know about Gold Million.
That is, I have never researched the history of the establishment in-depth, nor have I spoken at length with the owners past “May I pet your dog?” or “Should I choose the Elvis Costello record or this Bee Gees one?”
Vinyl sales are once again on the rise and stores are beginning to stock pristine, newly-pressed records on their shelves. Because of this, I feel it is important to showcase Gold Million as one of the originals; as a shop that stuck it out through the faltering of records and the rise of cassettes, CDs, MP3s, and everything in between; as a store that sells not only albums, but also the stories of each previous owner who drew hearts around Paul McCartney on their Abbey Road LP or circled “My Back Pages” as their favorite track off of Another Side of Bob Dylan.
What I’m getting at, really, is that Gold Million has history deeply embedded into every facet of its being — and that history is what I aim to research, from its 40 year backstory to where it stands in the community today.
Through a balanced blend of photography, video, audio, sketches, and interviews, as well as alphabetic text, I intend to piece together a cohesive portrait of Gold Million Records, which will (hopefully) culminate in interviewing both some first-time and familiar customers on April 16th — Record Store Day 2016.
In terms of difficulty, I believe the interviews I mentioned above will be the most challenging aspect of the project since I am not typically one to begin conversations with strangers. Research may also prove problematic, being that aside from any oral history provided by the owners, I am unsure of how much material is available. Nonetheless, I expect to develop a linear history of Plastic Fantastic/Gold Million, showing how it ended up as it is in its 40th year.
Ideally, the end product will appeal to those who already know and love Gold Million. Beyond that, though, it should appeal to those who haven’t yet entered — and maybe will never enter — through its crimson front door, but who have a passion for the medium of vinyl and the preservation of history.