Earth... The Vinyl Frontier

The Vinyl Tourist Visits
Cambridge MA

Cambridge, Massachusetts, like its namesake in England, is one of the oldest (and still one of the most important) centers of academic life in the US. Because it's the home of Harvard University and MIT, there's an unusually high level of interest in cultural pursuits, especially music. The availablity of vinyl LP's (both new and used) is so large and varied, that visiting record stores in Cambridge might lead one to believe that the compact disc had never been invented.

Unless your interests are very specific (classical or jazz, only, for example), then every shop (except for one, noted below) is worth a visit and because they all on or within a block of Mass. Ave., I've abandoned the usual format of listing the stores in order of personal preference. Instead they are listed in geographical order, beginning closest to the River Charles, just past MIT, and continuing past Harvard Square, a distance of about two miles.

If you arrive by car, try to find a parking space along Memorial Drive, parallel to the river. Parking is free there (and not always easy to find), but is metered virtually everywhere else. Then you can walk up Mass. Ave. or take the MBTA bus. Purchase tokens at any MBTA subway station. One and three day visitor passes are also available at newstands.

In need of a local map? Try Google Maps.

Finally, if you haven't already done so, please read the Vinyl Tourist's Caveat.

  1. Cheapo Records
    Oldies But Goodies Land
    538 Massachusetts Ave.
    Cambridge, MA 02139
    (617) 354-4455

    MBTA Central Square

    Located in the former Skippy White's store, Cheapo has been Cambridge mainstay for several decades. Its crowded location boasts a huge selection of new and used vinyl, especially jazz, blues, Cajun, and early rock'n'roll at fair prices. Here I picked up a couple of new Beltran Richard swamp pop disks that I had forgotten to buy in New Orleans.

  2. Looney Tunes
    1001 Massachusetts Ave.
    Cambridge, MA 02138
    (617) 876-5624

    MBTA Central Square

    Looney Tunes is a legend among record collectors and features an excellent selection of jazz and classical titles, in addition to folk, pop, and rock rarities.

  3. IN Your Ear
    72 Mount Auburn St.
    Cambridge, MA 02138
    (617) 491-5035

    MBTA Harvard Square

    Situated in a downstairs location a block off Mass. Ave. (the street-level sign is easy to overlook), this is a crowded basement filled with pop, rock and (surprisingly) classical LP's. Bins are somewhat disorganized; plan to get down on to floor level to explore the under-bin shelves.

  4. Twisted Village
    12 Eliot St.
    Cambridge, MA 02138
    (617) 354-6898

    MBTA Harvard Square

    Twisted Village is another pleasant surprise. It's a downstairs shop right off Brattle Square (adjacent to Harvard Square) that's filled with new LP's, mainly of the electronic, techno, garage and grunge variety. Many Euro imports, too, as well as contemporary classical records. Here I purchased seven volumes in the Girls In The Garage series, plus some new Finnish electronica on an obscure German label. Very reasonable prices. Mail order available through their website.

  5. Day Old Antiques
    1644 Massachusetts Ave.
    Cambridge, MA 02138
    (617) 354-1999

    MBTA Porter Square

    In between the rubber Godzillas and Betty Page comics, Day Old Antiques has a modest, but worthy, collection of used pop and rock (plus new thrash and trash) records at good prices. Worth a visit for the Alien Space Monster ambiance alone.

  6. Stereo Jack's Records
    1686 Massachusetts Ave.
    Cambridge, MA 02138
    (617) 497-9447

    MBTA Porter Square

    Jack's is a modest store that's strong in folk and pop LP's at very good prices. While it lacks the scope of some of the larger stores, the friendly atmosphere more than makes up for it.

Last Update: August 2007

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