The Big Fallout
A Record Store's Sad Farewell
"Maaaaaan, that record IS KIHHHLLERRRRR!" Those are TimfromFallout's (AKA Tim Hayes) words of highest praise--garnished with his wee-bit-crazed, wide-eyed emphatic nod--for any smokin' piece of wax he has on offer. And I'm gonna miss those recommendations.... I dunno if you've heard, but Fallout Records, the best independent record store on Capitol Hill, is closing its doors in the next couple weeks.
Honestly, I really don't know how to put into words my feelings regarding losing Fallout. I'm heartbroken. I feel like someone DIED.
Why? Fallout ain't JUST a record shop. HUGE numbers of local kids grew up buying skateboards and punk records (and their identities) from Fallout. So, to most folks, Fallout AIN'T just another record shop vanishing from East Olive Way (a street notorious for disappearing record shops), but an invaluable bit of their history. Then there're people like me, who moved here and became spoiled poor by Fallout's considerably smart--and smart-ass--service (tongue kisses for the old employee you all should know, WEZ) and fulfilling selection of often new, but rare, records. I stopped by the place twice a week for years so as not to miss anything. Fallout also provided the obligatory merchandise "services," above-par in-store shows, and consignments of albums and singles for local bands. Consider, just last year, how many A-Frames LPs must've been sold at Fallout. Shit, Bo Diddley even got help there.... I swear Tim made it mandatory when you walked through that door that you walked out with Bo's Black Gladiator LP! Who's gonna take care of us now?
As a result of all the above, over time Fallout garnered and maintained nearly the entire city's RESPECT. Tho' there's no "scene" here--I don't live in a Maximum Rocknroll dreamland--Fallout consistently acted as a sort of cornerstone for a thinly linked community of somewhat like-minded individuals and bands for whom the store's ethic and stock meant a lot. And the place kept going for 18 years. Fallout was the palpable embodiment of an intangible independent spirit. I don't think any other shop, for a while, will fill that void.
So, what happened? I reckon the beginning of the "end" came during the summer about four years ago when the Department of Transportation took months to repave the street in front of the shop. As a result, there was even less available street parking available. PLUS, because of the fences and construction gear, you couldn't see if the shop was even OPEN. The obstacles deterred customers from coming 'round and my impression was that by winter, without summer's brisk business, former owners Russ and Janet's wills and wallets were wiped. Then Tim Hayes arrived, and as soon as he took over, he seemed to scoop the shop outta the slump. He had a vision--which I thought was working... hell, for a while I was giving him alla my lunch money!!!
Anyways, soon enough business again shuddered. Suddenly everyone had a CD burner, some were laid off from work, many shopped online, a few lost interest, and as Capitol Hill's rents increased, his customer base moved to other neighborhoods out of comfortable walking distance... but lately, the final nail in the coffin has been this ever-present, crushing recession.
Then consider those factors compounded with the last 11 years of pop culture's assimilation.
Before '92 there was a semblance of community under a vague umbrella of "punk." Today there's a fractured set of extended "scene" cliques with few allegiances and loads of kids with NO sense of context. I hate to sound like a cranky grandpa, but once punk--"alternative"... or whatever--became commercial (thanks, Mr. Geffen), you could buy MTV-sponsored shit at the mall. However, as that "product" was available elsewhere, Hayes didn't stock that fluff. He stubbornly stuck with his vision of independence. Unfortunately, the kids were placated and chose not to seek more edgy, "revolutionary," or even less "commercial" sounds, but were diverted... fooled... into buying canned "alternative," so few came searching for much else. Fallout ceased to become tradition. Over time, even during Russ and Janet's tenure, Fallout's new customer base eroded. But Hayes' motives were never contemptuous: He genuinely knew the kids deserved to have a place to find the unknown, and he kept up his end of the deal. His stock never became "diluted," but the new kids, they just stopped coming.
And so it goes... to everyone who made Fallout Fallout, from everyone who loved Fallout... thanks. And, Tim, see you at the Ballard Bowl?