Even if you're not from Louisville you've probably seen those bumper stickers. How could you miss them: the old typewriter font with the store's name in lower case letters save for that capital "X."
Ear X-tacy closed its doors in Louisville for the final time on October 27. The store's demise is no real surprise, given all the other mega-chain stores that have bitten the dust with the advent of the download. Yet somehow, through the changes from vinyl (which was predominant when I began shopping there when it opened in 1985) to cassettes to CDs and back to vinyl the store had managed to stay around. It has been cited by numerous national sources as one of the top independent record stores in the country. Now it has suffered the fate of so many other stores.
The store was the child of John Timmons, brother of 80s pop-metal band Danger Danger's lead guitarist Andy Timmons. It was named after John's favorite band, XTC. (John once said one of his biggest thrills was getting to talk to XTC front man Andy Partridge on the phone.) It began in a small store on Poplar Level Road near the Watterson Expressway on-ramp. The first move came when the expansion of the Watterson took the land. Ear X-tacy moved next door to the Great Escape on Bardstown Road in the Highlands. It then moved to a larger location further down Bardstown Road, near Eastern Parkway. At the height of its popularity there were three locations in town, but last year the store had to move to a smaller location on Bardstown Road because of poor business. In addition to records, CDs, and cassettes the store sold just about anything music-related short of instruments: t-shirts, posters, tickets, books, magazines and bumper stickers. Many free performances took place on the second floor of the store.
Despite the loyal fan base Timmons could no longer manage to keep the store in operation. Whether it's the recession or the trends in downloading that keep people away from "real" stores in favor of cyber ones was not addressed in the press release.
Jim James, Louisville native and member of My Morning Jacket, told the Louisville Courier-Journal by e-mail, "There's a tear in my eye right now as I hear about the closing of one of my favorite places on earth."
It's sad to see the place go. I discovered so much great music hanging out in that store. It was at Ear X-tacy that I discovered the joy of the Replacements' Pleased to Meet Me, the brilliance of John Hiatt (name an album, any album), mourned the demise of Talking Heads, and debated the "they sold out" claim about R.E.M. It was, in essence, my rock and roll university.
Ear X-tacy was 26.