The ongoing evolution of Record Revolution
Record Revolution is a Coventry institution. Located on the west side of the street between Lancashire and Hampshire roads, the store opened in 1967. More than 45 years later, at a time when record stores are a dying breed, Record Revolution is still there and still doing a brisk business. As Rob Pryor, the store’s general manager said, “We are one of the oldest independent record stores still operating in the country. That’s pretty amazing!”
The store, founded by Peter Schliewin, quickly became a key part of Cleveland’s burgeoning rock and roll scene. WMMS radio, which was one of the top FM rock stations in the country during the 1970s, based a lot of its programming on the store’s sales. Hundreds of rock artists made in-store appearances there, including Lou Reed, Patti Smith and Elvis Costello. The walls of the store—which, back then, took up three storefronts on Coventry, including the current location as well as the spaces now occupied by the Crazy Mullets beauty salon—were covered with rock stars’ autographs, including those of Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, the Who, Genesis and Mott the Hoople. According to Pryor, several plywood walls covered with signatures still exist, but they are currently in storage.
In his 1983 book The Catalog of Cool, music critic/historian Gene Sculatti called Record Revolution “the coolest place to buy records in Ohio.”
In June 1983, Schliewin was killed in a car crash after attending a Bloomsday party at Nighttown. A couple of years later, Mike Allison bought the store from Schliewin’s widow. Prior to his death, Schliewin had begun expanding the types of products the store carried beyond just music, a process that Allison continued after he took control, bringing in clothing, jewelry, incense, tobacco pipes and other items. Many of the products Record Revolution carried back in the 1980s went on to become national brands. One such example is Doc Martens shoes. Record Revolution began carrying them in 1986. At that time the only places you could find those shoes were in England, New York City or—yes!—Record Revolution. As it turned out, the decision to sell more than just music was very wise. Over the past decade, sales of prerecorded music—including compact discs and vinyl—have decreased at an alarming rate.
As a result of that precipitous decline in music sales, Record Revolution was forced to downsize in 2007. It now takes up only one-third of the space that it used to occupy. Even so, sales are strong. When you walk in the front door, one wall, on the right, is lined with used vinyl records. The rest of the main level features T-shirts and other clothing, jewelry and other products. The store’s lower level is entirely filled with vinyl records.
According to Pryor, today the store only carries vinyl records—no compact discs. Most of those records are used, purchased from customers wanting to get rid of their collections. But Record Revolution does sell some new vinyl reissues of classic albums. That said, prerecorded music now accounts for less than 50 percent of Record Revolution’s sales. Even so, many rock artists still come to the store, especially those playing down the street at the Grog Shop; and they are still signing the walls, which now include signatures from Machine Gun Kelly, Sepultura, Sloan and Hank Williams III, among many others.
Pryor is optimistic about the store’s future. “We’ll keep doing what we do,” he said. “We’re a center for free thought, a provider of goods that help people with self-expression, and people like what we are doing.”
1832 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights
Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sun. Noon to 7 p.m.
James Henke, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone magazine for 15 years. He is also the author of several books, including biographies of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Bob Marley.