An Interview with John Sadowski of Looney Tunes Records & CDs

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I grew up in the Babylon area, located on the south shore of Long Island. For as long as I can remember, I’ve gone to Looney Tunes Records & CDs. Rarely a week goes by where I don’t pop in to see what new arrivals they have, or at the very least, to chat with John Sadowski.

John has only been with Looney Tunes for about 10 or so years, but I can’t imagine the shop without him. John is always great for a friendly conversation about records, music, and life. I think that’s one reason I love going into shops as opposed to shopping online. Now, online shopping has its place, but nothing beats heading into a local shop and forging a connection and friendship with like-minded people.

So, today I’ve got my old record store buddy John with us for a chat. Among other things, we touch on John’s musical roots, how he came to work at Looney Tunes, his thoughts on the industry, a few stories from the old days shopping in The Village, and a whole lot more.

If you would like to learn more about Looney Tunes, check out their website and be sure to stop in if you’re visiting Long Island for the day and find yourself in the West Babylon area. Enjoy getting to know John. Cheers.

Andrew:
John, thank you for taking the time to speak with us here. It’s been such an odd time. How are you holding up?

John:
I am doing fine; my wife and children are all well, as are my friends, so I can’t really complain. I just wish, like everyone else on the planet, that this would end, and things would get back to as normal as possible.

Andrew:
Let’s talk about your background, your musical origins, so to speak. How did it all begin for you?

John:
Music was always part of my household growing up, so I had a love of music from a very early age.

Andrew:
How about vinyl? Where did that come into play? What got you hooked?

John:
As a kid my brother and I would go shopping with our mom who would always make the last stop on our trip at a small shop called ABC Records, the three of us would all pick out a 45 from the top-100. Later on, say 1969 I was at a friend’s house, his older brother was playing records that’s when I first heard “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” which blew my mind I was used to am radio and the pop songs of the day. I saved up and bought the album and it just kept on going.

Andrew:
You’re so hooked on vinyl that you’re actually working in one of Long Island’s oldest local shops – Looney Tunes. For me, you’re truly one of the best parts of coming there. How did you get the gig?

John:
First off, that’s very kind of you to say thank you. Looney Tunes was an account of mine while I was employed with Polygram records. In 2006 all of the large accounts were closing their doors as the internet and downloading were hurting retail sales. As a result, the house cleaning began, and I found myself unemployed after 20 years of sales and marketing. So, I decided to take a ride and visit my old pals at Looney Tunes and it just so happens they have a help wanted sign on the door, so I said to Karl, “Hire me, I know a little about this shit.” Now it’s 10 years later. To compliment you back, It’s customers like you that make working there all the more enjoyable.

Andrew:
You’ve been collecting vinyl for a long time. Tell us a few of your most interesting stories. Ones that stand out the most.

John:
Well as you know, it’s always great when you find that gem you’ve been searching for, which has happened on several occasions. One that always comes to mind is walking into Bleeker Bob’s shop in Greenwich Village and seeing a copy of The Who’s Ready Steady Go EP hanging on his 45 wall. I had been searching for years for one of these. Well, it was 50 bucks which was a fair price. The problem was I needed to get the train back home, so that gave me 47 dollars to spare. I asked Bob (who I visited nearly every Saturday on my scour the village record store trips) if I could owe him 3 dollars until next week, he basically told me to go f myself. He was a nasty bastard; ask anyone who knew him. Anyway, I sucked it up and prayed it would still be there next week; much to my surprise, it was. I bought it and told Bob to go f himself and never went back again.

Another one would be at a record collectors convention at the Hotel Diplomat in NYC. It was huge 3 floors of dealers from around the country. I was on a Genesis kick and looking for a couple of singles I needed (not wanted, needed damn it). Coming into the picture is Howie, who owned a store in Maryland called the Music Machine. Howie (the complete opposite of Bob) ask me if the was anything I was looking for, to which I said, “Yeah, “The Knife,” and “Happy The Man” singles from Genesis.” To which he replied, “I have them at my shop. If you want to send me a check and I’ll mail them to you.” I did and became the proud owner of these rare singles. I became good friends with Howie, and did lots of other business over the years and even visited his shop on a trip to Maryland. He had a great British connection and used to go there and bring back great records. I’m gonna leave it there otherwise, this will turn into War & Peace.

Andrew:
The vinyl scene has changed a ton over the years, right? A lot of ups and downs. Ebbs and flows. That said, looking back, what were some of the exceptional shops that aren’t around anymore?

John:
On Long Island:
1) The Wax Museum in Massapequa. Later changed the name to Agents of Fortune.
2) Slipped Disc in Valley Stream.
3) Music Trends in Levittown.
4) Broadway Records & Tapes in Hicksville.
5) Record Stop in Ronkonkoma.
6) Purple Haze in Bethpage.

In NYC:
1) Lunch For Your Ears in The Village.
2) Golden Disc in The Village.
3) Bleeker Bob’s in The Village.
4) Revolver in The Village.
5) It’s Only Rock & Roll in The Village.

A nice even 11 for you. There’s a lot more, but these were some of my favorites. I have to say Record World, even though it was a chain, there was a point where they had a pretty impressive import section in most of their bigger stores.

Andrew:
Let’s circle back around to Looney Tunes now. All the vinyl kind of goes through you, right? Tell us more about your day-to-day life at the shop.

John:
Well, I purchase all the used records, so I get lots of calls from people looking to sell collections. Sometimes they are really good and in really good condition other times it’s titles we just can’t use, or the records are destroyed. There are some amusing folks who come in with records they have looked up online not knowing any better thinking they have a fortune. I.e., I had a guy come in with a copy of Blood On The Tracks holding it with a pair of gloves telling me it was a 10 thousand dollar record. I shit you not. People who think Thriller is a hundred-dollar record (100 million copies out there) Sometimes some real gems come through the door when you least expect it. all in all, it’s interesting day to day lots of interesting characters.

Andrew:
You’ve got a unique perspective, having been on both sides of the counter so to speak, what are some of your observations of the record-buying public over the years?

John:
The people that have been collecting records for many years have stayed pretty much the same, and the people who have recently gotten into it are learning from the people who have been into it for a while. Then there are those who are just being trendy by buying records.

Andrew:
What trends have changed, and what ones have seemed to endure?

John:
I haven’t seen any trends changing. Real record collectors have maintained the usual way of collecting records. In contrast, the new collectors are just buying records they want, and probably the majority will fall off the collecting path.

Andrew:
Are there any things that annoyed you as a consumer but that you now kind of get being on the other side?

John:
No, I honestly can’t say there is.

Andrew:
Record Store Day actually predates the current “vinyl resurgence” by a few years, I think. In your opinion, how big of a role has RSD played in the resurgence of vinyl as a viable medium for consuming music? Huge!
Is the vinyl resurgence real? Or is it a fad?

John:
It is real, it’s here to stay. It’s never left, it’s just kind of hidden in the shadows, it’s not going anywhere.

Andrew:
Long term, is vinyl a truly commercially viable source of income for anyone and everyone, ranging from the smallest indie shop to the largest labels and distro chains out there?

John:
Absolutely, we can’t keep up with the demand on both the new vinyl and used vinyl.

Andrew:
Unfortunately, a side effect of the limited nature of RSD releases is flipping in the aftermarket, also known as “scalping,” which is perpetrated by “scalpers.” What are your thoughts on the situation regarding flippers and scalpers?

John:
While I understand people will always have an opportunistic mindset, I get a little annoyed when true record collectors are deprived of purchasing titles; they really want by those who are looking at this as an opportunity to make money, just as those who buy tickets and deprive the true fan of a seat.

Andrew:
Is there anything that can be done, or is being done to help make things a bit more readily available for those that truly want the record vs. those that want to take advantage of hungry collectors?

John:
No, unfortunately not at this time.

Andrew:
COVID-19 really threw a massive wrench in the gears of RSD this year. As most of us know, we ended up with three RSD “Drops” rather than one typical RSD and a fourth for RSD Black Friday. How did that all shake out on your end?

John:
It worked out fine. I know that some people loved the drops and others felt a bit fatigued after the fourth day.

Andrew:
What are your thoughts?

John:
Again, it worked out fine; it was less of a task at retail because we weren’t hit with a massive load of releases at one time. It worked out financially for the customer having the ability to spread out the financial burden of one day.

Andrew:
In your opinion, are the RSD “Drops” something that may stick going forward, or can we expect things to go back to “normal” once COVID stops ruling our lives?

John:
Hopefully, but right now, it will remain broken into several days.

Andrew:
Here is an easy one. Do you only collect vinyl? Are you into cassettes? CDs? Regardless of format, where do you like to shop for music? How big is your collection these days? What are some of your favorite albums, and why?

John:
I collect vinyl and CD, no cassettes. I love to browse record stores even though I work at one. I am an old-time collector. My favorite albums are way too vast to list since I’ve been collecting since I’m eleven. It would take days to list and explain why they are my favorites. Someday, we can have a few beers, perhaps 12 or more, and I’ll go over them with you.

Andrew:
Piggybacking onto my last question, but who are some of your favorite artists, and why?

John:
1) Jimi Hendrix: Arguably the greatest guitarist of all time. He really kicked open the doors of possibility for other musicians taking electric music to a whole new level with not only his ability but his use of distortion and feedback. The guy’s music just blows my mind and touches my soul.

2) Jeff Beck: Another amazing player. His sound is completely his own and like no other. I love mostly all the music he has made. There are a couple of records I could do without but for the most part; I could listen to Jeff anytime.

3) Bob Dylan: Brilliant poet and songwriter, as most would agree, love most of the work he has done. Granted, there are some stinkers, but anyone with the output Dylan has had is entitled. I always look forward to hearing new material or unreleased stuff hence the bootleg series.

4) There are a couple of other sides to my musical likes I have a real love and appreciation for Jazz and Progressive/Experimental music, this would include the likes of Miles, Coltrane, Mingus, Holdsworth, Tony Williams, just to name a few on the progressive side #1 would be King Crimson including records by Fripp, Tony Levin (Stickmen) Bill Bruford, etc. Yes, and Genesis are also among my favorites nothing after And Then There Were Three as far as Genesis goes.

Andrew:
Tell us about your setup? Are you an audiophile? What type of turntable, receiver, and speakers do you have.

John:
I have a pretty simple setup: Yamaha receiver (5.1), Technics turntable, and Yamaha speakers. It works well for the room and provides the ability to listen to surround sound when I am watching a film or listening to Blu-Ray audio.

Andrew:
Last question. For you, what is it about physical music that makes it so special? Streaming is easier, right? What is it about vinyl that keeps you engaged?

John:
Although I have a pretty handsome CD collection, there is still nothing like an LP find the sound of a record much warmer whereas digital has a somewhat cold sound the packaging the graphics of course, but actually being able to read liner notes without a microscope is a big plus. This may sound odd but the smell of a new album, brings me back to my younger days, nothing like that smell, never thought of this until now but records have something for several of your senses. Alright, this has been fun.

All The Best, John

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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