Two iconic collections merge in one new Newton shop
No two records are alike, so needless to say, no two used record stores can be the same in very many ways either. Especially if you’re a nitpicky vinyl nerd like me (and, chances are, you as well, judging by your taste in independent newspapers).
Want List Records, new to Newton Upper Falls right off I-90, is a small shop but one with a distinct imprimatur out the gate. Co-owners Dave Belson and Brian Coleman are renowned in their own unique ways in the New England record-collecting communities, with the former known among elite vinylphile circles and the latter having published several books about music and culture in Boston and beyond.
We interviewed them on their second day in business last month to ask how their seemingly incompatible backgrounds as different kinds of collectors nevertheless converged into a single Want List.
Where do these records come from?
Brian: It’s an interesting combo, because Dave is a very expert seller and dealer, and I am an amateur buyer. And so I have a lot of stuff that I’ve just gathered over the years, and Dave does [record] shows.
Dave: I was doing shows until the pandemic. And then the shows stopped, and I was continuing to collect records like, What am I going to do? I had stopped by this place, and I was like, Hmm. And [Brian] reached out a little bit later and was like, What do you think about [opening] a shop, man?
So [Dave], are you sleeping with the enemy here in opening a business with a collector? In the food chain of record sellers, where does this relationship stand? And if you can, tell us about one sale or trade between the two of you over the years.
Brian: To think about it, I don’t think that I have ever bought a record from [Dave]. My thing is that I have always shopped at all the local record stores in town, obviously, and online a little bit. But I am more of a record shopper of the people. My goal is to keep the prices as low as possible for schlubs like me who want to buy stuff, and experiment, and take a risk on a ten or twenty-dollar record. And Dave is like the king of the mono-pressing and all of that, and I don’t know about any of that. And I honestly never really cared. So we’re two sides of the same coin—I have a pretty large personal collection, and so some of that I’ve been putting towards the store, but not a ton, so I’m squeezing that out of my personal collection. Dave was already ready to go for whatever show came up, or for [selling on the vinyl website] Discogs.
So are you two like good-bad cop? Like, Brian has some rare version of something and he wants to put it in the cheap bin, and Dave has to interfere like, No, you can’t put it in there! It’s worth too much!
Brian: Basically, yes.
Dave: We have negotiations.
Brian: I get my hand slapped and I’m like, C’mon man, let’s do this for five [dollars].
This is an unbelievable assortment of records, but let’s face it, stuff’s not out there like it used to be. And that tape rack over there, I know that it was filled just earlier this morning and it is already empty (they had posted pics on Instagram, one of which, of a rare Non Phixion pre-first album promo, actually lured me in). How will you replace them down the line though?
Dave: Word of mouth these days [lead to] the best scores. People I have had as customers recommending me to other people, or people I have sold records to coming back and selling me their collections. That’s really the best way.
Let’s finish with a question for all of the record diggers and collectors out there. Now, when you do see records at yard sales, it’s usually like the same couple of albums—the Grease soundtrack, Engelbert Humperdinck, stuff like that. Of all of that apparent trash, what is potentially interesting that you might want to hold on to.
Dave: I don’t even know, because yard sales are so picked over right now. I guess if you come across the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack you will get a lot of bang for your buck, and that seems to be in a lot of collections.
Brian: And late-’90s rap tapes.
Want List Records, 381 Elliot St., Newton Upper Falls. wantlistrecords.com
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.