Montague, Massachusetts isn't exactly the place where you
would think to look for one of the coolest record stores this side of
Manhattan's East Village. All the same, that's where Ecstatic Yod, a store
where you're more likely to find a Blurt record than one by Blur, is located.
It begins to make plenty of sense, though, when you take into account that
the business' owners are Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Byron Coley
(co-editor of the seminal underground music mag, Forced
Tucked away inside The Book Mill--one of Western
Massachusetts best and biggest used book stores--Ecstatic Yod occupies little
more than a hole in the wall. But there you will find the most eclectic and
obscure bunch of LPs (and a handful of CDs) packed into a tiny space you've
Looking for a copy of Moe Tucker's self-released 1981 solo
record, Playin' Possum? What about a German pressing of a Faust record?
Or a couple of albums by the late Sun Ra?
Or if you just like to window
shop and gawk at cool records--from Terry Riley, The Residents and the Reverb
Motherfuckers to Can, Chrome and The Cramps--then Ecstatic Yod is the place for
you. Be forewarned though: you probably won't leave the store empty handed as
they most likely have that one record you've been looking for but have been
unable to fine.
Which brings us to the question, why Montague, MA? A
somewhat sarcastic Thurston Moore says, "I see Montague as the Lower East Side
of Western Mass. Late in the day whilst I smoke and sip the Book Mill's
fantastic cappuccinos I will stare down upon that rushing river and think, 'My
God, it's 2nd Ave and...hey isn't that Joey Ramone?!' '"
Co-owner Byron Coley is more pragmatic. "I live out here
and Thurston and I have talked about opening a record store for a long time
because he has too many records and I have too many records and both of our
wives..."--Coley chuckles--..."kept telling us to get rid of some goddamn
records. We thought if we opened a store we could both get rid of some records
and when we are traveling we could buy lots of records and say, 'Hey
it's just for the store.'" He bursts out laughing. "The place was cheap and
plus we have tons and tons of weird records so it's good to put up records on
the wall that no one's going to really buy but they can look at them and buy a
five dollar record or something."
I assumed that the name Ecstatic Yod is a
combination of the names of Moore and Coley's own record labels. But when asked
about the name, Moore dryly replies, "Do not assume as you will make an ass out
of you and me."
Naturally, the store does carry items on their respective
labels. "We have no shame in outwardly displaying our proud craftsmanship of
record-making in the Outlet," says Moore.
The timing of the opening of
Ecstatic Yod (Oct. 1996) was pretty weird. The very day the store opened, Tiny
Tim had a well publicized heart attack on stage during a ukulele festival that
took place on the premises of the Book Mill. "The ukulele festival was down
here that morning. Thurston and I had this plan in which we'd go down there and
buy a ukulele and have Tiny Tim sign it and have a picture of Thurston getting
it from Tiny Tim," recalls Coley. "He was going to take it to Japan because
Keiji Heino is a huge Tiny Tim fan. So then we were going to take another
picture of Thurston handing the ukulele to Keiji Heino and have a little
"Thurston bought this amazing ukulele down there... I
don't know what it's called but it has a really long neck and looks really
strange. We were going to go to the second show that day and then lighting
A few days after Tiny Tim passed away, Thurston remarked, "It's a
passing of the cosmic high note. Tim had a ukulele for a heart and there are
those interns at the store who swear they hear his majestic plucking in the
dead of the afternoon (sometimes)."
One of the first times I was in the
store, but before I knew who the owners were, I was caught off guard by the
fact that the "employee" behind the counter was none other than Thurston Moore.
If you think it's bad enough having some smug indie rock kid look over and
evaluate your purchases, imagine how disconcerting it is to feel like an
uber-hipster such as Moore is doing the same thing (even if, in all
probability, he could care less).
Asked about his presence at the store
Moore says, "Since being pretty much booted out of society I've taken to
sleeping up above the ceiling boards of the store. Hence my constant