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For the love of vinyl

Tracy's blast from the past

New store owner part of next generation of vinyl lovers


By Christopher Correa

20-year-old Logan Robert Malsack has lived in Tracy for most of his life. While attending Millennium High School, one of his favorite spots to hang out during his free time was Blast from the Past, a small store at 76 West 10th Street that sold vintage clothes, sports cards, vinyl records, CDs and other collectibles. 

After graduating in 2021, Malsack admitted that he didn’t quite know what he wanted to do in his life, as he was working jobs in fast food and as a maintenance man in Tracy’s parks and recreation services. That was until he returned to Blast from the Past to add to his CD collection this past summer.

“I was just in here looking for CDs and hanging out, like I always do, when I heard the owner telling an older fella in front of me in line that he was thinking about retiring,” Malsack said.

The owner of Blast from the Past was Michael Lehman, who opened the doors to the shop 11 and a half years ago.

“When I got to the register, I asked if there was anybody next in line to take it over, and he said there wasn’t, and the store was going to close. I went back the very next day and asked if he thought about selling it. Nobody had asked him that before. Three months later, he called me and asked if I was ready to buy the store. I said ‘No, but I will be.’”

Malsack spent the following weeks saving up money. He reached out to Lehman in mid-August, and was able to acquire the space and its inventory. Malsack ended up getting rid of the clothes, cards and other collectibles and decided to focus solely on music. With the help of his parents, B.J. and Morgan, he was able to completely transform the space, expanding the showroom from 2,500 square feet to roughly 3,200, elevating the ceiling, adding new lights, laying down modern flooring, painting the walls, building wooden shelves and displaying most of the inventory.

According to Malsack, Lehman had tens of thousands of records in stock, with just a fraction of them on the floor being cataloged and ready to sell. Since reopening Blast from the Past on Sept. 1, Malsack believes he has cataloged over 7,000 records. Meanwhile, there are about 11,000 left in the back room.

“It’s insane to look at, and a bit overwhelming,” he jokingly admitted. “I’m not even sure what’s in there, but we’re getting through it slowly but surely.”

Anytime there is slow foot traffic, Malsack brings out boxes of unsearched inventory to clean, test, catalog and put out on the floor.

Many if not all the records he inherited were of the rock, pop and jazz genres from the pre-1990s. To offer customers more selection, he has acquired about 1,500 records on his own, expanding the store’s selection of rap, R&B, metal, country, indie and other genres and artists at the top of today’s charts.

“There are so many different tastes in music. There are so many different types of sounds out there… I want to give people as much of a selection as possible. I mean, I’ve even expanded my own taste in music just by brute force,” Malsack explained. “People are coming in here talking about different music and showing people new stuff. I have to listen to a lot of this stuff to know what people are talking about and what they want and to see if some of this stuff works. People ask me to spin records for them before they decide to buy, which I am more than happy to do. I have to learn and experiment with it all.

“Like I said, there’s a wide range of what people want. We have people from all ages, all tastes come in looking for stuff. Music spans generations. We have the people who want their Beatles, their Led Zeppelin, their ‘Stones, then we have generations of people who like MF Doom, Lauryn Hill, Whitney, and now we have the younger people asking for the Taylor Swift stuff, Post Malone, Kanye.”

While Malsack has expanded the selection of newer records, the store is remaining true to its name. Walking through the wood door can quite literally be a blast from the past. He has taken some of the best and iconic records out of the wood shelves and put them on display on his walls. These include original copies of iconic records like the Grateful Dead’s “American Beauty,” Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” and George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass.”

“When we first opened, those first two months, and even now, people walk in and they go, ‘Oh my gosh. This is nice.’ But my favorite compliment is when people would come in and say it reminded them of the golden era stores from like the 80s. Obviously, I’ve never been to them since I’m just 20, but it’s really cool to hear that and bring back some of those memories.”

And it’s not only vinyl. He has a full shelf of CDs and has crates of 8-track and cassette tapes.

Malsack explained that, for many people who enjoy oldies or classic rock, there is a generational divide with how they access their music.

“That heyday of music, do you think those people who grew up with it are going to be getting an Apple music subscription? Heck no. It’s funky. They need their physical copies. Each generation had a different way of listening to music, whether its records, tapes, CDs or streaming,” he explained.

“There’s a lot of reasons why physical copies are making a comeback,” Malsack continued. “It’s a different, unique way to listen to music. For some people, there’s a possessiveness factor. It’s like, ‘I have this copy and nobody can take it from me. It’s mine. It’s my music and it’s in my collection.’ It becomes kind of like an heirloom that you can share and [ass on down instead of just sending a link that will probably change or not work depending on the service and platform. That’s so much more impactful.”

Along with being a place for music lovers to hang out and shop, Malsack hopes that Blast from the Past can be a place where he can host live performances from local bands and host listening parties for the latest albums.

“I want it to be the spot… I’d like this place to be a cool place for people to come and listen to music, talk about music and just have somewhere to chill,” Malsack said. “And if you want to pick up a record, sick. You don’t want to pick up a record and you want to hang out somewhere that you just think is really cool, then this should be the spot.”

Blast from the Past is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Tuesdays through Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. 

Mod City Records

A garage and driveway full of treasures


By Christopher Correa

The popular quote “There’s no place like home” was first said in the 1823 song “Home! Sweet Home!” by Sir Henry Bishop and John Howard Payne. It’s safe to say there isn’t a home like Mike Scanlon’s Modesto residence. 

Every third Saturday of the month, Scanlon opens his garage, turns the volume up on his record player, and welcomes vendors to set up camp inside and on his driveway for a swap meet, one that has since been coined as Mod City Records. On average, the monthly gathering hosts around 10 vendors from across the Central Valley and averages about 50 customers. The goal is for it to be a place for folks to buy, sell and trade vinyl, while also giving people a place to hang out and bond over their shared love of music. 

One customer described Scanlon’s garage as “the music lover’s man cave.”

Scanlon explained that Mod City Records began nearly seven years ago when he jumped back into record collecting by digging through crates and garage sales, thrift stores and flea markets.

“I was getting older, and I thought, ‘You know, I want to listen to jazz and smoke cigars in my garage,’ he said. “So I saw this beautiful copy of Duke Ellington live in Newport for just $1 at a garage sale. When I finished listening to it, I was obsessed, and I was buying records left and right… Now, I buy records so that I can buy more records.

“While out at different thrift stores, I met a couple of like-minded guys that were record collectors. We started hanging out in the garage and playing records over some beers. We thought of inviting others over for a swap meet.”

After promoting the swap meet online on platforms like Craigslist, Instagram and Nextdoor, the first ever Mod City Records swap meet drew a massive crowd. Some from that first meet have become regulars, setting up their own tables and canopies in Scanlon’s front yard.

“We have canopies and tables for anybody that wants to show up and buy, sell or trade, and we’ve had great success doing it and have built quite a following,” he said. “We’re seeing everybody from those just getting into the hobby to vinyl aficionados to people that are just really into records.”

One of the vendors at the swap meet is Eddie Sperry of Modesto. Sperry has been collecting vinyl for over 20 years and has set up a table in Scanlon’s driveway for over three years. Like many, he learned of Mod City Records by word of mouth.

“I went to a yard sale and one of the guys was a vendor there. He asked, ‘Hey, do you like records?’ I’m like, ‘I love records.’ So I came here,” Sperry explained. “The first time I came, I bought records that first year. Then, I brought one box full of records and I made like $50. I spent half of that buying more records. The next time I came, I made like $100. I then started going to estate sales and I would just buy collections. I started getting doubles and triples (of records), so I sold the extras here. Now, I probably have about 2,000 records that I sell and trade back and forth, and I have about 700 of my own that I keep (for my personal collection).”

Sperry’s nickname for the swap meet is “The Record Club,” referring to the large contingent talking about music while lounging on chairs and couches beside the hundreds of crates full of records in Scanlon’s garage and driveway.

“My favorite part about this is just coming in and collaborating and meeting new people,” he added. “Also, seeing the younger generation, the kids that come in to buy records and listen to music is awesome. Even my grandkids, who are ages six to 18, three of them already have turntables. And then getting to add to my own collection is great.”

“We have the regular vinyls, and people bring the small 45s, now-defunct labels that are out of stock,” said Scanlon. “We have rock, jazz, R&B, hip-hop, foreign stuff, novelty soundtracks, surf, country, punk. We see pretty much everything.” 

According to Scanlon, one of the most expensive records to ever trade hands at the swap meet was the iconic Yesterday and Today “butcher” cover by The Beatles. The cover shows the band dressed in white coats holding decapitated baby dolls and covered in pieces of raw meat, an image that sparked controversy for its gory subject matter. Public backlash led Capitol Records to immediately withdraw the LP and replace the cover image with a shot of the band posed around a “steamer” trunk. The original cover is said to be incredibly scarce. Copies in bad condition have recently sold for over $800, while copies with minimal damage can sell upwards of $2,500.

“We’ve had a number of those come through here,” Scanlon said. “It’s neat to see.”

Even though there are some grails to be found, Scanlon assures that there is something for everyone’s budget.

“I read somewhere that vinyl is in higher production than CDs for the first time in decades, and when you go to stores, the new vinyl goes for 30 to sometimes 40 dollars. Here, you can find a band like The Beatles and get one of their records in really good condition for just a couple dollars. How can you pass that up?”

Like Sperry, Scanlon also believes that record stores and swap meets like his have grown in popularity because of the community it builds, as well as the thrill of finding hidden treasures.

“It’s interactive,” he said. “​​I like the thrill of the hunt, whether it’s in a garage sale or store. To search through a nice stack of records and find something that is rare, hard to find, or in really nice condition, there’s kind of a ritual to pull it out. You get that good, dusty smell and look at the liner notes and the lyrics and see which version of the record you found. You try them out. Sometimes, you can listen to your favorite bands or artists or find some new ones. You share those experiences with your friends. You even make friends over it. It’s just a fun hobby.”

Dates and times, as well as Scanlon’s home address, are announced each month on Instagram at @ModCityRecords.

Pac Ave Records


By Alex Ramirez

The music industry in California is a $12.3 billion streaming based business. Some of the most world-renowned artists in mainstream music get their roots from the Golden State. Apple Music, a Silicon Valley based music streaming platform, has posted over $8 billion in revenue from 2022. Spotify, in 2022, made $13.6 billion. Both these music colossal giants employ talent from around California, and the country, from the Bay Are to Los Angeles. Here, in the heart of the Central Valley, a guild has been quietly preparing music students for the complex music industry.

PAC Ave Records, in Stockton, is a student-run record label at the University of Pacific. Taught by UOP Professor Joshua Smotherman, the program had humble beginnings as a way for students to experience the process of label creation and entrepreneurship. 

While the program was well-received, the only hitch was the work would start over every semester. Then, in the spring of 2012, PAC Ave Records was officially formed, giving UOP music students a year instead of each semester to work at the label for experience that would prepare them for the music industry.

“Each fall I get a new set of staff (students),” Smotherman said. “This is my fifth year doing it and each group is different. They have different skill sets, different talents, different motivations. The fun part is learning the students each year and then making sure I’m giving them opportunities to learn what they want to learn.”

It gives students experience on their resume. Finding a career after college can be challenging. This is why working in a simulated record label is valuable. In the program there are different roles, besides music creation, that students can explore. Most roles range from marketing, business development, brand focus and even creative roles like graphic design, and content creation.

“And the whole goal of the class is that they walk away with experience. They put it on a resume, to go and get a career in the industry, or a recording studio, or something,” said Smotherman.

Connections in the industry are important. Starting in 2024, the program is developing a trial that will connect students with alumni professionals, already in the field. It helps students get connected in an already heavily competitive job market. Referred job applicants can improve their chances of being interviewed by almost 50%. The program is encouraging their students to network and become that next referral. An important role that the Conservatory of Music, at UOP, has committed to.

“If they don’t get a job, we’ve had a couple of students who’ve gone off and started their own companies and then become entrepreneurs with the knowledge that they gained or during the music industry program,” Smotherman said.

Music produced from PAC Ave records is released to the public in a modern way. For now, their music is released on Spotify. Their playlists are curated and shared onto social media platforms such as Instagram. Showcasing their graphic works and new artists releases. Just how a industry standard label or organization would function. Moreover, students work in small classes creating opportunities for more engagement, less waiting times for lab use, and sessions. All content is created by UOP students.

To learn more about the program, contact the UOP Conservatory of Music at (209)946-2415 or visit To hear Pac Ave Records music, keep up-to-date on their Instagram @ pacaverecords or visit the website at

Greatest album covers of all-time


By Joe Cortez

Just about 30 years ago, sales of compact discs began to overtake sales of vinyl records. Almost overnight, a revolution was launched, changing the way people listened to music.

Gone was the warmth of the hiss-crackle-pop that blared through the speakers the moment the stylus was placed on an LP — that’s a long playing record for those of you born in this century.

But something else went missing with the advent of the CD.

The album cover.

Of course, CD’s also came with cover art, but at about 5 by 5 inches, it was about a quarter the size of a standard LP cover, which measured about 12.5 by 12.5 inches. 

Naturally, the music was the main thing, but the covers were a big part of the equation. They could be propped up against a pillow or a desk drawer as the music poured out of the speakers, allowing the listener to get lost in the image.

Today, even CDs have become nearly obsolete with the advent of streaming services such as iTunes, Spotify and Pandora. But vinyl is finding new life. Is it a fad? A nostalgia trip? Or do LPs just sound better, warmer, more real.

Whatever the reason, the comeback of the vinyl LP will launch a counterrevolution — the renewed importance of the album cover.

With that in mind, here’s our list of the Top 20 greatest album covers of all-time. Keep in mind that the heyday of album covers was the 1960s and 1970s, so most of the entries will be from that period.

No. 20 — “License to Ill,” The Beastie Boys (1986): The two-sided cover captured the Boys’ irreverence with the image of a jumbo jet being snuffed out like a cigarette. The plane’s tail number (3MTA3) spells “Eat Me” backward. And the title itself was a pun on James Bond’s license to kill.

No. 19 — “Holy Diver,” Did (1983): Illustrated by Randy Berrett, the cover features the band’s mascot, Murray, a demonic creature pulling or whipping a snapped metal chain and a Catholic priest splashing in a body of water. Singer Ronnie James Dio reminded people to “not judge a book by it’s cover,” suggesting that the image was misleading, and it could be argued that the priest is killing the demon.

No. 18 — “1984,” Van Halen (1984): The last studio album, until 2012’s “A Different Kind of Truth,” to feature David Lee Roth on vocals. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and was kept out of the top spot by Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The cover features a cherub, ostensibly Baby New Year, looking embarrassed for having been caught enjoying a cigarette.

No. 17 — “It Takes a Nation to Hold Us Back,” Public Enemy (1988): The group’s masterpiece for it’s social commentary and groundbreaking production. With a simple image of Chuck D and Flava Flav behind bars, the cover epitomizes the band’s outlaw aesthetic.

No. 16 — “Physical Graffiti,” Led Zeppelin (1969): A simple picture of a tenement in New York City’s East Village. The original album jacket included internal sleeves that could be swapped out to present different scenes in the building. One features red letters in the windows that spell out “Physical Graffiti.” Another includes photos of notable personalities such as W.C. Fields, Pope Leo XIII, and Buzz Aldrin, in each window.

No. 15 — “Death Certificate,” Ice Cube (1991): On the heels of high-profile legal troubles for his group, N.W.A., the rapper leaned into the controversy for his second solo effort. The cover shows a corpse, identified by the toe tag as Uncle Sam, with an American flag draped over it. The music, meanwhile, painted a graphic picture of gang life in the U.S.

No. 14 — “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.” Simon and Garfunkel (1964): The cover shot was taken at the Fifth Avenue/53rd Street subway station as the duo waited for a train to take them back to Queens after a late-night gig in Manhattan. Art Garfunkel said that hundreds of photos taken were deemed unusable because of vulgar graffiti painted on the walls behind them.

No. 13 — “Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen (1975): New York photographer Eric Meola delivered one of the most iconic shots ever of The Boss. It shows Springsteen holding his famed Fender Telecaster and leaning on the shoulder of saxophonist Clarence Clemons, whom you can see only on the back of the fold-open cover. Springsteen later said of the album, “When you saw the cover, you said: ‘I want that one.’”

No. 12 — “The Slim Shady LP,” Eminem (1999): The image mirrors the violent fantasies of the rapper’s alter ego, for whom the record is named. The unstable Slim looks across the river as he gets ready to dispose of a corpse whose feet are sticking out from the trunk of his car. In a stark juxtaposition, the album’s title is spelled out in whimsical, crayon colors, as if written by a child.

No. 11 — “Revolver,” The Beatles (1966): Not only was “Revolver” a groundbreaking album for the Fab Four, featuring music that was becoming increasingly difficult to reproduce on stage, but the album cover was also a departure for the group. The artwork was created by their friend Klaus Voorman, who drew the sketches of John, Paul, George and Ringo, and created a college with a plethora of pictures, which seemed to spring from the mind of each Beatle. 

No. 10 — “Rumours,” Fleetwood Mac (1977): Oddly, the cover art only features two of the five members of the band: drummer Mick Fleetwood (with a pair of lavatory balls dangling suggestively between his legs), and the diminutive Stevie Nicks (who looks all the more diminutive standing next to the 6-foot-5 Fleetwood).

No. 9 — “Tapestry,” Carole King (1971): Photographer Jim McCrary posed King in the living room of her Laurel Canyon home. Before he started snapping photos, he asked the barefoot singer-songwriter if he could move her cat, sleeping across the room, into the shot. After a few clicks, Telemachus grew annoyed and returned to his original location, but McCrary got the image he wanted … and Telemachus became the most famous tabby on the planet.

No. 8 — “Get Rich Or Die Tryin’,” 50 Cent (2003): The rapper almost never got the chance to make this record. Three years earlier he was shot nine times and nearly died. The album cover tells the tale with a defiant 50 Cent seen through a bullet hole.

No. 7 — “Sticky Fingers,” Rolling Stones (1971): With photographs by Andy Warhol that focused on the bulging jeans of a male model that to this day remains unidentified, it was Warhol who came up with the idea of to feature a working on the jeans. Along with graphic designer Craig Braun, they would earn a Grammy Award nomination for best album cover.

No. 6 — “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” Bob Dylan (1963): Don Hunstein’s photo shows Dylan and his girlfriend/muse Suzie Rotolo walking in the middle of Jones Street in New York City’s West Village. In her memoir, Rotolo said, “It is one of those cultural markers that influenced the look of album covers precisely because of its casual down-home spontaneity and sensibility.”

No. 5 — “Abbey Road,” The Beatles: The band toyed with the idea of calling the album “Everest,” after the brand of cigarettes smoked by their recording engineer, and even considered a trip to the Himalayas to take the cover photo. Instead, they chose the path of least resistance and simply popped outside their EMI recording studio — now called Abbey Road because of  this album — for a quick photo of them crossing the street. Since then, millions of fans have recreated the image at the famous “zebra crossing at 3 Abbey Road, St John’s Wood, City of Westminster, Greater London, England.

No. 4 — “The Ramones,” The Ramones (1976): Roberta Bayley’s stark, black-and-white photo of Johnny, Tommy, Joey and DeeDee Ramone, with their backs against a graffiti-covered wall created a punk mise en scéne that would inspire the Blank Generation to pick up their instruments, regardless of how skilled they were. At the top, in bold upper-case letters it read simply, “RAMONES,” as if to say, “We’re here. Deal with it.”

No. 3 — “Straight Outta Compton,” N.W.A. (1988): A provocative photograph from the perspective of someone lying on the ground. It depicts Eazy-E pointing a gun at the viewer while the rest of the group looks down at the viewer … without a trace of mercy. It’s one of the most famous images in the history of gangsta rap. Chilling.

No. 2 — “Dark Side of the Moon,” Pink Floyd (1973): Keyboardist Richard Wright told the design team of Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgerson to “do something clean, elegant and graphic.” The light going through the prism and coming out as a rainbow has become synonymous with the band itself. “Dark Side” spent an unbelievable 917 weeks — about 18 years — on the Billboard 200 chart.
No. 1 — “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” The Beatles (1967):  Widely considered the greatest pop album ever created, it also has what is widely considered the greatest cover art of all-time. And we agree. John, Paul, George and Ringo are dressed in colorful Edwardian military uniforms and have shed their lovable mop-top image (all four are sporting mustaches for the first time). That, in and of itself, would’ve made it a fantastic album cover. But behind the new-look Beatles are the images of 58 influential people, such as Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan, Mae West, Edgar Allen Poe, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, and even Madam Tussaud’s wax figures of the early young mop-tops. It’s a cover that could be ogled over and over and over again as the music played.

And isn’t that the goal for any album cover?