1970s to 2000s Record Shops from Z to A
1300 E. Seventh St.
2300 E. Seventh St.
1940 N. Lakewood Blvd.
In 1974, Long Beach resident and Wilson High School graduate Michael Zampeli decided the time had come for a record shop which specialized in hard-to-find imported records. The phonetic word for Z was Zed, and that was good enough for Zampeli. With his mother Marlene (“the heart and soul of Zed’s”), the store was located for ten years at a stucco shack with a startling Union Jack paint job 1300 and then at 2300 block of E. Seventh St., a location replaced by a short-lived reggae record shop.
“I used to live in the back of the original store with no hot water. At first, we stocked progressive rock artists like Gentle Giant, Roxy Music, Genesis and King Crimson. There weren’t a lot of import records. I was into computers before most people. I’ve always been into things before most people find out about them.
In the 1970s, Zampeli’s brother Danny Holloway lived in the U.K., writing for NME and working for Chris Blackwell. He was the source of both records and information about hot new acts.
Simultaneously, punk music was taking shape and by 1976, something was happening. By 1977, Southern California had gone punk and so had Zeds Records. “In ’77, since we had import contact all set up, we began importing punk records from the U.K. At that point, we had to make a decision, ‘are we gonna say with this?’ Since there was so much interest, we went all the way, giving up the progressive and going with punk. That was the heyday, from ’77 to ’85 We would important records from England, we’d get KNAC or KROQ to play them (knowing) the only place you get them on 45 was us.”
“We kind of helped make KROQ what they were and they helped make us what we were,” said Zampeli. . “Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order, we had the vinyl. Having that together, being so close to Hollywood, we got a lot of these bands, Depeche Mode, the Smiths signed to American label. Another was the Misfits, they had three or four singles , we had constantly 25 in the bins. I’d call Glen Danzig at his house, he’d say ‘wait a minute.’ I’d have to wait until the band was through playing. They’d come on different colored vinyl, you can’t get them now for less than $100. Since the Blasters we local, we did all right. We did all right with the Stray Cats.”
Punk stars hung out at Zeds, checking out the latest releases by other acts that helped them understand the music. The Misfits came in several times. Black Flag came in. Mike Watts of the Minutemen came in. He was a Buzzcock’s fan. Courtney Love of Hole would buy Echo and the Bunnymen. The Offspring used to come hang all the time. Toy Colls, Exploited, GBH, anytime these guys came in, we’d take them to the Mexican restaurant, El Cilantro, a few doors down.”
“Billy Idol was send by his label in a limo to Zed to hang out all day because people didn’t know about him. We had people who’d bring their friends here to see Disneyland and Zeds Records. Lots of people from Brazil and Italy and the U.K. would see out the scene that surrounded Zed Records. “We had in-store shows, Rage Against the Machine, Fugazi, Das Klown – they gave us 30 day notice – we recorded them a Live A Zed’s CD.”
Henry Rollins of Black Flag and Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, a most aggressive collector of punk singles, were regulars. “Jello Biafra was an avid collector. Any 45 he didn’t recognize, he’d have me play ten seconds of it, then put them in stacks – yes, no or maybe. He’d buy one for himself, one for Tim Yohanen, who started Maximum Rock & Roll. One of the records he built up was a Long Beach band, the Absentees, ‘Trying To Mess With Me’ (b/w ‘FUM’) on the UG label in 1981.
At the time, Fender’s Ballroom at the Lafayette Hotel on Second St. was presenting acts like the New York Dolls, Guns and Roses and other punkers to a wildly appreciative audience. Black Flag’s label, SST Records, operated by Greg Ginn, was also headquartered in Long Beach.
The most recent act broken by Zeds was Sublime. “Sublime used to play at Cal State Long Beach. They used to say, ‘if you want our CDs, go over to Zed Records. ‘ If we saw a young college girl who wasn’t punk parking in front of the store, we’d reach under the counter, we’d get the Sublime CD out for her. Sometimes they’d buy more than one Originally, they were on Skunk Records out of Long Beach. They had two demo cassettes,” which later sold for over $400 on eBay.
Holloway recalled his brother telling him about girls who were buying Sublime CDs in multiple copies. That meant a lot, so Holloway contact the group and managed them for awhile, however when he felt threatened over the need for drug money, he bailed out. Sublime lead singer “Brad Nowell had a baseball bat, so I just went to my car and took off,” apparently never looking back. Nowell, who died of an overdose in May 1996 never lived to experience the short-lived band had in August 1996 when their Epic label CD, which combined elements of punk with rap, reached #50 on the national charts.
By summer of 2000, the punk scene had dried up. “If you get a good record, no one’s going to know about it,” Zampeli rued. “There’s no radio play, especially on KROQ, which tends not to play new acts, especially local acts. Radio today is ‘all rap.’ It would’ve confused people, but rap would have kept us in business. Rap now is like punk used to be. A guy pulls up in a car, had his own label, people will come in the store and eat them up. With rap, every kid gets two turntables and thinks he’s a DJ. Another reason is the Internet. It’s too easy to find a record cheap. We had a monopoly in the old days. Now there’s a Zed on every corner.”
“When we announced we were going out of business, our customers said ‘that sucks, oh, why are you doing it?’ Nobody knew about it until I made the flier about a final clearance sale, beginning in June” 2000. At the final sale, the O.C. Weekly mentioned a sign that said ‘no talking about the old days,’ put up by younger employees who had tired of hearing bald guys recalling how they used to skateboard to Zed Records.”