Do you have the 411 on the current state of the RCOA?
Any fond (or not so fond) memories of mail-order music clubs?
Please share in the comment section at the end of the post!
I wanted to take a fairly quick ride late yesterday. I didn’t have a lot of time; but I wanted to take advantage of the nice weather, before thunderstorms and lower temperatures overtake my area this weekend. It occured to me that I had enough daylight to check out a sign that I vaguely remembered passing a few years ago.
The Record Club of America warehouse/office complex is on Route 181 in Manchester (near York, Pennsylvania). Though it’s only about 30 – 40 minutes away from my house, I don’t ride on 181 very often (it’s not very challenging or interesting as a motorcycle road and much slower than Interstate 83 if I’m not flower sniffin’).
There isn’t a lot of information on the Web about the RCOA (oddly it does still have a telephone listing which seems to function, though no one answers) What little info I found via some message boards - indicates that the club went bust at some point in the mid-70s (I also found some unconfirmed accounts of the company’s brief resurrection via a massive catalog of back titles offered at some point in the 80s).
I pulled in front of the vintage 60s-era sign, thinking I’d snap a few pictures and quickly be on my way … but then I turned and saw the front office windows! There appear to be rows and rows of albums still in the building!!!! The windows pictured are in the office attachment at the front of the building.
There is a leasing opportunity sign on the property … but it seems pretty weird to me that a 70,000 square foot warehouse & 12,000 square foot office building appear virtually untouched. I did find some old court documents involving RCOA lawsuits via Google (including one involving Columbia Records) … is it possible that legal proceedings could keep things tied-up this long?
I had no way to discern if the warehouse itself was full of records, but can you imagine the scope of this collection if it is??? There were some fresh-looking pallets stacked by the loading dock … maybe the warehouse has been re-purposed and the office area is the only section of the building that holds old inventory? It’s a mystery for sure!
Seeing these pictures definitely doesn’t convey the shock of seeing a building full of vintage vinyl very well … but trust me, it was cool (and puzzling)
Though the Record Club of America was slightly before my time – Oh, how I remember falling for Columbia House & BMG cassette offers! You know … the “13 Free Tapes” (and then we own your immortal soul for all of eternity <insert evil corporate cackle here> bwaaa, haaa, haaa, haaa) offers from yesteryear?
I would be in boombox heaven for weeks. Then the subscription cards and automatic mailings would arrive. I would endure endless parental lectures about fiscal responsibility and avoiding marketing ploys. Fulfilling the contract meant keeping ahead of request cards and paying outrageous shipping charges. So, I would resolve to never fall in the “music club trap”. Eventually, I would start filling-out new offers just for fun (putting stars beside the artists that I wanted, followed by 30 painstaking minutes of whittling the options down to 13).
As time went by, I would develop selective amnesia and take the bait on another too-good-to-miss offer … lather.rinse.repeat