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Remembering Rather Ripped Records

source: Sunday Morning Hangover blog (

A friend of mine, Larry Kelp, who hosts a music show on KPFA and was once music critic for the Oakland Tribune, back when they really were an Oakland paper, asked me about a fellow radio programmer from the past. As it turns out, he was gathering historical information for a famed record store about to celebrate it’s 40th anniversary. Never mind that it had been out of business for 30. It’s that legendary.

From the mid-1970s through the early 1980s, Rather Ripped Records was located at the corner of Euclid and Hearst, at the north gate of the UC Berkeley Campus. It was the focal retail point for the new wave of Rock and Roll, from garages in Berkeley to squats in Europe, that most people called Punk Rock. Local labels such as Beserkeley, home of Greg Kihn and the Rubinoos, Johnathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, and Berkeley High’s favorite ban, Earthquake, found their support at this store. You could find whole albums or singles, 12 inch EPs playing at 45 RPM, an unheard of combination, from bands from with outrageous names such as The Sex Pistols, Flipper, and The Dead Kennedys. Kids who were passing songs around on cassette, or lucky enough to hear them on the radio, would come to Rather Ripped to attain their permanent vinyl copies of these anthems of angst.

I have fond memories of hanging out at Rather Ripped Records. I always gravitated to the Imports section, closest to the door, fascinated that the “shrink-wrap” was never shrunk-wrapped, and was loose, yet protecting those record albums, making them more precious. They had one bin of Folk music, where I first saw Richard and Linda Thompson, and the Morris On album.

Beautiful ‘bootlegs’ too, such as Elvis Costello at the Mocambo and Four Songs from Renaldo And Clara. I also liked they had a ‘Rock GODs’ section, for those who wanted such things as the Carpenters and Neil Diamond. First place I ever saw and heard of the elusive art-rock legends The Residents, in various garb, not just the big eyeballs in top hat and tuxedo. That is, the first time I ever saw their albums, not themselves, at least that I knew of. Patti Smith gave a signing, maybe even a poetry reading there when she was becoming a household name.

One thing for sure, the staff was knowledgeable and passionately loved Rock And Roll music, no matter how new and unusual it was. Someone auditioned a rollicking tune I recognized as an old Celtic march like Scotland The Brave, but for Electric Guitars, Bass and Drums. Right after they took it off, someone complemented “ROCK AND ROLL BAGPIPES!”

I was bit afraid of the Punk Rock stuff. I thought I had to be mean, leather clad, and willing to endure and inflict pain on myself and others in order to ‘fit in’. I could relate to the anger, though. I was in my late teens and early 20s. I could tell this was something that was growing from the bottom and was going to be big, and that all these unusual singles from the UK were going to be quite valuable in future years.

When Rather Ripped were bought by a family that didn’t seem to care about the music, it moved to an out-of-the-way warehouse backroom on Broadway in Oakland. They closed very soon thereafter. I thought I missed the opportunity to buy a very coveted record, the Irish Anti-Nuclear EP, a 12″ 45 RPM disc with Christy Moore and a long list of other Irish musicians singing songs and raising consciousness about nuclear technology and its evils, and specifically about a plant being built at Carnsore, Ireland. (the success of the movement was that project was never built!) Years later, Rather Ripped magically reopened at Shattuck and University. My beloved Irish Anti-Nuclear record was there waiting for me, as well as an all instrumental album by a guy who became my guitar teacher and good friend, Robbie Dunbar, of Earthquake fame. I felt I came full circle.

Further reading: Rather Ripped, Rick Rips, and Ray Remembers

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4 Responses to Remembering Rather Ripped Records

  1. John Hogle March 18, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    Ah, Rather Ripped! It was one of my all-time favorite record stores. It was a call of much expenditures. It was almost a requirement: if in the East Bay, must go to Rather Ripped. Later, Mod Lang, Amoeba, and Rasputin’s did a good job of providing alternative music addicts and musicians good places to work and spend our money, but Rather Ripped was there first. I still have experimental, avant garde, industrial, progressive, ambient, punk, early goth, and more unique albums that were available almost nowhere else, even at Russ Solomon’s monster Tower stores. And the employees really knew their music, particularly the more esoteric genres.

    Thinking of which, I still regret I did not buy Throbbing Gristle’s TG24 set (24 cassettes) in the attache case. Rather had one of the pretty rare copies. It was actually reissued in 2000 (as CDs) with an extra CD and other goodies.

    Anyway, thanks for the memory. It was one great music store.

  2. Mott Jordan January 13, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Rather Ripped Records. Does anyone else remember that they were located a few doors up Euclid when they first opened? They must have moved to the corner of Hearst around… maybe 1973 or 74 (?) I’m pretty fuzzy on the details.

    I remember when Bowie first hit the US, there were two bright orange vinyl bootlegs to be had at Rather Ripped, recorded live in LA, of the Spiders at their finest. (That show’s since been re-released a few times.) There was a guy named Joel who worked there who said to my pal Dave: “I can’t believe it, you’re 12 years old and you like Bowie.”

    My favorite memory is the day that Physical Graffiti came in from the distributors, and was on the turntable there pretty much all day. I remember sitting on the wooden staircase to the upstairs and listening to Kashmir — at high volume — for the first time.

    Now there’s an unrepeatable experience.

    I still have two of the bumper stickers… almost 40 years later.

    I miss those days.

  3. Charles Williams April 11, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    I used to go there when I lived in the Bay Area. For several years, I’d been looking for a Man album called Do You Like It Here Now, Are You Settling In. I finally found it there and still have it. Years later when I moved away, I bought from them by mail. It was a great record store in a great place at a great time.

  4. Marty Corey April 15, 2015 at 2:46 am #

    I have no idea how I discovered Rather Ripped in 1977, since I lived in the Seattle area, but I think an acquaintance told me to go to the Cheshire Cat, which was just up Euclid, and I just wandered in, and snapped up a sealed copy of the London Symphony Orchestra’s 1972 recording of Tommy. I ended up buying by mail order from them for a number of years, and some of the music they turned me on to are still on my playlist(especially The Hoodoo Rhythm Devils, who were there on one visit)
    Just now, I was trying to get the Cheshire Cat’s former address, for an upcoming visit, & thought if one place would still be there, it would be this iconic record store. No such luck. I guess I’ll have to go to Last Record Store in Santa Rosa…..hopefully that’s still there

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