Around this time last year, I met one of my husband’s high school buddies for the first time. He mentioned that if I liked music, I should check out Amoeba. Not to be confused with a shape altering cell or organism, Amoeba is a large independent music chain that sells both new and used CDs and Records (LPs). Amoeba opened in 1990 in Berkeley and later expanded into San Francisco and Hollywood, which is the store I’m focusing on.
My parents have an eclectic taste in music and my siblings and I were weaned on a variety of different genres. We were exposed to the likes of The Kinks, Joni Mitchell, Kraftwerk and Earth Wind and Fire to name a few. My dad would spend what felt like hours in HMV on Oxford Circus and I would amuse myself with my brother by listening to music, fawning over the boy band posters and doing laps of the four floors. I had a feeling that I would like Amoeba and it would take me back.
Before going into detail about the inside of the store, It’s worth mentioning the exterior of the building and the route to get there. Amoeba is located at 6400 Sunset Boulevard and to get to the store, you follow a trail of Hollywood stars as you weave in and out of the many tourists and street peddlers. You can’t miss the store with its iconic ringed tower on the roof. Parking in Hollywood can be a bit of a nightmare. Thankfully, visitor parking is provided and predictably the parking staff are lovely.
As soon as you walk in, you’re hit by the walls covered in posters, the shelves chocka block with different music and the aisles crowded with LA’s most eccentric. The closest thing I’ve experienced to this would be parts of Camden Town, which is always rife with colours, smells and people.
There are two floors and a dedicated Jazz room. One of my favourite things to do at Amoeba is to use the listening pods, just like when I did when I was waiting for my dad. When I was growing up, you could listen to the five or six CDs already loaded into the machine but at Amoeba you can wander the aisles, pick up records that catch your eye and scan the barcode of any CD you want to listen to. You are discovering music in a retro, impulsive visceral way – something that Spotify, Pandora and the like just can’t match.
Amoeba has earned the reputation as one of California’s best music stores and, when I look at their selection, I can see why. The store has a mass cult following and I’ve seen people on the street wearing Amoeba tops and hoodies. Aside from browsing through the music, DVDS and all the band tees, Amoeba also has a photo booth. If you’ve seen the walls at Rough Trade on Brick Lane in London, you’ll know that English folk like a good photo booth. Unfortunately, the lighting is terrible. If you fancy a giggle, I’ve included some terrible pictures of my sister and I in the booth at the bottom of this post.
Whether you’re a bona fide audiophile or a tourist in LA, Amoeba is definitely worth a visit. My dad is planning a trip to California next year and I can’t wait to make him wait for me for three hours.
Exterior Amoeba Picture: LA Independent
Photography: Dissident Dreamer
Quote: “Without music, life would be a mistake” Friedrich Nietzsche
Cardigan: The “Janey” ¾ sleeve cardigan sleeve by LA Relaxed, a sustainable, ethically responsible LA based company. My cardi and all their other garments are made in the US.