Raise your hand if you remember listening booths at record stores. Oh wait, raise your hand if you remember record stores.

Just so young people don’t think they’re the only ones who sample music before buying I want them to be aware of a total joy that long ago disappeared; I’m talking about the in-store listening booths.

When I was a teen, long ago and far away, it used to be a big day out when we’d get a parent to drive a group of us to the biggest town nearby. San Francisco was also “nearby” but there was no way they were going to drive us there for a day of fun. That didn’t happen until we had a driver’s license. So we’d settle on walking around just a few streets for hours and hours. We’d go into all the stores, rarely buying anything. And we’d get dressed up to do this. Well, not Sunday go to meeting dressed up; this was more “look at me, I’m page number 47 in last months Seventeen!” We dressed up for each other and hoping there’d be some totally cool boy who would see us parading down one of the two streets we favored in this little town.

The makeup counter in the big department store was a must visit, but even more was the record store. We could finger through the albums and 45s looking at all the photos, reading the liner notes, and then if we were lucky, find an empty listening booth where we’d all cram inside to listen to an album we would never buy. There were a row of booths, wood from the waist down, glass up to the ceiling. They were soundproof so you couldn’t hear what the people in the next booth were playing. And what did we do besides listen to the record? We’d dance. A bunch of us dancing and laughing. Good times. Good for us, not so good for the store owner.

When our conscious would catch up with us, or when somebody would be standing outside the door staring at us while holding the album they wanted to listen to, we’d grab our purses, slip the LP back into the sleeve, and quietly go back and put the record in the stack where we’d found it. Then we’d leave. No wonder the place went out of business.

I give you this lovely young lady most likely at a record store. I’m guessing she worked there, but then maybe she was just choosing something to listen to in the booth.

Click on image to see it larger.

I just bought this shot last week and had that “oh my” feeling in my stomach when I saw it. It’s now one of my favorites.


  1. Oh, I remember those!!
    There was one of those record stores in a basement, selling importations, and they had those booths. Now we have stations with headphones where people can see you smiling or cringing as you listen to the newest releases, or some old thing...
    Did I say "old"???
    But then,
    you've been listening to ME!!

  2. I remember record stores, but there weren't listening booths in them. I frequently wished there were, as I was into music few others listened to (now called post-punk or alternative). I'd see those booths in an old movie and wish they still had them.

  3. Being an avid record collector for decades, I can say I remember the listening booth well.

    The picture shows 78rpm records. That's way back there.

  4. I'm guessing maybe the mid-30s to 1940s. The shown with the piano looks familiar, but I'm not sure why,.