If you ever listen to 94.9 The River you have undoubtedly heard Tim Johnstone's voice—it's unmistakable. As one of the full-time DJs at The River, Johnstone's job is turning folks on to exciting music. It's something he learned to do while working at The Record Exchange, starting in 1986.
"The first record I bought there was Cheap Trick's Dream Police," said Johnstone. He worked at the Broadway store as a clerk, and over the course of a few years, he learned a few things about the music business.
"[The best part of the job was] being able to put music that matters into the hands of people who were as excited about it as we were," said Johnstone.
In 1990, Johnstone left The Record Exchange to work for Virgin Records. But after three years of working for a major label, Johnstone wanted nothing more than to be back in a more independent environment. The Record Exchange welcomed him back with open arms in 1993, and he took the job of marketing director.
"For what constituted one of the worst days of my life, it would be the day Billy Corgan came to town. Our Smashing Pumpkins in-store was spectacularly crazy," Johnstone said. (Legend has it that Johnstone, nearly in tears after the day was over, imbibed whiskey shots while sitting in the gutter.) But it wasn't just Corgan that got under Johnstone's skin, it was also The Man.
"The worst part of the job was watching the industry act in the most irresponsible ways possible," he said. "The people that run the major labels are beholden to corporate bean counters with no idea whatsoever as to what people actually want." The Smashing Pumpkins in-store was an example of this, he said.
"The label spent $30,000 to have them play The Record Exchange, and I think they sold less than 200 copies of their record," he said. "No one at Virgin at the time had the [guts] to stand up to Billy and tell him, 'No.'"
For Johnstone, The Record Exchange's longevity is easy to explain.
"It's a destination point for culture in the city," he said. "It's an increasingly significant part of the community's music scene. It reconnects people with the music and movies of their past. It's a place where vinyl not only lives—it thrives. And it's a great place to find a T-shirt that will freak out your parents."
"The RX," Johnstone said, "is rock and roll."
—Ryan PeckSee Also: The Timeline The Veteran: Tim Johnstone The Veteran: Lee Flinn The Veteran: John O'Neil The Music: In-store shows rock TRX