The Boom and Bust of Oz Records and Tapes

Once upon a time, (or rather, once upon the very early 1980's), a marvelous store existed inside Eastwood Mall in Birmingham, AL. It probably existed in other malls across the country, as well, although I can't be certain. Maybe someone else in cyberspace will remember, too.

The store was Oz Records and Tapes. But it wasn't just a store. It was Oz. At least, to me it was. And as a kid-under-the-age-of-8 whose ultimate fantasy was to be Dorothy, it was the closest way for me to do just that. I suppose it might not be so special if it were in existence today, now that we have plenty of "entertainment-marketing" stores like Bass Pro Shops, and over-the-top special effects, and virtual reality...but at the time, it seemed there was nothing like it.

The entrance to the store was a dark, swirly tornado tunnel, which opened into a high-ceilinged, rock-and-roll, Land of Oz extravaganza. Snaking away from the tornado tunnel was a real yellow brick road that weaved its way through the store. Murals of Kansas and Oz covered the walls. The domed-roof houses of Munchkin-Land were visible up high, as I recall. But most captivating to me were the life-sized, full-costumed mannequins of the movie characters located among the racks of vinyl and cassettes. Looking for a Van Halen album? Just to the left of the smiling Tin Man. In search of Kiss? I imagine the wicked witch was probably pointing right at them. One of her favorites, I'm sure.

The Wizard of Oz movie looped non-stop on big screens. (Remember, unlike today, that was a unique concept.) Even the house of the Witch of the East, complete with striped stockings and ruby slippers sticking out at the bottom, was back in the corner, which both horrified and fascinated me. And as if all of that weren't enough, whenever a customer purchased an item, a creepy winged monkey flew in on an elaborate pulley system to deliver it.

It was all very authentic-feeling. I was enraptured by it. I always wanted to stay in there for as long as I could until my parents ushered me out. I don't think the store was there for very long. It seems as much like a dream to me as the real Oz seemed to Dorothy...kind of fuzzy, and without any real evidence that it actually existed. An internet search didn't turn up much, except a faltering message board where someone commented, "Too bad the management team for Oz Records wasn't as smart as its marketing team."

Whatever the case was, it seemed that one day I turned around and - poof - the store was gone, like the Wicked Witch of the West and her cloud of orange smoke.

It's a shame, really.  It was my favorite place to go.

And now...the most beautiful song of all time.

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