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    Tuesday, December 05, 2023

    All hail the Disc! Mystic Disc celebrates 40 years of music and community

    On Monday, Dan Curland hung up the phone in his Mystic Disc record shop and explained the call was from Montreal, where a family was looking to sell an inherited collection of almost 5,000 albums.

    “They wanted to know if I’d be interested in coming to look at them and maybe make an offer,” Curland said.

    Mystic Disc owner Dan Curland with a performance scarf once worn by Jimi Hendrix.

    A regular visitor to the store, knowing full well what Curland’s response would be, couldn’t resist tossing a softball. WOULD Curland go to Montreal to look at boxes of albums?

    Curland gleefully erupted and spoke with the speed of an auctioneer and the volume of a Slayer power chord. “Of COURSE I’ll go! Why WOULDN’T I go? How could I possibly sleep at night not knowing what might be in that collection? I’ve traveled to Baltimore, California … EUROPE to look at album collections!” In fact, he’s traveled overseas dozens of times, selling and buying records at conventions and with collectors, both for his shop and its mail order business.

    This is a typical Curland exchange. Regular Disc customers love him for such things. Along with his e’er present ponytail and beret, his oddly affectionate irascibility and endlessly entertaining monologues are emblematic of a sort of Curlandian overdrive that would leave an Energizer Bunny gasping for oxygen in a weedy ditch.

    The truth is, generations of Music Heads can’t live without him – or at least their lives would be different. Curland and his employees over the years – particularly longtime inventory manager Rich Freitas – have turned hundreds of tourists, record collectors and musicians onto all sorts of music and artists. Too, Mystic Disc became an important part of the downtown business community as well as solidly positive hangout for Mystic youth.

    Feeling the love

    One former Disc employee is Rich Martin, an area musician, label owner and owner of New London’s Telegraph Autonomous Zone, itself a long-term and successful record shop.

    “Growing up, the Mystic Disc was our place to be and be seen. Dan always felt like one of us, an elder statesman in our midst, still young from all the music around him,” Martin said. “Dan never shied away from speaking his mind — on music, baseball, the environment — and the Disc was an arena where you learned to do the same, to stand up for what you believed. Some of my proudest moments were bringing releases from my band or label to have on the shelves there. It always made it feel like we'd made it in some way, that we were in the game.”

    For these reasons and more, a ceremony called Disc40 — The Mystic Disc 40th Anniversary Gig takes place Saturday in Mystic River Park. The event, conceived by Freitas and his wife, the photographer Michelle Gemma, will boast remarks, appearances and performances by several Mystic Disc fans/family/friends.

    Daniel Pearson, a Mystic native who described his experiences at the Disc as “essentially living there for an entire decade of my youth,” will serve as emcee.

    Pearson said, “Together with WCNI, the Reducers, and the New London scene, Mystic Disc let us know that we were in an important moment in new music. But it wasn't just Dan, it was the entire staff at the Disc that taught us all the seminal influences that reminded us we were part of a continuum that stretched well beyond us as well. Everything we were trying to make couldn't have happened if the Disc didn't provide that education and foundation, and Dan's enthusiasm for music, his desire to share, has been the most enduring and endearing element for generations.”

    Also featured at the ceremony will be the first performance in 12 years by 17 Relics, possibly the most acclaimed at the height of the Mystic music scene in the 1990s. Stephen Chupaska, Rich Martin, Wall Matthews, Steven Slosberg, Xenox, Mark Henderson, James Maple and Brian Carter will also appear.

    Disc40 is sponsored by Mystic Army Navy Store and Bank Square Books and is presented by the Mystic & Noank Library.

    “To work here is a privilege,” said Freitas, a patient and gently sardonic yin to Curland’s yang. “I was here almost from Day One as a customer. Dan was definitely a mentor — and we as kids learned he was someone you always listened to. Musicians, kids, professional record people — even parents figured it out. This is a special place and Dan is special. And Michelle and I thought it was appropriate to have an event and recognize that.”

    Curland shook his head while he listened to Freitas. “I’m so touched by this. At first I thought it was ridiculous. Rich said, ‘We should do something.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do something. I’ll do what I always do. I’ll come down and open the store … But they insisted. They put it together …”

    He paused. “I’ve already cried three times today.” Then: “I’ll never retire. I’ll just lay down on the floor here in front of the Violent Femmes section until someone comes in. But it’s important to remember there have been and always will be 14- and 15-year-old kids who come down here, curious about music, and you can see they’re nervous.

    “‘Can I come in?’ And we say, ‘Of COURSE you can come in!’ Because the really important thing to me is that they learn to listen to music. Because it’s good for your soul.”

    Dan Curland: opinion and aphorisms

    Over the years, Dan Curland has been written about and quoted numerous times in The Day. It seemed fun to collage a few representative thoughts from those stories.

    “I sell a LOT of cassettes in summer, and I think it’s because people get out their classic cars and cruise. They’re valuable cars, and the owners want to keep them all original, so they won’t remove the stock cassette decks. So they come in to buy cassettes to listen to while they drive around.” — 2019

    “When the Rolling Stones released ‘Sticky Fingers’ in 1971 or ‘72, (Francisco) Franco wouldn’t allow it in Spain with the song ‘Sister Morphine’ or the original Andy Warhol cover, the zipper. Instead, the cover in Spain showed a can of molasses with three fingers in it. Now the original cover gets $30 in Spain. Here, I can get $10 for it.” — 1992

    “I was 4 years old in 1956. I heard Elvis doing ‘Hound Dog.’ It flipped me out. Before then, everything was, y’know, ‘How Much is that Doggie in the Window.’ And here’s an Elvis 45 with ‘Hound Dog.’” He laughs in disbelief: “You know what the B-side was? ‘Don’t Be Cruel.’ That’s no B-side! That’s two A-sides, baby!” — 2023

    “I am so into taking care of our community. I live in Mystic and do all my shopping downtown. (People should) stop buying online and in chain stores. It sucks the area dry of money.” — 2009

    On his own Record Store Day wish-list: “The Mynah Birds single. That was the band with Rick James and Neil Young before Buffalo Springfield.” — 2015

    “If you don’t have (Miles Davis’) ‘Kind of Blue’ in your store, you’re not a record store.” — 2019

    On the survivability quotient of indie record stores: “It’s like with the dinosaurs. When they all went extinct, you know what was left? The cockroaches. I’m proud to say that I’m a cockroach.” — 2011

    “You can’t start a record store in an eclectic place with a 1,000 throwaway Kansas or Blood, Sweat & Tears albums.” — 2008

    “Face it. Music keeps you young. I’m NOT going to end up on the beach in a floppy hat. I love coming to my store. I get here and plop on a record. Maybe it’s old and classic. Maybe it’s something new. It’s fun every day, even if it’s a slow week. There’s no angst.” — 2019

    “The most expensive album I’ve ever sold here was a copy of the Beatles’ ‘butcher cover’ of ‘Yesterday and Today’ – for $500.” — 2018.

    After floodwaters from Hurricane Sandy destroyed thousands of vinyl records in Mystic Disc, Curland said he cried. “A year later, the floor was still plywood. I couldn’t afford a rug. I have no bank account, no IRA, no retirement. I’m here now until I’m 90. But I was going to be here anyway.” — 2013

    “You may have noticed. I’m a music guy.” — 2023

    If you go

    What: Disc40 — The Mystic Disc 40th Anniversary Gig

    When: 6-9 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Mystic River Park, 12 Cottrell St., Mystic

    How much: Free

    For more information: Facebook.com/mysticdisc

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