Community Submission By Gary Baribeault
I know this isn’t possible…., but if I could, I’d close your eyes right now. I’d lean you back in a wicked comfortable chair and have you listen, just listen. First, you’d hear the low warm hum of some seriously kick-ass speakers, then the momentary crackle of a needle as I cue up your favorite band on the turntable. No CD or digital download here, no, no – an actual vinyl record.
Unless you were a teen in the 70’s or 80’s that sound is most likely unfamiliar to you. There are a few of the younger generation that may recognize that crackle, but undoubtedly that’s because someone in your family has held onto the past and loves music. Music the way it should be heard, if not live. Analog reel to reel is almost live, but the next best thing is vinyl. If you don’t believe me, just ask Skeletone Records owner Todd Radict – he’ll tell ya how it is with no room for an argument, and why?
Because he knows, and music is his life’s passion.
On Rochester’s Main Street, directly across from Revolution Taproom sits a time capsule. Bright pink façade overhead, accented with random albums. A sign hangs in the middle of that façade with a very cheeky looking girl in a red-n-white polka-dotted dress, proclaiming gleefully that you’ve arrived.
As you walk through the doors of Sketetone Records it’s an instant flashback. Back to the day when flipping through the stacks in search of that new album, or the rare collectors’ vinyl was part of the real adventure and soul of collecting great music.
“You don’t get that warm tone from anything today like you do vinyl”, said Todd, “ya just don’t”. And if anyone could share how that makes you feel its Todd.
At the age of 18, Somersworth NH was starting to feel a little small, and way too far from the actual music scene Todd was looking for. So, this future keeper-of-the-sound would eventually head to the only place in his eyes that made sense, New York City.
But I’m jumping ahead, let me back up.
In the beginning, part of that initial itch Todd had to scratch would feverishly be cultivated by watching his brothers’ band, The Pedestrians. Todd served as their human music stand, holding up song lyrics for the lead singer during band practice. In between songs he’d spin those pages around, reading through the lyrics himself, getting sucked into the mesmerizing world of Punk Rock one cord and drum beat at a time. Stealing and listening to his brothers’ cassette tapes at night, further fueling the fire that now consume him. For the youngest Radict, this is where life now resided, pulsated and breathed, right here, surrounded by a wall of sound, and Todd was going to get some of that for himself.
In 1986 he graduated from High School – in 1987, it was time.
With High School in his rearview mirror and NYC dead ahead, it didn’t take Todd long to form his first band. “The Radicts” naturally gravitated to the punk scene developing in New York, heavily influenced and encouraged by bands stateside and the UK’s same addiction to the dubbed “street rock” sound. This newly formed raging creation would toured the country twice, but first cut its veracious teeth and gained punk club cred at the famed “CBGB’s” in Manhattans East Village. The iconic CBGB’s was the birthplace of Punk and to bands like, Blondie, Dead Boy’s, Television, Ramones, Talking Heads, Patti Smith Group, Misfits, The Dictators, The Cramps and Jon Jett, so the Radicts were in the right place.
With Todd’s drive and the bands seemingly endless energy, they made a name for themselves quickly. After touring the US, they made the voyage across the big pond and spent 2 months touring Europe. But when they got back to NY, back to the Bleeker Street scene, the Radicts had run their course and the band dissolved. Undeterred, Todd formed L.E.S. Stitches with lead singer and guitarist Mick Brown, along with a few other members from the Radicts. As the story goes, Ramone’s lead singer Joey Ramone took the band under his wing after catching one of their live performance. He decided to feature them at one of his unsigned talent showcases. Shortly after that L.E.S. Stitches would be signed to Ng Records and released their first full-length debut album “Snapped” in 1996. Todd would tour across America once again with his new group for another two years. When L.E.S. Stitches called it quits, so did Todd. By then the road had lost a little of its luster and it was time to move on.
But Todd stayed close to Bleeker Street, going to work at CBGB’s for Hilly Krystal. There he developed a close relationship with Hilly, staying on to take care of his friend after the club closed on Oct 15th, 2006. Krystal eventually died of lung cancer in the summer of 2007, on Aug 28th.
“When CBGB’s closed, I said New York City would die a slow death”, said Todd, mentally surrendering some of the best years of his life to the past. So with that he left NYC- but not before securing a new direction for his life that still revolved around music.
During his time in NY, Bleeker Street was home, and home to a good many other things for Todd including – Bleeker Bob’s.
A record store.
“We would run down there every Saturday to flip through the stack looking for new stuff” he shared. Standing across from him at Skeletone’s counter, I watched as his eyes lit up just talking about it. In that moment, he could have been describing a kid in his favorite candy store. “That was what I modeled Sketetone after was Bleeker Bob’s” said Todd. You see as he was leaving NYC, vinyl was well on its way to making a comeback. “New York sets the trends”, he said. So opening a record store was now the plan.
And this guy does everything with the same high energy that the Radicts always displayed on stage.
With memorabilia from T-shirts worn by Joey Ramone, to drumheads signed by members of Motor Head and friend Roy Mayorga of Stone Sour, the store is truly worth taking your time to explore. Around every corner there’s something new – that includes the ceilings. Todd also has a personal 40 plus album collection of, “The Clash” on his walls.
“I traveled over to Tokyo for some of those albums” he boosted. “And I’ve got more out back but no room to display them” he chuckled.
He also shared that his recreation of NY’s Bleeker Bob’s is a destination for record enthusiasts and collectors. “We have people come in from New York City, Brazil, California, Ireland and Germany to check things out and search for albums”. This past September marked 8 years for Skeletone Records in Rochester.
Although the store got its start in Portsmouth, Todd was quick to realize it was the wrong location. “People come to the seacoast to buy candles, not albums”, he said. “So I started driving around, searching for a new place to set up shop”. It took him 3 months to make a decision. But in the end it was clear – Rochester needed a record store.
“We don’t sell musical instruments”, he told me. You won’t find DVD’s or video games either. Some records stores left their original roots and instead became novelty shops. Selling everything imaginable and records. But Skeletone has stayed true to the music, selling a few band T-shirt and hats, sticking mainly to albums, CD’s, cassette tapes and even 8-track, along with older stereo receivers and turntables. And their record selection is massive! At first it was strictly vinyl and tape, adding the CD’s afterwards and only because people kept asking. Listening to the customer is something that’s encouraged by Todd, and a natural practice for all the staff.
“We cater to our customers and treat them like family” he said. “I tell my employees, get to know the people, they’re important, and you never know when you’re going to hear a great story “. Smiling he shared, “you might end up with a tale about Aerosmith playing some back yard party or a High School dance back in the day”. For Todd and his staff it’s all about the passion, so they’re always sharing new music and lesser known bands with his customers.
“Back in the day there were only so many labels, now there’s dozens” said Todd. Getting your music out there and becoming discovered is so much easier now. As we both agreed, today kids hold the world at their fingertips in the form of technology.
As we were reaching the end of our conversation, I asked him what he missed most from “back-in-the-day”, back when he was first becoming engulfed by “the music”.
“The mystery”, he said.
“You used to have to buy “Cream” and read about the bands or go to a show”, he said. “Now you can pull everything up on You Tube, Google, today it’s all a download”, he mused. Todd’s obvious passion for the music scene is a natural one because he’s lived it.
He also related his own prediction for the future.
“I’m pretty sure that there will come a day when bands won’t tour, you’ll just pay online and download the concert instead”. Kind of a sad foreshadowing from Rochester’s keeper-of-the-sound, but I couldn’t argue with him. I just hope he’s wrong.
Todd has given a lot to the community. From his business endeavors, to being the founding member of, “Rochester Rise Up” a downtown revitalization group. Just part of that “heart” I alluded to at the beginning of this story.
So whether you’re an old-timer, or a newbie to the album scene, there’s no better place to recapture a bit of that past by stepping back into it at Skeletone Records. Todd and his staff will be more than happy to join you on your journey, and point out something you may have missed along the way.
In any case, you can’t go wrong spending time with Rochester’s, keeper-of-the-sound.