Silence is Not Golden for ear X-tacy

Even though John would probably prefer an excerpt from XTC, I’m opening with a poignant line from Green Day:

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right, I hope you  had the time of your life.

Photo and rose by Cory Fusting, regular and friend

Nothing says “No comment” like an empty, locked store.

It proved to be a mysterious and disturbing Halloween this past weekend as one of Louisville’s mainstays of music, culture and community activism rose into the spirit world.

By the equally strange calendar date of 11/1/11, local news trucks scanned the famous typewritten letters across the  building’s Bardstown Road frontage. A reporter on a microphone leash caught passers by on the sidewalk for bytes. Inside the hallway entrance, a long-stemmed red rose is taped to the door . A woman paced the hall, arms folded. The same kind of body language one observes at a memorial or funeral  visitation. She left a note.

Musician and music collector John Timmons,  armed with passion, vinyl and a MasterCard, opened his record store 26 years ago. By the time he had informed his staff and locked the doors last Friday,  he would leave with those same tools. They just didn’t fit the machinery, being the web-driven economy, any more. Download that.

The bins of albums, CDs, films, books, posters and cash registers are frozen in time and cast in the darkness as I cupped my hands to peek into the store, looking for signs of life. I’m sure that when the dust settles and the news sinks in, work will return to the store as inventory and decisions will be handled.

I have known John as a friend since I saw him doing a sweat-drenched new wave Pogo wrapped around a heavy guitar at Tewligan’s three decades and several bands ago. In the 80s, I was thrilled to visit his first actual retail square footage in the Highlands-Douglass neighborhood on Bardstown Road. I was returning to L.A. and John gave me some reading material for the trip back.

The move to (and I’m using the Louisville “used to be” map), what is now Highland Coffee was followed with a move into the former Pier One building across from Old Town Wine & Spirits. At one time there was a store in Middletown.

The business would flex, learn and grow. The learning part of that lesson is an echo that seems to be an endless reverb circling town.

Of all industries to choose, music would always be a high risk for entrepreneurs but it seemed to come with high satisfaction and reward for Timmons. A great deal of that reward was helping others achieve their goals if not dreams. Even the nation’s grand-daddy, Tower Records, had  to shut its doors in 2006 after starting in the 60s. The nature of the music industry is capricious and has elevated as many as it has crushed.

Timmons in this era of his life has enjoyed an amazing ride – as a driver, not a passenger.  I know his future is bright but for now we’ll have to deal with the darkness and give John and his crew the space and time to organize.

John issued a statement that can be found on the ear X-tacy Facebook page as well as the WFPL website. Store manager Rebecca Mercer was live on WFPL in a phone interview at 140 p.m. today. You can hear that interview at

Longtime ear X-tacy associate, Randy Bolton, will be on the air tomorrow morning, Nov. 2, with Kyle Meredith. Tune in to WFPK 91.9 or stream live.

Even though the store fought for independence for over a quarter century, launching the city’s own Keep Louisville Weird campaign with Louisville Independent Business Alliance,  it could not be supported by an industry and an economy which were having troubles of their own.

Downsizing and modifying offered few results for the struggling business as Mercer reflected on WFPL:

“No matter would we did was not going to help at this point,” she said,”We could have done a little bit here and there but it would not have made a difference.”

The  loyal support was a mutual bond between Timmons and the local musicians and projects. From club and concert support, fundraisers, a recording label and consignment opportunity for Louisville artists.

“It’s a partnership that we’re losing,” Mercer said, ” and that is going to be the hardest thing to replace.”

Letter from Timmons:

Dear Louisville, and all who have shopped, supported, and loved ear X-tacy over the years,

It has been a dream come true…actually, a dream exceeded, to be part of your musical lives here in Louisville for the last 26 years. My life was changed forever, and guided by the power of music since I can remember. Music has been the soul, the heart, the passion of my life for my entire 56 years. The record store experience has been the only child in my life. Now, it’s time for me to let it fly.

Thank YOU…for allowing me to be part of your musical universe. Louisville, you made me feel like I was truly HOME when I moved here in 1976. It’s been a great ride, but as George Harrison knowingly said, “All Things Must Pass.” It’s with sadness, but also with great pride I say to you now…

ear X-tacy is no more

Long live ear X-tacy!

Please keep the music alive. Support the incredible music scene and independent businesses we have here! Until you leave this great city, you cannot realize what a unique treasure we have here. Embrace it, celebrate it, and promote it. Love it.

Thank you all for making my dreams come true. Thank you for making ear X-tacy the wonderful place that it was. I thank all of the staff that made this store THE hub for music in Louisville for the past 26 years. Please take pride in knowing that YOU have been the heart and soul of what this store became. Thank you for sharing my dream and exceeding all of my expectations! To all of the musicians who have graced our store and stage, I cannot tell you what a thrill it’s been. From the local newbies to the incredibly huge national artists…THANK YOU for gracing our store and sharing you incredible musical talents with us all…that’s what I like to call: “earX-tacy”.

Love, peace, music and ear X-tacy to you all,

John D. Timmons
President, ear X-tacy, Inc.