[ this is a 1995 press release --
in 1996 we moved and changed ownership
-- see sidebar for more info
Aquarius Records, now celebrating its 25th anniversary, is the oldest independent record store in San Francisco ("The Store That's Old Enough To Drink!"). It has consistently championed local artists and recognized and exposed its customers to new and challenging music, often before the music "broke", and was involved from the beginning of and throughout the famous punk explosion of the seventies.
Although now located on 24th Street in Noe Valley, Aquarius spent the bulk of its years in the heart of the Castro. For several years it was located next door to Harvey Milk's camera shop. Indeed, Butch Bridges, owner of Aquarius, was good friends with our former supervisor, and remembers that both punks and gays (and gay punks!) always welcomed the store as part of the community.
During the seventies and early eighties, Aquarius was the place in San Francisco that consistently filled the demand for the new punk records. Local bands like the Offs and the Nuns would bring by their new singles, the Dead Kennedys met through an ad at the store, and bands like Blondie, Talking Heads, the Ramones, the Dead Boys, and Elvis Costello would play instore appearances, often with only a 7" under their belts. Later, the B52's, Captain Beefheart, Husker Du, the Minutemen, and the Meat Puppets would also grace the store with appearances. The Residents lived in the neighborhood and would not only play instores, but also create window displays (and one Resident even married Aquarius' first female manager!). Aquarius is mentioned in books such as Escapees, California Hardcore, and The History of San Francisco Rock.
Buying the store in 1975 when it was only a few years old, Butch Bridges and Chris Knab set about creating an entity which would involve itself in much more than just the retail aspect of music appreciation. Butch describes Chris Knab as both "a good catholic boy from Seattle who loved rock & roll" and "the heart and soul of Aquarius". Not only did he and Butch publish a newsletter called the Record Rag, but they sponsored music-themed "Midnight Movies" at the Strand, and Chris had a KSAN radio show called "The Outcast Hour".
It was about this time that Butch was christened "Punkwood Bridges".
It was also at this time that Howie Klein, now president of Sire Records (we think), joined forces with Chris and Butch to form 415 Records. The label's first releases were singles by Pearl Harbour, SVT, the Mutants, and the Readymades, and its first full length vinyl was a compilation of these and other acts.
In 1979, Butch bought Chris' portion of the store, while Chris and Howie continued working on the label. Butch says it was a matter of life and death! "If I hadn't bought the store, it would have died. I couldn't let that happen." He is still the sole proprieter of Aquarius Records and, indeed, vinyl can still and will always be found here. As Butch stated in one memorable radio commercial, "Aquarius Records, where we have all the groovy records in the world."
Since assuming full ownership, Butch has allowed his managers and staff to remain true to the values for which Aquarius has always stood. 3961 24th Street is a small, cozy space staffed with some of the most knowledgeable and friendly music people in SF. There's a lot of product out there, and what we do is sift through everything in order to present our loyal customers with the best in music, be it punk, indierock, experimental, world, jazz, etc., in the forms of recordings, zines, books and instores. Recent artists who have played at the store include: Tall Dwarfs, Mountain Goats, Franklin Bruno, Nothing Painted Blue, Dirty Three, Kathy MacCarty, Refrigerator, Alastair Galbraith, Peter Jefferies, Stinky Puffs, Jad Fair, Bugskull, Sone, the Verlaines, God is My CoPilot, Harvey Sid Fisher, Boredoms-offshoot Omoide Hatoba, Bill Direen, John Davis, Pork Queen, Noggin, and Chris Knox.
Despite the commitment displayed by our loyal and valued customers and by our longterm employees who do it for the love of the place and the music, Aquarius is basically a nonprofit organization. It makes only enough to pay its employees and maintain its stock of today's best records. Due to thousands of dollars in back taxes incurred during the eighties (please note that all taxes incurred during the present manager's stay have been paid promptly), we have organized the first-ever Aquarius benefit. We and the artists who have offered to perform, hope to shed light on the history of Aquarius Records and its continuing role as an unusual, pioneering, smart and wonderful place.

* Reminiscences supplied by Butch Bridges and Bruce Ackley.
Upon taking the helm in July of 1996, Windy Chien moved Aquarius Records to the Mission District and issued the following press release: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE STOP THE PRESSES! AQUARIUS RECORDS IS MOVING!
August 28, 1996
Aquarius Records, the "store thats old enough to drink," is moving during the first week in September from its college dorm room in Noe Valley to a far more palatial location at 1055 Valencia Street between 21st & 22nd Streets. The new Mission district spot is the store's fourth address in its twenty- six year history, following 13 years in Noe Valley and another 13 years at two separate Castro locations (one of which was beside Harvey Milk's camera shop.)
The move comes hot on the heels of another significant milestone for the store -- its recent acquisition by former Aquarius employee Windy Chien. Ms. Chien has worked at the store for the last six years, managing it for the last two and a half. "We've always 'brought the music to the people,'" says Chien earnestly, "so, since the bulk of our customers live in the Mission, we decided to move a little closer." The Valencia Street store is twice the size of its 24th Street predecessor, enjoying higher ceilings and more light, but still maintaining the "come by and kibitz"-type cozy atmosphere shared with the old spot.
The new store also features a listening station, where customers can listen to Aquarius favorites, a stage for in-store performances, and completely expanded stock selection, with quality releases spanning such genres as black metal, jungle/electronica/rap, international, and Americana, not to mention the store's longtime specialties: indie rock, noise and punk, underground music from Japan and New Zealand, and lots of good ol' fashioned vinyl records. Aquarius Records has achieved first world renown, with recent appearances in Rolling Stone, Spin, and The Wire, and an email/ mail-order list started one year ago that now boasts over 600 subscribers (email aqua@sirius.com to subscribe). A website, designed and programmed by Chien herself (DIY, baby!) will be launched sometime in October.
Aquarius has made a commitment for well over two decades in providing the community with quality music outside of conventional realms, having nurtured the punk scene from day one with singles from local punk bands the Nuns and the Offs and in-stores from such at-the-time fledgling artists as Elvis Costello, Blondie, Talking Heads, the Ramones, and the Dead Boys. Jello Biafra and Klaus Flouride met and formed the Dead Kennedys from the Aquarius bulletin board. The Residents were not only neighbors and in-store faves with Aquarius, but they'd also create window displays! Other in-stores have included Husker Du, Captain Beefheart, the B-52's and, in recent years, Neutral Milk Hotel, New Zealand legends Tall Dwarfs, and The Dirty Three (from Australia). Acoustic phenomena the Mountain Goats will play an in-store performance on September 20, 1996. Come by, say hello and warm the house a little.

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