Rockin' through Laguna

August 27, 2004


Laguna Beach may be best known for its beaches, shops and Pacific

views, but the town has its share of distinctive sounds as well. In

their own ways, the crashing of the waves and the honking of

frustrated drivers searching for a rare parking space are part of

life in Laguna.

Rock 'n' roll is part of Laguna's soundtrack, and there are two


shops in town to cater to the town's music fans. I took a break from

the office to spend an afternoon at both stores, Sound Spectrum and

Underdog Records.

Sound Spectrum, next to the Pottery Shack on South Coast Highway,

is almost like a time capsule to the Laguna of the 1960s and 70s. A fusion of hippy and Rasta-influenced art and decorations give the

place a mellow old-school feel. As clerk Greg White put it, the place

is a "blast to the past."

The store has been in Laguna since 1967, but much of the music on

sale is new. As I looked around, the store's sound system played the

reggae sounds of the band Midnite, the laid-back Jamaican rhythms

felt like a good fit on a hot California day. Owner Jim Otto takes

pride in the eclectic selection at the store.

"You can come in and find someone who knows all about different

types of music," Otto said.

For cheapskates like me, the collection of used CDs at Sound

Spectrum can be tempting, but as I scanned the shelves, I had to

wonder: Who unloads CDs by the Beatles, Led Zeppelin or Santana?

The store also sells a variety of posters and T-shirts in keeping

with the place's psychedelic and reggae vibes. There's plenty of

shirts that depict reggae star Bob Marley, as well as funny little

leaves that have a way of being mentioned in my police blotter.

I may have been under the influence myself, though in a strictly

legal way. Perhaps inspired by the store's atmosphere, I picked up a

couple of ska CDs by the English Beat and the Slackers on my way out.

They make for good mellow listening while driving home on the San

Diego Freeway.

A few blocks north of on South Coast Highway lies Underdog

Records, where listeners can trade relaxing beach rhythms for the

electric frenzy of hardcore punk. On the inside, the place looks like

the lyrics to a Dropkick Murphys tune -- empty cans of Pabst Blue

Ribbon and discarded liquor bottles function as decorations. The look

is only matched by the cacophony of punk blaring on the speakers.

What Underdog has, a rarity among record stores, are records.

Vinyl lovers can find original pressings of underground classics like

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