The legendary Chicago record shop, Wax Trax! Records could become a historic landmark if co-founder Jim Nash’s family gets their wish.
In 1978, Nash and Dannie Flesher sold their Denver shop of the same name and relocated to 2449 North Lincoln Avenue. They founded the music label in 1980. Before launching the independent label, Nash and Flesher would use the North Lincoln Avenue storefront to promote and produce concerts for then-unknown artists such as Joy Division, Bauhaus, The Birthday Party, New Order, Einstürzende Neubauten, The Sisters of Mercy, Divine, and more. WAX TRAX! was responsible for bringing many artists to Chicago for the first time.
“Most tickets sold ran through this iconic building”, says Julia Nash, daughter of Jim.
WAX TRAX! RECORDS is credited for popularizing a new genre called “Industrial Dance,” later shortened as “Industrial.” Ministry, Front 242, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Revolting Cocks, KMFDM, Front Line Assembly, The KLF, Underworld, Coil, Psychic TV, Laibach, and more all got their footing in the U.S. through the label.
Wax Trax! opened its hallowed doors in a building that once housed a funeral parlour. They carried thousands of unique and rare titles in a vast range of genres: dance, soul, R&B, heavy metal, electronic, rockabilly, hardcore, glam, and avant-garde, as well as imports, indie releases, and bootlegs. The store was the center of underground music and culture in the Midwest throughout the 1980s and ’90s, serving as the go-to for music fans and musicians alike. Wax Trax! was graced by huge stars during their Chicago visits: Robert Plant, Lou Reed, Nick Cave, Black Flag, Buzzcocks, and the B-52s. They remained there until relocating in 1993.
“The store itself was an underground cultural mecca for people from all over the city, statewide and internationally to discover new music (like) punk and electronic,” she told the Chicago Tribune. “At the time they were frowned-upon genres, but they became very important in music culture.” The store’s staff, comprised mainly of musicians and DJs, became a valuable source of expert guidance and tips for cutting-edge and fringe artists, paving the way toward later marketing concepts in similar stores.
Julia Nash, the director of the 2018 documentary Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records, found her “true self” at the store and relocated to Chicago in 1987. From there, she has immersed herself in the rich Wax Trax! legacy. She equates Wax Trax! to iconic Chicago blues label Chess Records, which enjoys landmarked status. Although the genres are different, their importance to music fans is undeniable.
Julia Nash has launched a petition for her late father’s store to be landmarked. The designation will ensure that the building will not be demolished, or the exterior altered. Nearly 5000 people have already signed as of the writing of this article. She hopes to submit a historic landmark application by March 1 to the city’s Department of Planning and Development at its March 15 meeting, a move acknowledging the store and record label’s place in music history.
“If this store or label has meant anything to you at any point in your life, we hope you will join us at preserving this important physical piece of music history,” says Julia Nash.
For more information on the landmarking effort and to sign the petition, visit petitions.com.