50 years to a Millennium

It was a rainy afternoon in 1969 when Music Millennium first opened its doors. Music Millennium celebrated its half-century at 3 p.m. on March 15—exactly 50 years after the store first opened its doors.

The celebration kicked off by playing the first song ever played in the store: The Beatles’ “It’s All Too Much” from the album Yellow Submarine. Alongside servings of cake and refreshments, there was a showing of the indie flick Holy Thursday, which was also shown on the store’s opening day. A speech given by the store’s current owner Terry Currier reflected upon the store’s long history.

“It was a vision,” Currier said, mentioning how the store quickly blossomed into becoming one of the best record stores in the country. From the beginning, the shop sold music that could seldom be found anywhere else, a business model that people all across the region naturally gravitated to. Today, Music Millennium is the oldest record store in Oregon and one of the oldest in all of the Pacific Northwest.

Music Millennium was first founded by Don MacLeod, his wife Loreen and brother-in-law Dan Lissy. Quickly, the store filled an important niche in the Portland musical community, carrying underground titles and rare imports from across the world. Unlike other record stores at the time, MacLeod sought to sell many imported titles—British folk, German krautrock, progressive jazz and others not stocked in stores in the states.

According to Currier, by the time he first set foot in the store in 1972, this sheer accessibility to otherwise inaccessible music rendered it “the best music store in the country.”

To celebrate the store’s 20 year anniversary in 1989, Currier and MacLeod had the idea of hosting 20 straight days of live music in the shop. This became somewhat of a defining feature of the store, as it has since hosted more than 4,000 in-store concerts with such acts as Sheryl Crow, Soundgarden, Joe Strummer from The Clash, Cyndi Lauper, Randy Newman and others.

Despite the store’s resounding success, Currier said, the store still endured some of its own necessary changes throughout the years. Record stores everywhere took a heavy hit when downloading sites such as Napster grew in popularity in the early 2000s. In addition to this, they decided to close their classic CD section, Classical Millennium, in 2012 due to a lack of sales. As a part of the store that had been open since 1977, its closure was bittersweet to many.

Regardless of these challenges, the store has done its best to maintain the same identity that made Music Millennium great in the first place.

“My goal was always to keep the feel of the store the way it was the day I first walked in as a customer in 1972,” Currier said. “We get a lot of people who have been out of town for 20 or 30 years who walk into Music Millennium for the first time since they were gone, and they feel like the store has never changed.”

Many of the attendees for their 50th-anniversary event were longtime customers. At one point, Currier asked the crowd who had been customers since their opening, and a chorus of cheers erupted. One man proudly announced he still had the records he bought on the first day the store opened. Through thick and thin, Music Millennium has succeeded in remaining not only a Portland icon but a necessity to the musical community.