It survived one tornado, two store relocations, three or four eras of changing music formats as well as both Nixon and Napster and several run-ins with authorities.
God and MnDOT willing, the Electric Fetus can also endure the glut of road construction now stifling its traffic flow.
A store that’s almost as monumental a Minnesota music landmark as First Avenue, the Fetus has put up with a “VH1 Behind the Music” episode’s worth of calamity to stay in business for 49 years.
The Minneapolis music-and-gift store — no one calls it a “head shop” anymore but you can still find incense and rolling papers there — marks its 50th anniversary this weekend. Festivities include a big party Saturday at First Avenue headlined by an appropriately record-nerdy band, Real Estate, from New Jersey.
How did the Electric Fetus get its far-out psychedelic name? The story goes that there was a New York shop called the Electric Lotus so the Minneapolis college student/entrepreneurs subbed in “Fetus” from a comic by Robert Crumb, an underground hero.
That’s a distant, smoke-impaired memory. Here are some other fun facts about the Fetus.
Bestselling record of all time at the store: Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” (released 1959) and Buena Vista Social Club’s “Buena Vista Social Club” (released 1997)
Bestselling artist of all time at the store: Bob Dylan
Price of a vinyl LP by Bob Dylan in 1968 vs. the price in 2018: 1968, between $3.15 and $3.39. Also, buy three and get a 10 percent discount. 2018, about $25 (new)
Number of records in stock in 1968 vs. 2018: The store opened in 1968 with 200 to 300 titles. In 2018, there are more than 50,000 pieces on the retail floor.
Most popular incense flavor: 1968, Nag Champa; 2018, Nag Champa.
Cost of cigarette rolling papers: 1968, 15 cents for a “good brand”; 2018, $2.49 for a “good brand.”
Number of employees: 1968, one; 2018, about 60 between Minneapolis and Duluth stores.
Longest-tenured employee: Music buyer Steve Pearson, 40 years and counting. In addition, there are two staffers who have been there 30-plus years and six for 20-plus years.
Fetus clerks who went on to fame in music: Sean Daley aka Slug of Atmosphere; Dave King of Bad Plus and Happy Apple; singer Lucy Michelle; David Campbell of the ELO tribute band ELnO and a former Current DJ; Sonia Grover, head booker for First Avenue; Joe Nick Patoski, Texas author of definitive biographies of Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Concert that sold the most tickets at the Fetus: Atmosphere at Harriet Island in 2008.
Most famous artist to give an in-store performance: Take your pick: Elvis Costello or John Entwistle of the Who.
Famous Fetus shoppers: Patti Smith, Prince, John Denver, Billy Bob Thornton, Alton Brown, Bonnie Raitt, Kirby Puckett, Bridget Fonda, Alan Page, Bill Paxton, Laura Dern, Joe Walsh, Colin Hanks, Tiny Tim, Josh Hartnett, Cyndi Lauper.
Best year and worst year since expanding the store in 1994: The late 1980s/early ’90s were the best years as music lovers were replacing their vinyl with cassettes/CDs. The worst years were late 2009 /early 2010 after the store was hit by a tornado that caused significant damage and loss of inventory.
Percent of revenue from vinyl sales in 2017 vs. 2001: Vinyl sales in 2017 accounted for 50 percent of music sales vs. about 1 percent in 2001.
Electric Fetus’ 50th anniversary party
Who: Real Estate, Habibi, Flamin’ Oh’s, Last Import and DJ Roy Freedom; hosted by David Campbell.
When: 7:30 p.m. Sat.
Where: First Avenue, 701 1st Av. N., Mpls.
Tickets: $20, etix.com.