The Way Back: Our Waterloo

Travis, music, Lamar, Students, Waterloo, university, weird. These are all words we associate with Austin and they come together in these 1983 pictures of a certain well-known record store. At the time, Waterloo Records had been open for just over a year, in a 1,200-square-foot space on South Lamar, up the road from a little grocery store called Whole Foods. It was an instant hit with students: “not your typical BIGCORP vinyl warehouse,” gushed The Daily Texan. Better yet, one could listen before buying on “the great sound system even with headphones!” Waterloo stood out for its relaxed return policy and in-house band performances, and was also a hub for concert tickets.

Along with a local park, jazz band, woodwind quartet, and icehouse, Waterloo Records was one of many enterprises that took its name from a famous 1815 battle where the British Duke of Wellington trounced Napoleon. Even the city itself had been named Waterloo back 1838, but Texas’ second president, Mirabeau Lamar, changed it to Austin the following year.

The early ’80s represented a sort of glorious historical limbo for Austin’s music scene. The Armadillo World Headquarters had come and gone, and South By Southwest and ACL were years away. Waterloo Records has since moved north of the river into a place four times the size. Likewise, Whole Foods now lives across the road in a place (shall we say) more than four times the size. In both spots, through the forest of yoga pants and Bluetooth headphones, you can still spot a good number of students sporting spaghetti straps and baseball caps. In Austin, everything changes and everything stays the same.

Photos courtesy the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History


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