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Rock of Ages

For pop legend Chris Isaak, the hair can remain the same, but the wardrobe could use an update

Author Chris Wright Illustration Luci Gutiérrez

dispatches4SAN FRANCISCO – It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon in The Mysterious Rack, a vintage record shop in San Francisco’s Outer Richmond neighborhood. The store, which opened earlier this year, is decked out in romper-room pink and green, with funky posters on the walls and a tiki bar in the corner, watched over by a cutout of Debbie Harry.

Pete Gowdy, the self-described “record nerd” manning the counter, is keeping his eye on a trim middle-aged guy wearing 1950s-style surfer gear, his hair swept into a rockabilly quiff, who’s been rooting through the shop’s ramshackle record boxes for the past half hour.

The man is one of only two customers in the store, and Gowdy has pegged him as Chris Isaak, the pop singer who reached his peak in the early 1990s.

With Gowdy looking on, Isaak wanders around the store, then stops before a poster on the wall bearing his own image, promoting a show that took place three decades earlier.

“I wondered if you’d notice that,” Gowdy says. “Do you remember the show?”

“Oh yeah,” Isaak replies. He stands looking at the poster for a while, reeling off the names of the pouting band members pictured beside him, then squints and leans farther in.

“Man, I gotta go shopping,” he finally says, turning and making for the door. “I’m wearing the same shirt.”

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