To understand the overwhelming importance of Wax Trax! in Chicago record store history, recall the depressing retail landscape of 1978. Current singles were really only available at the Ashland Avenue Sounds Good. Rose Records (now Tower) on Wabash arranged its albums by label, not artist. The Downtown Records chain had a few sealed Danny Williams cut-outs, but not much else. New wave promo LPs by Talking Heads, Richard Hell and the Dead Boys littered the Second Hand Tunes, Wax Stax and Ha Ha stores. But full-line imports, oldies and obscurities were absolutely not available anywhere. So vinyl-starved Chicagoans welcomed Wax Trax! with open wallets on the Saturday after Thanksgiving 1978.
Heavily inspired by Joy Division's 'Unknown Pleasures' album in July 1979, Wax Trax! became the supreme Factory Records center of Chicago. Any Factory record by Crispy Ambulance, Section 25 or the Names was stocked in abundance and featured prominently. A custom-made 'Joy Division' neon sign glowed behind the front counter.
Wax Trax! printed tickets and planned to present Joy Division at Tut's on May 27, 1980. Unfortunately lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide on May 18 and the first-ever US tour was cancelled. Curtis' suicide affected Wax Trax! staffers very deeply.