Record Store Days
Remembering the hi-fidelity era
was a vast, diverse clientele that kept record stores viable. Independent
stores specialized in certain kinds of music and even the larger ones had much
of what was sought by vinyl fanatics numbering in the millions. By the 1960s
and the cultural prominence of the LP, these stores saw the future and moved
into real estate within metropolitan areas that was close to where specialized
record buyers lived.
era, sheet music stores and musical instrument shops had little areas set aside
for some 78s or 45s. At first, there was no significant difference between the
independent and chain stores as the album rose to prominence. Even department
stores sold LPs and by the mid-’60s one had many options for record shopping,
including hardware stores.
But it was
in the ’70s and ’80s that record stores began to create specialized buying
groups and the split began between chains and locally owned stores. Record
StoreDays concentrates on
this era and cites various districts in major cities, with Brady Street among them, where music fans
gathered and went to the nearest record store for a day of seeking new sounds
by familiar and unfamiliar artists.
Often, albums were bought by virtue of cover artwork alone. Owners of
stores, even in the chains, were music fans and only too pleased to let a
customer break the shrink-wrap to expose the music to customers.
By the ’90s,
this kind of service was dwindling but still in place until the CD arrived.
Artwork obviously diminished in size and so did browsing. Re-packaged
catalogues were the thing at first, and people began to replace vinyl
collections with the newly minted disc format.
Record Store Days is full of wonderful anecdotes from rock
musicians remembering buying their first records at their favorite store,
including a delightful photo of a young Jonathan Richman. There is a story
about one store owner who forgot to lock up one night and arrived the next
morning to find his customers sleeping in the store on guard duty. When the
Patti Smith Group did an in-store, Lenny Kaye reports that “I was playing to
all these records I love” and that this was the audience for him. “You felt
like you were part of the universe of people who made records before you.”
Were it not
for a closing segment that feels like it has been paid for as a Record Store
Day promotion, this book would be better. It’s a fan manual celebrating a world
that is trying for a comeback but is surrounded by an unseen enemy. In your
computer, look through the wiring and try to see a song. If you do, try a
different prescriptive drug, for music is no longer in the sound object, the
store or even permanently in your possession. It is physically gone, but you
can hear it.
Record Store Days shows where music once was and does so with naive enthusiasm. It is a wistful, hopeful but funereal account of something that cannot be unburied. Ownership of sound is dead.