Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dear Record Stores

Even as I write this, the idea of a record store almost seems quaint.  It feels like a throw away joke from Back to the Future II, where someone would razz Marty for asking about them when he is in the "future".  Of course, the future in that movie is 2015, so that makes my point for me.  The only iteration I can even think of in modern day terms is the FYE stores, where CD's have slowly been pushed to the side by DVD's, which are being pushed back by BluRay, which are being bought by elitist tools.  Just thinking about pining away for them puts me into some circle of Dante's hipster hell, but nostalgia forces my hand on the matter, and I must write.

Maybe things are different in big cities. In a small town like where I live, the options were limited even back them.  Now, it's nonexistent.  I went to The Sound Garden in Fells Point with my cousin a year or so ago, and it was everything I remember a record store could be.  Cramped, cluttered nonsense, and the walls littered with bands tees and old concert playbills.  The last time I was in a store like that? 2001 in Philadelphia.  A dilapidated Tower records on South street, where I bought the Bouncing Souls Hopeless Romantic on vinyl, and my friend Ben introduced me to the Cometbus zine, which blew my mind for a period of time before I realized that punks can be lazy, jobless hippies too. Before that it was all the dank beachside stores like Chat Street in Ocean City all through high school, and before that was an incense laden Greatful Dead fest of a record shop in Myrtle Beach where I got Sponge and Meat Puppets t-shirts back in 1996.

Don't get me wrong though, it was never just about the indie shops.  I practically lived in the Sam Goody and Waxie Maxie through middle school and high school.  The latter in particular had a special "punk compilation" section where I could buy $5 cd's with twenty or thirty bands on them, and I could try to be cool by finding a band that my friends didn't know.  In fact, the whole reason you went to the record store was in some vain attempt to look cool and be accepted.  Remember the listening stations?
This was the in-store equivalent of sitting at a stoplight in your car with the windows down and the music blasting.  The only difference was that you had on headphones, and had to hold the cd while you made a scene of dancing to the music or lip-syncing along, all the while pretending that you weren't trying to get attention.  You were at the store to be seen buying whatever "cool" cd it was at that time. 

It just seems odd to find ourselves in a place where this has become obsolete.  We now sit in our rooms by ourselves, buying music off of some server.  I could write something about how we are isolating ourselves, or have found ourselves tearing down the places we previously used to communicate and interact with each other, but that would be a bit much.  That would be trying to use my sociology degree for something other than a thing to cover up where I put a hole in the wall with my head after a "disagreement" with a power cord.  If I really want to get maudlin, I could drop some knowledge like "you can't go home again" or something perhaps more fitting.  In the end, though, if these stores were still around, I wouldn't go in them.  They aren't a place for the person I am now.  They were a big part of my life then, but I outgrew them while the simultaneously blinked out of existence.  If they were still around, I would hate every person in there, I would hate that they don't carry the music I like, and I would hate that I changed but they didn't change with me.

Mostly, though, I would just hate that every one of those shops had to smell like Nag Champa and a false sense of superiority.  


  1. I particularly like the sensation, the sense memory, that hit me with the mention of Nag Champa and a false sense of superiority. Now if you want that kind of feeling, you have to go into independent health food stores and/or piercing parlors to get your ears gauged.

    1. Wow, I think there may be an expose there about the evolution of record stores into health food stores. I don't know how I never saw that before.

      Bravo to you, madam. I shall check out your blog as well. Thanks for reading.

  2. Chat Street! Dori and I were reminiscing about "old" Ocean City recently. It's funny how they had numerous record stores back then, especially considering they probably only did any real business three months out of the year. I still spend a decent amount of time on a regular basis (not as much as I'd like to) in brick and mortar record stores, the Sound Garden being one of them. Alas, some of us will never give up trying to look cool!

    1. It's the only reason to get out of bed some days, Dave. Of course, you being a full fledged rock god, you don't have to work nearly as hard as the rest of us.

      Nice job on the latest 98 Rock appearance.


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