Friday, February 26, 2010

Why Record Stores Matter

The other day a friendly gentleman approached the counter holding a record and wearing a smile. He held up a Charlie Parker 10” record on the Savoy label and said something to the effect of “this is my record.” According to the gentleman this record, this VERY record was purchased by him when it came out in 1948. Sometime in the ensuing 60 years he sold the record (he thought in California in the 70’s). Now, here in 2010 he is poking around one of the few places in the country it could possibly be, and lo and behold there it is. He points to his name written on the jacket, and a bunch of doodles on the back that he drew. “Yep it’s mine.” He purchased the record and left happily.

Now when this story came to me through an employee and I just about flipped out. This is exactly what I’ve been saying for years. The great tradition of second hand stores in this country act as more than just retail outlets - they are estuaries that collect the cultural castoffs, the flotsam and jetsam of our society, and then like putting a plain rock in a tumbler and having it come out a jewel, these items resurface later as little time capsules that not only still perform their original duties (in this case giving us the genius of Charlie Parker) but they also carry with them the smells, the feel, the secret messages of the life, or lives of those whose hands they passed through. In this case, the record was purchased 62 years ago - think of the worlds the original purchaser has come through since originally plopping down a buck or two for the record. Think of the all the lives that might have touched it since he sold it, and the journey the record itself took to find itself at Twist and Shout in 2010, and then back in its original owners’ hands. Think of all the life that the record was close to. It sat in living rooms while the world changed - it sat there during the Korean War, Vietnam, Woodstock, Watergate, Disco, 9/11, countless financial ups and downs. Not to mention the individual lives of the people who owned and loved it - Marriage? Divorce? Kids? Maybe a kid sold it to us after his father died. Maybe someone learned to play sax by listening to that record over and over. Maybe it was the last record someone listened to before leaving home. 

The image that keeps coming back to me is that of a message in a bottle. Someone throws it into the ocean in hopes that it will travel miles and come ashore to someone’s hands. It might contain a mystery, or a great love affair, or a buried treasure, but it is a romantic notion. That the bottle you throw in the ocean could wash up on shore next to YOU, years later, is almost too much to believe. But there it was, in the hands of the guy who originally bought it, with his original doodles on the back - just amazing. This is why we have and continue to need record stores. Where else could this happen?

--Paul Epstein


オテモヤン said...
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Happy In Bag said...

Great story, Paul. -Bill Brownlee