Friday, April 16, 2010

Paul's Friday Reflections on Record Store Day 2010

As the third annual Record Store Day approaches I am asked by the press, national and local, what it all means, why we are still here, and what the record stores' place in our culture is exactly. I always try to come up with positive, happy reasons for people to come in and buy, but am obviously left with these very same questions circling my own brain looking for a satisfactory answer. 2010 has proven to be another interesting, and believe it or not, hopeful year for us. In 2009 we saw a drop in revenue the likes of which I have never seen. It made the post 9/11 malaise seem like a walk in the park. It seemed that shortly after the bottom dropped out of the housing market, and shortly before Obama was elected the public just went home... and stayed there, for about a year. Around Christmas of '09 we started to see a few turtles poke their heads out. We had a pretty good Christmas season, and then sometime in January we realized that the turtles were still around. In fact it seemed that people were starting to act like their old selves again. Our best seller for the week started to sell 30, 40, 50 and upwards, more like the old days. The vinyl half of the store would fill up every day around three in the afternoon as though the cocoon of bad economic news was peeling away and folks were starting to pck up the pieces of their shattered lives. Of course, one of those pieces is always music and the comfort it brings. As the months started to pass it seemed this was not a temporary situation. We have continued to make up the lost ground of '09 and '10 is shaping up to be a fine year.

Which brings us to Record Store Day. As preparations for the celebration started to really gear up, it became clear to us that this year the labels were taking this shit seriously. Because of the relatively rare phenomenon of growth that they witnessed the last two years of RSD, the music industry has recognized that a big part of collecting music is having something to hold, cherish, pass on etc, and that the best, no, the only place to do that is in the independent record stores - not the chains - the independents. They have delivered a torrent of really cool collectible stuff this year that outnumbers by three times the offerings of last year (which doubled the amount we saw the first year). Our back room is literally swimming with boxes of product. It is unbelievable, the amount of mind-blowing special stuff back there. As a collector myself, with each new box that comes in I have felt that wonderful pulse quickening that only records can bring. It makes me wonder why the labels don't recognize the obvious, and give the people what they want. There are close to 200 items that we will have for sale on Saturday, and I think it is safe to say there is something for everyone. Let me talk about a couple of items I've previewed:

The Flaming Lips perform Dark Side of The Moon- wow, when I first heard about it I thought it had to be an unsubstantiated rumor, but here it is. I'm listening to it as I write this. Early reports were mixed. I heard some Floyd aficionados didn't like it because it was too modern, and I heard other people say it was great. I come down with the latter crowd. I think it is absolutely cosmic, original, modern and true to the original all at the same time. Ably assisted by Stardeath and White dwarfs, Peaches and Henry Rollins, it sounds like the original thrown in a sonic blender with some recent technology, a little 21st century angst and a dash of beat matching to come up with something that is both familiar and totally new and modern. With a great cover art, a mint green record and a cd thrown into the package, I anticipate this being the hottest item of the day. Don't worry, we bought lots. In fact it is worth mentioning at this point, that we bought LOTS OF EVERYTHING!! Because of the aforementioned growth we have seen in RSD, we stepped out big time this year. No guarantees of course, but I do feel like we will be able to take care of almost everybody this year.

I Need That Record DVD- What a great movie this was. It seems as though it started out as a documentary about the closing of a classic record store. Then at some point it looks like the directors decided to take it a bit wider and look at why so many independent record stores are closing. Then they started interviewing important musicians (Thurston Moore, Ian Mackaye, Mike Watt, an erudite Lenny Kaye and a bitter, foul-mouthed, absolutely hilarious Glen Branca) and looking at the overall problems with the music industry. The resulting film is a rambling journey through the underside of pop culture. It will have you alternately crying tears of laughter and sadness as you see one of the truly unique backwaters of American culture disappear before your eyes.

That's just a couple of things out of hundreds. There is the reissue of REM's classic Murmur on light blue clear vinyl, the Them Crooked Vultures 10" picture disc with unreleased material. The John Lennon 7" triple pack, The Jimi Hendrix Live at Clark University LP, The Rolling Stones 7" with two unreleased Exile era songs, The Wilco Kicking Television vinyl box set, The Raconteurs vinyl reissue of Broken Boy Soldier with copper embossed cover(we got almost a fifth of the entire amount made of this release), Beastie Boys 12' w/ surprise songs on it… need I continue??? It's big people and it's all for you!!
Click here for a complete list of record store day titles we'll have on Saturday

One other thing I must make mention of is the fine new book called Record Store Days by Gary Calamar and Phil Gallo. In the last few years there have been a number of books written about the life and death of record stores. Most of them have been flawed in one way or another. Record Store Days is finally a fully satisfying primer on record store culture. Packed with photos and anecdotes from most of the classic record stores (us included) it really captures the flavor of record store life. Less glossy, but equally enjoyable is James P. Goss' book Vinyl Lives which profiles many of the great record stores of modern times (again including us). These books offer a tangible reminder of what rare and wonderful places record stores are.

Because what this is really about is this: we, as a culture, occasionally need a gentle tap on the shoulder, a reminder of what, in our headlong dash toward the finish line, we leave behind. It's not just architecture and technology that are being affected by the breakneck acceleration of change in today's world, it is art, interpersonal relationships, matters of the brain and heart that start to recede over the horizon as we plug in to more and more devices. Maybe Record Store day is a speed bump on the culture highway, that after you hit your head on the roof of the car you look in the rear view and say, "what was that? I better slow down."

See You In The Aisles,
Paul Epstein

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