I miss the old-time record store, with its huge display of the latest release from Pat Benatar, or Radiohead, or Rod Stewart (back when he made semi-original music, of course), and with its wannabe hip workers who wore skinny jeans before they became popular and spun tunes by the Wannadies and Cracker. The atmosphere was always so electric no matter if it was a behemoth like Tower Records or a hole-in-the-wall establishment like Chester’s Records, which was legitimately just a storefront and not much more, and the other shoppers so into whatever they deemed musically relevant.
And they used to be all over the place too, like restaurants, or bars, or churches, one on pretty much every corner, an eclectic mix of places specializing in used records, new records, audio tapes, CDs, and audio equipment. It’s how I found new music, whether it was an album cover from Phil Collins, a song by Hunters & Collectors playing over the speaker system, or simply a recommendation to listen to Kristin Hersh and finding out how addicting and ethereal her voice is. It’s also how I met new people, those others who trolled the record stores and hung out in the New Kids on the Block section because no one else hung out there.
There aren’t many left anymore, what with this digital revolution, and that makes me unbelievably sad on so many levels. Back in the day the record store was so much more than just a business. It was a way of life for people like me on Friday nights, or on Thursday afternoons, or on Wednesday mornings when I dragged my friends out to flip through used CDs, to buy R.E.M. concerts, or just to inhale the stale air of each place in turn, as if breathing in the air made the music come alive. Or at least as alive as I used to be when I could go into those places anytime I wanted.
I took that for granted back then, thinking it would always be the same, but everything’s changed, and I wish we could go back. If only for a second, so I could soak it in one last time.