A month ago I had the pleasure of visiting a music store for the first time in many, many moons. I stopped in at one of my old favorites, Deaf Ear Records in LaCrosse Wisconsin, and realized how much I missed the experience and thought I would share it with you either to reminisce or for you younger set, try to capture some of what you are missing out on.
Back in the day (the late 80’s and much of the 90’s to be exact) I was the guy that could go into the record store and easily lose a few hours thumbing through albums, CD’s, cassettes and much of the other merch. For a geek there is a mild buzz associated with this (I would compare it to the buzz wild game hunters get when tracking a wild animal minus the blood and guts or the shopaholic gets when looking for their 400 pair of shoes).
One by one I would fingertip my way through hundreds of titles looking for something to pop out at me. Maybe the album art was cool. Maybe the artist sounded familiar since friend mentioned them once or maybe the used section provided a few long lost or hard to find favorites. Pure bliss!
This type of experience wasn’t for the non-geek. There were only a handful of friends that could even hang and enjoy these situations as much as myself. Most people could only last about a half hour max.
Anyway, I had about 4-5 albums that I wanted but I could only allow myself to leave with two. I decided to test my Musicgoat ways and go with music that I was compeltely unfamiliar with. The only criteria I had was – since I am on a songwriting kick – that it needed to be something that was sonically different and had songwriting that was great at producing both mental imagery and emotion (the record store is one of the few places you can ask for something like that and get an answer…gottta love it).
In the end I went with the recommendations of the staff for one of my purchases and another based on curiosity built up from years of word of mouth. I took one of the staff recommendation and bought the The Decemberists “the Crane Wife”. It definitely fits the criteria I outlined for the staff – especially the imagery part…very poetic. I am not in love with the CD but I think it is decent and it is definitely pushing the boundaries of what I would typically listen to and that’s a good thing.
For my other selection, I went with Wilco and Billy Bragg “Mermaid Avenue” I always wanted to check out Wilco and Woodie Guthrie so I figured it would be a great place to start. The album is made up of songs with music written by Wilco and Bragg backing Woodie Guthrie lyrics (cool concept). Again not in love with it but it is growing on me.
Overall though – and maybe I am just too old school – the music store experience is something that just can’t be duplicated online (yet anyway). From the exhilaration of the hands on with the merch to the interaction with the staffers to the obscure staff pick humming in the background I just dig it. And if you haven’t had the chance yourself I recommend you get on it.
What about you? Do you have any fond or not so fond memories of records stores? When s the last time you went? Lets get conversation started and let some of the iTunes download generation see what they are missing out on.
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