Saturday, April 21st, I ventured to my downtown home of St. Petersburg ready to celebrate Record Store Day, an internationally acclaimed annual event celebrating believe it or not, record stores the world over! And what a great day of celebration it was. My chosen destination for all this: Daddy Kool Records. They'd opened early to the glorious sight of excited music fans already waiting outside and hopeful of purchasing one of the rarities reserved for this special day.
Record Store Day is truly a momentous occasion for those who care about music and artists. It may only happen one day a year, but it really is wonderful to see such enthusiasm and community spirit. It evokes fond memories of trips in to Manchester (UK) to buy my records on the day of release. The staff had become friends and each Saturday they would have a pile of new releases ready for me. When I arrived I’d be ushered into the listening booths for the next four hours. Evenings would be spent at a friend’s house listening to what we’d bought that day.
Midweek it would be visits to my friend Barry's magnificent record store in Sheffield, where I would bury my head in rack upon rack of US imports. Lost in the moment, I would be searching for the record that would change my life. Record stores back then had a great sense of community. So many bands were formed within them, so much advice given over the counter from the diehard music fans who worked there only too keen to share their knowledge with fledgling artists, desperate for a chance to make it big. Artists back then were in it for artistic reasons, not necessarily for fame and fortune, but to have the chance to be heard. And record stores were an integral part of getting yourself known. If you were building a fan base and the local record store didn’t know you, then you were going about it wrong.
Great stores manned by great staff meant for a great hobby and a great life! The thrill I would get walking in to a record store and picking up a record, scrolling through the credits to see who appeared on it, what label it was on, who produced it. Music was the common interest we all shared; our favorite pastime and our greatest passion. If someone had discovered a new band they couldn’t wait for the opportunity to turn their friends on to it.
My first foray into the musicindustry was in 1974 when I worked as a sales person in the north of England for a folk and jazz label, Transatlantic Records. Ironically enough, the first person I ever met in a record store was fellow ‘This Day in Music’ columnist Neil Cossar! Neil was a sprightly teenager back then working at the HMV store in Manchester, the epicenter for anything you’d ever need to know about music. Once I’d sold them my catalogue, I was out on the floor wading through the new releases and the huge amount of stock they carried meant that I was rarely out of the store in less than three hours.
But for a generation growing up who don’t feel the need to pay for music, but instead choose to ‘acquire’ it then it’s probably meaningless. Music to them is transient, it serves a purpose, it’s there for the moment and then it’s gone. Their attention span is short which means the likelihood of creating careers and breaking artists is slim.
I wonder if music will ever evoke the same memories for today’s youth as it did for me and my generation, and the ones before me for that matter. I can look back over forty plus years and pinpoint albums that were crucial to my youth, adolescence and everything before, after and in between. That kind of buzz never goes away and you start to realize how the music business took away the excitement and contributed to people caring less about music. They took it away from those very same people who were ultimately their livelihood. (I’ll save any further thoughts on that until a future blog.)
As the industry changes, evolves, and perhaps disintegrates, the more you grasp on to what it was that made it so unbelievably exciting for us all. Music brought people together and enriched our lives.There is nothing quite like music to take you back to a place and time and invariably with a person. Whenever I think of a record that was special to me it would take me back to that moment and everything around me would reappear and be so vivid. It’s an event and we are back there and whether surrounded with sadness or something to rejoice, music always made an impact.
Our stores have been rapidly diminishing year after year as we plunder deeper into the digital age. I feel sorry for those who have never had the experience we had, never had it to miss. We helped create those rock stars the moment we picked up what they spent many months to create, their record. We bought those records and we looked forward to seeing them play live. We helped them live their dream and they gave us ours. We shared that common connection where music brought us together.
Even though money is tight, help us save a glorious industry. Keep music and record stores alive. Visit your local record store and you’ll still find the person behind the counter just as keen to guide you to some great music. There aren’t as many, but they are just as important, if not more important than they ever were. Be part of that elite group of people ex Rolling Stone’s manager Andrew Loog Oldham referred to as ‘the industry of human happiness.'
Nostalgia when it’s that good, never goes away.