In the olden days before iTunes, Napster and MP3s, there was something called the “record store.”
It worked like this: You saved up your money, went to the store (during business hours, of course), scoured the shelving in hopes of finding something that you wanted, waited in line at the counter and then gave a clerk money in exchange for the pieces of plastic in your arms. You then returned home and decrypted what was on those pieces of plastic using strange mechanical equipment, some of which involved dragging a really hard rock through the grooves etched in the more ancient forms of these plastic discs.
Record stores were places where you met other music fans. You learned from their choices and from their opinions. And if you were lucky, you had a guy behind the counter who could counsel you on what to buy and what to avoid.
A trip into the Record Peddler across from Maple Leaf Gardens was an adrenalin rush. First, there was the anticipation of what cool thing you might find this week. Second, you had to get past the clerk who vetted your selections, whether you wanted this particular service or not. He’d flip through your potential purchases, assessing each record: “Crap. Crap. Crap. This one’s not bad. Crap. Nice one. Crap.” Then he’d look at you: “Still want all these?”
All that seems like such a long time ago. There’s an entire generation of music fans who have quite literally never set foot in a record store unless it was by accident. The whole experience of record shopping seems primitive and wholly unnecessary. They get whatever songs they want, whenever they want them, wherever they happened to be using whatever device is most convenient at that moment.
I like convenience, choice and gadget as much as the next person — maybe more, if you ask my wife — but I still enjoy the record store experience. And tomorrow, it’s hoped that many millions of people will participate in Record Store Day, an annual international event started in 2007 designed to remind people about the place the record store has in the community.
Here’s what you should do. First, check out www.recordstoreday.com/canada to find the participating stores closest to you. Second, read Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity tonight. Third, go hang out in the store for a couple of hours. You’ll be glad you did.
– The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on stations across Canada. Read more at www.ongoinghistory.com and www.exploremusic.com