Sunday, July 28, 2013

Record Store

I'd like to think I'm no hipster, but occasionally I get caught up in hipstery things, I suppose. The current vinyl renaissance is one of those things. In my defense, I've been purchasing records since 1979, starting with Supertramp's Breakfast in America. When CDs took over, I will note that I purchased a new turntable in 1989 to ensure that I had something to play the hundreds of records I would carry around with me for the next two-plus decades. Those occasions were few and far between, however, as my CD and then MP3 collections grew. Convenience most often won out over nostalgia and/or the "warmer sound" of vinyl. And there was the stupid instance in the early '90s when I gave away all the hundred or so metal albums I had, figuring I had moved past that genre. IDIOT.

Anyway, even before the vinyl resurgence began in the last few years (and you can find dozens of similar articles proclaiming this over the last five years or so), I had been grabbing some good albums that friends were getting rid of. My turntable finally died about 18 months ago when I was listening to the classic live album The Name of This Band is Talking Heads, but I didn't get around to replacing it until earlier this year. And I was even slower to start buying vinyl again, which I did a few weeks back at the local Newbury Comics outlet.

As I've documented fairly often in my ongoing feature Through the Past Dorkily, in which I share entries from the diary I kept as a 16-year-old in 1984, much of my leisure time was spent going through the vinyl stacks in record stores looking for cool shit (in fact, I pretty much did that regularly from '79 to '89). I would literally spend hours going alphabetically through nearly every record (as I would similarly with CDs later). It was strangely relaxing, just putting aside whatever was stressing me out (school, work, girls, or all three) for a while and trying to figure out what to spend my hard-earned cash money on. Now, of course, that experience and the time it involves is largely cast aside in favor of the easier, quicker method of buying MP3s online and/or checking out an album on Spotify or YouTube first.

Yesterday, I found myself with a few hours on my own with no parental or other responsibilities, so I made my way over to The Record Exchange in Salem, where I used to go in the early '90s to buy used CDs. The store has always had an extensive vinyl section (taking up most of the store), but I'd never looked through it before. While new vinyl releases and reissues are cool and all, they're also pricey. I figured I'd just go old school and browse and maybe find some bargains. It was like stepping into a time machine. I took my time, going A-Z and finding some of the old metal stuff I used to own, as well as records I'd completely forgotten about and ones I never knew existed. It was terrific, just that feeling that there was nowhere I had to be and nobody I had to keep an eye on; it was like being 16 again, minus the teen angst and boredom and stupidity.

Ultimately, I bought a 1977 Stiff Records comp called A Bunch of Stiffs, which featured little-known songs from the label's artists at the time including Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Motorhead and Elvis Costello, among others. I also got the Smithereens' first EP Beauty and Sadness, the Knack's second album But the Little Girls Understand and Wings Over America (not the reissue, but the original 1976 version with three records and a poster and sweet Hipgnosis-designed gatefold sleeve). And it cost $32. Not too shabby. (The vinyl, even though it's used, is in great condition. Nary a crackle to be found, which is impressive.)

I don't expect to make these forays too often, mainly because of time and expense, but maybe once a month or every other month might be doable. I'm not going to stop buying digital albums, but this is also a fun way to get artifacts I don't already have. The next challenge is to find a cool way to store my vinyl. Right now, most of it's shoved up out of sight on the top shelf of our linen closet, but it's not a convenient way to reach most of the records, which are not easily retrievable or distinguishable. I used to have a pair of cool record cabinets that I used for several years until we moved into this house, and the missus insisted I get rid of them. I suspect any really good solution will have to wait until the kids are out of the house and I can commandeer a so-called "man cave" for all my shit, but hopefully I can find something to at least keep some of the vinyl on because I don't really want to shove anything else up into that closet. Yeah, yeah, I know, these are seriously first-world problems.


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