The first record I ever bought was the soundtrack to the movie "Mannequin." I bought it specifically for the Starship song “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” I was 11, not quite old enough to know better and just young enough not to care. It was 1987, back when cassette tapes ruled the land, CDs were beginning to rise in popularity and records were predicted to die a slow, painful death.
Chad’s technically isn’t a participant, but it’s a great local record store that’s been around for years.
And if you’re looking for a place to show off your record collection, Mean Mug Coffeehouse hosts its Vinyl Saturdays every Saturday.
But something happened. They never did.
Thanks to small, independently owned record stores, vinyl has enjoyed a comeback of sorts. Sure, big-box music stores eventually stopped carrying vinyl (ironically, most of those big-box music stores no longer exist, mostly because of the advent of iTunes and the iPod), but—just like comic book shops did in the 1980s and ‘90s—small, independently owned shops specializing in used music opened across the United States to fulfill the demand of those who sought to find the hard-to-find, dinosaur-relic of music formats: the record album.
In 2007, Record Store Day was started as a way to celebrate those small, brick-and-mortar stores that help keep the vinyl legacy alive. It’s observed globally the third Saturday of April each year in record stores all over the world, including a few here in the Chattanooga area. This week, a special Black Friday edition of the holiday is taking place the day after Thanksgiving, and special vinyl releases from your favorite artists abound, including Band of Horses, David Bowie, Captain Beefheart, Norah Jones and The Rolling Stones.
A lot of bands these days have gone back to releasing albums on vinyl as a way to help raise awareness of this almost-lost art form. Because records are an art form, from the way songs are arranged on the album to the pressing of the actual record to the cover art. That’s why records have survived, compared to eight-tracks and even cassette tapes.
I’m not going to lie. I love music and I own records, as well as a record player. And I enjoy the wonderful noise of the soft, needle static on that rotating circle of wax. But my records are packed up in the hall closet. And my record player is a Crosby, one of those CD/cassette/radio/record player combinations that is considered by many audiophiles to be made for the record-listening amateur. And, I’ll admit, sometimes it’s just easier to listen to my music on iTunes.
But there’s something to be said about going into a physical record store rather than buying music on iTunes or Amazon. You don’t get the conversations that go with the casual browsing in a record store. You don’t get your friends together to buy music online because it’s not an event, at least not in the same way it was before the Internet. You don’t get the smell—the mustiness from the used vinyl sitting in the rows and rows of cardboard bins. And you don’t get the free, eclectic records occasionally offered because nobody else wants them. Some of those end up being gems.
While I was on vacation in Florida this past summer, I went into a record store there and was reminded of the wonderful feeling of perusing the aisles of new and used record albums, flipping through them with my fingers, checking out the cover art. It has been a long time since I had visited one. It was long overdue.
Looking back now, I wish I had kept that "Mannequin" record. As horrible as I’m sure it was, you never forget your first. But I know that somewhere, in a small, independent record store, that album I bought when I was 11 may be sitting in a bin, just waiting for someone to discover it. It could very well end up being someone else’s gem.
Wondering what to buy for Record Store Day Black Friday? Check out the complete list of releases.
What was your first record? Have a favorite record store? Sound off below.
Here are a few of the highlights of this year's Black Friday releases (courtesy of USA Today's Pop Candy):
—Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley, "Hallelujah": Split 7-inch single featuring Leonard Cohen's original 1984 song "Hallelujah" and the late Jeff Buckley's better-known cover, recorded 10 years later (4,000 copies).
—Bob Dylan, "Duquesne Whistle": 7-inch single with the "Tempest" opener on the A-side and a previously unreleased version of "Meet Me in the Morning" from the "Blood on the Tracks" sessions on the flip side (5,000 copies).
—Fat Boys, "Pizza Box": The '80s rappers' first album is reissued on a picture-disc LP designed to look like a pizza and packaged in a pizza box (copies TBA).
—My Morning Jacket, "It Makes No Difference": 10-inch single on orange vinyl featuring a live recording of The Band classic with Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard helping out (2,000 copies).
—Nirvana, "Incesticide: 20th Anniversary Edition": Kurt Cobain and Co.'s 1992 odds-and-sods collection is remastered and repressed on two 180-gram vinyl LPs at 45 RPM (4,000 copies).
—Joe Strummer, "Live at Acton Town Hall": Previously only available as part of a digital boxed set, this historic 2002 concert recorded just before Strummer's death finds the ex-Clash member reuniting with Mick Jones on stage for the first time in 20 years. It's being pressed as a two-LP set (1,800 copies).
—The White Stripes, 7-inch singles: Jack White reissues three original "White Blood Cells" singles on opaque red vinyl: "Fell in Love With a Girl" b/w "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself," "Hotel Yorba (Live at the Hotel Yorba)" b/w "Rated X (Live at the Hotel Yorba)," "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" b/w "Stop Breaking Down" (copies TBA).
Charlie Moss writes about local history and popular culture, including music, movies and comics. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
Updated @ 12:13 p.m. on 11/19/12 to add attribution to the list of release highlights, which was unintentionally left off.