John Tierney

Long Winded - Short Attention Span

Reflections of a Record Store Day

Yesterday was record store day.  I used to be a pretty active record collector.  As a kid, what money I didn’t spend on beer, I spent on records.    I was pretty proud of my record collection. Because I was a kid I didn’t take really good care of my prizes and sometimes I wonder how much money I would have gotten for these gems had I taken better care of them, but there you go.

Eventually I moved on from vinyl  to CDs.  I loved CDs because they were easier to take care of really, and they did have a decent sound to them.  Purists will tell you that the digital format lacks the fidelity and  warmth of the analog versions.  I was willing to trade the clicks and pops for the supposed sound degradation.  Truth be told, my ears couldn’t hear the difference then.  I was listening to louder punk and rock records pretty much.  I wasn’t going to notice any difference.   Being the obsessive completest I am, I amassed a pretty large collection.

Of course a few years go by and I ripped all those CDS to their MP3s and started down that collection road.  I filled hard drives with these things.   That collection got huge too and like everyone else, although I am not proud to admit it, a fair amount of these things were not exactly legitimately obtained.

Well now I am on to streaming.  I use Spotify and I have a paid account.  At least the artists get SOMETHING but not nearly enough.  Not to get all Bob Lefsetz on you but I do like the convenience of streaming.  I love it actually.  Hear a song you like someplace, you can add it to a playlist on the fly.  Boom.  You have the world at your fingertips.  I do think it’s the ultimate music delivery medium.    That said, if there are artists I know personally or am a particular fan of I do buck up for at least a digital download.    Yeah digital.  You see, I don’t have a CD player, a turntable, a tape deck or anything like that anymore.  I stream to speakers over Bluetooth.

What I like best about this method is I don’t have to take care of anything.  I don’t have to collect anything, curate anything.  It’s available to me as a service, not as a commodity so to speak and I can have it everywhere at anytime.  Almost the entire world of music available to me at my beck and call.  I love the convenience.    I am the very picture of how music is consumed these days.

But with any convenience you lose something and I  felt that loss yesterday on record store day.

When I was, I don’t know, 16 maybe, I broke LP 2 of my copy of London Calling, STILL my favorite album ever.  I immediately put on my sneakers and walked WALKED from my home on Tipperary Hill to Fairmount Fair mall, where Gerber Music was.  A walk that I think took me an hour  give or take.  I HAD to have that album whole again.  I HAD to have it immediately and that walk was my effort to atone for the sin of not taking proper care of my favorite album.

Bounding into the store I walked into the racks of records and pushed into the C’s and found my album took it to the counter paid with cash and was finally reunited with my treasure.  Deciding to wait for the bus to take me back I sat on a bench and looked at the classic album art.  I used my thumbnail to slice open the plastic and pull out the sleeves on which the lyrics were written.

There is a generation today that will never have that pleasure of reading the liner notes on an album.  Never have the knowledge of who a producer was on a given album and  trying to remember “where else did I see that name?”  Sadly, they will not get to know why those names are in parenthesis under the song title.

You know what else you goddamn kids will never have the pleasure of?  Traveling to a different city and going into a record store there to see what THEY have that you have been looking for.  Spotify has everything.  What they have, you have.  It’s all out there.

I rode many city busses between record stores and my home as a kid , and I will never forget the excitement of looking at album art and reading liner notes in anticipation of being able to put the needle down on that wax and listen through my crappy speakers.

Yesterday I was in a record store in Rochester NY called Bop Shop Records to celebrate Record Store Day, I went there to see one of my favorite ever bands start their 40th anniversary year with a bang, and what a bang it was.  They rocked.  If you don’t know the Flashcubes, you need to find out. That’s not what this essay is about, and that topic has been covered way more eloquently than my rushed and ragged prose could ever do.    Anyway, this is a GREAT record store and what it made me realize was, in these days of instant access to just about everything, we are robbing ourselves of joyful discovery.   The feeling you get when you get your grubby, music loving hands on that mono Kinks album you were looking for, or when you get a Jazz record you were sure you never would find.  If I had a turntable right now, I’d be in possession of a kick ass Charo LP.  Not ever kidding.


I walked around the store looking through the various bins and were I able to use them, would have picked up a couple great things and considered them total scores.  Joyful  discovery.

The Flashcubes were great, my son had fun. Ran into some friends and said hi.  Ate well!  It was a good day but it sure got me thinking.

Nobody ever fired up Spotify and went “oooh!”     You expect everything to be there, and as nice as that is, its also kind of  a drag.



1 Comment

  1. That made me smile. After all these years, I still grieve over some lp I had lent out and never got back or was pilfered from my collection. Some I have forgotten I even had until someone puts out a re-mastered reissue on 180 gram vinyl and I have a spark of memory that reminds me I once had the original. I agree, John, sometimes the music sounds clearer and sweeter, despite the pops and clicks, when you have to get up off your ass and go find it!

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