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Another Word On Record Shops - Blue Collar!
By Mick Polich - 04/12/2010 - 03:09 PM EDT

Another word on record shops…….

But first, I digress……Christmas break of 2009, our family headed down to Austin, Texas, to meet up with my parents, nieces, nephews, and their offspring, to celebrate the season. One day during the break, my nephew took me for a mini-tour of Austin – University of Texas campus, some really cool new retro - styled eateries and business, and the general vibe of the Texas state capital said volumes to me. My nephew said what countless others have probably said before him - you either ‘get’ Austin or you don’t.

Yep, Jeremy, I ‘get’ Austin – in spades.

If you’re in tune with life, certain things will pass by in your journey, and they will resonate with you – people, places, events. In Austin, there were several experiences that hit me, but the one place that I’ve been waiting to go to for a long time was the infamous Waterloo Records, one of the great vinyl/CD/music merchandise shops left in the United States. Waterloo is located in downtown Austin, which ain’t too bad to drive around ( must be the Great Plains roadway planning and design, which is fairly straightforward). And for vinyl geeks, music lovers, and people that ‘get’ the vibe, it is Nirvana, kids……..

As many who love being in a record shop, I could have easily spent a few days, and mucho pesos at Waterloo. Which brings me up to speed – I’m reading a book (surprise) called “Record Store Days” by Calamar Gallo(Sterling Publishing). The book covers not only some of the last remaining record shops in the U.S., but the history of said shops as well. So far, it’s been a fun read, and gosh, it’s a subject close to my heart, because so much human drama, fun, laughs, and journeys have been in the past record, CD, and tape shops of my life.

Let me state that I am one that has slowly changed his views on progress, but thru experience, offer only an outlook on what’s missing from certain experiences(it’s called ‘oldfartism’ – look it up, it’s a proven medical condition). I can put that into one sentence: you can’t beat human contact.

The Web offers so many choices for music, and technically, will beat any store for on-demand inventory, but who can explain the history of that Ralph Towner LP, or guide you to the best imports from the English ska era of the late 1970’s? Oh sure, you can read all the on-line reviews, but in the end, too much ‘staring – at – the – computer – screen’ ain’t healthy for ya, Junior (just like Mom says, - too much of that damn t.v., so eat your veggies while you’re at it, sport!). You gotta get out, talk to some of the purists, lovers, and experts in the field of recorded music purchasing.

We’ve covered this ground before, but with summer break only mere months away, you might want to plan some trips to some of the proprietors of the vinyl grail. College towns usually have one or two record shops – you have as much fun looking at the décor of the places as browsing for music. A good shop is a funky shop when it comes to decorating – a reflection of the owners and employees. Posters advertising new and old music and concerts, promo devices such as cardboard cut-outs of bands, bobble head rock star dolls, and even furniture pieces – all these items add to the allure.

You can’t experience this on-line, chil’len…….

Once again, I get a ton of music downloaded – given the fact that the closest Virgin music store in our area, had its’ last gasp last year, the only thing close is the local Barnes and Noble (it’s a good relationship – we’re on a first name basis). And as the bit transfer gets better, downloads will get better. I mean, digital is here to stay, and that’s o.k.

But again, you can’t beat human contact when it comes to selecting your beloved music.

Here’s a suggestion: go to the Record Store Days website, hit ‘participating stores’, and look up the record stores for your desired area. You can locate store websites, too. I’m planning on plugging in a few cities just off I – 35 north when I take a trip back home just to see if I can take any cool, quick detours for some local flavor in music shops.

Where else can you have in-store appearances and concerts by bands ranging from My Morning Jacket, to Spoon, to good ol’ B.B. King? The little ol’ local record shop, that’s where.

Really, you need to get out, and enjoy the fresh smell of the air and the vinyl, sons and daughters!

A thrill that I’ll never forget was a summer trip to Nashville for the 2001 NAMM show – I made it a purpose to go to Ernest Tubbs’ Record Shop to stand on the in-store stage where people from Loretta Lynn to Ricky Skaggs have performed. Of the three Tubbs shops, I’ve made it to two (one is located here in the Fort Worth Stockyards).

As I type, music on vinyl continues to sell – not like it did in its’ heyday, but people are digging it enough in that medium to keep it alive. The cover art of the LP – there are now coffee table books on the subject. That’s part of the music collecting experience – the artwork. As per a quote in the ‘Record Shop Days’ book, you need to see, hear, feel, smell, touch, and taste music. Tough for a hard drive to cover all those faucets……..

I have a theory on the remnants of certain elements of pop culture – they have their day in the sun, then, they go underground to get assimilated into society, only to get a rebirth of sorts years later, certainly not as strong, but just another choice in the produce aisle of history. You can prove this theory many ways – dress, music, film, style, and general culture. It’s nothing new, except to the people that haven’t experienced it yet (it’s like when I was trying to tell one of my music students about Liquid Paper – what planet did you just come from, Mr. Polich?). So, the vinyl thing is a new ‘gig’ for many young people……..

I haven’t played a record in ages, but like the Dr, Seuss character, the Lorax, I speak for the trees, so to speak – the record shop brings people together for fellowship, community, and a general sense of purpose that involves the arts.

April 17th is “Record Store Day” – it’s a national event, and time to celebrate part of the collective consciousness that you won’t know that you needed it until it’s gone – the local recorded music shop. Hook up, people, and support the old school record shops whenever you can!

POSTSCRIPT: On Friday, April 9th, I made a point of planning my road trip back from helping my in-laws out in NW Iowa, around stopping at Guestroom Records, which is a cool little CD/Vinyl shop near the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman, OK.  Along with Stevenson’s BBQ right off I-35 in Paul’s Valley, OK (the BEST smoked and barbecued chicken dinner this side of the Red River), a stop at Guestroom looked to make a nice trip even better.

I was not disappointed. Guestroom has that funky, historic feel of most of the indie record shops that I frequented in my youth and beyond. They do have listening stations for some of the new releases, even the below – the – radar stuff. Plus, all their new and used titles are put together alphabetically, but not categorical – which is even cooler, NO BOUNDARIES!!! Local bands are given the big push also at Guestroom.

Good recorded music hasn’t died, it’s just moved to vinyl!

Until next time, troops – groove until you drop!


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