Thursday, April 11, 2019

To RECORD STORE DAY, With Love...



RECORD STORE DAY 2019 
is Saturday, April 13th. 

You may not see it written on a calendar or talked about all that much in mainstream media, but Record Store Day is an international holiday. OK, it is not technically a ‘legal’ holiday, but any time that a record store throws a party and invites EVERYONE to attend, that is a day to celebrate! Record stores – and comic book shops for that matter – are places where like-minded people gather together and communicate face to face. They are where friendships are born. They are places we escape to, places where we discover and learn. Record stores are where magic and music unite. 

When vinyl’s popularity petered out at the end of the ‘80s and CDs took over, we still called them ‘record’ stores. Regardless of whether they stocked vinyl, CDs, or both, the music fans kept on coming to the stores, supporting the artists, the stores, and the music industry in general. When digital came along, the general public chose convenience (downloads) over the drudgery of having to drag their butts to a record store to buy their music of choice. And just like that, the fate of record stores was in doubt. Most stores have struggled over the last two decades – many gave up the fight and died. And yes, I still grieve over those great record stores that have fallen… 

In 2008, inspired by the ever-awesome Free Comic Book Day, a few folks - namely Eric Levin, Michael Kurtz, Carrie Colliton, Amy Dorfman, and Don Van Cleave - joined forces and Record Store Day was born. It has grown more and more popular over the years, bringing people out of their social media hibernation centers and putting them face to face with like-minded music fans again. With the resurgence of vinyl over the last few years, Record Store Day has inspired generations new and old to start purchasing physical product again. Some collect just to collect but others are inspired by the music itself. While RSD is technically one day – two if you count Black Friday - it appears that record stores are seeing more traffic in their stores throughout the rest of the year. It looks as if the magic is back. 


For me, that magic has always been there… and this is MY story. I can say with confidence that it might be similar to your story, too. 

Ever since I was a child, record stores have fascinated me. Being raised on many types of music (The Beatles, The Monkees, Neil Diamond, The Osmonds, and Glen Campbell to name a few), I was always excited about songs that really struck a chord with me... long before I even knew what a chord was! 

In the beginning, mom and dad satisfied my musical appetite by handing down copies of Beatles albums or buying me albums on my birthday and Christmas. Every note was magical, every melody was a dream that unfolded in my tiny little mind... 

I was so excited when I finally started getting an allowance. OK, maybe the first year or so, I spent all the money on candy and comic books, but when I was old enough to walk to any local record store (Licorice Pizza), my allowance was spent on seven inch singles and LPs in the cut-out bins. At that time, I couldn't afford a full priced album and if I wanted a new album, I had to add it to my want list for future gift-receiving holidays. 

But then, when my allowance went up a little, it was straight to Licorice Pizza I'd go. While my tastes may have been limited at that exact moment, there was still so much to choose from. 


In 1977, when I was 14, I saw The Jam and The Clash on TV and my limited view was shaken to i's core and broken wide open. "There IS a musical world outside of my transistor radio!", I thought to myself. Little did I know that, 42 years later I'd still be excited and inspired by music, both new and old. In fact, I think I've only gotten worse! 

Anyway, as I came to my awkward teens, music became a way to communicate with people. If I had friends that were going through hard times, a mixtape could surely cheer up their day. If I had a girlfriend and couldn't find the right words to say, a Paul McCartney album would always do the trick. If I couldn't think of the perfect gift for a family member's birthday, why not buy 'em The Eagles' Greatest Hits or Hotel California or whatever music they fancied? 

People who know me know that I am never short on words, so if I was handing out mixtapes or albums to people, that meant that those particular albums or songs meant something to ME and I wanted them to mean just as much to THEM. I would head up to Licorice Pizza and spend my own money just to try to add a little bit of sunshine into their day. To be honest, sometimes it worked sometimes it didn't... but at least I tried. 


I spent so much time at Licorice Pizza during the late '70s that I could have actually worked there. Then, as I got older and had friends that could drive, it was on to Tower Records, Beggar's Banquet, Music Plus, The Wherehouse and any other record store within a 5 mile radius. Almost every day. Definitely every weekend. We just wanted to experience the sights, sounds, smells and vibes of any record store that stocked a good amount of LPs and singles. Sometimes we had money, sometimes we didn't... but we ALWAYS heard good tunes and had a great time. 

While I did OK at school and had a great family, music spoke to me louder and clearer than any book or teacher. In fact, some of the most influential people in my young life were those record store employees who would introduce me to new music, either suggesting something or just by playing it in the store. I didn't read the music rags of the day because I wanted to spend every penny on something new and exciting. After all these years, it's still the same. 

Many of my long-lasting friendships have been made in a record store. Apart from my school buddies, I'd meet new folks with similar musical tastes and we'd make suggestions back and forth. I still talk to many of these folks today and I'm still sharing my latest musical passions with them. 


My life would not have been the same were it not for the record stores (and CD stores) that I would frequent during this very important time in my life. It pains me to no end when I think that the youth of today don't bother with experiencing the joys of seeking out new music in their local record stores. Then again, they probably have more friends than I used to have… 

Three decades ago, there was so much on offer in Orange County in regards to record stores: Music Market, Camel Records, Music Plus, Licorice Pizza, Record Trading Center, Pepperland, The Wherehouse, Beggars Banquet, Up Another Octave, Tower Records and many others that are swimming around in my memory banks. Now, they are all gone. There are some new ones that have popped up in the last decade or so but I’ve moved out of the area… 

Now, I'm not one who is against the idea of legal downloading (I've done the odd track here and there myself), but at the end of the day, after you've paid your money, what do you have? NOTHING! There are files in your computer that seemingly play the music for you, but is that really enough? Can you hold it? Can you feel it? Can you smell it? Can you see it? You didn't buy anything tangible: there are nothing but files on your hard drive made up of numbers, letters and codes. Where is the fun in that? What kind of memories will that leave behind? So, in essence, I am NOT anti-downloading; I am pro-record store! And don’t get me started on streaming… And to think that, in the '80s, we thought home-taping was killing music!


For many of us, music is more than just a hobby... it was an emotional experience that is hard to describe. There are those of us who LIVE for music. It's not just something that is played in the background: it is the soundtrack to our lives! 

Even today at the age of 55, I listen to music in the morning, afternoon and evening. I write about music all day long. I still get together with friends on a regular basis and discuss music, play music and hear new music that they share with me. I'm not the only one like this: there are others! Perhaps even YOU! 

It is up to us to support the record stores that are still left standing. And if you visit one of them as often as possible, then THANK YOU. Visit them again tomorrow... and next weekend, too! Perhaps the kids of today and tomorrow will one day realize that the record store experience is amazing indeed. It is up to us to show them the way. 

I support Record Store Day and I encourage you to visit record stores on a regular basis. It’s the best way to be able to immerse yourself in the full musical experience.

 


With love, 
Stephen SPAZ Schnee 
“Some of my best friends are three minutes long” 

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