If you haven't already gleaned as much, I love record stores. I've wasted more bandwith on this here weblog waxing rhapsodic about them and bitterly lamenting their all-too-frequent demises than can be accurately quantified. Even if I'm not looking for anything in particular, I love nothing more than simply browsing around the racks in record stores. You never know when something might catch your eye -- be it a brand new discovery, an intriguing album cover, a curious bootleg of indeterminate origin or an album you'd only read about that was once considered the rarest-of-the-rare. There was even a time when new records (I'm talking vinyl here) were cheap enough that you could rationally buy them simply out of curiosity. I remember buying Ride The Lightning by Metallica in high school based solely on the fact that Kirk Hammett was depicted on the back cover wearing a Discharge t-shirt. Back in my days of hardcore fandom, I used to randomly buy 7" singes by bands simply because their name sounded interesting or their lyrics amused me. Some of those random singles are now worth a lot of dough. Still, I'll never part with them.
Record stores -- or "disc shops," if you prefer -- are dying. They are vanishing in droves. I actually had a nightmare last week that Mondo Kim's on St. Marks Place was closed and turned into an expensive bedding emporium. So many of my favorite record stores are already gone (see this post for those tragic details), and the list seems to grow a little more every day.
Obviously, I'm not the only person that fetishizes and cherishes the record store. There's a whole community of us, which has brought about the dawn of Record Store Day. It's a nice idea, but I fear it's too little to stem the tide. Most folks today are too damn lazy to get off their asses and buy the music they're interested in. They simply download it off iTunes without even having to put their pants on. I've downloaded plenty of stuff myself, but in no way does it compare with the actual, physical practice of record shopping.
In my years as a record shopper, I've learned more about music, heard more amazing music, seen more hidden back streets and far-flung locales of foreign cities and met countless amazing people than I ever would have had I just sat around on my butt. I remember combing through the labyrinth of narrow passages and canals of Venice, Italy in search of a notorious tiny shop that sold amazing bootleg recordings. I remember dragging my poor wife through the cluttered streets of Paris, France in search of an enigmatically named store called "Bimbo Tower" on a forgotten little by-way. I remember walking for hours in Berlin, looking for a mythical record shop called "Mr. Dead & Mrs. Free". I remember composing a long list of record stores up and down Portobello Road and around Notting Hill Gate in London. Even if these independent, dusty shops didn't have anything I was looking for at the time, it was a pleasure -- nay, a duty - as a rabid music head to at least stop in and check them out. It was way more fun than your usual tourist traipse. You can keep your precious Louvre. Give me Bimbo Tower every time.
I once considered working in a record store, but figured that my big opinions and ever bigger mouth would get me repeatedly beaten up and/or fired. I went into music journalism instead (thats a rant for another day, though). To me, record stores are still sacred little shrines. And they're being snuffed out one by one by the jackbooted march of a technology that caters to a corpulent, unimaginative nation of immediate-gratification-addicted slack-jaws who need their choices made for them. To borrow a line from the Dead Kennedys, give them convenience or give them death. It's pathetic, and evidently it's the wave of the future.
Get off your ass, goto a record store and buy a damn disc today.
And if my entreaties aren't compelling enough for you, click here to read what your favorite artists have to say about it.