Saturday, April 20, 2013


I started writing about Record Store Today on Facebook, and just went on and on and on:

It's Record Store Day! The first record I bought was Jackson Browne's Hold Out. It was a "birthday present" for my sister Beth. I played it hundreds of times, and still have it. "Boulevard" is a great single, but it only occurred to me later that the guitar tone is really solid state, real "contemporary." Later, when goofing around at the mall was how we passed the time, Mark Hoffman and Rick Deiss and Steven Michael Tulipana and I would look for the cool stuff at the chain stores like Camelot and Musicland. (I believe Jack Dotson worked at one of these at that time.) A bunch of glam and Euro-wave Bowie tapes in the 3.99 bin was like a vein of gold, same for Lou Reed's Walk on The Wild Side Anthology and The Stooges' Funhouse.

When we could drive, we'd venture out from our safe suburban homes to record stores and book stores in Kansas City. The first time I bought a record that felt like a ticket out of town was when The Reverend Dwight Frizell of the eclectic art jazz band Black Crack Review turned me on to Iggy Pop's Soldier LP. That record is pure trash, almost on purpose! I've always had a soft spot for it. He was the guy a Pennylane Records I'd talk to, and when you are a teenager, talking to someone older about the things you are interested in can be kind of a stretch, kind of a reach. A single conversation can be an initiation. He told us to go see The Flaming Lips at whatever hole in the wall place it was, advising us that "this is the greatest garage rock band in the world." (Hear It Is had just come out, Steve Tulipana bought it, we wore that thing out.) He also gave me a nudge from regular jazz toward Bill Frisell and Ornette Coleman, and that opened up whole worlds of enjoyment and adventurous, healing vibes from a couple of great artists. I still have these kinds of conversations, I hope, at record stores with the people I know there.

KC had other smaller record stores, and I'm getting old enough that I forget their names. Record Exchange, Enormous Horsepower, those were a couple of them. Iowa City had great record stores, too, and of course Eugene had many that have gone, and a few that have survived. I know that every generation has its own m.o. when it comes to crafting and differentiating identity and a sense of tribal belonging; every person and every household has intentional and unintentional shrines. We currently live in an age where many people feel most comfortable, connected and familiar with a handheld device that shows them pictures of the world and language events from friends that help draw that picture. I know young folks who have never bought a cd or record or cut-out "La Grande History De La Rock" Kinks tape at Wal-Mart. It's okay--too much nostalgia about stuff is boring and means you're doing more dying than living. There's nothing more boring than middle-aged idolatry. Kill yr idols. Meditate, run, pick up an instrument, make an album on your phone. Call the gods with a hand drum or a mandolin or a double Marshall stack with Kerry King JCM head and a Hamer guitar from Ebay.

The resurgence of records, and the excitement around this little holiday day we've all cooked up--I think it has to do with the human need for tangible works of art, things you can hold in your hands other than electronic devices. It has to do with the impulses that call people to go on pilgrimage, go to church, join a club or become active in something requiring their physical presence. The gathering that used to happen all the time is given a nod on this day. (Get this: baby boomers used to buy records the day they came out, go to someone's house, smoke a joint, and listen to the record. Sometime this would lead to sexual activities, political engagement, and the starting of bands.) I appreciate all the record stores in Eugene, hope it's more than nostalgia, hope these few stores in our town make it to next year's Record Store Day. As Mom says about Christmas, every day is Record Store Day.

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