Monday, February 11, 2008
The king is dead, long live the new king
I write today not to praise or deride...just to unload.
When I was first getting into music there was a small but very well stocked record store that was about 2 blocks from my house. To see the shop you would think this was someone's house with a sign over the door. Not a neon sign or even lighted at all a very simple painted sign on which was written "The Stereo House". Simple and to the point. No bells and whistles just "The Stereo House". When I walked in to the shop I was amazed by all that was there. LPs of all kinds. I discovered great bands like Television, Blondie, The Ramones, Suicide, The Clash and many others. New, wrapped in plastic, and displayed for anyone to be captured by the images on the covers and purchase the LP to take home and discover what magical tomes the artists have decided to set to music this time. Then the need for more room destroyed the utopian situation created by the shop's owners. They moved to an anaseptic plaza and started stocking less of the "cool" bands of the time and concentrated on "Top 40" for sales sake. It was understandable, the need to make money, but it was more sad and had lost the magic that I found in that little shop down the street. But I was a kid and kids always lose that magic at some point in life as they grow up. I never thought I would ever find such a place ever again. Another of youth's feelings, things are always better when you are younger. Food tastes better, fun is more fun, and entertainment, especially music, is always better from your youth.
Flash ahead [or would it be flashback...both are here now...you can choose] to 7 years ago. My wife, family and I move out to, what I thought at the time was a vast wasteland of cornfields, Iowa. My wife and I decided that since she was a medical worker and made more money than I was capable of earning as a radio announcer in smalltown Iowa that I would be the stay at home parent and, to make a bit of extra money, I could also sell CDs and other entertainment items on eBay. There were a bunch of pawn shops in and around the area that made for a nice crossection of sale items. The thing that was always a problem was that you had to choose from what people wanted to pawn. So I had little choice but to buy what was there. We then discovered, much to my surprise, a shop in the northeast portion of Cornfield Iowa. It was called "CDGBs". It even had a cool name like that of the club "CBGBs". Walking in to this, what can only be described as a converted 4 or 5 car garage, I was instantly transported to that long ago day when I was younger. Rows and rows of CDs. All sorts of artists and all styles of music. Broken down into music catagory and neatly alphabetized within each catagory for easy searching. If you could name it and couldn't find it the owner and his employees could easily find it or at the very least order it for you so you could get it. I spent hours in that store over the past few years. Each time better than the previous. Most of the time I became the proverbial "kid in the candy shop" looking at everything and completely forgetting, until the 2+ hour ride home, what I was really looking to find. For me it was heaven, until the 6th of February 2008. A day for me that once again took away my childhood.
The store had moved in May of 2007 because the lease to the converted garage had expired and the landlord wanted more rent. The owner, who also owned "The Surf Ballroom" [famous for being the site of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens' last performance[s] before "the music died"; see the picture below of the Surf on the night of that last performance], thought that moving the store to some unused space in the Surf would save money and be a good locale for people to find and maybe pop in to check out some cool music too. Unfortunately for him the Surf was a bit off the beaten path and things didn't work out the way he thought it would. Sales actually dropped after the move and he decided that keeping an actual storefront opened would cost him money so he closed the doors at 2007's end and made his business an internet one.
Now, while I still enjoy getting music online, some of the fun of shopping for music is gone with an internet purchase. You really don't see the product. You can't physically pick it up and hold it in your hands looking at every track and getting the feel for the CD. It's just a purchase and, on top of the physical feelings of holding and taking home your purchase to open and play that day, you have to wait for internet buys. Eventually it will be brought to you, days and somtimes weeks later, by whatever shipping service the company shipping it decides to use. For me that wait is too long and, unless it's a CD I have been waiting forever for, I lose that excitement that I get from finding something good and being able to enjoy it right away.
I think that is a huge loss in society. Human interaction, LIVE not via email or chatrooms or IMs, is a good thing. So now I wait....until the next time I am able to walk in to another store and get that childhood excitement again. I truly hope it does happen once again.
Steely Dan ~ Kings
Steely Dan ~ Change Of The Guard