I used to have this fantasy; I win 10 minutes unlimited shopping at my local record/CD store, sort of a Supermarket Swap but with CDs. As I had been going to Tower Records in Campbell since it opened and then later to the Sunset Blvd store, Tower Records was the logical location to set my prize dream. In my fantasy, it is always the Campbell store with its slight nod to Spanish architecture and its otherwise dreary façade that I chose. Because like a burglar casing the joint, I need to be very familiar with its floor plan.
The minute the clock starts to tick, I seize a big shopping cart (which I don’t remember them having but for the purposes of my fantasy they do) and head directly to the box sets. I grab everything I can get my hands on from the Rolling Stones to Peggy Lee. What I don't like I will sell back later. Then after emptying that section into my cart, I go to the Top Ten selling CDs, figuring they have the next highest resale value.
After my ten minutes has ended, I am congratulated on how much merchandise I have collected for free and I’m praised for my ingenuity and planning. How clever to go for the box sets and not to just randomly roam the store and grab.
They would have to discontinue the contest that they never had because I had outsmarted them. But can you imagine it, all the CDs you could grab? I don’t like “all you can eat” places but I would love all this buffet of free music.
Once, one of my bank customers gave me a $100.00 gift certificate to a “Music and More” store. “Music and More” was kind of lame as the “more” part of it was vitamins. You could get the latest release from the Smiths and Co-enzyme Q10. I almost had trouble finding a hundred dollars worth of CDs- almost. However the lack of stock did allow me to expand my collection to some artists I may not have listened to before. This gift certificate was the closest I came to having my fantasy come true and now that all the music stores have closed and production of CDs are ending, it never will. Fie on you progress, and your dashing of my cartload of CD dreams!
I mourned the loss of Tower Records and records themselves, how will I manage without CDs?
Admittedly Tower was overpriced and the staff was unhelpful on a good day. I will never forget the agonies of trying to return something, buying tickets to a concert or trying to get a simple song title. I remember my friend asking a clerk if he could tell us what the name of the song was that had the phrase “I’m special” in it. You know that “special” song? He looked at us blankly, shrugged and never did come up with “Brass in Pocket” by the Pretenders. No matter how terrible the staff was, it never stopped me from hanging out there for hours, just browsing.
Losing cassettes and 8 tracks was no problem for me. I never had an 8 track and almost always the tape in the cassettes would jam up in the player and have to be ripped out making it unplayable. I didn’t have the patience for tapes. But losing vinyl was very difficult and losing CDs may be unbearable. It is as if I am losing my youth all over again.
I still have at least six crates of vinyl records in my house. I finally got rid of my record player on Sat. Yes just this last Saturday and that was only because I was doing a mad clean and the boyfriend was going to the Electronic Recycling. My turntable hadn’t worked for years but there was always the possibility that someday it might. You never know when you might need to play a "Roman Holiday" ( yes it was a legitimate band that never made it to CD) record.
Every now and then I would have a garage sale and some sharp shooter collector type person would talk me into selling them a Blondie picture disc or a rare Dead Kennedys single for a dollar. I only seem to have gotten rid of the good stuff, the rest of my record collection is warped and scratched but I still get anxiety thinking about getting rid of it. Who would take it anyway?
Vinyl, like compact discs , wasn’t just for listening to; it could be swapped, collected and sold. When downtown San Jose was a haven for the homeless and a mess and not cool at all but kind of scary there was Underground Records.
Underground Records was run and possibly owned by this mean hippie chick (callously defying all stereotypes) and a lazy pre-op transsexual. He/she was lazy because of her/his wardrobe choice of always wearing low- cut tee shirts and continuing to sport a hairy chest. It seemed careless and indecisive. The hippie chick was extremely decisive and I can still hear her disdainful “I’ll pass on these” as I tried to sell her some of my old albums for money to buy new albums. Must have new records!
There was nothing like the anticipation of waiting for a new release from an artist you liked, running to the store on the day it dropped (a modern term for an old time activity) and ripping off the plastic covering which you had to do immediately even if you were far from home and a playing device.
The point was to read every word of the liner notes, every lyric, every thank-you and every dedication. After everything was read, you could study the art work, looking for clues to what kind of magic journey the music would be taking you on. You can’t get those feelings on a MP3 or downloads.
When the transition from vinyl to CDs came, there was the weighty decision on which albums I would want duplicated for my collection. At least CDs looked like mini records.
CDs promised to last longer and withstand more wear and tear but ultimately I don’t think they do. Of course vinyl records became recreated as a type of music maker when DJs would deliberately scratch them to get a new sound.
Without CDs or records, how will get the illicit thrill of a bootleg? I loved that feeling that I was listening to something I wasn't supposed to. I never profited from bootlegs but it did make me feel like I was a "real" fan of someone.
One of the fun things about the ending of vinyl that I don’t think we’re going to get with the discontinuing of compact discs is the repurposing. I’ve seen album covers changed into gift boxes and wall art. I bought a purse made out of two albums stitched together. Yes it ended up being awkward to lug around and kind of geeky but it was creative and quirky. What are we going to make CDs and CD boxes into? I know I can put the CDs I burn into old CD boxes. That’s all I got, as far as creative uses for old CDs goes.
Without CDS, tapes and records, how will up and coming bands get their sounds out? If it was difficult and near to impossible to get a music executive to listen to your promo CD, then I’m guessing they aren’t going to be any more eager to download anything by an unknown.
In the end, I believe that the remarkable thing about records, CDs and music stores were that they were tangible and intangible at the same time. You could hold something in your hand, you could listen and you could dream and you just can’t do all that with a download.