I Miss the Record Store

I really miss the record store. Whenever my parents went shopping at the mall, I always hung out there- I was even known to loiter around the record section at the library. It was a genuinely pleasurable experience - those too young to remember it and came on board around the cassette tape era or the CD age, may not be able to appreciate it. What made it so damn special, you ask? I'll tell you...

1. The Album Covers
I could stare all day at some of those covers. I remember lingering over the cool covers like the 1978 Frazetta Molly Hatchet cover or the titilating ones like Honey by the Ohio Players. It was a room full of eye candy and I could have looked all day long.

2. The Treasure Hunt
Now when you buy a CD or purchase an iTune, you're just another schmuck who got a particular song. I'm happy that you got a song you liked, but who really effing cares? On the other hand, when you bought an album, you had a trophy of sorts - something to brag to friends about, something to pore over. Something that couldn't just be copied. And as you searched through the records, there was always the possibility of finding a hidden gem.... ever heard Junior Parker's version of The Beatles "Tomorrow Never Knows"? It's on this killer LP that I found buried in the "P" stack, just waiting for my 9 year old hands to get a hold of it.

3. The Place
Anyone who remembers going to the video arcade can attest to the fact that it was just as much about the hangout as it was the games. The cast of characters at these places was a melting pot of 70's youth.... the cool dude that rolled up in a muscle car to purchase the new Foghat album, the glassy eyed stoners there to buy a Blue Oyster Cult LP, or the high school girl with the Rod Stewart album.

Needless to say, sitting on my ass alone downloading an mp3 just isn't the same. (sigh)


  1. mmm I know I agree...what was the first record you ever bought tho?

  2. Although it's not the same, there's always the retro vintage record shops. Around where I live, there's Car City Records in St. Clair Shores, Michigan....you can always find hidden gems there. especially in the 99 cents section!

  3. Amy - Well, the very first record was one of those Peter Pan records with a bunch of stories. But the first music record was a strange Beatles LP... a compilation of their old stuff. I've never seen it since; I'll have to scan the cover (I still have it).

    jbfunky- Sounds like a great place. I still buy records and find hidden jems. Only stuff out of print and unavailable on iTunes or Rhapsody.

  4. When I was teenager there were about five different in dependent record stores close by. Now there is just one. Kind of sad.

  5. Man I miss record stores! The clerks knew about every band you asked about, they had giant posters hanging all over, and like you say, the 12 inch album covers. Opening the wrapper, the whiff of vinyl, the sound of the needle hitting the vinyl, man, it was all great.

  6. While I love the convenience of buying music on iTunes (and before that on CDs), what I miss is the tactile and visual sensations of a record album. I was buying records big time from about 1969 until CDs just took over the place. I've been planing to do some posts on my own blog featuring classic album covers. Maybe soon.

  7. Metal Mark - You should be thankful there's even one these days!

    Retrohound - Yes, and the joy of reading the liner notes, the thrill of poring over the cover art, the excitement at rolling that first joint on the cov-... (ahem), er..um..

    capewood - Convenience is overrated. And I agree, you should do some vinyl posts.

  8. I wrote an article about the extinction of record stores on Helium.com and named pretty much the same reasons as you: http://www.helium.com/items/1111757-death-of-the-music-store

  9. I read your article. Nice work RetroGirl!

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  13. (Pete: That is me deleting my own scrambled comments :( Had some problems postng them via proxy. Lets hope this works)

    I had so many albums in the course of my life. It is literally a long story and no doubt my outlook on life was shaped by my vinyl obsessions. Now I am a CD or MP3 guy and I have slid into the comfort of that existence and really have to admit I like a lot of things about this digital media world. Like for example, right now I came online and opened my Winamp player and found something in my library 1st by Robert Fripp and found it was too distracting and immediately switched to some Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream without leaving my seat. Last night I downloaded a batch of George Harrison from Rapidshare and it was here in less than an hour.

    But of course I must admit that there is some "magic" lacking. I am listening to the music and it is suitable enough for my ears and I have simply come to accept digital sound but I do not have that excellent cover for Harrison's All Things Must Pass. Inside the vinyl version were three albums (!!!!) and a poster and it was a box type cover that added to the mystique. Also, one thing I think you overlooked here were the labels albums had. Just on this album alone were three different label designs, each playing off the Apple label, one of my favorites anyway. The 1st two disks were the same label but had color variations and the last disk was the "Apple Jam" disk that had a jar of jam on the label. I would often buy an album (since they were so damned cheap back then) a couple times to get the right lable that looked cool on my turntable.

    There was somethng musky and magical about used record stores, like an old book store more than a music store. Again, I have to make mention of a fact you are well aware of:

    I now live in China.

    There simply are not albums here, or cassettes (which I hated anyway but had hundreds of for my walkman and my V-8 Ford Maverick player...yes they got into a V-8 in a Ford Maverick somehow!!!). There is no choice here and all music and media, including software here, is pirated. That is a whole other topic I guess.

    I have simply acceptd reality and I remember before coming here how I hated to sell that last stack of albums and how the guys at 1/2 Price Books were saying "Dude, you sure yuou wanna sell these!!!" and I am a broken man on a dark journey then telling them to just pull the damned plug already.

    One requirment for a huge album collection is permanant residence! Why do your article bring tears to my eyes so often :(

  14. I'm just now starting to collect vinyls ... luckily I have 5 thrift stores that keep them in stock *overpriced stock but in stock regardless* and a old vinyl store that has so many records the place is overflowing to the point there's not alot of room. I'm going to probably cry the day that place goes out of business.

    I will definetly have to get a road trip to st.clair shores in michigan since i'm a michigan guy...and take about 50-100$ and load up on vinyls.

    Got a couple friends that'll go with me since they too started collecting vinyls also.