The other day, I was surprised to see that the Grid had posted an oral history of the HMV record store in Toronto where I spent many, many hours as a teenager. That place--posited in the article as kind of an oasis of caring staffers and care-free retail attitude--was so formative for me, and occupies such a large space in my memory, that to see it written about is like, I don't know, seeing an article about my teddy bear. Weird, but welcome.
It's no big news shocker to say that record stores have been having a hard go of it lately. Going to a physical location to buy music hasn't been a necessity for a long time. I still go to the places probably once a week. I like flipping through racks. I like chatting with the guy behind the counter. I like being reminded that the music industry is full of humans, that it's not been reduced to point-and-click interactions.
The by-now old saw is that people coming of age in a landscape bereft of record stores are losing out on making a similar connections. I remember being 13 or 14-years old and being given a taped compilation of Todd Rundgren music by a dude who worked at a record store near where I grew up after I'd bought a couple Rundgren albums. That tape was like an invitation to a club of secret knowledge. Does the kid who stumbles onto an interesting turntable.fm room or is shared a cool Spotify playlist getting the same feeling of inclusion that I got from the long-haired Runt fan behind the register? Maybe so. Maybe the access to more long-haired dudes with discriminating taste-virtual though these dudes may be-outweighs the interpersonal connection that is being lost with the diminishing of record stores. My experience is ideal, though, right? Isn't everyone's? Of course. Of course not. Either way, we can still mourn our way becoming the old way.
Do you have a record store that looms large in your musical education? Is it still standing? Tell me about it in the comments section.
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