Two times a year, my boys and I have a morning that has been a bit of a tradition for the three of us. One day happens in April, on the third Saturday of that month, while the other happens on the Friday after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday. On these two days, independent records stores throughout the world join together to encourage record collecting enthusiasts and hipsters to show up at their favorite nearby store to wander in to check out the special (mostly) vinyl releases artists have put out.
Over the years, the three of us have purchased among the items such as limited edition singles by The Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, Hüsker Dü, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, among many others, as well as albums and 10-inch and 12-inch EPs and singles by Cheap Trick, Big Star, Joan Jett, The Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang Clan, etc. Sure, we do it for the music, but mainly for us to spend a couple of hours together in a place that has always seemed a bit magical to us: The Record Store.
And, I have stated on the blog several times how I used to take the boys into the record store in Oxford, Ohio, when we lived there in their youth. My older son remembers it well, while my younger one just takes my word for it. When we moved back to Indiana, I finally made the musical move from vinyl to CD, although I never got rid of my vinyl collection. The boys learned the correct way to care for their music so it would last longer, with the lesson being more emphasized on the vinyl collection, knowing they would inherit it. But, who could have predicted vinyl’s major comeback during the day and age of mp3s and streaming? As I age, I am so thankful vinyl is coming back, because I can read those liner notes so much easier on a vinyl album rather than on an insert from a CD. Plus, like most old people, I prefer the tangible objects that albums brings as opposed to owning these ethereal musical files on my hard drive or paying for online radio (streaming).
The irony of music collections would have to be its environmental impact. I should prefer the electronic versions, but I can’t help it. I want to hold the cover as the stylus interprets the engraved pits in the vinyl into sound waves that sounds like music to my ears. I simply prefer my musical experience to involve more senses than just my hearing. I have an intellectual curiosity that is stimulated by the information on the cover, inner sleeve and inserts of a 12-inch vinyl album.
So, on this past Black Friday, my boys and a fraternity brother from the college days all rose early from our warm beds, only to drive up to an hour to our favorite record store, Village Green Records in Muncie, Indiana. We got there just a little behind schedule, only to discover that we were in a much better position in the line that was gathering that Friday morning a good hour before the store opened at 9 AM. Like I said, we got there 15 minutes before the doors opened and were all in the first ten people who got in the store.
Now, with every Record Store Day (RSD) event, the RSD website will release a list of upcoming special releases for those days about four to six weeks ahead of time. Like any good shopper, you peruse the list and choose those releases that you want and will fit in your budget. Additionally, that list will tell you how many copies will be released of that special Dio record pressed as a picture disc, so you can gauge the potential demand. This year, my number one target was a special release of Cheap Trick’s second volume of rarities and demos. The problem was the manufacturing number: only 1100 albums were printed. So, over the years, I have developed a backup plan for this situation in case it arises – I call my buddy in St. Louis, who always enjoys an adventure in record stores, even though he is not a collector. Immediately, I discovered that Muncie did NOT receive a copy of the Cheap Trick album. So, I called my buddy, who would wait until the lines go down there (the two stores he visited initially had lines with at least AN HOUR wait! See why we go to Muncie? Indy was turning into a madhouse by the fourth year of this event.).
So, back in Muncie, I found the next three albums on my list: a vinyl release of a tribute album to Big Star called Big Star, Small World which was pressed on powder blue vinyl; a special Matthew Sweet album of new material that he promised he would NOT be releasing on CD entitled Wicked System of Things that was on clear marbled with blue vinyl; and a compilation of the four best bands from L.A.’s early Eighties Paisley Underground scene, titled 3×4, where one band recorded three cover songs of the other band’s music, with the bands being The Bangles (first known as The Bangs during their club days), The Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade and The Three O’Clock. Ironically, the latter album in my purchase was the one I was taking a risk purchasing yet has become my favorite purchase of the day. All three albums are top-notch power pop albums that just sound terrific on my stereo. My boys found what they were looking for, as #1 got a special red vinyl album of Talking Heads masterpiece Remain in Light, though he is still hoping for that four-album box set of The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, so he can finally hear how that album was supposed to sound with Gram Parsons’ vocals placed back in the mix. He did pick up a copy of the rare Repo Man Soundtrack (which, as he says, is more known for who is on it as opposed what is on it) and a vinyl-version of the album he got on cassette for his fifth birthday when we had, ironically enough, moved to Muncie: New Kids on the Block – Hanging Tough (he claims its for his daughter, but I would have tried to say that about an Archies album when he was little too.). And, #2 picked up the 12-inch single of “Rosa Parks” by Outkast but put back a copy of a live Rage Against the Machine album when he discovered a vinyl version of a favorite from his youth, Blink 182’s Enema of the State. And, finally, my frat brother got a Blue Öyster Cult live album on blue vinyl (pretty spot on!) and a special release by Stone Temple Pilots with their new lead singer, which he says cannot measure up to Scott Weiland. But, honestly, who can?
Once again, it was a day of great memories made. Lots of jokes between my boys, who seemed to have developed their own language over the years, with most of those jokes at the expense of their old man’s taste in music. And, honestly, that’s the way it should be. I still cannot think of a better place to hang out with my boys than a record store. It seems to be the one place where the three of us are just naturally us, with no social constructs or family hierarchy to adhere to.
Oh, by the way, my buddy found the Cheap Trick album at the SECOND store he went to. It’s always great to have a buddy crazy enough to help a brother in “need.” And, for the second year in a row, he came through. I guess I’ll have to finally call him “Clutch.” After all, he did sink a last-second shot during a basketball game our sophomore year in high school. Of course, he was supposed to pass the ball to me for that shot, but he made the right decision. Thanks Clutch! At least I did not have to go to my two backup albums: Madonna’s Ray of Light on clear vinyl and The B-52’s Cosmic Thing on rainbow vinyl, both of which I own. Though, those vinyl colors sound sweet!
Wait! We will ALWAYS have that first Phish concert together in Cincinnati! That was when a Phish-head said to us in an elevator, “A dad and his two sons…pretty cool! I wish my dad had taken me to a concert.” It’s always nice to feel a little envy.