One really great thing about working in a public library is that there seems to always be something on the shelves that you haven’t seen before. My most recent discovery is Record Store Days by Gary Calamar and Phil Gallo. Their book traces the history of the record store and its importance as a place where people could interact and share their love and knowledge of music. For some people this became a hobby and inspired a life-long passion; for others, like Peter Buck of REM, it was a stepping stone to their own careers in music.
I feel a little jealous as I read through this book. My hometown did not feature a full service record store, let alone one with listening booths. We bought our 45s at the G.C. Murphy in town or, sometimes, Troutman’s department store. These stores usually had what we were able to hear on the local AM radio stations. I don’t remember wondering about what other music might have been out there. We never encountered the kinds of knowledgeable employees or fellow music fans who could help inform our choices. These are the people that Calamar and Gallo celebrate.
Record Store Days is loaded with anecdotes, quotes and wonderful pictures of music stores and fans from the past 100 years. It also includes a compilation of the best record stores nationwide according to the major music publications. This book wouldn’t be so nostalgic, however, if it wasn’t also a cautionary tale. Independent music stores like those found in this delightful retrospective are an endangered commodity in these days of downloading digitally. Ziggy Marley is quoted as saying “Record stores keep the human social contact alive, it brings people together. ” With that in mind, read Record Store Days, but then visit your friendly neighborhood record shop. It’s nice to know that they’re still out there.