Record Store Day and Waxing Nostalgic

Crows Nest Music, Crest Hill., Ill. (closed)

It’s Record Store Day! I hope you’re taking your little noisemakers to the local record store today, even if you’re like us and the closest is a little hole-in-the-wall in a plaza two towns away.

When we were kids (memory lane, here we go!) there was a big warehousey record store called Crow’s Nest Music in Crest Hill, Ill., on the top of the hill on Route 30, decked out in bright, hand-painted wooden cutouts of Prince, David Lee Roth, Madonna and other ’80s music icons. The shrink-wrapped records were neatly organized by genre in handmade lacquered wooden bins. It was like a Shangri-La for music lovers. I thought it was the coolest place ever when I was little and it was always a treat when my folks took us – usually around Chrsitmas to find that coveted, must-have album that the mall sold out of (“Thriller,” anyone?!).

When we were in high school in the ’90s, a few of my best friends ended up working there, rocking those sweet VIP lanyard/name tags – and they always reaped coolest swag from the labels. The work force was kind of culty, there were your token music snobs. If you’ve seen “Empire Records’ or “High Fidelity” you know what I’m talking about.

But that was sort of the beauty of the experience. Many of us visited largely to be schooled about why the CD we were looking for sucked and “Why don’t you instead check out this obscure, influential XYZ band/artist?” It was an education. It was also a gathering place to hear advanced albums piped through the store; listen to the rock gospel according to the local record store clerk; learn who’s touring, where and when; score a promo sampler or zine; and find out who’s looking for a new drummer, etc. Some of the stores hosted live shows, special events, giveaways and tent sales.

When I started college and began writing music reviews and band features – and eventually peddling my own music zine – I found myself working closely with Chicago’s fine record stores from Reckless Records to Laurie’s Planet of Sound. I was a little more grown up. My tastes improved. I finally had something to give back.

These days, I continue to obsess over music (ya think?). With the widespread decrease of music retailers, particularly mom-and-pops, Record Store Day is that much more special to share with my family.

Don’t get me wrong, love the availability and convenience of digital music. I love the instant accessibility to all things music online from band bios to lyrics, from Internet radio to fan forums. I’d never accuse Steve Jobs of killing the music industry. But I love record stores and I just hope there will always be bricks and mortar for this important experience – and preferably not in the context of a museum.

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