I just got done watching Hi Fidelity, with John Cusack and a whole slew of other folks. (Meaning of course that John Cusack is in the movie…I wasn’t watching it with him. That would be a little strange.) Anyways, besides being a great movie and featuring a number of really cool tunes you won’t likely ever hear in a movie again (like, say, Stiff Little Finger’s “Suspect Device”, or Velvet Underground’s “Who Loves the Sun” ?), it reminded me of how cool it used to be to go to record stores.
Record stores were so full of mystery, of world’s that only existed in a small-town kid’s imagination (albeit, active imagination). Even before I began haunting the “cool” record stores, I loved shopping for records. I used to buy all kinds of ’45s at the KMart in North Canton. Even accidents were exciting. I once bought a Van Halen ’45, “Dance the Night Away”, thinking it was the Leo Sayer song. How glad am I now that I got to learn about Van Halen instead of Leo Sayers? I remember going to Montgomery Ward’s at Mellet Mall and browsing through the record section. There were two album covers there that scared the hell out of me when I was a kid: Queen’s “News of the World” and AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood.” AC/DC also made the “creep me out” list with “Powerage.”
Nonetheless, even though I didn’t understand what half the music was about, I loved strolling through those other worlds that record stores opened to me. I enjoy the idea of Kmart or Camelot Records as a portal to another world. Someone should make that movie. Speaking of Camelot records and their cutout bin, I still can’t believe my mom let me buy KISS, “Hotter Than Hell”…what was I like in 2nd grade? Once I got a little older, the stores changed and the tastes changed, but the sense of mystery was still there. How many bands and records were there at Quonset Hut on Cleveland Ave. that I had never heard of? Even in high school, during the punk phase, there were still albums that frightened me. Take that Flipper album, for example. Or the Butthole Surfers. Soiuxsie and the Banshees album covers still scare me. But I loved going down to the basement, having to duck my head and be careful not to trip over the unfinished floor to spend hours combing over what might be new since I was there two days before. And let’s not forget the smell of incense and patchouli oil.
Quonset Hut, that other Canton record store owned by George (sorry – the best I can remember), the Record Rev and Record Exchange in Coventry – they all had their own feel, their own personalities. Every town I went to, the first place I would look for was the record stores. I once went to Pittsburgh and couldn’t eat for a day because I had spent my last cash on a FEAR album, and damn near coasted back into my North Canton driveway on fumes. I think I actually stopped and got gas with loose change. Also, I hold a higher opinion to this day of Columbus because they used to have cool record stores on High Street.
As times and technology changed ,going to spend money on CD’s was okay (and I could spend it, just ask my wife). I am now downloading music the new-fangled way. But there just isn’t that same, visceral connection that 12” vinyl provided. It was a total sensory experience, not just an audio one: the smell of the packaging, the eye-popping artwork, the heady liner-note trivia and lyrics, and oh yeah – the music.
Man I miss those days.