Today is a day that is very special to me for an unexpected reason. Its Record Store Day. The record store has always functioned as a musical library-a place where music enthusiasts can browse through records,recommend them to one another and discuss the virtues of the music as well. I’ve always believed that this positive and educational social environment has been taken for granted however. An excellent example of this is the holiday itself. It was officially founded in 2007 by Eric Levin, Michael Kurtz, Carrie Colliton, Amy Dorfman, Don Van Cleave and Brian Poehner. That was during a time of enormous economic upheaval that was hitting the music industry and record distributes extremely hard. Most of the major record store chains were closing right and left-claiming that online record buying and music downloading had irreparably hurt their businesses. In many areas however this inadvertently led to a vital rebirth for the locally owned brick and mortar “ma and pa” record shops.
Of course the first observed Record Store Day was in 2008,during a period when the recent economic difficulties for America were coming to a head. And a a crucial election year was at hand. This particular year, the music celebrated had a lot to do with alternative rock and heavy metal-with members of Metallica kicking off the festivities at Rasputin Music on April 19th of that year. Looking into this from a sociological perspective, I believe that this had a lot to do with American’s rage towards the then unceasing war in the middle east and the George W Bush administration. Alternative rock/heavy metal is a musical arena that mainly celebrates the expression of anger and dissolution instrumentally ,compositionally, vocally and lyrically. While searching Wikipedia for historical information on this holiday,one thing I noticed is that they provided a detailed list of all of the special Record Store Day offerings for each year up to this one.
Another thing I noticed was that a lot of music continually isn’t as celebrated in this context as it should be. Aside from a scant few releases by James Brown, Miles Davis, Buddy Guy and this year Big Mama Thornton African American musicians and performers seem to be rather excluded. This opinion is not based on the cliche of pulling the racism card to explain away social wrongs in popular culture. It has to do with the unfortunate fact that segregation still lives on in terms of the Billboard music charts. That includes classical,the many international styles of world music,jazz and of course soul/R&B/funk and hip-hop. After the many decades of artists,music lovers and critics continually railing out against so many separate music charts it is often pop/rock music-in reality most often created by people of a particular race and gender that is the most heavily marketed and promoted. Most of these artists are in fact talented and have much to offer. Yet their success has lead to a broader cross section of quality music that is time after time unrepresented.
During the time when alternative rock as ascendant in the early 1990’s, and I was at that age when most record enthusiasts begin their interests in music, it was this broad and exciting realm of the African American musical experience from funk,soul and jazz that consumed and enthralled me to an enormous degree. Even at that time, in all honesty, finding this sort of music in record stores was often extremely difficult. They were often huddled into the smallest sections of the cassette,CD and vinyl bins-tucked into the back of the store. Or most hurtfully as I now realize in the bargain music bins. While this had the mildly thrilling element many young people enjoy of searching out buried treasure, the fact was is that I could see that this was a deep insult to the contributions of these historical and innovative artists to have their musical output neglected in this manner. In the late part of the 1990’s however, a new record store opened in town that changed that to a degree.
Bullmoose Music opened in my area in 1999. I’d been going to the ones in other parts of Maine for several years,hoping one would open up in my own area for easier access. The one thing I appreciated about this place-aside from its adherence to the brick and mortar approach and reasonable prices was the fact it made genres of music such as soul,jazz and blues very accessible to the record buyer and offered a broad variety to choose from. Music that I’d read about for so long and was only able to find in middling condition in the used vinyl shops scattered throughout the country were now easier and more readily available. Even for special order items. Since the holidays formation it is the Bullmoose record store,which has expanded over the years to include movies and recently books, have been the source of promoting and celebrating Record Store Day in the state of Maine. And even if I am not always physically able to participate, it represents something very important to me.
Most of my life I’ve always regarded music as being of the same educational merit and experience as a good book. The best song lyrics are the highest form of poetry to communicate with the listener and the instrumentation in the same context is complimentary to those lyrics. As for the seemingly exploitative types of modern music? If one peels back the layers with their ears as they would the skin of an orange with their fingers, they will often find that level of poetry and even high intelligence and emotional expression is still there. Considering that record stores might be seen by the younger millennial generation as merely a ghost out of a past time in the modern world of downloading,online streaming and Youtube, it will likely continue to inspire many future generations to learn about music and, in turn learn about each other. And if Record Store Day expands itself even more to emphasize further appreciation of often neglected musical genres, the aesthetic value the holiday presents will surely continue to grow even greater with time.