Tuesday, February 7, 2017

On the Record

Between watching a marathon of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and talking to a friend about old vinyl albums - the thoughts occurred to me about what it was like buying records in the 1970s versus what it's like now.  Suffice it to say, it's one Hell of a lot different now. Let's travel back to the early-to-mid 1970s.  Places like EJ Korvette's, Record Museum, and Franklin Music sold vinyl albums (we called them records) and 45's.

We used to subscribe to magazines like Creem and Circus to get updates on new albums and concert tours.  In other news, we used to stand in line for concert tickets at 9:00am on Saturday mornings - for "Dance Concerts" - shows where you didn't get an assigned seat. $5.50 for a show.  It was first-come, first-served, and it was the kind of nonsense that led to The Who stampede in Cincinnati that eventually brought an end to "Dance Concerts," but I digress.

It was exciting to find a new record, sit in the Korvette's parking lot and open it - read the lyrics before you heard the record - and go through it, song by song, and turn the record over (by hand) and hear new music that wasn't on the Internet, YouTube, Twitter, or some other media site besides the speakers we had in our bedrooms. It was a huge thrill to find a new 45 that had a "picture sleeve," or a new "double-album" (two records) or one that opened so that we could see photos or had a sleeve that contained lyrics.

I sat outside the Korvette's store staring at Yes' "Fragile" album.  The artwork of Roger Dean was nothing I had seen before. He went on to become an album-cover legend. We'll never see that kind again. Our magazines would tell us when records were being released, and we would pester local record stores until they finally got the damned thing in stock.  The magazines were a month old, and the releases were often older, but not always so.

One such incident was particularly interesting. In April of 1972, John Lennon released a single titled "Woman is the Nigger of the World."  We knew it before the record stores knew.  It was on the heels of "Happy Xmas" (of which I have the green vinyl single) and we were excited to hear what was new from John.  I called record stores asking, by title, if they had the song. Frustrated and probably figuring it was some sort of crank call, I was hung-up on more times than I got an answer.  A few days later I had the record.

In September, Yes released "Close to the Edge."  I knew it, but my local Franklin Music store did not. I showed up on the release date, and asked for it.  The clerk had to go into the box that the albums came in and cut it open for me. Quite the precocious 15-year-old was I.

We would go to EJ Korvette's to buy records.  Every week, they would run an ad with a label that was on sale. It was special when Atlantic would go on sale - since that was Led Zeppelin and Yes; or Warner Brothers, since that was Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Zappa.  We used to beg (literally) for $4 so we could buy an album that was on sale for $3.43 (plus tax) and we'd go to the sale rack and pick out something - "Led Zeppelin IV" Black Sabbath "Volume IV" or "Chicago III" - whatever Roman numeral we could find - for cheap.  If we had a couple of bucks in our pocket, we could find a few 69-cent singles to take home, too.

Nowadays, it isn't so.  Mostly, I hear about new music by accident.  Either some YouTube video or something I stumbled across on satellite radio.  Either way, it's not as exciting as waiting for a magazine, listening to the radio, and running to the record store to find something that made us feel like Christopher Columbus.  Discovering new music was a high.

You kids have it too easy.