Record Store Day 2014
I got off the plane at the glorious Bergstrom Airport in Austinbest airport food ever!shaking my head about this sad state of affairs. Almost immediately however, I was confronted by the affirming explosion of music and good human energy that is SXSW. Despite the fact that it’s now a monster of sortsaggravated this year by the poor decision making of a 21yearold rapper named Rashad Owens who killed four people and injured many more with his carSXSW still never fails to recharge my batteries. Its naysayers are emphatically wrong. If you think that making good music is a dying art form, a part of history to be fondly remembered and nothing more, go to Austin in March and be reassured that young folks and music are still happening not just in the USA, but around the world. With piracy having made recordings little more than a marketing tool, being able to bring it live is more important than ever. The only way to get paid is to play live, and that goes for U2 as well as aspiring hopefuls. It was a point unmistakably emphasized this year by the crunch of discarded promotional CDs that carpeted Sixth Street, Austin’s club strip downtown. You could walk for blocks, mashing CDs underfoot all the way. Needless to say, the puzzle over money and the future of recorded music is yet to be solved.
Which brings us to tomorrow, April 19, 2014, Record Store Day, the other annual beacon of enthusiasm in an otherwise unsettled music world. Since it’s inception in 2008, it has become quite a Saturday morning event, with lines running around the block at many stores. And of course, once the limited edition goodies get them in the door, hopefully they will buy something else as well. At the very least, they’ve now been in the store. For those of us who are obsessed all year long, every day is record day and going to record stores is an everyday occurrence. But for those who need an event to inspire them to buy recordsjust as New Year’s Eve makes amateurs think of boozeRecord Store Day was and continues to be a brilliant idea.
This year the list of exclusive items that labels large and small have produced is longer than ever and varies between straight up record store day exclusives of previously released material like a Bowie 1984 picture disc, a Ronnie Spector & The E Street Band seven inch and a Big Mama Thornton LP, and the one-offs that bands use as a promotional tool like a Deerhoof & Ceramic Dog split seven inch, two new songs from Veruca Salt on a seven inch, and finally, the new Pixies record, Indy Cindy. This year the limited run “regional focus” stuff is a particularly long list that includes things like a beautiful red and black splatter single of Django Django's cover of “The Porpoise Song,” a tune the Monkees cut as part of the soundtrack to their illfated film, Head. Do I want to stand in line before dawn waiting to grab my limited edition LP copy of the outtakes from Gram Parson’s two solo albums, GP and Grievous Angel? Hell no! But I probably will.
Yet the Parsons outtakes will never approach the brilliance of last year’s star, the short documentary film, Last Shop Standing which in preparation for this year’s scrum I viewed again.
If you haven’t see it, the Graham Jones film, which comes from his book of the same name, will warm the heart of any record collector and proves once again that the only thing quirkier than record store customers are record store owners. The key stat here is that in the 1980’s there were 2200 independent record shops in the UK and by 2009, there were only 269 left. Along with such memorable shop owners as Mike Dillon of Apollo Music in Paisley, Phil Barton of Sister Ray and best of all, Diane Cain from the Musical Box in Liverpool (who’s mum, after hearing Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” upon it’s release said, “We’ll never sell that, it’s dreadful!”), the film weaves in bits from Johnny Marr, Paul Weller and other musicians. At one point calling the effect of downloading on indie record stores, “butchery,” this is a film with a happy, or at least happier ending. The return of vinyl has helped those stores left stay alive and Record Store Daywhat one store owner calls “ten Christmas Eves stuck together”has given them genuine hope for the future.