Time for some personal confessions…
I'm 46 years old, and I grew up a music lover. Those of you who read my various blogs (Popcorn N Roses, Boston Popcorn, RadioTC, CineBytes, RadioTC's Song Of The Day) know that I have a HUGE music collection. And much of it over the years has been purchased in brick and mortar stores – in other words, I walked into a store to purchase something, and didn't buy it online.
I worked as an assistant manager for the Coconuts record store chain for almost five years in the early and mid 90s. I hated the pay, but loved the work, because it surrounded me with music and gave me so many more opportunities to discover much more than the average person with regards to different styles and different artists.
But when I was growing up in Ohio and later in Washington state, there were very few chain record stores. Most of the stores I frequented were "mom and pop" stores, built from the ground up, with a knowledgeable, (usually) friendly staff.
There was The Music Box in Spokane, who carried every 45 currently out; Valley Records (I think that was the name of it) in downtown Wenatchee. WA; Beautiful Noise Records and Rosie's Records And Tapes in Newark, Ohio; Buzzard's Nest Records, a small chain of stores throughout the Columbus Ohio area (worked there for a year too).
They're all gone now…all of them closed in the late 80s, victims of the giant chain stores nearby – either a large record store chain like TransWorld's gawd-awful (and now pretty much defunct) Recordtown chain; or they were run out of business by the Big Box Marts – Walmart, Target, Meijer, Barnes And Noble, Borders Books And Music, etc. Hell, even the big chains like Sam Goody, Tower, and Virgin have been driven under or out of the US in recent years
Another victim was Rocket Records in Saugus MA, which was open into the late 90s or early 2000's. It was a great store for metalheads like my wife to hang out and find some real gems in.
Filmmaker Brenden Tolliver chronicles the life and death of the independent record store in his debut feature film, I Need That Record, which recently played the Independent Film Festival Of Boston. Tolliver, a 22-year-old New England native, was shocked when one of his own local stores in Connecticut closed down, and set out to find out why this wonderful slice of americana – the local record store – was a dying breed.
The film he's put together is a MUST SEE for record fans of ANY age.
Talks with the owners and managers of over a half dozen record stores across the country highlight why the record store is an endangered species. And for once, the blame is put squarely where it ACTUALLY belongs – the record companies themselves. Brendan has a number of amusing little statistics which will show you that downloading music is NOT the enemy the record industry would have you believe, something i've known and preached about for a long, long time.
Along the way, he gets insight on the subject from a diverse group of people, including Newbury Comics CEO Mike Dreese, author Noam Chomsky, and musicians like Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, Talking Heads member and Tom Tom Club visionary Chris Frantz, punk author Legs McNeil and more.
I have to say this – being a collector as I am, Tolliver's movie almost brought me to tears at some points, for a variety of reasons – feeling heartsick over losing a part of life that everyone should have around; feeling genuine anguish for the owners being put out of business by a sagging economy or a bastard of a strip mall neighbor; rage over the indifference shown by the record companies. And half a dozen more reasons I don't need to get into.
I Need That Record is a magical trip into a world that in 20 years time – or frighteningly SOONER – may not exist anymore. And that's just plain WRONG.
I have a quote, slightly paraphrased, that I use constantly when speaking of music –
"This music is the glue of the world – it holds it all together. Without it, Life…would be meaningless." – Eddie, EMPIRE RECORDS
And Eddie is right. Music IS the glue of the world. Without music – and the stores that specialize in it and sell it – life WOULD be meaningless…and dreadfully boring.
I will admit to being disappointed that Tolliver didn't mention Empire Records even once – this 1995 gem of a guilty pleasure is rabidly loved by ALL we Coconuts alumni from the mid-90s, as it captured every real-life situation we'd ever seen in the store, and a few we hadn't. And as it was faced with extinction in the movie, it would have made a grand metaphor. But then again, I'm an Empire Records junkie…so it might be me.
I also didn't think it was necessary for Tolliver to throw a slam on former President Bush in the film – it wasn't that Bush's I-Pod choices weren't interesting, but all this namecalling bulls**t has got to stop sometime…
In any case, I Need That Record is a gem of a picture, one I hope finds a distributor, because it needs to be seen by everyone who remembers what it was like gathering at the local record store, swapping stories with fellow patrons, and the owners, and actually being able to browse by touch, not the browser on your computer.
Another Empire Records paraphrase, and one that truly fits the conclusion of this article –
DAMN THE MAN! SAVE YOUR LOCAL INDEPENDENT RECORD STORE!
For an audio review of I Need That Record, check out the April 26, 2009 edition of Subject:CINEMA.
MY SCORE: 4 1/2 Stars (out of five)