I like shopping for records. And I specifically mean records, large vinyl discs in cardboard sleeves. Of course, it’s the music (or the comedy, or the…uh…miscellaneous) pressed onto them that I’m really after, but there’s something very different about the tactile quality of going through record albums that entirely exceeds the same experience done with CDs or some other format. I’m prepared to attribute that somewhat to nostalgia. There’s no getting around that. I think there is more to it, though, especially when it comes to used albums. There’s the larger presentation to the art, the added sense of anticipation and discovery when it feels like a greater range of older material is out there waiting to be found, even the more aesthetically pleasing quality of a well-worn album jacket, as opposed to some battered CD jewel case, which immediately announces itself as trouble to anyone who’s had one fall apart every time they try to retrieve the actual disc from it. Album packaging can be well-loved and endure.
My favorite local, independently-owned record store here in Asheville, Harvest Records, recently had their annual anniversary sale, which I can truly say is the single event that caused me to start buying records again. While I never stopped collecting records, I spent several years without what my friend Sarah calls a “vinyl-spinner,” having given myself over completely to the CD revolution several years back. Attending the anniversary sale two years ago, where a basement full of used riches is opened up with every last item costing no more than a dollar, I felt pangs of deep jealousy for those who were flipping through albums while I clacked away at the CDs. I got a nice haul that day, but even my sole vinyl purchase that day, the one thing I couldn’t resist after venturing over to that side of the basement, was evidence that was doing most of my shopping in the wrong section. Several months later, I had a turntable again.
I anticipate that anniversary sale with an excitement that matches few other events. This year, I even recruited a ringer to help get the most of the basement excursion. He’s a man of many names, but let’s call him Phantom for our purposes here today. Besides getting a front row seat to the amazing selection process of the sort of wide-ranging collector who may very well someday inspire giddily aghast news stories about his discovered stash. His presence also helped remind me of another pleasure of record shopping that’s been planed away by the heightened accessibility to music and information about it in our internet age. We sat in the front area of the basement, trying to individually cull our respective stashes to make them a little more reasonable, and he sat before three Emmylou Harris records he’d pulled, trying to figure out which one he absolutely needed to buy. We didn’t check rankings on allmusic or see which one had made an “essential” list in Rolling Stone or elsewhere. We used the information available to us on the album: backing musicians, songwriters, copyright dates, producers. We didn’t click to figure out which one to buy. We sorted it out there on the concrete floor with nothing more than our instincts. Listening to the record later that night, I think we made the right call. That was clear from the very first track on the album, “Amarillo.” I’m not going to tell you which album it was. You can Google it.
Listen or download –>
Emmylou Harris, “Amarillo” (Removed by request. Well, by force really, but that’s also fine.)
(Disclaimer: I will, however, tell you that it appears to me that the album is entirely out of print as a physical entity. Sure, you may be able to find it in beautiful condition for one dollar at a great record store’s basement anniversary sale, but you can’t go in and ask a proprietor of that same record store to acquire it for you in a manner that compensates both said proprietor and the artist. It is with that understanding–that no commerce is unfairly impeded–that the song is shared here. I will gladly remove the song if asked to do so by someone with due authority to make such a request.)