True Blood Music Supervisor Gary Calamar: Tuesday Can’t Come Soon Enough
Soapbox: Reflections on a Life Devoted to Vinyl
Tuesday is my favorite day of the week. Yeah, I know there’s loads of hype about Friday and Saturday, or even Thursday, but on all those days I have Tuesday on my mind. Tuesday is the traditional “new release day” at record stores. All record stores. Coast to coast, sea to shining sea, then and now. Tuesday is the day that the latest gift from your favorite artist comes rolling through the record store delivery door. A hand-truck full of hits! A cardboard carton filled with copies of a new classic!
I’ve loved record stores since my first visit in 1964 when I was a kid living in New York. My brother Ronny was three years older than me and was clearly ahead of his time. By age 12, Ronny had a firm handle on the hippest, most happening sounds exploding from the ‘60s pop music scene. While we were sitting around the breakfast table, he would regale me with tales of The Spinning Disc, a record store he would visit in the Bronx. Ronny would regularly return home from The Spinning Disc with a single or LP by an exciting new artist such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Marianne Faithfull, The Beach Boys or The Zombies. He’d slap it on the family stereo and bang!
See, in those days, our mother allowed Ronny to travel, via bus and subway, from our Yonkers apartment to the Bronx. Unfortunately, I was deemed too young to adventure in such a fashion. But one Saturday morning, Ronny decided that my time had come. It was time to make a man out of this 8-year-old!
Walking through the door of The Spinning Disc, I could not believe my eyes or my ears. The store’s walls were plastered with countless colorful album and single sleeves. Promo posters showed long-haired boys in outrageous outfits gripping electric guitars! The store’s record player blasted “Glad All Over” by the Dave Clark Five. Some cool looking teenager with Beatle-bangs was ignoring me from behind the counter. My whole world fell away.
After flipping through the singles racks, and agonizing between so many choices, I made my very first record purchase: “All Day and All of the Night” by The Kinks on Reprise records. Absolutely amazing.
Where would we be without the record store? What if Brian Epstein had chosen to run a flower shop instead of the NEMS store in Liverpool? What if Peter Buck never struck up a conversation with Michael Stipe at Wuxtry Records in Athens? Dare I say, the world, as we know it would never have begun.
Another friend kept a brick from the site where his favorite record store was torn down. To most it would be just “Another Brick in the Wall” at old Wallichs Music City. But to him, as crazy as it may sound, it represents a little piece of his heart. His history. And it’s his tiny tribute to these vanishing temples of sound.
That’s the power of music.
And for many of us, life without music would hardly be livable. We’ve tasted its transcendent buzz and are now joyously, irredeemably addicted. And we go to the record store for our fix. To people like us, downloading feels like musical methadone.
It’s nice to reflect on the good times we’ve all had in these shops, but let’s not focus entirely backward. Although the days of the mass-market mega-chain stores are behind us, smaller, boutique shops continue to thrive. These stores are owned, staffed and patronized by real music lovers looking for real music. And ironically, the technology that helped dismantle the mass record industry has helped us to circle back to an earlier, simpler and more intimate time—a time when all record shops were independent little ventures run by music fans for music fans.
Great record stores in nearly every city are still going strong and doing a great job of keeping the music available and the connections between music lovers alive.
Thanks to all of the amazing artists whose music transported me from Yonkers to a most inspired and joyous world.
To paraphrase Ray Davies from The Kinks who penned the first song I purchased: God save record shops, the phonolog and variety.
Gary Calamar is president of Go Music, host of KCRW’s The Open Road and co-author of the recently released book Record Store Days. He is a music supervisor and a Grammy-nominated producer for his work on HBO’s Six Feet Under and currently oversees the music for the television shows True Blood, House and Dexter.
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