I miss touching every record in the store. The record store of my youth was Rocky Mountain Records and Tapes. Their initial store was located on the pedestrian mall in Boulder, Colorado. There was an apocryphal tale of a scruffy-looking character who came into the store one morning and spent a good long time poring over each and every one of the bargain cassettes. At long last this fellow brought his purchases up to the counter and pointed to one tape in particular - "Greg Kihn does one of my songs on this one." The name on the gold American Express card: Bruce Springsteen.
That might have happened - it certainly seems within the realm of Rocky Mountain Record and Tapes reality. The records were all stored in vast wooden bins, and the new releases were displayed on a stack of railroad ties near the front of the store. This is where I headed one fall afternoon, the week after my friend Darren died. I went there for the comfort of the sounds and smells - always a whiff of patcouli oil and "incense" drifting from the back room. That October day on the new releases rack was an album by one of Darren's favorite bands, Oingo Boingo. The name of that record was "Dead Man's Party."
They had a ticket outlet downstairs, with the cassette tapes (and for a time, a selection of "smoking accessories"). Rocky Mountain was my one-stop music connection. But mostly I enjoyed flipping through the stacks of vinyl. The enormous variety they maintained in an age before superstores never ceased to amuse. It was very seldom when I didn't leave with at least two new records - sometimes more. When I was in college, I tried a few different places - "King of the Hill" had a nice selection and their sign featured King Kong hanging from the Empire State building, waving an LP. There was a used record store called - inspiringly enough - "Albums." It was there that I found my first bits of obscure vinyl - picture discs and 45s. But I always found my way back to Rocky Mountain.
I can remember when things started to change. There was a row at the back of the store in which the bins had been separated into two - providing storage for the newfangled compact discs. I bought my last Van Halen album on vinyl ("OU812") and my first CD (INXS "Listen Like Thieves") the same day. Soon the vinyl became the ghetto, and the CDs pushed their way to the front of the store. I still have dreams about trying to find records - 45s by DEVO, and being happily surprised when I find something on the Stiff label.
Now I buy a song or two at a time on the Internet. I order CDs from Amazon because it's cheaper than buying them in a record store (music store?). Tonight I'm going out to dinner with my family. While they're busy shopping for Power Bars and soy milk, I'm going to wander across the parking lot to Tower Records (I've seen all thirty pieces of vinyl they have to sell) - and I'm going to touch some music product. I may just buy something - if it's on sale.