Last Thoughts on Record Store Day 2014

Yeah, I stood in line.  Again.  I missed last year because I was in Norway but scored some of my choices via some wonderful, goofy, committed friends who stood in line for me but this year I got up at 5am to get over to Grimey’s New and Pre-loved Records to gamble on getting what I wanted.  The line was around the corner already, some camping out since the night before, but when it condensed around 8am I realized I was approximately number 45 in line.  Not bad but in 2012 I was #36 in line at the Great Escape here in Nashville and a good deal of what I wanted was gone (or they didn’t get it which I’ll touch on later). 

The first thing that struck me while waiting is that it was pretty cool that folks are still willing to get up that early (or sleep out) to buy limited edition vinyl releases.  However, in 2011 and 2012 the line was much longer that early.  This year the line didn’t start to get long until about 9:30, a half hour before they opened their doors.  Were people getting burned out on RSD?  Were they simply over waiting in line?  Did they think enough would be there for them when they got in the store? 
As for being burnt out I think the answer is a bit yes.  However, though stores seem better equipped for demand now (including Great Escape) some choice titles were gone soon after I got in the door (indeed, I scored the only copy of School of Seven Bells’ “Put Your Sad Down” EP in Nashville apparently, or at least the only one Grimey’s got) so waiting in line is nonetheless important. 

The second thing that struck me while I was in line is the complete lack of community.  I wasn’t expecting to be chatty but several people around me had their ear buds in and weren’t interested one bit in engaging at all, even looking you in the eye (what is this, New York?), or discussing what records we were interested in.  Are we too cool now?  I did make a new friend with my buddy Jose who was just behind me in line and had recently retired from the military.  Jose knew his stuff having seen a lot of live shows at festivals while stationed in Europe and he epitomized for me the reason we are all doing this.  A music nerd just like me and proud of it but luckily not in the industry and not too cool to hang. 

It took us roughly 40-45 minutes once the doors opened for us to get in ourselves and yes a few things were gone already like the Phil and Dave Alvin record.  Grimey’s was one of four stores outside of Third Man Records to get the new Neil Young (which I was privy to from the night before since I stumbled on a blog that reported it was out already on Third Man’s web site) but Grimey’s did not receive one copy of the Live at Newport 1963 album I wanted.  Luck of the draw. 

In addition to the Neil Young I did score both Wes Montgomey 10” records, the amazing Donnie Hathaway live double album, the Rough Guide to African Blues, Gil Scott-Heron, Hank Williams’ 10” Garden Spot Program 1950, the aforementioned School of Seven Bells, about ten singles (7 of which were for my buddy in Norway) and the truly horrendous Bruce Springsteen EP, “American Beauty”.  Bruce has really jumped the shark for me I’m afraid.  His new album is crap, I mean, really crap (and it ain’t Tom Morello’s fault) and this RSD release is an obvious and insulting money grab from an artist I used to respect.  But hey, it’s my fault really.  Why did I expect an EP of outtakes from a garbage album to be any good?  But I digress…the score of the day for me was the beautifully executed Jason Molina/Songs: Ohia box which I had seen online at eBay the night before for $160. (!) and as a huge Molina fan was terrified I couldn’t afford.  Ended up being $67. Which is another problem with RSD: shills and hacks.  Supposedly mom and pop independent stores are supposed to be getting these releases exclusively and that may be true but obviously some without any scruples are listing them ahead of time (and after RSD) on sites like eBay at inflated prices.  Paul Weller himself bristled at this practice and it will eventually, along with apathy and big labels co-opting it, ruin RSD. 

I did head over to Great Escape to see if I could find a few things I didn’t get at Grimey’s and I was surprised to find the Gram Parsons (#82 out of 2000!!), Steve Earle, Jaco Pastorius (plus poster which Grimey’s was out of when I got in), a few more singles for my buddy but not the Harry Dean Stanton which neither Great Escape nor Grimey’s received AT ALL.  However, I found out later in the afternoon that venerable Ernest Tubb on lower Broadway had ONE COPY left out of 9 they receieved.  I’ll be right there!!  My buddy was thrilled when I emailed him.  Part of the issue with getting releases is that some stores deal with middle men and some get their stash directly from their distributors who are active in RSD.  To their credit though Great Escape sells only used records and CD’s they were better prepared for demand this year so I imagine it’s getting a bit easier for stores to get the RSD exclusives. 

All tolled I spent over $400. and spent it gladly.  This RSD to me had the most fertile crop of releases, at least for my taste, since the emergence of RSD and I’m not buying these records to collect.  They are to listen to and I spent the next few days listening gleefully.  Every release was a winner except the Springsteen which I suppose I can melt into a popcorn tray or something.  Sheesh. 

I am afraid however we need to be vigilant so that RSD doesn’t get overexposed, if it hasn’t already, and doesn’t get ruined by eBay hawkers (there was someone on line in front of us at Grimey’s who had three other people at other stores in line themselves and they were coordinating via phone and discussing how much they could get once they list on eBay, etc.) and remains truly special as far as releases.  If it’s exclusive to special releases, found recordings, long out of print rare recordings, special art pieces, unique collaborations and the like that’s a good start.  The Songs: Ohia box is a perfect example of everything RSD should be; a beautiful art piece with extra touches like 45rpm single spindle and deluxe booklet along with 9 45’s of rare recordings.  Also, let’s not let the big boys take it over like they do everything else and if they do let’s do something else.  After all, isn’t that what hipsters and snobs do best?   But most of all let’s keep it a community of exciting discovery and enthusiasm which is how we all got started in this game and not be so cool that we can’t bother to take our ear buds out of our cheap electronic devices and share.  Now, I’m gonna’ go back to my pile of vinyl and refurbished Dual 704 turntable I bought on RSD from Richard at Vintage Hi Fi and spin baby, spin.

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