Last week I posted on Facebook, that I am trying to find a balancing act somewhere between Frank Zappa’s dictum that “a mind is like a parachute, it doesn’t work unless it’s open” and the notion that a new and radical idea, however exciting, may prove to be complete bullshit.
So how does this work in practice? I think I may have found a practical case and it involves music. It’s time to open up my mind anew and visit a local record store in Oshawa, one that sells new and used vinyl as well as CD’s.
In the past, such places were instrumental to expanding one’s musical horizons. It is pretty much guaranteed that people who own such places or work there are true music geeks. Sometimes when you would walk into the store, there was disc playing on a turntable or CD player that would blow your mind. It was some artist or band you never heard of before and then in an instant, you wanted to know who it is and buy it on the spot. In such a way, you would begin a personal relationship with the staff, and in some cases, other customers.
Over time, the owner or staff would get to know you and when you’d walk into the store, they would point you in the right direction to new music you would enjoy. Every now that then, they would throw you a curve ball and blow your mind once more. The number of times this happened to me in old privately owned record shops is uncountable. What to do I have to show for it? Several hundred albums and CD’s still enjoyed to this day.
I find it paradoxical that with all the convenience of downloading music, whether legally or illegally, my music world has stagnated. Generally I download tunes from artists or genres I already know. What is missing is that spark of inspiration or the passion of another music geek sharing something new or different. Those “if you liked…..” suggestions on Amazon just don’t cut it. There is no passion, no insight, no humanity to it. Just data mining trends mindlessly posted back to a buyer. Moreover, what online downloads cannot replace are those rare gems out of print that can be found in record shops.
This weekend I was deep cleaning dozens of old albums, so I can play them anew and in some cases for the first time. Many of them date back to the seventies, sixties and fifties. As I was removing the records from their sleeves, it was cool to rediscover those sleeves with advertising for other recordings of the same genre. On each side of a sleeve there was over a dozen suggestions from a record label’s catalog. The recommendations were handpicked in accordance to the genre of the record contained therein. What makes it different is that a human suggested those lists instead of an algorithm. Many a times these sleeves would inspire me to seek out new records. Today, they do the same, once the wave of nostalgia receded, I made some mental notes of records to find in the used bins. Quite effective marketing back in the day and even now.
I am really excited about rediscovering recorded music in its most human form and begin shopping again in a REAL record store. I know over the next few months my mind will be blown away with new artists and recordings.
This weekend, I went shopping at Star Records in Oshawa and I will have more to say on that in another post.