I have incredibly fond memories of going to my local record store. Around the block from my apartment was a shopping area, living in New York, this may not seem like a big deal, there were blocks of apartments and some single family homes (few) and blocks (streets) for commercial space. One block away from the apartment my parents rented was Steinway Street. As a kid this was great. I know I get a lot of questions from people who grew up in the 'burbs or even further removed from a city about how did I feel about not having a backyard, answer is perfectly fine - no one I knew had one, those people that did spent very little time in it and we walked to local parks/stores/movies without needing a lift, or a pool, answer also fine I walked a long way to Astoria pool or went to the beach with my parents, and lastly about playing in the street, we did this very well - parked cars make excellent bases for tag or stickball or kickball - the art of "car's comin'" yelling and dodging excellent for reflexes and the coming on of a streetlight best way to know when you got to go home before you have a watch (ok the ladies up and down the block telling you to go home also helped).
So when I think of growing up in a city borough I see it as a great experience and really do not think I was missing anything. I also loved the fact that I could walk everywhere, especially the movies, my library and record store. I liked window shopping and then actual shopping. I liked the small non-chain stores and the chain ones Genovese and Woolworth. The record store - I distinctly remember the guys who worked there. They had music on all the time, often they let you listen to some songs and were good at recommending artists based on what you bought. I bought a lot of 45s - their B sides sometimes good, often not. I loved actual record covers but with my allowance often bought the 45s and was glad my Dad many times bought the records, he did not buy Led Zeppelin (too loud) but was ok with Rod Stewart and the Bee Gees.
As I got older I started leaving the neighborhood (let's hear it for the subway system and the cheap option of mobility) and discovered Tower Records - ahhh so large, such selection, tapes and the staff fascinated me - possibly my first view of piercings outside of the earlobe. I spent much cash and hours in there. Then I found the smaller stores of the Village - Bleecker Bob's where CDs were imports of from not overly played bands (ok my incredibly amazing I love you still friend Charlie introduced me to them) and another one that old age is making me see clearly with stairs going down but the name eludes me. In my San Francisco time there was Amoeba - awesome store - for cds... and they sold used ones for budgets like mine.
None of these exist anymore - my kids will never know a B side, being blown over by it and how it may be an amazing song that even surpassed the hit it was on the back of ("Roadhouse Blues" Doors, "Unchained Melody" Righteous Brothers, "Don't Worry Baby" Beach Boys, "Into the Groove" Madonna, "Rock around the clock" Bill Hailey and His Comets, and "How Soon Is Now?" Smiths - among many). They will never go with a friend and hold up a record across an aisle, or flip through them in a stack. They will never admire the album artwork or be in a store hear a song, look up and have to have the sales person help you find and buy it, and maybe add a stack more to discover bands like Ramones, Sonic Youth and even Nirvana. That was magic for me and for so many others.
There are still places you can buy cds but I admit I am guilty I buy my music digitally - with little exception. Once in a while the appeal of liner notes or a CD gets me to buy it but many times I could download the liner notes -- love liner notes, they also feed my wanna be rock star by providing lyrics. This is the future and while I write this with a bittersweet note I understand that my kids will probably have the same reaction I do when people ask me about "missing things for growing up in a city" when asked "do you miss not having record stores".. no I did not miss that and no they do not miss them. It is not the reality they know. They love music and that works for me .. they will not walk around the corner but they can walk to a park and play by calling on the boy next door... they will wistfully remember iTunes when it has been replaced (and it will be) as they remember playlists.
Thank you record stores for feeding my need for music and with each of these memories of where I bought the albums I remember the moments of my life (my time with my Dad with a shared interest, my independence as I started to buy things I liked, my travels to the City and how much I loved the Village, my venture to San Fran and sharing my love of music with my boys) and the music that ties me to those times. You may be gone but you will not be forgotten.
I've been looking through the records, an hour or two
And I've about decided what I've got to do
I'm gonna get me a guitar and learn to play
I'll serenade my baby night and day
And I'll play the songs that my baby likes to hear ... "Stack-a-records" Tom Tall