My (much younger) colleagues make fun of me when I talk about ye olden times. If I start a sentence with “back in my day” — which I do sparingly and with irony — I know full well that it will be met with eye rolls and snickers. (And not the good kind of Snickers — not the chocolate-coated, packed-with-peanuts, filled-with-nougat-and-caramelly-goodness kind that cost a dime back in my day.)
They mock me, for instance, for the fact that I learned to type in junior high school on a manual typewriter. (“Was it hard to punch the keys?”) They can’t hide their shock when they discover that Accutane was, indeed, on the market when I was a freshman in college. (“It was available back then?”) And they laugh and laugh when I reveal that my wardrobe circa 1992 consisted of lots color block shirts like the one Garth Brooks sports on the cover of The Chase. (“Did you wear the denim shirt/blue jeans combo, too?”) Well, if you must know, as a matter of fact I did. Dark blue jeans with a light blue denim shirt, or light blue jeans with a dark blue denim shirt. And Doc Martens. Moving on…
So it is with great trepidation — and full realization that more mockery is imminent — that I admit the following: I long for the back-in-my-days of the CD, the record store, and “new release Tuesday.”
You see, back in my day, buying brand new CDs on new release Tuesday at the local record store (in my case, HMV and/or Tower Records on the upper west side of Manhattan) was a music lovers ritual. A weekly pilgrimage. A thing of beauty. The cool stores would have a white board near the cash registers that listed CD releases for the upcoming weeks. Imagine my delight when I saw the following tracks listed on the new release board for April 14, 1992: Charlatans UK Between 10th and 11th, L7 Bricks are Heavy, Peter Murphy Holy Smoke AND Jesus and Mary Chain Honey’s Dead. What an embarrassment of riches! And that was just one random Tuesday. Kiddies, if none of these bands is ringing a bell, YouTube them immediately.
Now that music is all digital, the joy is gone. I no longer impatiently wait for my favorite bands’ new stuff. In fact, sometimes new releases hit iTunes and I don’t find out about them until after the fact. Strangeland by Keane came out this week. I love Keane, but I totally missed that memo. Two of my favorite singer songwriters — Nanci Griffith and Bonnie Raitt — released new music a month ago. Who knew? The Dandy Warhols and Peter Gabriel and Rufus Wainwright and Carrie Underwood and Norah Jones have all released their latest fare, and I have yet to buy any of it. What’s happened to me?
There was a time when I actually made plans to meet up with a friend to go to Tower Records to purchase the CD single of R.E.M.’s “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” It was September 5, 1994. We made a day of it. I guess that will never happen again, partly because all the record stores in my neighborhood are gone, partly because R.E.M. broke up.
My biggest new release Tuesday was actually on a Monday. For very hotly anticipated CDs, certain record stores would stay open past midnight the night before the official Tuesday release. It was kind of like how The Hunger Games screened in a bunch of movie theaters at midnight on the night before the official Friday opening and it counted as part of their opening weekend box office receipts. (How was that for trying make a parallel you young’uns would understand?)
The big releases for August 27, 1996, were Pearl Jam’s No Code and the Original Broadway Soundtrack for RENT. Being a big fan of Pearl Jam’s Ten and Vs. and Vitalogy, I couldn’t wait to get my fingerless gloved hands on No Code. And I wanted to get the RENT soundtrack for my 15 year old niece. Okay, I wanted it, too. In fact, I really really wanted it.
One could tell with a simple glance that the crowd wrapping around the block at HMV just before midnight that night was made up of 50% Pearl Jam fans and 50% RENTheads. I’m pretty sure I was the only one in line who was there for both. The only thing the two groups had in common was the occasional matching plaid of a RENT fan’s pants (a clear homage to Roger’s skinny jeggings-esque costume in the musical) with a Pearl Jam fan’s sleeveless flannel shirt (a clear homage to Eddie Vedder and Seattle grunge.) I did my best to blend in.
A local news crew came to film the festivities. The reporter screamed to the crowd, “Who’s here to pick up the new Pearl Jam CD?” Hundreds of tattooed arms shot into the air accompanied by a chorus of guttural “YEAH, MAN!”s. When this same reporter followed up with, “Who’s here to get the RENT soundtrack?,” hundreds of bedazzled jazz hands reached for the sky, amid high pitched screams of “No day but today!” Not wanting to be stereotyped into either group, I kept my hands to my sides, pulled my hoodie over my head and hid from the news camera. Okay, maybe I don’t miss new release Tuesday that much.