You remember records, right? Not only are the big 12-inch albums and 7-inch 45s still among us, but so are their landlords, old-fashioned independent record stores, which celebrate their own special day every spring. On April 21, the fifth annual Record Store Day will get off to a rockin' start when doors open in about 1,000 record stores in some 20 countries.
From Tulsa to Tokyo, San Diego to Sydney, the gritty neighborhood purveyors of the petroleum platter will party with contests, free giveaways, in-store performances by local faves and big stars, and exclusive limited-edition 45 and LP releases. Among those are new singles by Coldplay, Florence + the Machine, Bruce Springsteen, Arcade Fire, comedian Jimmy Fallon, and many more. Exclusive Record Store Day LPs will include new 12-inch vinyl pressings from Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and The Black Keys, and rarities from jazz icons Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck.
Billboard magazine attributed a seismic 182,000 unit sales to last April's Record Store Day. Rocker Jack White exhorts the rock troops to "show respect for the tangible music that you've dedicated your careers and lives to, and help It from becoming nothing more than disposable digital data."
And speaking of analog, music producer Gary Calamar and Billboard writer Phil Gallo have penned a 240-page companion piece to the annual event, Record Store Days: From Vinyl to Digital and Back Again. It combines a timeline of the evolution of recording media – from Edison's wax cylinders to today's MP3 files – with affectionate portraits and reminiscences of America's iconic record shops and chains, some now defunct, some just plain funky. We meet up in the listening booth at Hollywood's long-gone Wallich's Music City to spin the latest from Nat King Cole and Elvis Presley before skipping a half century ahead to pack in like sardines with adoring fans at an in-store performance by Sir Paul McCartney at Amoeba Music, the largest record store in the world. (It's also known as "Godzilla" by the scores of indie record stores it has driven out of business.)
Dusty Groove of Chicago, Denver's Twist & Shout, Grimey's of Nashville, and Minneapolis's Electric Fetus won't hold out forever. Make a pilgrimage April 21 and pay your respects. To locate an indie record store near you, go to www.recordstoreday.com/Venues.