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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The last Record Store

Like "Fort Apache The Bronx" the settlers have their wagons in a circle. We can see the dust rising on the horizon and what's coming ain't Injuns. It is the corporate bean counters getting ready to ax the last record store here in the super fertile retail land that is routes 4 & 17 in Bergen County, NJ

Most of my adult life I have worked in the music industry, starting as a part time employee on the selling floor and advancing through the ranks to management and supervision., ending with the job of "Buyer" when the bottom finally fell out.

The recession/depression mangled ALL of retail, but the music industry was particularly hard hit. Not only were sales cut into by the growing and soon to be huge Amazon, but what had started as a file sharing site by some college kids had then gone "viral" and just about anything one wanted could be downloaded illegally. As each dollar spent by a consumer for entertainment got cut up more and more the writing was on the wall became clear as crystal. Not in plain white chalk either, but in big, bold strokes of gore. Yes, the high and mighty executives at Sony had now become hooded Voodoo priests and were sacrificing  whatever they could find to appease the lustful and vengeful Gods who no doubt had it in for them. Paranoia was rampant and dogs started to mysteriously disappear off the streets of Manhattan.

During it's heyday in the retail rich region of the "miracle mile" there were no less than 11 or 12 full blown record stores and record departments. The competition was fierce, the selection, immense. The industry, for the last time, had pulled the retail wool over the unsuspecting public's collective eyes.  They held the poor, work-a-day-world schnook in high contempt when they convinced him, one last time, to buy his entire music collection all over again in the new CD format. This was the last great frontier in pre-recorded music...we promise you will never need anything else...what a crock.

I lost my gig in the fall of 2003 and scrambled for one of the few remaining openings that still existed in the music business. The only problem was that the line ahead of me stretched from New York City to the environs of Albany. Within that line, along with all the "soldiers" of the industry resided more than enough CEO's, VP's and Grand Poobah's to fill a dozen board rooms. Somewhere in the distance, a single church bell tolled.

My life from 2003 through to the present is like a sojourn through the annals of the Iliad & Odyssey complete with Sirens, Cyclops monsters, and Giants. All the while I kept running into casualties of the industry. "Hey, man, How's it going!?"  I'd shout enthusiastically as I spied and old colleague. The answer was always the same...broke, out of work, on the dole, selling aluminum siding, the whole bit. Fucking depressing. It got so I avoided these guys when I saw them coming. It was a dance of the dead and my card was already full, thank you.

...and then, I finally landed here.

Here, the last record department/store left. Back to exactly where I started....on the floor as a part timer. This lovely industry had sure as hell given me a ride, my money's worth some might say...from minimum up to six figures and back to minimum...and it only took 30 years. The big wigs had partied and pissed the money and the industry away and had taken the last cattle car to the coast, some to write their best selling memoirs, leaving me and those like me to pick up the pieces of this smoldering shit pile, put on a brave face and sink slowly with the ship.

Now, once again, the rumor mill is in overdrive. This department will be phased out. It will be replaced with educational toys, you have, tops, 2 years left.  What's left for me after the last record store sinks?


The cloud on the horizon is closing in. I can now just barely make out swirling "Dust Devil's", thousand of 'em approaching, stumbling along like drunken sailors on shore leave. "Shit, We're in for it now" I think as I watch with bated breath.  Tons of dust and tumbleweeds will be dumped upon us, then smoothed over by the incessant one will ever know that we even existed.