Alibi V.22 No.16 • April 18-24, 2013 

Aural Fixation

Wax and Wane

A panegyric-meets-Record Store Day promo

In circa-'85 America, the CD was video star to vinyl's radio star, and the CD did rapidly supplant the vinyl medium. What no one predicted then was the unfathomable scarcity of the music store itself, which is exactly what has come to pass. With the near extinction of the physical music store, another belief-defying but real phenomenon has emerged. The very industry has morphed into something unrecognizable in the Eagles' day.

Ask any musician—especially those just starting out—how they plan to get their careers off the ground and you'll hear there aren't many opportunities these days for a “recording artist.” I would love to blame the death of the music industry on broken promises packaged in those crappy, little two-cent pieces of plastic that were one of the most functionally worthless 20th-century inventions, the jewel case—oh, the irony of that name—whose durability and sound quality were purported to be far superior to those of vinyl, but I can't. However I will rail on a bit more about CDs.

I remember the first releases on CD. A lot of albums that already existed on vinyl were reissued in prismatic coaster form. ... and a hell of a lot of classical music. But it took a while for the labels to finally bite the bullet and adapt to the format. To convince people this product was superior to the 12-inch LPs they were used to, the industry had to assure the masses that this new product was better. I recall reading that you could throw a CD across a barn floor and still have it play perfectly afterward: “You see, the music is under the surface layer of the disc, so scratches aren't a problem.” What pretty apples they sold us. Is there anything quite as annoying as a skipping CD?

Give me a copy of Their Satanic Majesties Request—I've never seen an original that isn't in horrible condition—and I'll fix the skip causing Mick to keep singing “Please come see/please come see ...” ad infinitum during “Citadel” with a straight pin. Hell, you can fix it with a safety pin or a hypodermic needle. Simply locate the afflicted groove and lightly drag the pin through the problem point. Come see me in the citadel! I once glued together a James Brown 78 that was broken into three pieces and played that fucker for years. Now that's a product I can get behind. You can buff a CD and it might not skip, but fuck it. It's still only a CD. I can't see who's on the cover of the CD version of Satanic Majesties, and the jewel case broke the first time I opened it.

Another promise whispered in consumers' ears by publishing companies was that the CD had superior sound quality. Bullshit. Those shitty little shiny plastic discs have less frequency range than a Dynaflex copy of The Man Who Sold The World, and I'm here to tell you the Dynaflex version of that album sucked compared with the original Mercury version so, by my calculation, that leaves the CD version of The Man in exactly the third level of crap-sounding music hell. All the advent of the CD did was cut manufacturing costs for record companies. End of argument.

To my great disappointment, I am unable to assign total blame to CDs for the death of music as we knew it. I cannot. That honor belongs to the MP3, which inhabits yet another realm in the crap-sounding music inferno. In 1986 customers envisioned record stores simply morphing into CD stores—with a cassette section so you could score Kenny Rogers tapes for your car. And so it was ... for a while. The invention that has really destroyed music is the infuriatingly intangible digital download—which may or may not actually belong to you by the way; in my estimation you should most definitely get all your tunes off Swedish Torrent trackers or Russian pirate MP3 parties.

Where do music lovers purchase digital downloads? Brick-and-mortar digital download stores? They do not. The hypothetical dimensions of a digital download store compared to the ideal CD shop's size—which is already only 25 percent of the size of ye olde record shoppe—would only cater to beings the size of a flea circus' star performer. There are no brick-and-mortar digital download stores. Or are there? In truth, there's been a resurgence in demand for vinyl records and most of them are accompanied by a digital download code: a download that is yours, doesn't expire and that you can copy to other formats. These wonderful products are available at your local record store, a place where you might actually be able to identify the personages on the covers of Satanic Majesties and Sgt. Pepper's.

This year's Record Store Day—held on the third Saturday every April—falls on 4/20. Hit a bong, bang a gong, get it on and visit Albuquerque's two participating record stores: Charley's 33’s and CDs (7602 Menaul NE) and Mecca Music & Books (1404 Central SW). Both took a newly minted RSD pledge to not gouge shoppers or sell the ultra-rare surprise sides they get online. ... at least not until after Record Store Day. Check out the list of this year's limited edition releases online and try not to wet yourself, record-collecting comrades. Even the stores won't know what their massively expensive orders got them until the day of the event, so don't bug them. Just show up.