Music fans rejoice for today is Record Store Day, when we celebrate the contributions of independent music retailers worldwide. Since 2007 record stores have been banding together to combat their decline due to internet sales and digital formats and enticing shoppers, collectors and music fans of all stripes with limited edition releases and intimate in-store performances. If you grew up in the digital era it may take some explaining, but once upon a time you had to go to an actual store to buy your music which came on an actual physical record, tape or CD and if you were lucky the store was run by other music fanatics who would turn you onto great new sounds and albums that you might otherwise never have heard of. And it was AWESOME. Trust us.
We’ve already talked to this year’s Record Store Day Ambassador Chuck D of Public Enemy and Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, whose upcoming documentary Jaco is the Official Film Of Record Store Day. Today we’d like to honor the holiday by sharing with you an exclusive video of Aloe Blacc, A Great Big World and other artists sharing their first record buying experiences, as well as the VH1.com staff’s reminiscences of the same which can be found on the following pages. Whether you’re a casual music fan or a hardcore record collector, get out there today and support your local record store and indulge yourself in one of life’s great joys, the discovery of new music.
My first record was TLC’s CrazySexyCool. Middle school wouldn’t have been the same without TLC. Though CrazySexyCool had themes we couldn’t possibly understand yet, my friends and I couldn’t help but emulate the collective swagger of T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chili. I still don’t know how many times I tried to spit Left Eye’s rhymes from “Waterfalls.”
Damian Bellino (@damianbellino)
The first album I purchased with my own cash was The Bangles’ Different Light from Sam Goody at the Montgomery Mall nearly five years after they had called it quits as a band. I grew up with my older siblings watching early MTV and was entranced with the “Walk Like an Egyptian” video and Susanna Hoffs’ stare. My proclivities for female-driven bands and tight harmonies are so obviously connected to my 7-year-old self’s taste it’s ridiculous. Finally seeing them reunite in concert in 2011 goes down as one of the top 5 moments of my life. Susanna Hoffs still does that eyes thing!
Emily Exton (@emilyexton)
My first album was Mariah Carey’s Daydream, which I bought from Sam Goody in Mount Kisco, NY. In 1996 I was just beginning to understand the concept of celebrity and had recently learned that Mariah and then-husband Tommy Mottola were living a short drive away from me and mine. Obviously we were kindred spirits. Listening to “Fantasy” and “Always Be My Baby” became a nightly ritual — as was shamelessly attempting to mimic Mariah’s famous range. Spoiler alert: I was not successful. This album, as well as the ones by Britney and Beyonce that followed, helped shape my lifelong love of strong female vocalists with a penchant for diva fingers. Stacy Lambe (@sllambe)
While I cannot remember the first CD I ever bought — there were way too many — I do remember my first vinyl purchase. I was in college when I finally got a record player and started exploring my dad’s collection. Knowing that he would never let me take his copies to school with me, I went out to a used record store to pick up my own. I was almost overwhelmed by the selection. I didn’t know where to start. But when I happened upon the double LP for Walt Disney’s Fantasia, I knew I had to have it. A childhood favorite of mine, the soundtrack came complete with a 20-page photo book and two mint condition records. Nothing sounded better than listening to Tchaikovsky and Beethoven on Megan O’Keefeh (@megsokay)
I clearly remember being about four years old and begging my father to take me to Sam Goody to buy the 1987 “La Bamba” single by Los Lobos. To my surprise, he actually took me one morning and let me get the single. I can still recall the little red sleeve that came with the cassette tape and how I used to play the single on repeat for half hour blocks, annoying my teenage sisters. Crystal Puccio (@seapeaz)
The first album I ever purchased for myself was back in ’95. I went to The Wiz, a now permanently closed electronics chain, in Secaucus, NJ and excitedly purchased either Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill or Natalie Merchant’s Tigerlily. Both albums changed my tween life forever as I listened to them on repeat and opened the door to many more singer-songwriter ladies and alternative rock bands like Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Pearl Jam, Nirvana and so many more. Whether it’s nostalgia or just a simple truth, the ’90s were an amazing time for music.
Jordan Runtagh (@JordanRuntagh)
My first record was Help! by The Beatles. I first fell in love with The Beatles at the age of 7 when their Anthology television special aired over Thanksgiving of 1995. From there I was hooked, devouring all the Fab Four related material I could find. I even learned how to use our ancient record player, allowing me to play my parents vintage copies of Rubber Soul and Magical Mystery Tour. I endlessly watched a VHS copy of their movie Help!, taped from an airing on PBS, and held up my Fischer-Price cassette recorder during the songs. Even for a 2nd grader, the quality on this homemade soundtrack album was pretty terrible. So I scraped together all of my remaining birthday money and asked my parents to take me to Strawberries at the Searstown Mall. Being a rural Massachusetts town, their selection was pretty limited, but behind seven copies of Abbey Road I was able to uncover one Help! CD.
It sounded much better than my tape…and I could skip tracks in a flash! Technology is an incredible thing. I would always jump to “The Night Before,” my favorite song. A band as big as the Beatles doesn’t really have “deep cuts,” but this one was about as obscure as they come. Fifteen years later when I finally was able to see Sir Paul McCartney in concert, he performed the “The Night Before” live for the very first time. It sounded WAY better than my cassette tape.Ben Smith (@BHSmithNYC)
The first record I ever bought with my own money was Black Sabbath’s Paranoid from Record World in Forest Hills, Queens. It was a chain store but had all your mainstream rock essentials plus a pretty decent import section and a huge 45 bin where I later found Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” single with the non-LP b-side “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do,” which was a real score. My older brothers had been schooling me since an early age on the classic rock cannon but Sabbath was different. A little harder and a little darker and a little realer than Foreigner or The Doors or whatever other songs played in an endless, repetitive loop on the local commercial rock radio station. Those crushing, sustained opening chords of “War Pigs” still give me goose bumps to this day. The speed and aggression of the song “Paranoid” made my Beatles-loving parents cringe and ask me to turn it down. The album was over a decade old when I got it, but it felt like this was my music. My friends’ music. The gateway into the heavier, louder, faster sounds which we would pursue into the 1980s. That would lead us to punk rock, hardcore, thrash metal and the ever-spiraling sub-genres that would mutate from them.
There are few pleasures in life that rank up there with the discovery of new music. And if you grew up in a certain age, buying new records was a major part of the joy. The artwork of the 12” vinyl record is an amazing template for a band to project their identity and ideas and we would fiend trying to find the versions of classic LPs that came with lyrics sheets or special promo labels. I can remember the paper cuts you would get under your thumbnail from opening the plastic in the jacket seam. New records even smell good. But ultimately it’s the sounds within that matter most, not the format, and I can thank many of the record stores of my youth for turning me onto so much of the music that has changed my life for the better.
Kate Spencer (@katespencer)
Being a boss bitch of a twelve-year-old, I bought myself not one but TWO albums right after my parents hooked me up with my first CD boom box. The first: Achtung Baby, which I still think is U2’s most complete and perfect album. Every single song on that album delivers and holds up to this day. “Until The End Of The World” is still waiting for the massive audience it deserves.
The second: George Michael, Listen Without Prejudice Volume 1 because HOLY S***, this is one of the greatest albums of all time. Nothing captures that transition of ‘80s plastic and excess into the 90s hodgepodge of grunge/political consciousness/Real World: San Francisco like LWPV1. Obviously “Freedom! ‘90” is the ultimate jam off the album, but “Waiting For The Day” is a premium George Michael deep cut with a weird Rolling Stones shout out at the end. Give it a second listen.
Both are big albums from big performers of the time, but back then owning them felt very cutting edge and avant garde. In just two years I’d graduated from New Kids on the Block to surly Brits and Irishmen singing about things I didn’t understand but desperately wanted to. In the ‘80s and ‘90s you had to really work hard to learn about music. Often times you’d hear a song on the radio and if the DJ didn’t announce the title and artist you’d have to wait and try to hear it again just to ID it. I’d sit around with my cassette player and record the songs I liked off the radio. There were no iPods or Spotify or Rap Genius to help you. CDs came imprisoned in eight thousand layers of plastic of varying strengths, so you had to perform major surgery just to extract the CD from its case. The whole experience made me feel very sexy and dangerous, despite my braces, GAP jeans, and general pubescent awkwardness.