By Katherine Cole
I have a confession to make: my new favorite holiday is April 20th, AKA Record Store Day!
I know what you’re saying–who needs to go into a bricks and mortar store when you can download a song on your phone or computer in seconds? People like me. The ones who still love looking at cover art and reading the back to see who played triangle on track seven or the name of the third assistant engineer.
While we’ve lost many of the major record store chains in the US, there are still thousands of independently owned record stores (defined as “a physical store location, whose product line consists of at least 50% music retail, whose company is not publicly traded and whose ownership is at least 70% located in the state of operation”) open around the world. The third Saturday of every April has been designated as the day we celebrate these great institutions. Record stores all over the world participate. (That link will take you to the official Record Store Day website, where you can find an independent record store open and ready to serve you, wherever you are.)
Jack White was the 2013″official ambassador of Record Store Day” and to celebrate that honor his label, Third Man Records, opened their Third Man Recording Booth in Nashville to the public.
This is a historic piece of machinery: a 1947 Voice-o-Graph that is thought to be the only public vinyl recording booth in the world. You step in and can record up to two minutes of audio (a song, poem or even a love letter!), which is then pressed on to a six inch vinyl record.
Brendan Benson, who plays with White in the The Ranconteurs, demonstrates how it works in this Jack White-produced video.
Third Man Records also offered up a few special releases for Record Store Day, including gems from the White Stripes catalog and a Jerry Lee Lewis live set recorded at Third Man’s 2011 Record Store Day celebration. But they aren’t the only label and artists participating.
Warner Brothers put out a special edition of Cream’s “Live At The Albert Hall”, a three LP vinyl boxed set with a book. The set has been remastered and there are only 1500 available. They’re also offering 7500 copies of a four disc colored vinyl set (with a 12 page booklet) of The Flaming Lips “Zaireeka.” What’s particularly cool about this set is how you play it! You’ve got to cue up the four discs, each on its own turntable, and then start them simultaneously.
Razor and Tie’s offering was a set of the first five Emerson, Lake & Palmer LPs pressed on picture discs. There’s a double seven inch single on Omnivore of two songs recorded by the Old 97s and Waylon Jennings in 1996 (but previously unreleased). Tompkins Square is reaching even further back into the stacks for a set by Charlie Poole and the Highlanders dating back to 1929. And MGMT’s treat is a cassette sea preview of their new record “Alien Days.”
The Record Store Website has a complete listing of all the stores that participated worldwide and all the special releases, along with some audio and video treats. Among them is a preview of Sarah Jarosz’ “Live At The Troubadour.” In an interview last year, the 21-year old Grammy nominee told me that, while she’s still partial to Austin’s Waterloo Records, she’ll stop in as many shops as she can while out on tour —always searching for an undiscovered gem!
Record Store Day may be over for another year, but some of those goodies are still available! If you missed out, it’s only 350 or so days until my new favorite holiday rolls around again–I’ll give you plenty of advance warning.