When I first moved to New York in the mid-70s, I was working downtown for New York State’s Emergency Financial Control Board. Yes, Virginia, we’ve had financial crises before, and that was a pretty bad one. My job was conducting ‘financial intelligence’ about the city subway system.
A guy I worked with shared my interest in music, and told me about this great new record store just down the street — J&R. It was for years my first stop when I wanted to find something unusual. As many of you know, in the interim they expanded from that one store to now occupy many of the storefronts opposite City Hall. They now carry cameras, computers, TV and other electronics, small appliances, and on and on.
‘This could be the last time’
These days, whenever I’m downtown, I’ve taken to stopping in — because I’m always afraid it will be the last time. Tower Records, Virgin, Sam Goody’s, and HMV, formerly the other biggies in town, have long since left the market for vinyl records and CDs — because obviously the markets for these products are increasingly niche-based, and the major (legal) markets for recorded music are for MP3 downloads and streaming à la Pandora and Spotify. I still buy CDs to get the best quality sound, but do it almost exclusively now from Amazon.
Even while they were around, records changed a lot. My first memories of buying music are of going to the record store with my dad and having the clerk take out the record you were interested in so you could listen to it in a listening booth before committing to it.