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Vinyl Destination - Record Store Day's 15th Anniversary!

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It’s almost that time of year when intrepid music lovers everywhere line up outside their favorite indie music store to be among the first to gain access to some of the hundreds of specially prepared releases for Record Store Day. The 15th edition of the special event, which started in Maine and has spread to 1,400 independent music stores around the world, is set for Saturday, April 23. A second drop of goodies is scheduled for June 18.

The concept for Record Store Day originated with Chris Brown, CFO for Bull Moose Music’s eight Maine locations and three in New Hampshire.

Record Store Day was designed from the outset as a fan-focused event by offering a vast selection of limited-edition releases and allowing each store to build their own events around the day, including live in-store performances.

Ten-time Grammy winner Bonnie Raitt is scheduled to appear at a Q&A event at Bull Moose in Scarborough on Record Store Day, in advance of her sold-out concert that evening at Merrill Auditorium with special guests NRBQ. The event will be streamed live on Facebook.

Because in-person space will be limited for the Bonnie Raitt event, Bull Moose is using a lottery system. More information can be found on the Bull Moose website and social media pages.

In January, Record Store Day announced mega-selling artist Taylor Swift as the event’s first global ambassador. Swift has been a longtime supporter of independent music stores. She sent boxes of signed copies of her CD “Folklore” to indie stores around the country during the pandemic which were soon snapped up by fans as word spread.

“The places where we go to browse and explore and discover music new and old have always been sacred to me,” Swift said in a press release. “Record stores are so important because they help to perpetuate and foster music-loving as a passion.”

Coinciding with the 15th edition of RSD is the publication of “Record Store Day: The Most Improbable Comeback of the 21st Century,” a new book by Larry Jaffee containing the complete history of RSD with input from Chris Brown and other RSD figureheads and musicians, not to mention members of the record store community.

“The book gives you the story of Record Store Day, what I was thinking when I thought of it, how it grew and who the people are behind the scenes who made it happen,” Brown said.

A special 12x12 version of the book comes with a vinyl album (limited to 1,100 copies) containing songs recorded at record stores by Paul McCartney, Pearl Jam, Metallica and Imagine Dragons among others – including one recorded by Regina Spektor at Bull Moose in Scarborough in 2005.

Brown, the book’s author and a couple of other RSD bigwigs all signed the deluxe edition of the book.

In recent years Brown produced a number of very popular Record Store Day-themed videos called “Record Time with Chris,” where he would discuss various releases from the RSD list while also showing their cover art.

Brown is now putting that energy toward a new radio show for Portland station 102.9 WBLM that will premiere Saturday from 9-11 a.m. with a Record Store Day theme.

Brown’s first show will feature an interview with John Densmore, former drummer for The Doors. Densmore, a longtime supporter of Record Store Day, conducted an in-store autograph signing at Bull Moose in Scarborough during Record Store Day in 2013.

Shake It Off

The success of Record Store Day directly parallels the stunning growth of the vinyl record industry of the last 15 years.

Vinyl had been virtually pronounced dead as a viable music delivery medium in 1991 following the rise of compact discs. Records were still being pressed through the ‘90s into the ‘00s, but most were manufactured for smaller independent artists and labels and DJs spinning in the clubs.

Vinyl record sales hit their lowest point ever in 2006 with a total trade value for the year of $36 million. In 2021, vinyl sales exceeded $1 billion. There is no question that Record Store Day did a lot of the heavy lifting to help achieve that figure. Bull Moose’s Chris Brown says nobody knows just how big vinyl will become. It may sound like a good problem to have, but the reality is the demand for vinyl often outpaces availability these days.

“We keep banging against the ceiling, so [we] build another floor,” Brown said during an interview with The Maine Edge. “Vinyl is still in a growth mode on the back end. There’s a bit of a production bottleneck right now but it will be resolved.”

Worldwide production capacity at the present is about 170 million records per year, according to Brown. With more vinyl presses coming online, he says, the current 7-to-9-month lead time for a title to be pressed will go down.

Soon You’ll Get Better

Organizers behind Record Store Day did some schedule shuffling two years ago after the onset of the pandemic by planning several smaller versions of the event that were held in the fall over three consecutive months. Chris Brown says they learned a few things in the process.

“We learned we could spread out Record Store Day and have it happen more than just twice per year in April and on Black Friday,” Brown said. “We announced the April 23 and June 18 dates at the same time this year. The purpose of the June date is to give us more time because there’s always stuff that arrives late due to supply chain issues and other things. The June 18 date helps with the overflow.”

Speaking of the pandemic, Brown says he was reminded of how important music is for people facing difficult circumstances and he says he shared that notion with other Bull Moose employees.

“I knew there were people counting on us, who needed us to be there for them because music was going to help them get through the hard times,” he said. “I would remind people that somebody is having a bad day and you might not know it, but that CD you sold them yesterday is the best thing in their life right now.”

People who need music in their lives have a distinct emotional attachment to their favorite artists and songs. When life kicks them in the pants, music provides comfort, assurance and understanding like nothing else.

Brown recalls his days working behind the counter at Bull Moose in the early 1990s.

“I could always tell when somebody just got dumped from their relationship based on the records they were buying,” he said. “If they’re sad, it might be Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue.’ If they’re mad, it might be Dylan’s ‘Blood on the Tracks’ or later Eminem or Nine Inch Nails. There’s a point where people eventually get to Fleetwood Mac and ‘Don’t Stop’ thinking about tomorrow, and eventually you do get there. When you do, we have Barry White for your next relationship.”

People who work at record stores are on an emotional journey with their customers, according to Brown, who added it’s one of the reasons why the list of releases for Record Store Day has to be so diverse with 350-450 titles every time.

Look What You Made Me Do

You will find the expansive list of nearly 350 RSD titles due for release on April 23 or June 18 at www.RecordStoreDay.com. It’s a pretty stunning mix of first-time releases, reissues of favorite records from the past and bust-out releases that had only previously been part of a limited-edition special project.

The list includes RSD-exclusive titles on vinyl and CD and RSD-first titles, which means the disc will be available first on Record Store Day in limited quantities before it gains a wider release at a later time.

I asked Chris Brown to share a few RSD titles from this year’s list that he hopes to purchase, assuming they are still available after everyone has gone through the line. He says all Bull Moose stores maintain a customer-first policy when it comes to Record Store Day.

“There are some really great jazz titles on this list, so many that I won’t be able to buy everything I would ordinarily consider,” Brown said.

Albert Ayler – “Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings” (Elemental Records). This 5-LP box set from the jazz saxophonist, singer and composer includes two hours of previously unissued recordings presented chronologically in a pressing limited to 600 pieces.

Chris Brown: It was put together by the same guy who does all the stuff for indie jazz label Resonance Records. They also have a couple of Bill Evans RSD titles (covering concerts from 1973 and 1979) and a 3-LP Charlie Mingus set, “The Lost Album from Ronnie Scott’s,” containing an unreleased recording from 1972. Those are awesome, fancy packages and I’ll buy whatever is left when it’s the employees turn.

Brown also cited an album on his personal RSD list from Linda Hoover to be released by Omnivore Recordings on June 18. “I Mean to Shine” is an RSD-first title recorded in 1970 with the musicians who would become Steely Dan.

Pressed for another hoped-for title, the ever-eclectic Brown chose the soundtrack to “Breakin’” from 1984, featuring a backdrop of early hip-hop. It’s an RSD-first title limited to 2,000 pieces.

“Where I grew up, that movie was my first look at what was happening in hip-hop,” Brown said. “People joke about ‘Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo’ but the original soundtrack has a lot of great early stuff.”

As further proof of the diversity you’ll find among this year’s RSD releases, consider the following, all due for release on April 23.

Dr. Who – “Dead Air” (Demon Records)

This 2-LP exclusive to audio Dr. Who set features the beloved BBC series’ Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant. It’s the first appearance on vinyl for this set which was voted Audiobook of the Year in 2010.

Everly Brothers – “Hey Doll Baby” (Warner)

An RSD-exclusive title limited to 4,500 pieces, this album gathers some classic and lesser-known titles from the brothers’ rich catalog. It was assembled by Tom Petty’s daughter, Adria with help from Don Everly prior to his passing last summer, and by the widow and son of Phil Everly.

Golden Smog – “On Golden Smog” (Rykodisc)

The first vinyl appearance of the debut EP from the super group featuring members of The Jayhawks, Soul Asylum, Run West Run, and The Replacements. This RSD exclusive is limited to 2,500 copies.

Grateful Dead – “Wembley Empire Pool, London, England, 4-8-72.”

This 5-LP RSD exclusive is breakout vinyl set from the “Europe ’72: The Complete Recordings” box set celebrating the 50th anniversary of one of the Dead’s most celebrated tours.

Ryan Hamilton – “1221” (Wicked Cool Records)

As reviewed in The Maine Edge, this is one of my favorite albums from last year. It’s from an endlessly talented rock and power-pop artist from Texas who challenged himself to write, record and release a new single each month for a year. This is an RSD exclusive limited to 1,000 pieces.

Jay Bennett – “Kicking at the Perfumed Air” and “Whatever Happened I Apologize” – accompanied by the film “Where Are You, Jay Bennett?” – (What Were We Thinking records)

This double RSD-first title contains two albums by the late Jay Bennett of Wilco and is accompanied by a feature length documentary about the artist released last year.

Nick Lowe – “Wireless World” (Yep Roc Records)

I love the story behind this album which is essentially Nick’s first record with a different title and cover. In the UK, it was called “Jesus of Cool.” Stateside, it became “Pure Pop for Now People.” Lowe didn’t stop at two titles and instead fed music journalists a bunch of bogus titles which resulted in an “Exclusive” from one writer that claimed Lowe told him his debut record would be called “Wireless World.”

Joni Mitchell – “Blue Highlights” (Rhino/Warner)

This RSD-exclusive is limited to 9,000 pieces and contains highlights from the second volume of Mitchell’s ongoing archive series and features recordings related to her classic 1971, “Blue.”

Motorhead – “Lost Tapes Vol. 2” (BMG)

This 2-LP RSD-exclusive contains 22 tracks in a previously unreleased concert recorded live at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, in the fall of 1998.

The Replacements – “Unsuitable for Airplay: The Lost KFAI Concert” (live)

Featuring one of the earliest known soundboard recordings from one of rock’s most dangerous bands, this 2-LP set contains early versions of songs that would appear on their debut album along with never released songs and covers by The Kinks, Slade, Dave Edmunds, and others. I wonder if they were as drunk at this show as they were when I caught them at Colby College back in the day?

Pete Townshend – “Face the Face” (Mercury Studios)

A smokin’ set from Pete accompanied by a killer band that included David Gilmour of Pink Floyd on guitar. This was originally recorded for the German TV show “Rockpalast” in 1986. The 2-LP set is an RSD exclusive limited to 3,500 pieces.

That barely scratches the surface of titles that will become available for Record Store Day on April 23.

I asked Chris Brown if he could put into words what it means to him personally to see how this idea he had 15 years ago has helped lift the vinyl format from oblivion. He’s a humble guy usually quick to credit others before himself but he took a lengthy pause before offering the following answer.

Chris Brown: Obviously I’m very pleased that it worked out as well as it did. We were hoping it would be big, but it got much bigger much more quickly than we imagined. I’m grateful that other people saw the value in the idea and ran with it. I’m also really glad that it saved a lot of stores, a lot of jobs and even some labels. I’m glad that I was able to put something out into the world that helped a lot of people.

Last modified on Friday, 22 April 2022 09:13

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