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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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April 18, 2008 3:27 PM

Tomorrow is an important day

Posted by David Postman

Tomorrow is national Record Store Day. That's a way to support independent record stores. And the stores will be saluting you - the buyers of music - with all sorts of things at local outlets.

The Stranger has a good roundup of happenings at local stores.

And if you’re in Olympia or passing through tomorrow, go by Rainy Day Records. We’re lucky to have those guys.

I bought a great CD at Rainy Day of Lee Fields, a 70s funk master. I also got a copy of The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend, the only album put out by Baby Huey and the Babysitters. For a no-lose purchase, get something by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. (Amy Winehouse may have borrowed a bit more from Jones than just her backup band.)

Another favorite purchase, though it was a year ago now, will get you double points if you buy it tomorrow because it is on a local label. Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk & Reggae 1967-1974 is from Light in the Attic Records. If the reggae part of that scares you off, ask for a Betty Davis album from Light in the Attic.

I was lucky to grow up the Bay Area where in the 1970s there was lots of music and lots of small, sometimes weird, record stores. Ihad my choice of stores within bicycling distance to buy records. Stanford University's bookstore was a treasure of early punk and import rock albums. (And if you've heard me say I went to Stanford after high school, I meant I rode my bike there one day after school to buy records. I never actually said I attended Stanford. And if I did say that, I misspoke.)

In the small, independent shops there were some grumpy, comic-store-guy-like proprietors who seemed ancient to me at the time but were certainly younger than my 50 years. I’d like to remember the kindly clerks who I could talk a few lines of a song to and they would know the artist, album, label and producer as well as name six other bands that he’d think I’d like. But there wasn’t much of that. I remember conversations in these stores that I’d listen to, but not join. Friendly service was not part of the vibe of these places.

I’d also like to remember the names of the store in San Francisco and the one in Berkeley that my friend Erik and I would go to when we first learned to drive. They were among our most important destinations during the final two years of high school. But, you know, it was the 1970s and no one told us we’d be called on to remember what we did 30 some years later.

It was the late '70s when I started to move from funk to any sort of punk and new wave. Import singles were at the top of my want list. Those only came from independent stores, though later Tower had a decent selection at some of its stores. I bought everything from Elvis Costello and what I could find from his first label, Stiff. (There were secret messages engraved in the run-off grooves.) That included Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Rachel Sweet (an album on white vinyl), Larry Wallis, Madness (produced by Elvis!) and my all-time favorite, STF 0001, Stiffs Live, the 1978 recording of the British tour by the label’s artists.

I distinctly remember the day I bought the Gluon’s single -- featuring Allen Ginsburg -- Sue Your Parents, and the Wayne County and Electric Chairs single which cannot be named here. Nor can the Rotters’ single I bought in Santa Barbara on my road trip to the great Rhino Records store in L.A.

My albums have been dispersed far and wide. I’ve been trying to recover a few that I sold to Ralph Thomas when I left Alaska the first time in 1990. A copy of Stiffs Live was recently repatriated. But I still have all my singles and have begun building that collection again recently. (But don’t tell my wife, she thinks I outgrew 45s.)

I buy music on-line sometimes so I know I’m part of the problem facing independent record stores. But I buy the hard-stuff, too. And when I do, it comes from independent stores. So tomorrow, no downloading. It just wouldn’t be right to do that on Record Store Day. Go to a real store and buy something. And let the rest of us know if you get something good.

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