Before digital downloads and online stores, one had to physically visit a record store to purchase a record. If the record was really hard to find, such as an import, a whacked out independent release, or a bootleg, you might have to send money, through some complicated pre-PayPal system, to a complete stranger running a thumbnail ad in the back pages of Trouser Press. I was discussing all this with Townsman E. Pluribus Gergely over the weekend, and at this point in the discussion he grabbed the dinner table and uttered unmentionables at the memory of the hell and wad of cash he went through to buy bootleg cassettes of The Beach Boys‘ aborted Smile sessions.
Once purchased, we actually owned the record, for better and for worse. There was no ability to “just delete” if a track or an entire record sucked, no “morning after” pill for a bad purchase. The hard drive was the crates or rows of records stacked on a cheap shelving unit near your stereo. A record had to offend like no other for the owner to simply toss it or shoot it with a BB gun, as has been reported in past Rock Town Hall threads.
There was no eBay or Half.com on which we could post and sell our crap purchase without leaving the couch. Re-selling that bad purchase promised a gauntlet of record-nerd shame. In most cases, we had to go back to a record store, one that bought and sold used records – and most likely, to avoid admitting the added shame of having to give up on a record recently purchased, one that did not originally sell you the record you now wanted to sell in the first place – for the right to get about 20% of our initial investment, or a little more than that in trade-in value for a second chance at making a more satisfying purchase. Back in the day, we earned the right to truly hate an album. It was a royal pain in the ass to go through all that effort (and I was a city boy; imagine what my more rural brethren had to live through!) for nothing more than the pleasure of trade-in value.
Do you hear what I’m saying, Townspeople? Kids today don’t know what it means to have earned the right to hate an album! Do you have memories of failed record purchases and shameful re-sales to share? It may help us all. Thanks.