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Record Store Day in the Middle of a Global Pandemic

5:16 PM EDT on September 30, 2020

Record Store Day has always been an annual holiday for me, the equivalent of Christmas in many ways, when vinyl obsessives wait in front of their local record store early in the morning, always a Saturday, to purchase exclusives that are typically limited editions, reissues and other rarities that, when they’re gone, they’re gone.

But, this year, due to the dreaded Covid-19, RSD has been quite the different beast, cancelling the usual day in April that music fans usually celebrate for what are being called Drops, with the last weekend of August, September and October acting as smaller days of vaunted record purchasing.

Last Saturday was the second Drop and while each one might have had a smaller selection spread out over the three different months, it has also been a blessing for people like me on a tighter budget, able to treat ourselves to more records over time instead of missing out and only getting the copies desperately needed that one day.

My favorite local record store, Guestroom Records, 3701 N. Western Ave., is operating under strict health guidelines including face masks and hand sanitizer, as well as instituting an appointment-based system, where fans will sign up for a certain time to come into the store and shop, well before opening, as early as 9 a.m.

This is Record Store Day in the middle of a global pandemic and I have to admit that it kind of works.

And even though I was, as usual, late on the draw and received a time of 10:25 a.m., enough of the earlier appointees had shown up and left already, allowing me to come in a few minutes earlier to search for the three discs that I had been craving since reading about them at the RSD website: Paul McCartney’s eponymous solo debut, the Doors’ The Soft Parade / Stripped and a reissue of the Black Crowes’ “Jealous Again” 12 inch single.

While many times the temptation to rush the specially separated discs like a frustrated shopper looking for a Cabbage Patch Kid is always prevalent, I’ve been to enough of these things now to know that the record is either there or it’s not. Calmly walking to the plastic crates and, mask tightly wrapped around my neck and face, I nervously thumbed through the records, starting with the B’s.

No Black Crowes, dammit.

As I walked around the outside of this month’s platters, I felt like I was the oldest person in there. The youthful cool that I’ve long lost is apparent everywhere around me now, until I see a guy who must have had at least ten years on me. We seemed to share a knowing wince, both reaching for a copy of McCartney, his 1970 long player remastered at half-speed, if that thing is important to you. It is to me and, apparently, him.

As I searched through the remaining crates, at first it seemed as though the Doors’ Soft Parade / Stripped, a redux of selected tracks from their 1969 album with the blaring horns erased and with newly added Robby Krieger overdubs, was another lost cause. I still scoured the bins anyway, finding it somewhere near the U section. Was someone hiding it for a friend? If so, sorry.

My fifteen minutes of shopping nearly up, two out of three ain’t bad I thought as I took my selections to the front counter to pay, using a couple of gift certificates that came in handy just about now. The final RSD Drop will be towards the end of October—the Rolling Stones’ Metamorphosis reissue is looking pretty good to me—and who knows if there will be a Black Friday sale this year.

Still, in a time of unknowing upheaval that society seems to be mired in, music is more and more important to me, if only for the pop-cultural protection of whatever sanity many of us might have left. Walking out of the store and onto Western, I took my mask down under my chin and inhaled the smell of new vinyl in deeply, tucking my records under my arm as I made the long walk home.


 Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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