When I turned 16 way back in the early '80s and first started to drive, it was usually to the record store. I took the long trip down Lindbergh from near Jefferson Barracks Park to the Music Vision store in Ronnie's Plaza (back when it only had four movie screens). If I wanted something a little closer I headed to the Record Bar in the South County Mall, but it was a smaller store with less selection.
My early hero was a guy in the class ahead of me who worked at the Record Bar in the mall. His name was John and he was sort of the Holden Caulfield of Mehlville Senior High. He wore jeans he had pegged himself into a taper so tight he could barely get them over the tops of his black leather boots. He once asked my favorite song on The Clash's Combat Rock and scolded me when I said "Rock the Casbah." (A real rebel dug a little deeper and darker like "Straight to Hell" or "Know Your Rights." I thought it was enough to be favoring the Clash over REO Speedwagon?) My best friend Mike somehow got a job at that Record Bar and I was jealous. I had applied and I wanted to work there so badly but they just didn't want me.
College brought me to Springfield, MO, and my first CD player. CDs seem expensive now, but coming up with $17 in 1987 dollars as a college student was nearly impossible. There was one store that sold and bought used CDs, and my collection dwindled as I sacrificed "Purple Rain" or "Born in the U.S.A." for a 12-pack of Natural Light for that weekend's festivities.
In the '90s I moved back to St. Louis and into the city, and on to West End Wax, Euclid Records and Vintage Vinyl. I bought the early, inferior versions of all those CDs being released now in remastered versions with bonus tracks. I discovered local live music and made trips to Cicero's basement bar to see the Three Merry Widows and listened to my tape of the Treeweasels in my car over and over until it broke.
When is the last time you tried to buy a CD in the city of St. Louis? Good luck there just aren't many stores left. Recently Euclid Records moved to Webster (hello, Euclid?) and the South Grand Streetside Records closed shop. The Wherehouse on Lindell near SLU is long gone. The Wherehouse on Hampton (in its glory days a Peaches Records) is the only one I can think of in the central or south city limits (well, there is the Record Exchange, but that's all used CD/LPs). Vintage Vinyl is still king but it's officially in U. City and have you tried driving down Delmar since the Metrolink construction began?
As digital music begins to take over I've become nostalgic for my old record store days. iPod, MP3 and Amazon.com have become the Wal-Mart to the local record store. It ate them up and spit them out and would Jeff Tweedy be the same Jeff Tweedy without his stint at Euclid Records? Who knows, but pretty soon there won't be a local record store to waste a couple hours in and Steve Pick will just be that tall guy in front of you at the Yo La Tengo concert. And wouldn't that be a shame?
Dale Fisher spends his evenings enjoying music from his "new" mid-1960s Fisher 500C Tube Stereo receiver, and his days promoting the music of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.