Smell is considered the most evocative memory trigger; a particular scent can bring vivid images flooding from the brain's recesses into conscious thought. Sound--especially music--can unlock the unconscious as well, firing off neurotransmitters that spark visual memories as well as long-ago feelings and emotions.
Record Store Day was founded in 2007 and is celebrated at more than 700 independent record stores both nationally and internationally. But it is not only a way for a community to support its purveyor of the platforms upon which so many of our memories are made; it's also a chance for music lovers to score some sweet finds, as record labels both big and small release a grip of titles exclusive to independent music stores. This year, more than 400 titles on vinyl, CD, cassette, digital, and multimedia formats will be available at every store involved--including Boise's own indie, The Record Exchange--but numbers are limited, so when they're gone they're gone.
Exclusives are by artists all along the musical spectrum, from Aerosmith to ZZ Ward with everyone and everything in between--even musical comedy from Cheech and Chong and The Lonely Island. (Find the full list at recordexchange.com.)
To drill down the list to some of the highlights, we asked a few people who know a little something about music and music stores to share their top picks. Interestingly, they each had something in their list from the past--a memory trigger of their own.
Mike Bunnell, co-owner and executive director of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores, looks forward to releases from some of rock music's elder statesmen like Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play and Sing The Songs of Big Bill Broonzy; reissues of Velvet Underground and the Yardbirds; unreleased music by brilliant bassist Jaco Pastorius; and Alternate Takes, an album of alternate versions from Gram Parsons' first two solo albums.
Longtime Record Exchange manager John O'Neil is also looking forward to some new releases/reissues by old-school masters. He also has Dave and Phil Alvin's take on Big Bill Broonzy on his list, as well as Donny Hathaway, Die Kreuzen and Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys. Live at Max's Kansas City 11/15/77, comprised of early live recordings from Devo with an introduction by David Bowie, made O'Neil's list, along with Ultimate Alternative Wavers, the first album by indie-rock innovators Built To Spill; and a 7-inch from Tayla Lynn, a new musician with an old-school pedigree: She's Loretta Lynn's granddaughter.
Chad Dryden, The Record Exchange's marketing and promotions director and co-founder of the Vinyl Preservation Society, had a long list of must-hears, which included old and new alike. He agreed with O'Neil on Devo, adding a vinyl reissue of Joy Division's first EP, An Ideal for Living; Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back on vinyl or, as Dryden put it, "PE's first masterpiece back on wax where it deserves to be." Mix master John Morales also made the cut, as did a 12-inch from Rick James, because it includes a Morales mix and "the cover is badass. Also, it's Rick James." Dryden also included a box set on which various artists, including Youth Lagoon, contributed "space-inspired tracks," and the RPM Turntable Football 12-inch, which is "literally a football game played on a turntable using a specially grooved record. Too weird not to love."
The Record Exchange co-owner Jil Sevy gave us her list, too, which includes Built to Spill, Bob Wills and Velvet Underground, as well as Mazzy Star on clear vinyl and The Pogues' Live with Joe Strummer, the "first U.S. release of the famous 1991 performance when Joe Strummer sat in for Shane MacGowan." Sevy also added some "personal musings" on why she feels Record Store Day is important beyond what it does for independent music stores and how it can be a reminder of what it means to be part of a community:
"I've witnessed multiple generations of Boiseans fall in love with The Record Exchange and become lifelong customers," Sevy wrote in an email. "I've seen countless first dates and hook-ups take place in our aisles and I've watched loners wander the racks or sit for hours at the listening stations, being in the public on their own terms. I've heard roars of laughter and squeals of delight as customers discover unusual items in the gift shop. I've watched children attend their first live music performance, talk to their first rock star and discover their first artist on their own. I've seen some of the world's best musicians perform on our stage, including an astonishing number of talented local artists. I've watched every type of music fan come in and marvel at a new discovery and I've seen our amazing staff thoughtfully serve them, and serve the community as a whole through an unwavering support of Boise's music scene. All of this comes together on our most revered day of the year, Record Store Day.
"Record Store Day is an affirmation for all of us who love and support independent retail--not just music retail--and I'm proud my husband, Michael Bunnell, helped conceive the idea and sits on the board of directors that oversees this successful, international event. Record Store Day is a day for music lovers to score amazing exclusive titles and a day to celebrate music culture, but it's also a day to show support for indie retail. I have a lot of people tell me they share my love of the store and downtown Boise and how they always bring out-of-state friends and relatives in to 'see' The Record Exchange and the rest of the shops in the neighborhood. But often in the same breath they tell me it's been months or even years since they actually shopped the store or the downtown area themselves. I guess most people just assume that someone else is doing the supporting or that because the stores are still open they don't need to make the effort. Nothing could be further from the truth. Record Store Day reminds us that independently owned shops like ours have value and create a sense of 'place' for a lot of people and that we need to cherish and support indie retail throughout our community, throughout the year."