When I was in college I sold all of my records (that’s right vinyl) to buy groceries. Groove Monster, a used record store in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota ended up with my entire collection. I don’t think I really had anything collectible, but it was traumatic to let some of those discs go nonetheless. The advent of iTunes has been an amazing remedy for that loss and the cause of many a nostalgic moment. The ability to find and download my favorite parts of that record collection is fantastic. I can get old Laurie Anderson, vintage OMD, and my favorite Siouxsie and the Banshees cuts. Perhaps most liberating is the the ability to get a few singles here there that I would have been embarassed to be caught listening to, let alone owning, back in the day. Like Kyrie by Mr. Mister. Who wants to stand up and admit they own that? Yet I stand guilty of plunking down my 99 cents to download it onto my iPod and loving it. And with the ability to sample all of the songs in the catalog, who hasn’t come across new and interesting music?
Not so with classical music. Although there is a lot of it available on iTunes, the search engine and the way they are classified doesn’t make it easy to stumble across the new and the unfamilar. Plus for me browsing classical music was a hobby of mine that is not as fulfilling online as it is in person.
By the time Tower Records bit the dust I must admit I wasn’t surprised. I watched over the years as the classical section got smaller and smaller, but I knew the end was near when the pop/rock/r&b/rap section started to shrink in favor of magazines and DVDs. My “local” Tower was the one here in DC right near The George Washington University. I loved the fact that it was open until midnight 365 days a year. On those nights when I was a little restless and bored I would walk from Dupont Circle and and spend hours wandering through the rows of CDs in the classical music room. I can remember more than one Christmas Eve browsing the bins until closing time. I didn’t even need to buy anything. I would flip through the once huge classical selection contemplating the merits and demerits of each recording with the help of the well-worn Penguin and Gramophone guides.
Over the past few years the degradation of the classical sanctuary at Tower became so depressing that I can’t say that I didn’t feel a tiny bit of relief when the whole store closed. It was time to put the ailing classical section out of its misery. Thankfully there are truly amazing options for finding all kinds of classical music CDs online but I fear that my days of the serendipitous surprise discovery are over.
But I can get all the Mr. Mister I could ever want.