The Decline of Music in the Valley

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On the usual drive through the valley, passing through Northridge, I pulled over to respond to a text. My refusal to text while driving incited a different response, this time around. Lost in the shuffle of the daily to-dos and the seemingly endless chirps of my cell phone, I found myself in the parking lot of the old Tower Records.

Sometimes, I just can’t help myself. I just have to ask. What the hell happened?

Did the record stores crumble while we stared at a computer screen? It wasn’t just Tower Records that ceased to be. Warehouse Music, Tempo Records, Music Plus, they were all gone as well. All of the hours that I spent hanging out at Record Trader or Ear Candy and none of it to share with a new generation, but a collection of pictures and remastered mp3s.

Music was such a huge part of my life, growing up in the San Fernando Valley. I remember seeing the green apple that branded a Beatle’s album on my brother’s floor. I remember my first 8-track, purchased from Zody’s department store.  Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy was the catalyst to my antics as a collector. It was records, long before it was relics. Collecting music and stories about music seemed to be a common pastime in the valley. It was the meaning of the hidden track after The Beatle’s  “A Day in the Life.” It was the theories about “Stairway to Heaven,” played backwards. It was Alice Cooper’s shock rock at Devonshire Downs or even just the local show at the teen center.

One of my first jobs was at the Two Guys department store. I had to lie about my age just to get the job. A coworker of mine would always brag about his dad’s Marantz Hi-Fi setup and there is no forgetting the day I finally sat in his home, listening to Yes’ “Close to the Edge” in high fidelity. The needle on the vinyl and the warm fuzz, preempting the journey that the music was about to take you on. There was absolutely nothing like it. The only musical experience that could have surpassed this was the first time hearing Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s “Brain Salad Surgery” on quad-sound. From the record store, to the tape-deck, there truly was a ritual to the musical process.

The decline of the 8-track, the disappearance of the cassette, the vinyls attempt to remain relevant and the venue’s longing for a line. It all happened so fast.

So here I sit, in the parking lot of Tower Records, saddened heart and weakened mind, all because I don’t text and drive.

 

To Licorice Pizza, Midnight Special, Stage West, Filthy McNasty’s, Teen Center, Mancini’s, all of the record stores and venues gone missing, you are gone, but not forgotten. Thank you for everything.

My ears are still ringing.

 

 

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