Monday, August 28, 2006

Random Notes on a Rainy Afternoon

I don't know what the weather's doing where you are, but here it's been raining all day--the sort of rain that makes you think autumn is not far off. Here are a few thoughts that have been in my head this afternoon.

In the comments a couple of weeks ago, my pal Willie mentioned the impending demise of Tower Records, once one of the behemoths of record retailing. Over the weekend, a story about the bankruptcy of the company appeared online and in newspapers. I agree with the analyst who said that the failure can't be blamed on digital downloads, although that would make sense at first blush. Tower's bankruptcy is more about getting left behind as the music business changed--music sales slumped generally, having an online business became critically important, and other retailers, most notably Walmart, could undercut their prices. And it's not just Tower that's getting killed that way. There's no music store in the big mall out here on the west side of Madison anymore, and hasn't been for nearly a year. The ones that used to be there, FYE and before that Musicland/Sam Goody, were ridiculously expensive toward the end--you'd be paying full list price for most of the stuff you bought, although the selection was usually extremely good. You could walk across the parking lot to Shopko and pay a lot less.

Coincidentally, another good comment to the same post noted that downloading, which allows consumers to buy songs they like one at a time, is merely the modern equivalent of buying 45s, as so many of us did back in the day. I haven't quite gotten used to that yet--if I'm going to buy music online, I still feel like I have to download entire albums. And I bought a killer yesterday: Nothing But the Water by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. I should have discovered this band a month ago when Homercat at Good Rockin' Tonight posted about them, but I didn't. And so I have gone an entire month, unnecessarily, without having this album in my life. If you're a Bonnie Raitt fan, or you dig a blues band anchored by a smokin' Hammond B3, you'll dig this. Which is basically what Homercat said, but because I am an idiot, I missed hearing Grace until this past weekend. If you want a taste, click here.

I should mention too that jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson died last week. For a brief period in the late 70s and early 80s, he was probably the most famous jazz musician in the country. His version of "Gonna Fly Now" from Rocky and the album Conquistador was a hit single in 1977, and sometime around 1980 he played a concert at my college that brought rock fans to their feet, repeatedly--although by that point, jazz fans were abandoning him precisely because he'd gone pop. In the Washington Post, David von Drehle wrote an appreciative column from the point of view of a late-70s teenage fan.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled afternoon, already in progress.


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