“If you haven’t grown up by age fifty, you don’t have to.”
Saying that record stores were the Mecca of my youth is an understatement. Even though I mostly bought cassette tapes when just a wee lad, I arrived in life still early enough to be baptized by the tantalizing sound of my parents vinyl collection. When Compact Disc first hit the market I was enthused to find out what laser beams could do for my ears. Turns out, not much.
Words and Photos by Eric Franklin Shook
I remember listening to my first CD and thinking, I don’t like this. Purchasing another CD is something I wouldn’t do again for another seven years. Not to say I wasn’t technologically impressed by the format.
It’s just that everything I was impressed with about the Compact Disc had nothing to do with music. To dry, too clinical, too something wrong; and it kinda hurt my feelings. Entering young adulthood my opinion changed as my fascination of car audio grew larger. It’s amazing how quickly you can max out your first credit card from buying something as simple as Compact Discs.
Today we are at Manifest Discs, a large record store in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina–nursing our hangovers with caffeinated donut store swill, and thinking about our future journeys home.
In my company are Leon Shaw, the man ultimately responsible for this hangover and founder of Audio Advice just a few miles up the street.
Joining us from lands farther away are Michael Fremer of Analog Planet whose flight out to New Jersey leaves in a three hours. Lastly to join us, the mysteriously spry and exuberant David Solomon of Peachtree Audio (later Tidal and Qobuz). I have more pity for David than normal, as his drive back to Atlanta as it will be scattered with wildfires, smoke, and the early setting winter sun staring him head on along the way.
Leon and David are sifting through records they already own multiple copies of. Reminiscing over the “where, when, and who” of many classic recording sessions and concerts. Michael is teaching me all the things I’ve ever wanted to know about vinyl.
Myself? I’m here to buy one record, a British funk group’s self titled debut album Cymande (1972), an album that I first heard on vinyl at Capital Audiofest, thanks to Sean Casey of Zu Audio. A fantastic-sounding and truly groovy album that surely would smell of cannabis if one was so lucky to find an original copy in the used bin. Always a sign of authenticity.
Self-reconciling my own presence, I don’t exactly feel like the fourth horseman here–so I quietly resign myself to the duties of toting the solitary shopping basket for the group.
I might as well make good use of myself while soaking up the free history lessons. Nothing is more disabling to a purchaser than holding onto a purchase while simultaneously digging for more purchases. Me? I’m an enabler.
David: “Should I buy this record?”
Me: “Why wouldn’t you?”
Manifest Discs of Charlotte, North Carolina closed its doors for the last time on the evening of Tuesday, December 21st, 2021. The queen city of North Carolina just became a little less cool, with never much to spare.