One of the things that still makes independent record stores essential is the exposure to a lot of great music you’d never hear otherwise. Yes, there are plenty of internet radio stations playing terrific but obscure music, but when you have the physical ability to change the station, it does provide an “out” that you would otherwise not get when you’re listening to something and it’s awesomeness creeps up on you.
Case in point: Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis’s stoner metal project from the late 2000s: Witch. I first heard this at Boomerang Records in Lacey one afternoon and this cool mix of Black Sabbath and Hawkwind kicked my ass.
One of the best music books of the last 10-15 years is Michael Azerrad’s history of American alternative rock from 1981-1991, “Our Band Could Be Your Life.” Released in 2001 and available in digital format within the next day or so, “Life” is the college radio version of “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls” (Peter Biskind’s exhaustive and stellar look at Hollywood of the 1970s). Azerrad devotes each chapter to a different seminal band of the period (Mission of Burma, Butthole Surfers, The Minutemen, Sonic Youth, Black Flag, Big Black, Hüsker Dü, Fugazi, Minor Threat, Mudhoney, The Replacements, Beat Happening, and Dinosaur Jr.). Some of the stories you may know … others you won’t. But if you have any interest at all in rock history (especially alternative / progressive rock), “Life” is a must. The chapter on the Butthole Surfers by itself is worth the price of the entire book. Seriously, the chapter reads like Hunter S. Thompson smoking angel dust with Monty Python with chaos, insanity, humor, and violence ensuing like a motherf–ker!