Not that it really comes as a surprise, but Borders announced its Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and plans to close 30% of its stores. The digital age has already taken its toll on the record industry, and now bookstores are beginning to feel the heat as well, since e-books the literary equivalent of an Ipod.
Before I moving to Baltimore, Borders was essentially the only place where there was a large selection of CDS. It was either that or Best Buy. But Best Buy didn’t have the back catalogues of most of their artists, and they also only displayed artists with track records of moving copies. It was also one of the few places that I was allowed to drive to by myself when I was in high school.
I would spend hours at a time just browsing through the CDs making mental notes of which artists I needed to eventually check out. Borders was also one of the first places I remember that had a listening station for new CDs. Usually the description of the album was off-base, but at least you were able to actually hear what you were about to purchase. Many of my favorite albums were purchased from Borders - London Calling, Sticky Fingers, Ziggy Stardust, Raw Power, several Pearl Jam bootlegs, etc. The bargain bin (selected albums were $7.99) was also my first introduction to Sam Cooke and Ray Charles.
When I wasn’t looking at the CDs, I would wander off to the music book section and read through many of the rock encyclopedias, and memoirs. If you’re ever wondering where most of my knowledge of artists comes from – it’s a direct result of that. At the time, I desperately wanted to be a rock critic (still do actually) and I figured the best way to do that would be to study up on the subject. Before I listened to Iggy Pop, I knew of his affection for peanut-butter on stage. It was in a Borders’ chair that I first learned about the legend of Robert Johnson making a deal with the Devil at the crossroads.
Because I was there so often, many of the cashiers knew me. When I went to purchase a copy of The Velvet Undeground & Nico , the girl at the counter seemed genuinely interested – she had never heard of them before. When I explained to her what they sounded like – shocker – she didn’t seem as interested in anymore.
Since moving to Baltimore, I hardly ever go to Borders – Soundgarden is about two miles away from my apartment – but whenever I go back to visit my parents I almost always stop by. The last few times I’ve been have been extremely depressing. The CD section has all but been taken away. There are no more back catalogues of artists – shit, even Target has a better selection of artists and albums these days.
I haven’t listened to it in a while, but perhaps I’ll break out my copy of Quadrophenia tonight. It was one of the first albums I purchased at Borders.