Friday, June 1, 2007

Forty Years Ago Today...

I know I’m dating myself, but it was 40 years ago today the Beatles released their signature album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

I remember waking up that morning and turning on the transistor radio next to my bed. The DJs were already all abuzz about the album, saying how it would change the course of music. I bought into the hype 100% (the fact that I was a huge Beatles fan didn’t hurt).

There was no question that I had to have the album that day.

My mother didn’t quite understand the urgency—driving me to a record store wasn’t the number one item on her agenda. The truth is it wasn’t on her agenda at all. But I finally wore her down, and in the early evening she agreed to take me to Vogel’s Records, in Elizabeth, N.J.

By that time, I was a nervous wreck. It was late, so I wondered if there would be any copies left. What would I do if it was sold out—would she drive to Two Guys from Harrison on Rt. 22 (or “the highway” as we called it) to see if it was in stock there? If they were out too, I added, we could always try National, further down the road. Right?

My mother said I would have an ulcer by the time I was 15.

As soon as I saw the display when we walked in, I felt like crying. Yes, there were copies left! I grabbed one.

The store was full of people, and everyone seemed to be talking about the Beatles. I felt like I belonged to a special club. It was exciting just to be there.

A local newspaper about the album was interviewing the solemn-looking man who always sat behind the cash register. He had, of course, ordered extra copies in anticipation of the rush. There were even people lined up outside the store when it opened, he said.

My mother bought the album and we left. I held onto it like gold. And when we got home, I ran right upstairs and put on my less-than-excellent turntable. I was in heaven. What a day!

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with my 13-year-old godson about buying records (or, to be more accurate, CDs). He is a big music fan and always seems to have the latest generation iPod. Nearly all of the music he listens to has been downloaded from the Internet.

“Why would I want to go to a store and buy music,” he said to me, “when I can just download it?”

It’s hard to argue with him. But looking back, I’m glad I didn’t have the option 40 years ago of downloading “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

It wouldn’t have been as exciting—or as fun.

— Marianne Wilson

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