By the time I was old enough to make informed decisions about what I was buying, vinyl records’ slutty-and-available 3rd cousin twice-removed, “The Cassette,” had taken over the consumer market.
When I was a younger child, the world was flooded with records, including some I’d now consider to be toys. I had a Fisher-Price record player, so it’s hard to say with any significance what my first actual purchase was, technically. It’s hard to nail down what the most important and earliest purchase is, but I would say it’s a tie between two early eye-openers (both of them were on tape). My gut says Double Bummer by Bongwater, but my head says the self-titled third release by Camper Van Beethoven.
I got the CVB album first, at one of the great ‘80s “underground record stores” in my neighborhood in Philadelphia: Repo Records. It was in a somewhat tiny 1.5 room bright-red-brick building behind the train tracks, and it naturally seemed like a portal into another dimension. As a younger kid, my brother and I would pick up LP’s like The Empire Strikes Back and The Great Muppet Caper soundtracks (me) or the Bee Gees Spirits Having Flown (my brother, older) at K-mart after church with our mom. Sometimes she would take us down to the Tower Records on South Street for fun. Repo, and other stores like it, was a whole other thing, a different kind of place. Anyway, sometime around late middle school I picked up this tape by Camper Van Beethoven to try something different from classic rock, and it was awesome. It’s not so clever that it gets away from making killer songs, but it’s pretty goddamned clever; a perfect mix of experimenting and kicking ass, including some hard-core folk licks. I didn’t know anything about them, but it was like music just for me that came from outer space. Oh yeah, and really funny. Whatever happened to funny?