Bootleg Records From Long Ago

I stopped at a used record shop for an old Genesis bootleg I had seen there last week. If it was still there, I'd count that as fate saying I just had to buy it. There it was and so I bought it. Of course I did.

I buy mostly used records. I buy some new albums, but used stuff is more interesting. Most shops are poorly organized, so I hunt for the good stuff. That's fine so long as I'm on my own. Anyone with me wonders, as the first half hour passes, when they'll be released and when I might look up and rejoin the world. Flipping through, I'm somewhere and some-when else.

Anyone who thrifts for clothes, old car parts, or what have you knows this feeling of drifting away, of solitude that is all too rare these days. I even switch my phone off while in the temples of vinyl. There were no mobile phones back in record days.

Records are things of the past. They're making a comeback of sorts but won't ever be mainstream again and so they harken back to another time. I won't say it was a better time we should go back to. That nonsense leads to racist red baseball hats. However, like cherry picked classic rock, I go back for some of that era's greatest hits.

I'm alone in the house with the bootleg record on the turntable. The recording is terrible (the audience member's microphone seems to have been incapable of recording bass), but the experience is as close as I can get to being back in tenth grade. Then there was no YouTube filled with every bootleg known to fandom. Instead, I dug through bins at Desert Shore and hoped for the best when I brought one home where, by myself or with my best friend, I'd put the record on (often with a fresh TDK or Maxell tape recording it) and listen carefully. I remember hearing this bootleg back then, imagining myself at the concert that had happened ten years before, back when I was only seven. It was a bit of magic. Now, rather than imagining the concert I never saw, I recall the red and black rug, the Technics turntable, the view out my bedroom windows, the scratched and pitted recording that is my memory and which is much less clear than the audio on this bootleg.

Flipping through records I recall my younger self trying work through the store methodically but drifting from jazz to rock, working through A, B, and C but then jumping to G and finding the bootleg I didn't know I had been looking for but which felt just right and so full of possibility. There I am, paying the bill, catching the bus from the SU Hill back home. Up in my room, I open the turntable, slip the record from its sleeve, and set the needle in the groove for a listen. It comes back to me across four decades, like an old song whose words are all still there, whose every melody is etched into me.

That terrible bootleg record sounds awfully good to me.