Last week while out with a vendor, our conversation moved from talking about business, and our histories (thankfully) and transitioned to our love for music, covers songs, and the process. Though many record stores, listening to my parents records in the basement, and college radio contributed to the process, our combined story led back to the red and yellow sign of that iconic record store, Tower Records. It was nostalgic to see that sign lit in the Golden1 Center, but we were able to share our stories of going to Tower Records every Tuesday, to purchase new releases, and with him, the hour long walk home where he could pop the CD into his Discman and listen to the entire album, while reading the CD liner notes.

Tower Records, first meant New York and music for me. It was my escape, not from a hard life, but into an ever-evolving world, where, especially then, music was fresh and innovative, enveloped in that distinct scent of a record store. I spent unimaginable hours among those hallowed walls, and I hated leaving behind the CD’s I couldn’t afford. I (we) always had to stop at one of the Manhattan locations, which were like Starbucks on every corner, other than general music, some catered to vinyl sales, others international Jazz orders (my father’s staple). When I realized that there was a location in Atlanta, that was my second home. I remember sitting at the bus stop after I opened Biggie’s “Life After Death” at midnight (20 years ago yesterday), seeing the Roots perform for free, standing in line waiting for OutKast’s autograph, chopping it up with Rico Wade while BET’s Teen Summit was filming the line, or skipping over a “Reasonable Doubt” Jay-Z while he sat with my friend (RIP Myla Wyndham), a Tower buyer who would put me up on music, and my friend and I sampled new music on the listening station. I even remember Redman and Method Man being so high that they fell through the wobbly table that they leaned on for autographs, during the “Blackout” album era.

In addition to The Source magazine, Tower’s Pulse magazine was where I challenged myself to try new music. I was also addicted to buying CD singles for non-album tracks, remixes, or mesmerized by the artwork. Two favorite reads were “Desert Island Discs,” and the College Radio lists, where local R.E.M. was a familiar mainstay.

Life and music evolve, today’s experience is not the same, nor is my attention span…I remember the days when listening and reading liner notes of one album was my practice…whether reading the lyrics, collaborators and producers, or determining where the samples came from, then later going to my father’s vinyl to listen to the originals…today it’s just downloading everything new, and hoping the shuffle gets to the good songs…and missing out on most of the gems. I’ve missed out on so many artists at festivals, although they’ve been in my playlist…it is nostalgia, but I am richer for the above experience.

The manuscript Blue Lines is the fictional coming of age narrative of a young California woman Key Yemaya Walker, and her 2 year growing journey through school, love, and life period piece, written by Kenneth Suffern, Jr., taking place at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill between the years of 1997 – 1998. Loosely based on true events, and experiences during that time, told through the eyes and voice of the main female protagonist, a freshman first attending the school.

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