Losing a record store is a difficult thing to go through, even ones founded by an eccentric billionaire. Yes, the Virgin Megastore lacked the ma-and-pa charm of an independent record store (if you couldn’t tell from the latter part of its name)–the ones operated by college drop-outs, who know everything about anything and diligently hand-print band names on every CD placard in the shop. But, the Virgin Megastore never pretended to be a consumer electronics and appliance retailer masquerading as a place to get new music. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Virgin Megastore never wrote up the price of washers and dryers so they could sell CD’s at a cheaper price. (I’m sure they wrote up other things, but at least they didn’t sell washers and dryers.)
(above: Today we remember the Virgin Megastore.)
Working in New York City, the Virgin Megastore was the ideal place for killing time. If I ever arrived early for a meeting, I could duck into the Times Square or Union Square outlet and quickly kill an hour (or two, or three). I can’t tell you how many New York City tours I’ve given to friends and family over the years, and trust me, the Virgin Megastore is a refuge amidst the Foot Locker, Toys ‘R Us, Swatch, Planet Hollywood, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, and people asking you if you like stand up comedy lining the crowded streets of Times Square.
In 2000, the Virgin Megastore was the last place I purchased a cassette tape–the Deftones’ White Pony album. Because the Megastore was opened late, I could always get my favorite new releases the midnight before they came out. Sometimes I would even bring a boom box, buy an album at Virgin, and listen to it on the steps of Union Square as skateboarders did kick flips and ollies over me.
We live in a new era though. The most popular form of listening to music doesn’t come from circular pieces of plastic or vinyl anymore, but from digital files containing countless amounts of 1’s and 0’s. If the Megastore–which outlasted Tower Records in New York City–can go under, anyone can. Years ago, if this happened to Virgin, I might’ve pumped my fist in the air and said, “Yeah, stick it to the man,” but as more and more record shops closed their doors for good, I was rooting for Virgin to stay alive. Alas, it didn’t. The Times Square location died on April 1, and the Union Square outlet is currently on life support and will have its plug pulled on April 30.
We say goodbye to an era:
Goodbye to autograph signings. Goodbye to in-store concert appearances (say what you will about the corporate backing of the Virgin Megastore, but even an I’m-better-than-you indie kid has to agree that they had some kick-butt performances, especially in the Union Square location). Goodbye to an entire room dedicated to dance/electronic music. Goodbye to myriad listening stations where you could preview a CD long before you could do it on your home computer. Goodbye to the $10 sale (a great chance to stock up on CDs from the past). Goodbye to vinyl, import, indie, and international sections. Goodbye to the easiest record store to commute to in the city. Goodbye to the way we used to do things.
Union Square won’t be the same without a music store, and I’m too afraid to think of what Disney-like attraction will take the place of the Times Square Virgin Megastore.
If one day, Virgin Megastore, we meet again in the afterlife–I’m gonna be honest here–I probably won’t even walk inside your doors, cause c’mon, there’ll be too many other awesome record stores to choose from (the ones that, maybe, you help put out of business). But, hey, at least you got this eulogy out me. Peace out and thanks for the memories.
(Pause for a moment of silence.)
Alright everyone, the wake’s at my house. We’re gonna eat a cold-cut platter and two-day old lasagna while we listen to my White Pony cassette tape–