Music for the People

Almost like a movie out of the mid-50s, I recall kids gathering at a record store in my hometown of Plainfield, NJ.

There, we’d listen to music the in-house disc jockey selected and played on a turntable, in monaural, over a loud speaker system.

There were two “record stores” in Plainfield. Brooks and Edwards. Neither carried a possessive apostrophe. And it was only coincidental that each used a first name, though I’m certain the former was a last name. Each was located at opposite ends of the town’s main drag (named Front Street), as well.

The public record playing occurred only at one of the two stores. And, of course, the motivation by the store was hardly one of a public service. They wanted to sell records. And, presumably, did a pretty good job of it by allowing we listeners to sample the infectious merchandise.

This was the original form of music sampling.

A big, tall, multi-story building with a green façade, Edwards very much seemed like its structure. Established.

I doubt the building housing Brooks had more than two stories. It was a storefront shop. The kind with plate glass windows paralleling the sidewalk and with an inset front door that was approached by very short walkway at the center, between the display widows.

At Edwards one could purchase sheet music. And instruments. And upstairs one could take music lessons. I fumbled around, very briefly, and quite unsuccessfully, with an acoustic guitar.

While I’m sure Edwards offered singles (45s), mostly I remember bins and bins of albums, all arranged alphabetically by genre.

At Brooks one could purchase records, especially the Hits, which were always singles. And the stuff to reproduce records. Turntables, for instance. The kind with the speaker built in (only one speaker was needed at that time). Or the luggage to cart one’s 45s or the wire racks on which to store the singles on tabletops.

No one loitered in front of Edwards. Lots of kids – the incorrigible youth – hung out at Brooks, crowding the sidewalk, to the great annoyance of adult passersby.

Edwards was for traditionalists. One went to Brooks if one wanted to rock and roll.

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