Tuesday, November 27, 2012


When I was still in school, I'd buy pirated cassettes since I could not afford the real stuff. These pirated cassettes were dirt cheap compared to the original stuff. They could easily be found at any night markets and even at most music stores. Consumers could also choose between the much more expensive (but more durable) cassettes and the cheap (but less hardy) ones. Sometimes, I would go to the music store to have my own mixed tapes made. The amount that you had to pay depended on the number of songs chosen and the type of tapes used. I no longer have most of these tapes anymore. After I left home to further my studies, they mysteriously disappeared and were nowhere to be found . Someone must have 'borrowed' them, I guess.

In college, I joined Columbia House, a mail-order music club. This club offered customers a number of cassettes, records or CDs at one cent with a legal agreement that the customers would buy a number of other music products at regular prices over a stipulated length of time. I didn't own any turntable or CD player at the beginning so I ended up buying cassettes instead. The tapes were of inferior quality than those that one could buy at the music store but I thought they were a real good bargain for a struggling student like me. In the beginning, the offer looked too good to pass. It was only later that I realised that I was actually paying more than I should. After I had fulfilled the obligation of buying the number of cassettes under the contract, I quit the club. By then, I had already found a few other avenues to fulfill my craving for music.

Not far from my campus was a music store called Peaches which I would frequent after my classes were over. The store was spacious and had quite a good selection if you were into pop and rock music. The staff would also play newly-released albums for the customers to listen to and display the covers of the currently-playing records at the check-out counter. The section for 7 and 12 inch singles was adequate if you were looking for the latest top 40 music or dance music. There were also a few other music stores (I can't even remember what their names were) that I went to especially the ones located in the shopping malls but it was much more convenient for me to go to Peaches. Most of the cassettes and singles I own were purchased from this store during my student years. Although I don't listen to these cassettes anymore, I still keep them safely (in alphabetical order, of course) at home. I still own a functional cassette player which is as ancient as I am but I had to bid adieu to my turntable a few months back. I'm not sure if I will ever own another turntable again.

There was also another record shop in my college town which specialised in alternative and college music. I bought my first CD from this shop and also a few 12 inch singles which were not available from other music stores. I only went to this shop a few times and one of the reasons why I rarely went there was because it was located too far downtown. I did not own any transport back then and the walk there could be exhausting. Going to that shop also meant I had to brave the downtown crowd and I did not really enjoy doing that. I was such a weird (but fun) dresser back then and I loathed having people look and stare at me unnecessarily.

There was also a small music shop at the Students Centre on my campus called School Kids Records & Tapes. The music selection was very limited and it was mostly pop and rock titles. I don't think I ever bought anything from that place. I might be wrong about that but my memory is a little bit hazy regarding this particular shop. The Students Centre was usually busy with the more 'normal' crowd especially during lunch hour and I tried to avoid it as much as possible.

I also managed to secure this music catalogue (see the picture above) from a friend which enabled me to know about albums released by my favourite singers. From this catalogue, I'd ask the music stores if they could order the albums that I wanted. I could have ordered the albums directly from the catalogue but somehow, I never did. This catalogue also had a special section for CDs since not all albums were produced in CD form back then. Most of the CDs were priced at US$ 15.98 which I considered as a ridiculous amount of money to be spent on a CD.

My favourite music haunt was a secondhand shop called Papa Jazz Record Shoppe. The shop perpetually smelled of incense and also other intoxicating unidentifiable scents. It was difficult to move around in the shop and the ventilation was not that great either. There were records all over the place including those in boxes and milk crates on the floor. CDs were such rarities back then and only a few titles were available. I loved that place since I could buy a used record for $2.50 and sometimes even less. I spent many hot and cold afternoons in the store browsing thousands of records which I had never heard or seen before. The staff would never ask you what you were looking for and you were free to stay and look even if you never bought a single thing.

I was really excited when Tower Records opened its first shop in Kuala Lumpur. Everything was much more organised and the store was also very spacious and convenient. Going to the store was always fun and exciting. To my dismay, the original KL store was closed after a few years operating. I have often wondered if the changing trend of buying music was the cause of the closing of the store.

Nowadays, buying music is no longer fun like it used to be. I'm not sure what the cause of this feeling is. One possible reason is I no longer feel the connection with current music. Not many songs are able to touch me the way they did when I was younger. The excitement of waiting for new albums to be released and buying them is gone. I still buy a few things that I like through the Internet from time to time but they are mostly albums that I can no longer get in the Malaysian market. As I get older, I believe one of these days I will no longer buy any music at all. All my cassette tapes, compact discs and records are precious to me and are part of my youth. At the moment, everything in my music collection is kept safely far from public view (except for my CDs) where they will receive the occasional visit from me whenever I feel that nostalgic thug on my heartstrings.

p/s I am yet to buy any music digitally.