An ode to the music shop: what was your first music purchase?

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I have had a long-term relationship with music stores since I was 11. My mom took me to see That Thing You Do! and I fell hard for everything: the dudes, the band, the music. I immediately asked if we could get the soundtrack, and shortly thereafter took my first intentional step into a music shop. Sure, I had been into them before, but never with a purpose — never when I was looking for something that would change my life.

I quickly started quite the habit, buying as many cassettes and CDs as my mom would allow. Once I started working a sizable portion of my income went toward music, and I eventually started working at a music store in my local mall. Whether or not it’s a genre I’m into, I love just spending time surrounded by music. The oft-quoted line from Almost Famous, “… if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends” has been a mantra of mine since I first heard it. Even though I have bought thousands of CDs, tapes, and MP3 albums since 1996, my first still takes up residence in a very special, hallowed place in my heart.

My son recently picked out his first CD (disc three of MotΓΆrhead’s Deaf Forever) and all of these feelings came flooding back to me. Like myself before him, my son had been into a music store before — he’d even weighed-in on discussions about what we should pick out — but he had never gone in knowing he was picking out his very own music for the first time. The experience was pretty incredible.

Like many a music fan (and four-year-old), he initially went a little wild, running into the store yelling about looking for MotΓΆrhead or Judas Priest. He bounced from section to section, commenting on posters and album covers, noting the differences between design elements and the size of records versus CDs. Music has always been something we’ve bonded over, and this experience was no different. I could feel his excitement.

We found three options, and he picked the only one with a grisly, slightly terrifying demon on the front of it. With that, he was set: he found his first album. We made our way up to the counter and completed the purchase. Of course, then we got to finish up the experience in the best way possible: ripping open the CD and putting it on our car’s player.

My favorite thing about picking out your first record is that the experience is something you’ll always remember, just like other important firsts. To me, picking out your own music is a crucial rite of passage. I feel like the choice you make is indicative of what kind of music will move you in the future — in my case, my soundtrack introduced me to The Beatles, and I’ve never stopped loving them.

This all has me wondering: what was your first music purchase, and why did you pick it out?

Comments on An ode to the music shop: what was your first music purchase?

  1. Michael Jackson’s Thriller! I was in the second grade, but mom loved pop music too- I still own that LP and pull it out on the right occasion.

    • You think you’s so great ’cause you work in a frickin’ record store?! You gonna give me a job, Joe?

      If I ever strike it rich, I’m buying up the location where it was filmed and turning it back into a record store. It needs to be. The movie is way too awesome not to be! It wasn’t my first purchase, but I’d say it was my first record splurge when I purchased the limited edition Empire Records soundtrack on vinyl. Brand spankin’ new, still in plastic. And it’s been in plastic ever since. I can’t even be bothered to play it. It hangs on the wall instead.

  2. I had bought cassettes before (including the very excellent Dance Mix ’95!), but the first time I bought a CD for myself “with purpose” would be when I got my hands on the first Savage Garden album πŸ˜‰ I was 11 and I had just fallen in love with their “I Want You” single.

    I remember getting home, going to the office (where the stereo was) and closing the door to listen to the whole album all by myself. It was great, and I think it was the first time I had ever listened to a whole album in one sitting.

    I still have the CD and have uploaded it to my iPod recently for a little nostlagia boost.

    • AAAHH I remember recording “Truly Madly Deeply” onto a cassette from the radio and listening to it ALL THE TIME. Nostaaaallllgggiiiiaaaaaa

      • Oh man, I kept a blank cassette in my radio/cassette player at all times so I could record songs that came on the radio if I didn’t own the tape or CD yet.

        • Ditto! And I’d record new songs on top of old ones, and then try to make my own mixes.. it was ridiculous. I loved listening to the Casey Kasem countdown and recording my favorites.

          • I’m more of a “Rick Dees and the Weeeeklyyyy Top Fourrrrtyyyyyyy” kinda girl. Funny enough, my boss is friends with Rick Dees and gets him to do our radio promos and I’m like *_* IDOL.
            But yeah, I recorded all kinds of songs from the radio and I’d try to get people to listen to them, but no one thought I was cool so they wouldn’t but then they’d like the song a week from then and I’d be like /hipster angst.

    • Savage Garden’s album Affirmation was my first, I still have it in my itunes and it’s hard not to sing along when shuffle surprises me with I Want You! Can be awkward on the train πŸ˜›

    • those are awesome choices! I congratulate younger-you’s great taste! (and the great taste of younger-you’s friend)

    • Flood was one of the first CDs I ever owned, and I loved loved loved it (still do!). It was a hand me down from my much older sister, though, so not really one I picked out on my own.

      The first album I ever bought on my own, though, was when my brother -in-law took me to a record store in Boston, and I remember just being in AWE of all the choices. In the end, I chose Rites of Passage by the Indigo Girls: it wound up being the soundtrack of my life for years after the fact, and I still hum some of the songs to myself when I am nervous/trying to stay calm and composed.

  3. My sister and I split the cost of a Bob Marley CD at a Daytona Beach flea market when we were in 5th and 6th grade. It was the first step toward a lifelong reggae addiction.

  4. My first self-purchased album was TLC’s “Crazy, Sexy, Cool” on CD. Totally inappropriate for a 9-year-old, but my parents never cared about what music I did or didn’t listen to! πŸ™‚

    • Same here! I think I got that album along with Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” (speaking of inappropriate for a 9 year old!) and the Pocahontas soundtrack all at the same time πŸ™‚ Probably with those awesome CD gift cards from Fred Meyer’s that actually came in a CD case.

  5. I was about nine years old and I saved up my allowance so that I could buy Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill on cassette. I had heard it at a friend’s birthday party and really loved it. I was such a good little girl, though, that I self-censored when she drops the f-bomb in You Oughta Know. I’d turn my tape player volume down until it was past that part, then turn it back up, haha. I still have that cassette, too. <3

    Later, I had somewhat of a music obsession in high school. My parents would give me $15 a week, supposedly earmarked for school lunches. However, I'd pack vegetables and dry cereal for lunch and go buy a punk CD a week on Fridays at the music store around the corner from our house.

  6. Mine was a record (yes, a record) of Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy. I was seven or eight. I still have it.

    I love this article. It reminded me of the thrill of discovering new music that I think I’ve lost in the last few years. Instead of buying one album and listening to it over and over, I tend to listen to stations that play a variety of music. It’s definitely made me lose that connection that I used to feel for a band.

    • One reason I’m quite fond of listening to Pandora while I work is that the music changes and I find new songs and bands that I love almost daily, while also listening to bands that I already love. Since I get to pick the station, I know I’ll dig the general vibe.. I’ve found sooooo many good bands this way. But I 100% recommend paying the $30 or whatever it is to listen commercial free!

      • I have never paid for Pandora, but somehow I have stopped hearing commercials. I wonder if it has something to do with the Adblock I installed on Firefox. Not having commercials is great. Having Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and OPP play when we are trying to have family dinner time….not so great. πŸ˜‰ Guess Pandora is trying to spice up our meal!

        • You just made me realize that on the computer where I have adblock installed, I don’t get commercials, but on a different computer I do!

          • Guys, seriously: now I’m not sure if we actually paid for Pandora or if the Adblock blocks the commercials. I just assumed it was the former, but whoa.

    • Oh man, I hear you on that one! I think it’s a combination of downloading music online and not having a bus ride to listen to a new CD ad nauseum that has ruined my relationship with an artist or an album.

      • Yes! I used to drive a lot for work, so I had plenty of time to listen to one album over and over. Now I only halfway pay attention if I’m listening at home because I’m busy doing other things.

    • No shame! When “Achy Breaky Heart” came out I was living in a tiny rural town on Alabama, and remember having a t-shirt with the phrase on it and listening to/singing that song while running around the flea market my parents worked at ALL THE TIME. I also grew up to be a Beatles fan. πŸ˜‰

      • Okay, I sang “Achy Breaky Heart” on the radio and won a gift card, with which I bought the most hideous outfit, featuring a flannel/floral peplum top (before those were cool) and floral leggings.
        I didn’t buy that album–my mom did–but I listened to it on repeat forever. Billy Ray Cyrus grew up an hour or so away from me, so he was the living end. That mullet, those acid-washed jeans.

        • DOOTSIE I CAN’T EVEN. Every time you comment you reveal yourself to be an even more epic person. Also please tell me there’s a cassette with a recording of your singing experience lying around somewhere.

          • NO I WISH. I did it live. We spotted our local deejay doing a livespot in the parking lot of the grocery store (???) so we turned on the radio as he said “The first person who comes down here and sings ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ gets a $20 gift card” and I was like “I CAN DO THAT.” So we ran over and tada! I was in kindergarten. XD

          • Oh, I’m sure, somewhere out there, there’s someone who has your rendition on a mix tape, intentionally recorded or not. πŸ™‚ At least, I’m assuming mine wasn’t the only family that used to sometimes tape songs from the radio…Somewhere we have a tape with the Macarena on it, among other songs…

      • My parents have a video of me dancing to country music when I was two. I think it was Hal Ketchum and not Billy Ray Cyrus, though.

  7. This post is awesome, but it also makes me sad. There are no music stores left in Phoenix… my son will never have this experience. Sigh.

    Anyway, my first CD purchase was Mariah Carey’s Music Box in 1993… I was 11. I think I still have it somewhere.

  8. I’m pretty sure the first CD I bought was Britney Spears’ original album. My brother had bought it and I think he regretted it and ended up pawning it off on his little sister while at the same time getting his money back.

    My first intentional purchase that I actually went out of my way to buy the CD with my meger allowance was Nightwish. We didn’t have a record store in my small town so I had to drive 45 minutes to the closest store only to find they didn’t have it and had to special order it.

  9. My first cassette was Step By Step by New Kids on the Block. My first CD was Deluxe by Better than Ezra, gifted to me by a cousin who had signed up for the Columbia 12-CDs-for-a-penny thing.

  10. I LOVE this post and the comments! I am a total music and concert nerd.

    The first album I remember loving was something by Hank Williams, Jr. Probably a Greatest Hits.

    But the first album I remember going out to intentionally buy was the Spice Girls’ first one. I don’t think I even liked it that much, I just wanted to be cool.

    Stephanie, I think it’s awesome you are sharing your love of music with your kiddo, and making an “event” out of him picking out his first CD! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Thank you! Music is HUGELY important to me, and I’ve been sharing it with him since he was in the womb. πŸ™‚ I don’t always love what he loves — Motorhead is a great example — but I still listen to it and try to find something I can talk to him about. I think it’s important to show him that just because I don’t particularly love something he loves doesn’t mean we still can’t discuss it. He’s just about to turn 5 so we probably have many, many years of disagreeing about music ahead of us. πŸ˜‰

  11. I poached my parents’ music, though my mom bough a few things knowing I would love them.

    1. Alanis Morisette, Jagged Little Pill
    2. Spice Girls
    3. Hanson, Middle of Nowhere (my first CD that was actually mine!)

    (Also, can you tell ’96/’97 was a big year for me?)

    I can’t remember which CD I actually picked out for myself, but I am pretty sure it was a another Hanson album. Or Spice World.

      • Actually my second CD πŸ˜‰ Also have it ont he iPod right now. I pop in their Christmas album every year when I see the first snow.

    • YES! Middle of Nowhere was my first CD, too! I got it for my 10th birthday after making VERY sure my parents knew I wanted it.

    • Middle of Nowhere was my first CD, too! Also, if Hanson ever comes through your area on tour, SEE THEM. They are even more talented than ever, still writing amazing new music, and they make a point to sing something from every album at some point during each show. Yes, Mmmbop included πŸ™‚

      • Sadly, they didn’t come anywhere east of Winnipeg last October when they were in Canada. πŸ™

  12. The first cds that were actually really mine were the Shrek soundtrack (which is actually quite good) and Pink’s Missundaztood. They were gifts and for some reason, people giving me my very own albums made me feel like I had unlocked some achievement of adolescence.

    The first CD I bought myself was Nickel Creek‘s first album, because what twelve year old doesn’t love bluegrass.

  13. My first actual purchase I made myself was in eighth grade when I was given a CD player – such a huge deal! I had to have CDs to play in it, so I went and got Brandi and Monica’s first albums (both of which had The Boy Is Mine on it. I was a little obsessed).

    • Ha! The first purchases I ever made in a record store were singles (they were 99c and albums were a few dollars). I was in middle school and it was the early 90s. By the mid-90s I had a money to buy full albums and a taste for the grunge scene. But the early 90s slow jams and girl bands still have a place in my heart.

      My first music (singles):
      -En Vogue – My Lovin’
      -Color Me Bad – I Wanna Sex You Up
      -Paula Abdul – Opposites Attract
      -Janet Jackson- Escapade
      -Wilson Phillips – Hold On
      -Extreme – More Than Words
      (and I am pretty sure I had many Bryan Adams singles and a few tapes too)

  14. I’m embarrassed to say, I don’t remember, as it’s sort of a blur. My parents bought me tapes I wanted, but I don’t remember my *first* time into a record store. For years, my sister and I shared tapes, or they were hers, so it’s hard to be certain, but some of my earliest ones included a bunch of Dave Matthews Band, Hanson (I know, I know…), Natalie Merchant, and Shawn Colvin. Somewhere along the way, while I was still a massive DMB fan, the tapes transitioned into being CDs and I became a huge Monkees fan (followed closely by the Beatles, who have remained a major favorite). The cds I really remember consciously going into get were at the Monkees phase, though, so it’s possible the others were all holiday and birthday gifts.

    I remember my sister’s first CD was Weird Al Yankovic’s Bad Hair Day. Why that sticks out in my mind better than anything else, I’m not sure…

  15. I think I bought one or two Mary Chapin Carpenter tapes as a kid. I must have been 10 years old? Unfortunately, I can’t remember which ones. I just know my parents had Shooting Straight in the Dark, and I loved it, so I wanted more. An early purchase, possibly at the same time, might also have been Billy Joel, River of Dreams.

    I remember my mom acting like it was a momentous occasion – me choosing a tape for myself. I just wanted to get home and listen to the new purchases.

    I also have incredibly fond memories of using my parents’ tape deck. It was really nice, and on days when I was bored, I would just play through all of the tapes I could. Even though I didn’t buy them myself, I still felt pretty connected the physicality of putting the tapes in and pressing play, as well as looking at all of their covers (yeah, so I was an only child, and I found all kinds of strange/creative ways to entertain myself)

    My first CD – 8th grade, several years later – was most definitely Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill.

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