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Saying Goodbye to a Hollywood Landmark

Written By: Jack West

05-22-2009
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You Spin Me ‘Round, Like a Record Baby: The Last of the Virgin Megastores Closing in Hollywood

I am quite saddened to know that the Virgin Megastores will be going the same route as Tower Records, Aron's Records, and the Dodo. I mean whatever happened to the day when you got all excited to go to a record shop with the money that you saved up to purchase the latest album of a band that would just change your whole existence? Or that one song that got stuck in your head that was the latest dance craze that would eventually drive you insane by summer's end.

Personally I hate shopping, but the only time I have ever made an exception to that rule was when I went on the hunt for music. It was an experience for me. I could come in a recordshop with the sole intention of purchasing a specific band or song and then have my ears catch a glimpse of some other aural tasty tidbit that I suddenly realized that I could not simply live without.

Being a shy person by nature, I find it hard to talk to strangers. But you best believe that if there was a song to be added to MY collection - it would get me out of my shell enough to ask the clerk what was playing on the speakers. Sometimes you could go up to ask one question and learn that there were 3 or four other bands that you should check out too.

My whole teenage existence was dedicated to music. So much that it was what I decided to do as I entered the job market. There was absolutely NO desire to settle for that job at the local McDonalds or the grocery mart. No sir. Not for me. I was going for the GLORY - the record store. It just seemed to me to be so glamourous in my naive way. I set my mind on it at that's what I did. I worked in the fabulous world of music retail.

Working in a record shop provided me with several things. First and foremost there was a paycheck. But more importantly there was the music - Aisles and aisles of music. Sure there was crap mixed in those bins too but there also were countless numbers of untapped jems just waiting to be discovered. Working with other people who had an intense love of music that I hadn't been exposed to also helped me grow. I learned that I do love the blues and just because I hate the modern state of country music doesn't mean that there are some great singers in the classic variety to be discovered. Working in a record store meant that I had to drop my guard. I had to do this or I might miss out on some really good stuff.

Walking into a Virgin Megastore was a pop culture junkie’s dream come true - From music, movies, games, and books, you could wander about for hours getting more and more things added to your list that you didn’t even realize that you couldn’t live without. Virgin melded together all these various obsessions all under one roof understanding the necessity of the preservation of pop culture and it’s impact on society. People can laugh about pop culture as if it doesn’t truly matter but ask anyone about their favorite song or movie and how it shaped them in someway, and you will discover that everyone has at least one thing that has affected them on some level.

Ask any staff member who works there and they would unload a vast amount of knowledge in their field of expertise and then some. You might even gain a new friend in the process. And for those hooked on the celebrity lifestyle – this was a cool place to spot some out on the town doing things that everyone else does.

Working for Virgin, I also met some of the best friends that I have ever known, many of whom I consider lifelong ones. I have met so many interesting characters that came in and out of our doors on a weekly basis and it also provided me the ultimate experience of meeting my idol Morrissey. And this particular meeting wasn't even an instore - he just happened to love shopping there.

Store openings were always spectacular events with a lot of hoopla surrounding them especially with Richard Branson heading off the ribbon-cutting ceremonies with crazy stunts and live bands worthy of media attention. The closing will undoubtedly be a much quieter affair. Please show your final respects to the company and its workers who actually gave a damn about the products they were selling. With the closing of the final Megastore in the U.S., we are losing yet another pop cultural meeting ground for like minds to meet and bulk up their awesome collections be it music, movies, or games.

Prior to Virgin, I spent four years in the trenches of another defunct record store, Music Plus, as a soldier informing the public of all the other music choices that lurked outside of the Top 40 spectrum. Today, I have a 'respectable' desk job, albeit it is still connected to music. However, to this day I still find myself recommending music to family and friends that I think they would be interested in. I guess you can take the girl out of the recordshop, but you can't take the recordshop out of the girl. I could go on and on about how wonderful it was to be in an environment that not only put food on my table but also fed my very soul. I worked in the now defunct Sunset store for 3 years of my life and with the company for 11 total. There were high points and low points but the high points definitely out weigh the low in the scope of how it changed my life.

I was fortunate to have experienced the phenomenon that was Virgin from both sides of the counter. I know I must sound like an old fart reminiscing on - "the Good Old Days... when I had to walk four miles knee deep in snow... and there wasn't any inside plumbing to boot!" But some how I feel that in this age of digital music where there is no sense of community or nice packaging to go along with the music experience, that there is definitely something lacking. So DAMMIT people please go out there and support your local record shops! Do it for the music! Do it for the children! Do it for Yourself!

About The Author:  Ivy Greenwall was literally born in Hollywood on the famous Sunset Strip. He has worked in the music industry for over 15 years. In his travels he has met everyone from Ray Manzarek, Motorhead's Lemmy, crooner Morrissey, and the infamous Ozzy Osbourne.  Almost every notable musician in the past couple of decades has crossed his path, although humbly he would be the last person to tell you this fact.