Welcome to Lafayette, where we have the best prices on McMusic.
January 29, 2003
I wasn’t raised here, so I can’t profess to have fond memories of hanging out in Raccoon Records and discovering new music by jawing with other like-minded audiophiles. Sure, I remember vinyl records – still own quite a few of them – but I spent my money at a horrible little hole in the wall at the Alexandria Mall called Tape World. If you couldn’t find what you were looking for and you asked an employee, he would walk right back to the spot you had been looking, give it the once over and then tell you, nope, they didn’t have it.
When CDs came out, Tape World went belly up, and my life continued as before. If I needed music, I just went to Peppermint Records (R.I.P.), where they were phasing out albums and tapes in favor of the smaller compact discs. I was one of the few people on the face of this planet who begrudgingly purchased my first CD player. I had built up quite a little library of cassettes, and here they had gone and invented another format that required another player. A friend of mine had told me that CDs were far superior to tapes and that they were virtually indestructible, that scientists had smeared them in peanut butter, wiped them clean and they had performed perfectly. I replied that I had never had any need to lather up my cassettes with peanut butter.
So, I can’t say that Raccoon shaped my musical tastes. What I can say is that when I moved here about five years ago, I was impressed with the little shop. Actually, I was amazed that it even existed. How had it managed to survive in the shadow of the monoliths like Sam Goody?
Raccoon didn’t always have the exact title I was looking for, but they would order it for me if it wasn’t in stock. And, for the most part, they had the staples. If you woke up one morning and realized that what was missing from your life was the Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsys album, then a quick trip to Raccoon could put your life back on track.
A few months ago, I walked into Raccoon Records, and I was the only customer there. But the last time I was there, during their going-out-of-business sale, there were a dozen people combing through the thinning bins like vultures picking at a carcass.
I know a couple of the guys who work there. I knew the store was closing its doors after 28 years of business, but I still made some wisecrack about how business must be picking up. One of my friends said, “Yeah, once you knock 30 percent off, they come out of the woodwork. Where were they six months ago?”
While eyeballing the bins, I realized the ones that had been pillaged the most were the Cajun and zydeco titles – not the multiple copies of Avril Lavigne or Eminem – but the local stuff. Then it hit me. What if I woke up one morning for a hankering for a Clifton Chenier or a Balfa Brothers album? What would I do? Sure, I might be able to order it on Amazon.com, but then I’d have to wait. My only option would be to drive out to Music Machine in Eunice, where Todd Ortego would hook me up, along with a beeper and a sno cone (weather permitting), before I headed back to Lafayette.
Then I thought about those poor tourists who wander aimlessly down Jefferson Street in Downtown Lafayette, looking for a record shop to buy the local sounds to bring back home with them. I’ve met several of those folks, drifting through Downtown, looking toward the sky for our shrine to local music. I’ve even taken a few of them down to Raccoon and helped them pick out some CDs to bring home. They have money to spend, but no idea where to spend it.
George Berry managed to run a pretty tight ship for 28 years. We can argue until the cows come home over why Raccoon’s gone out of business. Some say it’s the piracy of music files over the Internet, burning copies of CDs or the outrageous prices of manufactured CDs. There’s tons of speculation about why the music business, both locally and nationally, is suffering, but no one can really seem to draw a bead on the problem. What we do know is that we’re witnessing a major transformation of the music business beast. What it will look like, whom it will feed on and what pleasure it will provide us remains uncertain.
But for the time being, we have The Mega Stores to sell us McMusic at the best prices. So, if you run into any of those tourists who come here for our music, just tell them there’s no place to buy local music, but we don’t mind. We get the best deals on John Tesh, Billy Ray Cyrus and ‘N Sync.