Singer's book to track glory days of the CD

Grammy winner Jack Antonoff's book is based on his own youth as a voracious CD consumer.
Grammy winner Jack Antonoff's book is based on his own youth as a voracious CD consumer.PHOTO: REUTERS

Jack Antonoff's new book Record Store will look at the 1990s CD culture, with mega-chains and booming music sales

NEW YORK • In the age of streaming music, there is no shortage of nostalgia for record stores that fostered a sense of community and also sold tangible products. But in mourning that mostly bygone era of erudite clerks and obscure, collectible titles, it is possible to overlook the very recent past - namely, the more mainstream 1990s CD culture, with its mega-chains such as Tower Records.

That period, when music sales were booming, will be the focus of a coming book, Record Store, by Jack Antonoff, the Grammywinning singer, songwriter and producer behind hits for singer- songwriters Taylor Swift and Sara Bareilles, along with his own bands Bleachers and Fun.

Simon & Schuster, which will publish the book, described Record Store in an announcement as "a heavily illustrated anthology of essays, interviews, photographs, and ephemera" - commissioned and organised by Antonoff - "that will pay tribute to the cherished, and endangered, cultural institution".

While no official publication date has been set, Antonoff said he was aiming for release next year.

Antonoff, 31, explained in an interview that the project was based largely on his own youth as a voracious CD consumer in suburban New Jersey - far from the popular perception of a record-store patron as a crate-digging vinyl obsessive.

"It seems like the nerdy, record-collector type owns the conversation," he said. "But that wasn't my experience growing up and it wasn't the experience of a lot of people I know."

Record Store will be "the opposite of an old, crotchety, 'things- were-better' dusty book about vinyl", he added.

Instead, it will draw from his entertainment-industry connections to tell personal stories about "record-store culture for the majority of us - looking at it from the perspective of a very normal kid who went to these stores to find out about music and wasn't part of some super elite".

While he declined to name any future contributors because the book is still in its planning stages, he said: "It's not going to be just a bunch of famous people - that'll be a piece of it."

(He can often be spotted on social media with artists such as Lorde, Swift, Charli XCX and his girlfriend, writer-actress Lena Dunham.) But the anthology will include "everyone from really notable people to the guy that managed the Tower Records where I grew up", he said, while also addressing independent local shops.

Record Store was inspired in part by issues of Rolling Stone from the 1990s, with their endless ads for CD racks and other accessories, along with the youth-culture Rookie Yearbook and the limited-run magazine Grand Royal, published by the Beastie Boys from 1993 to 1997.

"A lot like the zines I made when I was a kid, perfectly mixed with the art books I look at now," Antonoff said.

And with vinyl having a bit of an extended renaissance, he is counting on something similar for CDs. "We're right in the middle of this moment when we think that time period was a big, weird joke, but it was how most of us discovered music," he said of his generation. "These are already antique artefacts. At some point, there will be a tipping point where these things are going to be so important."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Singer's book to track glory days of the CD'. Print Edition | Subscribe