Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Steve Rushin, Sting-Ray Afternoons: A Memoir (Little, Brown and Company, 2017)

Anyone who has chanced upon my blog posts and actually read them has likely noticed that my reviews usually invoke a certain reminiscent quality. Something in a book triggers a personal memory, or an experience leads me to read a book, so that the act of reading actually becomes an interaction between ideas, experiences, and memories. Having recently entered the seventh decade of my life, I have a lot of memories (and, fortunately, I can still remember them, even in my seventh decade).

Usually, any given book has just a handful of such points of contact—a song I remember, an incident I recall as if it occurred yesterday—but in the case of Sting-Ray Afternoons, we’re talking about a whole decade of life. This book came highly recommended by one of my partners, a person who is of similar vintage, and it doesn’t disappoint. Steve Rushin, a writer for Sports Illustrated, has produced a book that captures the feel and fabric of adolescent life in suburban Minneapolis during the 1970s.

One aspect of that time that I’d forgotten is how quickly technology changed. We started the decade with vinyl records, transitioned to 8-track tapes, then to cassettes, and, by the end of the decade, we found our way to the first compact discs. The entrepreneurial activity that led to this revolution in how we listened to music led to waves of change within both the music industry and the entire economy. Digital music platforms such as iTunes and Spotify would not even exist today had it not been for the technological development and entrepreneurship that led to digitized music by the end of the 1970s. Without this evolution, Apple and Steve Jobs could have ended up being just footnotes of incredible entrepreneurship in the bygone era that led to the development and proliferation of personal computers. 

The author’s father, who starts the book as a salesman for 3M’s 8-track tape department, is, by the end of the decade, looking at an industry that is quickly dying. Like any good entrepreneur, he needs to figure out how to adapt to changes in the industry around him. 

I wonder what he’d think about the resurgence of vinyl?

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