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Doug Rowan was still buying cassettes until about four years ago. When CDs came out in the mid-’80s, he was suspicious. “I knew when they came out they would be obsolete,” he explains. “I assumed the Digital Audio Tape was gonna supplant the CD really quickly.”
Rowan, 53, was wrong. But his faulty prediction didn’t keep him from the music industry’s McDonald’s. He logged serious time here, he says, “after work on winter days.” A large man with wavy gray-to-silver hair and a gold peanut hanging from a chain around his neck, he radiates “regular.” He looks like he could be the drummer for the Tower’s entire ’70s-rock back catalog. Or what’s left of it. At home, in his two-bedroom apartment, he shares his bedroom with 1,000 pieces of vinyl as well as what is presumably the area’s largest and longest-lasting tape collection. He says he has a storage unit for another 100 albums or so. “Everything is collecting dust,” he says.
“Albums last a long time,” he says. “I have 78s also. But I went ahead and bought cassettes because they were so cheap and I knew they would be [a] temporary pop in the car—a good way to pick up New Wave and rock.” He could score tapes for less than $10, buying CDs only out of desperation, like when Procol Harum came to the area and he wanted to hear 2003’s The Well’s on Fire.
In his red plastic basket, for his almost-final run, Rowan has a small stack of CDs: Todd Rundgren’s first band, the Nazz; a newer Alarm album; Elvis; Manilow; Soul Coughing’s M Doughty; and Sugar Ray, which he describes hesitantly as “hip-hop from five years ago.” “It’s just my luck that they’re now on sale, they’re now extinct,” he says.