As a teenager I spent my pocket money on tapes and vinyl, CDs and music magazines like Smash Hits and the NME. Ah, those heady days when the NME was a newspaper and cost just 85p. We had 5 music shops (that I remember) in town – HMV, Virgin, Our Price and MVC (remember them? You had to be a member, and then you didn’t) and the world’s oldest record store Spillers Records.
We loved Our Price. Well, we loved the cute indie boys who worked there (hellooooo Mr Winklepicker and Mr Blondiepops!). We used to put the Pulp video (yes, video cassette) in the middle of the Michael Jackson videos because that’s how we rolled. Teenage rebellion in a record shop. So 20th Century.
Music shops have more than struggled recently. Our Price was owned by Virgin Megastores who went under a few years ago, and today they’ve announced that HMV have called in the administrators.
This is bittersweet to me.
I was last in HMV just before Christmas and to be honest I found it a logistical nightmare. The music was shoved right at the back of the shop so I had to fight past the rows of sale items and headphone displays in order to even try to find a CD and by the time I’d got to the CD racks I’d lost interest in finding an album and became more interested in escaping the place entirely. I found that vinyl section. The vinyl was horrifically overpriced, but I think that’s the fault of hipsters. Stupid hipsters. I had to buy vinyl as a kid because it was that or nothing in some cases. Not all singles were released on tape (99p!) and I didn’t have a CD player until Christmas 1996 so vinyl was the only option. (FWIW I have Super Furry Animals and Longpigs 7″ singles that cost me 99p and are now going for a tenner on eBay. Not that I’d sell, just saying.) Anyway, HMV was a horrible place in the end, indeed I doubt that poor Nipper would have been able to hear His Master’s Voice over the shite that was blasting in there that day.
However, this will not be my lasting memory of HMV. HMV was where I first met Nicky Wire. He grinned and signed my diary when I greeted him “Hello, Nicky Wire. Can I have your autograph please?”. I also stood behind Danni Minogue in the queue for the tills on Oxford Street (this was before X Factor and all that crap). Never mind all the CDs and films I bought there over the years. Some of my CDs still have the barcode labels on, and I genuinely wonder if I really paid £16.99 for the Best of The Clash or if it was part of a deal.
I like MP3s. I like to be able to put my music on something and not have to carry around a box to keep it in. So will I go entirely digital? No. I like the boxes. I like seeling shelves of CDs and records, just as I like shelves of books. I like to spend time browsing the racks, getting excited when you find something on import. You don’t get that online. Sure you can buy CDs along with your eggs in the supermarket, but no one in that supermarket will care what you buy or advise you on other bands you might like but would otherwise not have heard of because they don’t yet have the exposure. This is why the independents are a thing to be treasured. They care about the music. Sure, making a little money along the way is awesome (let’s face it, we all have to live and nothing comes for free in this world!) but the indies are the one place in retail where you can find someone who actually gives a toss about what they’re selling. That goes for book shops too. I maintain that you cannot be an effective sales person if you don’t believe in what you’re selling. Why do you think comic shops are staffed by, and I am generalising here, nerds? They love it! I love it!
So back to the music.
I’ve just found Best Coast. I’m probably late to the party on this (no doubt the vinyl is a hot seller for Urban Outfitters) but they are so fun! It’s nice to have happy, sunny music on a dark wintery day when the weather forecast is threatening snow. I’ll be off to buy this record on the weekend. Also, it’s cheaper to buy from Spillers than Amazon. Have some of that.
Hope it brightens your day too. Support your local shops. Any of them.