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On the bright side of the road
Lover of words. Usually found with a book or a pen in my hand.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

His Master's Voice

In administration?  Say it aint so!  HMV’s news has shocked many people, but I suspect that most of them were teenagers at a very different time to today.

Many are saying how HMV brought it upon themselves:  slow to react to market changes, uneducated staff, only stocking new and commercial music……

Well, there is something to be said for that.  But shouldn’t the consumer take some responsibility?  I mean, if we used our feet to buy instead of our mice they might’ve stood a chance.

Is this the end of music-buying as we know it, Jim?  I fear it is but I am reluctant to face that final frontier of ordering online and digital downloads.  Call me old-fashioned (which I definitely am) but I like to spend lunchtimes browsing in HMV, listening to their music choice of the moment and feeling part of a community as I flick through albums and perhaps choose something on a whim.  I’ve had this love affair with music shops for most of my life.

It all started with Preedy’s.  Preedy’s was the place of my very first job, like so many youngsters of my day….the faithful paper-round.  Preedy’s was amazing, it wasn’t your typical little dark corner-shop selling cans of beer and Omo.  Oh no.  Preedy’s had aspirations.  This was in the day before supermarkets, retail parks and shopping malls.  But by the standards of the day, Preedy’s was big.  It had an aisle cutting the shop into two halves.  And then again into quarters.  And my favourite quarter was the record section.  One of my very first pay packets was spent on some chocolates for  mum and an LP record for me.  I can still remember it, it was called Good-byeee, Songs from 1914-18.  OK, so I wasn’t cool yet, but my love affair had begun.  The whole act of browsing, choosing, and taking something tangible home to put on my record player was joyous.

From the paper-round I graduated to the local fruit and veg shop and with more money in my pocket and maturity under my belt, next came the high street shop:  Our Price Records.  It was a fraction of the size of Preedy’s but it held a treasure-trove of records that were so trendy it felt almost indecent.  Always packed with spotty, sweaty teenagers and music banging out into the atmospheric dimly lit space, it was total bliss.

Roxanne (The Police) in blue vinyl and Life in Tokyo (Japan) on red, helped to shape my appreciation of not only the musicians but the artists and designers, too.  At school I was terrible at Art, but my favourite project (and most successful) was the task of designing an album cover.  I used screen printing as my method, thinking I was some sort of Andy Warhol and that David Bowie would write a song about me.

When I was at college, along came the Virgin Megastore in London – wow!  That store was revolutionary:  sophisticated shopping that was organised, spacious and brightly-lit.  Stocking any genre you could care to imagine, it was attractive to several different generations.  Were the youth losing their hold on the trendiness of music?

Now I’m older, our local town has a lovely HMV store:  not as big as Virgin Megastore and not as grungy as Our Price Records.  It may not always have what I want but the staff are always friendly and helpful.  When I look around the store, I see that mostly people are like me, on their lunch-break, respectable and perhaps looking for an old favourite album to buy on CD.

I feel sorry for the youth of today.  Their world is far less exciting than mine was.  I don’t believe that downloading or ordering online is satisfying – it’s an empty sort of experience.

Perhaps those people are right, perhaps HMV did take its finger off the pulse.  The shop has become middle-aged and that’s fine for those that are middle-aged but as a youngster, I wanted somewhere that belonged to my generation where oldies weren’t catered for.

I hope that HMV survives but what I’d really like to see is for them to launch some shops on the style of my old Our Price Records – cramped, noisy and dark.  Let’s get some excitement back into buying music.

Of course, I wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole – I need somewhere well-lit and organised with lots of room to manoeuvre.  Now, I wonder if HMV stock Good-byeee, Songs from 1914-18?  I think I’ll go and have a browse while I still can.