Wednesday 16 January 2013


I suppose it had to happen. HMV, the last major music store has had it. It has been coming for some time - any regular visitor to the flagship store on Oxford Street will have noticed the rapid decline in the amount of stock on display over the last few years and the gradual creep of t-shirts, "toys", low quality books and assorted crap as the company desperately tried to keep afloat. It reminds me of the rapid and sad decline of Border's book shop which followed a similar pattern. It also reminds me that my recently visited home town (Redcar) no longer has a music shop - Tony's Records a terrific little independent store folded years ago and Alan Fearnley's in Middlesbrough, a treasure trove for fans of black music, and to which I made a weekly pilgrimage in my teens, is also becoming a distant memory. The end of the music shop seems to have arrived.

I am one of those responsible for the decline in HMV as for the last couple of years I have begun to purchase more and more of my music from Amazon, but Amazon can't offer me opportunities to browse and handle music (and for that matter film too) before I buy it. I don't respond well to change in this area - it took me a long time to accept that vinyl was dead. I have a large collection of vinyl albums, 12" singles and 7" singles that I built up from the age of 10 to the early 1990's when reluctantly I accepted that CDs had ousted my beloved "records". I no longer have a turntable but I won't be getting rid of my vinyl and from time to time toy with the idea of getting myself a "record player".

The turning point for me was when I tried to buy an album called "Jazz on a summer's day" in that same Oxford Street branch of HMV and was told it was only available as a cassette (remember them?) or on CD. I had no CD player at the time so had to buy the cassette - which I also still have and also have nothing to play it on anymore. My problem was that I felt a CD didn't give me the physical relationship with the music that a vinyl disc gave me - the sleeve art, the lyric sheet or the libretto in the case of classical music. Over time, CD sleeves provided all of this and more and I was totally won over. The idea of downloading something from the internet to an i-pod or an i-phone or an "i" something else, with nothing to handle or show for my money does not appeal. At all. But then I have an i-pod with several of my CD's downloaded onto it.

It may be that some branches of HMV will be bought out and rescued but they will never have the range of stock and opportunity to discover new artists and different types of music that they did in the past. I still feel nostalgic for Tower Records at Piccadilly Circus, with its late night opening, massive stock over several floors and humungous jazz collection. We also lost Virgin which became Zavi (?) or something like that and is now gone completely - turned into branches of Primark and other crap stores.   What a way to go.

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