“We’re suddenly in a period when it’s de rigueur to buy records” – Alan Scholefield, Honest Jon’s Records, London
“… but those clerks are still there, still sneering at your bad choices, offering you an understated but supportive raise of the eyebrow for your good ones.” – Nick Hornby, writer
“There was always interesting music playing, but I was too timid to actually buy a record, you know, in case I bought the wrong record” – Damon Albarn, musician, singer-songwriter
Chapter 2: Record Stores
At different times in my life, I have daydreamt about owning a record store. These days however, running one seems like a first class ticket to financial disaster. Apart from the obvious incentives, including satisfaction of my vanity and intimidation of unsuspected customers (Jack Black’s portrayal of an erratic assistant in “High Fidelity” has brilliantly set the bar too high), I have very fond childhood memories from my casual visits with my dad to the local record stores in the late 80s. I still remember a particular owner slipping mix-tapes in the bag for my school parties (an early form of piracy I guess, but this is for another chapter). I was exposed at a very young age to various musical genres, which I regrettably snubbed or simply ignored, due to immaturity and stubbornness. Very late at the party, but after a long time I gradually started to appreciate and embrace various genres and styles.
Wednesday morning, October 2003, somewhere in west-central London
The BT technician had just left the flat. Finally, the internet connection had been restored and upgraded to 2Mb. After almost 48h without a connection, the return to civilization was a great relief. His flat-mate had fallen into an internet coma for the last 2 weeks and the lack of internet connectivity had made him a bit quirky.
He left the flat and walked to the tube station. J* would be meeting him outside the Bond Street HMV store. Last night at the local pub J was telling him that a new vinyl section had been introduced at HMV with second hand vinyl and recent represses. At first he thought it was the lager talking, but J never bullshitted about 2 things: football and vinyl, so it was worth the shot. After all, he would be paying a visit to BM records anyway; HMV would be a minor deviation. Continue reading
Tuesday morning, October 1993
He is staring anxiously at the classroom clock counting the nanoseconds. It’s almost 10 and in about an hour or so the boxes with the new releases at the record store downtown are bound to open. There is no way he can make it before 2, unless he skips the last hour at school. He already knows that’s exactly what he is going to do.
The guy behind the counter had promised him that the tunes he was searching for the last weeks would be included in those boxes. It was not the first time the guy made such a promise just to get rid of him, but it didn’t worth the risk. He had to be there in person; phone-calls were never effective. Everybody, who has been at a record store more than twice, can tell a story about a record in a shelf already reserved for a radio producer, a dj or a mate of the store owner.
His impatience was intensified by the fact that every Tuesday morning all the big dogs of the scene would be there. He was a bit intimidated by them and the fact that they always had priority over him to listen to the tunes in the private booth was a bit frustrating. He could not spend as much as they did, as his only resource was his weekly allowance, so their priority status, however irritating it was, actually made sense.
He enters the record store which is already packed and many familiar faces are already searching the shelves and discussing with the guys behind the counter. There is a queue on the decks where one can hear a preview of a record before he can buy it. He heads directly to the jungle/breakbeat section. He knows that the possibility to find on the shelves the records he was looking for is much greater than to find them behind the counter. He’s right! Two records of the list are already there along with a couple of promos he should definitely check out. He picks them all up and visits the other sections waiting for a slot in the private booth. Continue reading
Sunday evening and is about time for the ritual. Holding a cup of coffee and a few hours to spare, it is undoubtedly his favourite part of the week. Time to check the new releases!
First task is to open the notepad where the wish-list is written down and check if everything from the previous week has been crossed out. Apparently not, there are too many new releases to follow nowadays, let alone he always comes up with an old tune worth finding and spare time isn’t unlimited. Although there is no longer a problem in terms of actual or virtual space (no more carton boxes full of records in every part of the house and hard discs’ capacity has increased over the years to accommodate every need), experience has taught that a few gigabytes of free disc space should be available at any time. Continue reading