In 2009 my CD buying habits changed as I started using Spoitfy (see here). I grew accustomed to accessing music for free and streaming new albums at home and work. Yet, as my finances improved I started buying CDs again, and while clicking away on cdbaby.com and waiting for my pre-ordered Amerie CD to arrive (Play.com, you’re taking the p*ss now!) I realised how much I miss record shops.
I miss walking in, not knowing where to start and then spending hours just ‘browsing.’ Flicking through album covers, buying CDs for nothing other reason other than liking the artwork (big-ups Nneka – great album) or because you liked the title (big-ups Sandi Thom – though that faith was severely misplaced).
I miss seeing a pretty girl browsing be the soul section, sliding over and making a recommendation. Then bumping into the same chick a few weeks later and finding out you had recommended her her new favourite CD (and then it turning out she was your work colleague’s ‘side chick’). I mean how could that even work these days, CD buying via match.com?
I miss detouring through a record store on the way to Uni, only to end up missing the entire afternoon session trying to justify spending the last of my student loan on the latest Hott 2 Death mixtape when I knew I had textbooks to buy.
I miss arguments in record stores with your mates, or the pretentious guy behind the counter screwing at you for your mispronunciation of Les Nubians. I miss walking in, hearing a tune, going straight to the counter and saying “I need that record!” as you pointed to the sky.
Some of my best friendships were formed in record stores. Seeing people’s talk backed up by the music they bought, or from someone following you all over town to find a copy of one specific song. I remember at high-school a mate and I would travel from Harrow to Elephant & Castle every weekend just to check out a record store there because it sold albums before their official release date.
I miss the bargain bin at specialist shops, my mate picking up Dead Prez – Its Bigger Than Hip-Hop for £1, only to lend it to a DJ mate and never see it again (that was his only vinyl too).
Shoot, I remember going into HMV just after they started their ‘no refunds’ policy and forcing the manager to listen to Hot & Wet by 112 because it was terrible. After two songs he apologised for stocking it and gave me my money back. And I remember looking across the isle at girlfriend’s past and realising it was never going to work because she didn’t get the ‘music thing’…
So much of my youth, my history was spent in record stores up a down the country. It’s a part of me my kids will never experience or fully understand (when I have them that is). The disappearance of so many is like losing a piece of me.
There’s so much I haven’t written about; the hours spent outside Deal Real (RIP) in the freezing cold on a Friday watching the cream of UK hip-hop go toe-to-toe, or buying classic and deleted hip-hop CDs for pence from a store in Huddersfield because they had no idea what they were selling (J Dilla’s Welcome to Detroit for 75p!).
So here’s to the record store, big or small, near or far, specialist or mainstream… Thank You.