Actually, I don’t miss them at all. After all, it’s not like they’re completely extinct. If you want to spend your hard-earned on over-priced plastic that you can buy a lot cheaper and easier on Amazon, there are still a ton of places to do it. I was in Camden Market two weeks ago today and there she was, one of those stalls just off the canal selling plastic and CD and videos and DVDs and etc. The first thing I spotted was a DVD for the Oliver Stone Doors movie. It was selling for £10.99. Considering the book I’m writing at the moment, I might have bought it too except I’d already done so a few days before – via Amazon for £5.61 including next day delivery. That was after I’d browsed some clips from it online.
I did find myself thumbing through a couple of racks though, my eye falling inevitably on the various bootlegs. But then all that stuff is also available online now so, like, what’s the point? Unless you’re a collector. But then collectors are like trainspotters. You either totally get it or like me you totally don’t.
Not that I am completely off-message about the whole Record Store Day thing. Right now as I type this I am listening – online – to the still exquisite Terry Reid album, The River, originally released in 1973 and sold to me by the cool cat behind the counter at my local Ealing Broadway record store, Beggars Banquet (this was long before they were a record label too), purely on his personal recommendation. Those were the days when the cool-quotient of your local record store actually counted for something. For everything, in fact, as there was simply no place else where you could a) listen to the stuff before deciding to buy, b) actually have a meaningful conversation with the heads behind the counter, whose opinions you came to know and use as a gauge against what your own feelings about a particular platter – as those of us in the know called them (sort of) – might turn out to be. Oh, you might have gone gliding in there after reading a great review in the NME or Melody Maker, but it was your man with his back to the shelves of black gold that really knew the answers to the meaning of the universe.
In my case there were three top spots you could hit for a dose of the real deal. Cloud Seven – which was just a little bit before my time which meant they often saw me in my school uniform which meant they never considered me in the same way they would the heavy cats in the afghans and beards, dig. The ones with the best looking chicks you had ever seen in your short impoverished life. I always felt more at home at that time in Lullabies, a 207 bus ride away in West Ealing, where the guy behind the counter was older, but totally tuned into the singles charts, often getting the new Bowie or Elton or whatever a few days before anyone else. Lullabies also stayed open later – sometimes as late as 6.30! – and you could hang out. They didn’t have listening booths like Cloud Seven but the old guy would happily blast the stuff out over the main speakers hear it coming down the street. Glorious!
But then Cloud Seven closed and the best of the staff turned up around the corner in the recently opened Beggars Banquet. Beggars didn’t have listening booths either. The trip now was those big headphones, you’d queue for your turn on them. Beggars also had the advantage of nestling halfway between the Queen Vic pub – replete with rock jukebox and willingness to serve under-18s – and Crusts hippy-burger restaurant, also recently opened and kind of like the Beggars version of a burger restaurant in the days when there were no such things as burger restaurants, outside Wimpy Bars. Like, picture this, the first time I went into Crusts on a Saturday afternoon, not long after it opened, the groovy chick who served me and my zonked-out friends smiled blissfully and asked why we were only ordering coke and fries. When I explained we had no dough she just tinkerbell laughed and went and got us all the biggest, juiciest, cheesiest burgers we had ever seen – like, free, baby. Which is one reason why I still recall Crusts so fondly after all these years and centuries of eating in cooled-out places all over this big hippy-burger-filled world.
Well, Beggars never dealt me a freebie LP but it had that same vibe. Like this one is for us, man. And you either got it or hey that’s not our problem, right? By now I was out of school and into my own full-time seek and destroy scene so I fitted right in. Anyway, The River… yeah, that came via personal recommendation from Steve-O. I think that was his name. Steve Webben? Webber? Someone out there will recall. Steve was my idea of what it must be like to die and come back as the Perfect Guy. Mr wine bar and long scarf. Good looking but without shoving it down your throat. Chicks dug him special. Had a place of his own, didn’t need to share. First floor of some groovy pad (I imagined) I was never cool enough to visit. Anyway, I’m in Beggars looking for something to spend my Saturday dough on. But I just could not connect with anything in the racks. Then Steve took the No.6 from his mouth, smiled that hazy jane smile and said, “Have you heard this yet?”
Of course I hadn’t. I knew nothing and he knew everything. But he spinned it and truthfully I didn’t quite get it. I just knew he was dealing me some good shit cos that was his trip and if there was a gap in my instant appreciation, the deficit was all my end not his. So I bought it, took it home, played it and played it cos those were the days when you still had time to indulge artists that way, until finally it got into me, found me, and has stayed there ever since, right up to this minute over 40 years later writing this here now now now.
So, yeah, I get why people are so nostalgic for the old record store days. But come on, amigo, they are goner than gone now. Just like wine bars and the idea that burgers could somehow be just for the cool. I stood in Camden in that largely empty market stall of CDs and vinyl and let it touch me gently then walked away, the way I would an old photo of the far too long ago. Nice just no longer relevant or even that interesting. Mind you, put me into an old book shop, especially one selling rare or secondhand or both of all type books, I go dizzy just from the musty aroma and my wallet falls flat on its back, legs wide open like the book whore it will always be.
Terry Reid’s The River http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvrRHvvVAMY&list=PL3FE645C858A26020&feature=share