I become unreasonably sad when I think of all the awesome music related things that my children, who are as yet unborn and not even a twinkle in my eye, will not grow up with. This is, of course, ridiculous. I should be worried about the sort of economy they will grow up in, and the social climate, and the ACTUAL climate – you know, the environment and stuff. But I’m not.
When Michael Jackson died, I got upset that my unborn children would never be alive at the same time as him, and that the only tools I would have to adequately convey to them how amazing his music was would be…well, his music, and my memory, and perhaps This Is It on DVD. It won’t make a huge difference to them though; they’ll hate all the music I love anyway, because that’s what children do isn’t it?
But now HMV is closing and all my fears about the things my children will miss out on are resurfacing. And listen, I KNOW that HMV has become obsolete – it failed to move with the times, and it’s gone under as a result. And there’s no point placing blame on all the people who bought music on iTunes instead, because I am one of those people.
The whole point about music is that it’s non-tangible. You can’t touch it, but you can hear it. And if it makes you feel good when you hear it, you want to listen to it again, and right now. If you can do that at the touch of a button, why on earth would you get your coat on and go down to the store, which takes longer? If you no longer need something as bulky as a CD in order to play a song that you like, why would you go to the trouble of buying one, taking it home and finding somewhere to store it?
You wouldn’t, and we aren’t. I understand that. However, I virtually grew up in HMV and its kin, and to lose the last of the great high street record stores makes me want to cry a little bit. I know there will always be record stores down alleys in Soho and places, and the art of browsing will never die. But everyone knows where the high street is. Music missing from a place where so many people congregate seems wrong somehow.
My friends and I used to meet up in HMV on Saturdays. We used to spend hours in the Rock and Metal aisle, looking for a rare Jimmy Eat World import or early System of a Down release. I saw my first ever live band that wasn’t a manufactured pop group in a high street record store (Virgin Megastore, Elbow, July 2001). I used to get the train up to the flagship stores in London after school to go to in store signings. I once trekked from London to Reading on the train on a school night to get a Reading Festival ticket from the HMV there because it was the only place that had any available.
I grew from a clueless teenager into an equally clueless adult to a backdrop of awesome music, most of which I purchased at HMV. And for a brief stint in 2009, I even got to work there, thus playing out my secret dream of being part of the cast of Empire Records (okay so it wasn’t quite like the film, and Liv Tyler wasn’t there, but it was still WELL COOL). And now it’s shutting and it’s sad.
So let’s all take a moment to recall our own high street record store memories and mourn the loss of a great British institution, and it’s little dog too. Times will change and music will continue to provide a rich and wonderful backdrop to our lives. But it won’t be blaring out of the shop door on the high street anymore. It’ll be on our MP3 players instead. And we’ll just have to recount our music store stories to our children, when they are old enough to listen. And they won’t listen because Justin Bieber will be on the telly, and that will be more interesting. But WE’LL know. And that will just have to be enough.
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