Sunday, April 22, 2012

Skillz That Pay The Billz

Not another digital vs vinyl debate please. Well, no, just some random thoughts that have done the rounds of my mind in the past couple of days. You see, I'm constantly thinking of stuff like this but rarely have the time to commit anything to posterity. Record Store Day yesterday got me thinking. Firstly about how ironic it was that someone like John Lydon was one of its most ardent figureheads. Also, while lying in the bath yesterday morning and listening to Radio 4, I heard that vinyl sales have increased for the first time in years, during the last twelve months. How much of that was down to EDM/IDM and not to rock, pop and independent self-congratulatory obscurity, etc?

Record Store Day isn't just about reviving vinyl of course, it's just as much about the camaraderie to be found in record shops and the discoveries to be made there. However, to regard all vinyl emporiums as oases of calm, disgression and tolerance would be to completely miss the point. In many respects they are as punishing as the playground, but this time the geeks and nerds are in control. I've never had any problem in any such situations, but I've witnessed countless episodes where customers have been made to look and feel stupid. The case of my brother, when buying 'White Man In Hammersmith Palais' from Probe in Liverpool. He had the misfortune to be buying it just as it had been cued up and started to blast out in the shop. "Don't you recognise Joe Strummer's voice . . ." shrieked Norman, a righteous, spekky bowl-haired dwarf so that the whole shop could hear him. No big deal, but I've known weaker personalities that could have become agoraphobic after such an observation. Norman was ok though, as was everyone else who worked at Probe, probably the best shop I have ever been in, or am likely to. Pete Burns and his black contact lenses used to put the fear of god into scales of all sizes. Paul Rutherford used to work there. I remember going in one weekday morning and he was chairing a debate into the merits of a particularly cheesy B-Movie which had been on telly the night before called 'The Car'.

Which, in a very roundabout way, leads me on to ponder why everyone is so in love with vinyl? The first thing to be straight about is that everyone isn't in love with it. It'll never recover it's former position as most consumed sound format on the planet, that's gone forever. MP3s and their bastard offspring will see to that for the foreseeable future. It's an ironic position, but vinyl, kept alive by house, techno, and all other club-related forms is now being re-appropriated by the rockiest masses. Vinyl's debt to independent dance music (IDM) or electronic dance music (EDM),  is almost incalculable. Simultaneously though, the associated genres have done more than most others to bury it. No group of types lend themselves so easily to technological changes and advances in recording, formatting, broadcasting etc . . .  but I supposed I shouldn't be too surprised. Techno paradoxically goes forward by constantly looking back.

Record Store Day makes me think of these places:

Phoenix Records The Shopping Hall Liscard, Bargain Box, Rox, Vernon's Vinyl Vault, Reaction Records New Brighton, Probe, Penny Lane, Daddy Kool, Dub Vendor, Skeleton Records Birkenhead, Rounder Records Brighton, Black Market, Rough Trade Paris, Salinas Paris, Rough Trade Ladbroke Grove, Phonica, Planet X New Brunswick NJ USA and many more the names of which are lost in the ether.

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