It’s a sign of my age that I’ve reached the stage where I find myself saying “back in my day”. Ask my grown kids. But unlike my parents, those four words are not followed by something like “people danced properly” or “you could tell the girls from the boys” or “you could understand what they were singing”. You see, I was born in 1960, so imagine what my musical soundtrack has been. Early, fan club releases of the latest Beatles single (my sister Susan was a member), Tamla Motown and the birth of a host of genres; 60’s psychedelia, prog rock, fusion, disco, punk rock and so on. I love the music scene right now and you’ll forgive me, I’m sure, if I can’t help noticing the historical nuances in the music of today’s artists like Tame Impala and aplaud bands like The Strypes not only for their musicianship but there unabashed respect for the source of their wild, driven, old skool R&B.
My first exposure to pop music was from the radio and from listening to the music my two elder sisters would bring home but from the age of 12, my voyage of musical discovery was guided by regular visits to the local record shop. Come Saturday, I’d happily haunt that place for hours. Flipping through the racks of vinyl records, admiring the art work, looking for new releases and occasionaly buying one. And while I browsed, the record store assistant was playing music; new stuff, stuff by bands I’d never heard of and I loved that. In the early 80’s, I even realised a teenage dream by blagging a job behind the counter of the record department of WH Smiths in Chiswick…now playing ‘October’ by U2.
I do less browsing now because I have @BBC6Music and every hour is like a browse through a cool record store.
The days of the record store chain may be numbered but the independent sector is fighting back. Which is great because independent stores were always cooler and the staff were more knowledegable and passionate. I’ll be celebrating Record Store Day for all the great music I discovered while browsing the shelves at independent stores in West Bromwich & Birmingham in the 70’s and Shrewsbury in the 80’s, for the happy memories of Chiswick in 1981 and for the great gigs it led me to. Back in my day, people were passionate about music and broke the rules and didn’t care what their parents said. The only difference today is that the parents are telling their kids to “turn it up!”. So, long live the record store!