I stumbled across a piece of news this week purely by accident concerning the closure of HMV’s flagship Oxford Street store. It was while making a quick online search looking for news of the potential transfer of Julian Draxler to Arsenal.
Like so many of my seemingly simple internet searches this turned into a furious series of click throughs to stories that in no way enhance my general life experience, but leave a depressing stain on the psyche, while also wasting valuable minutes (ok, hours) in my day.
News of Draxler became news of Blur’s Alex James’ intention to launch a range of drinks called Britpop (a wind up, surely?) became Frank Skinner turning down the narrating job on Benefits Street (wise move) became Russell Brand making an apparent homophobic remark to Cambridge students (it wasn’t) became the retirement from public life of Shia LaBeouf (me neither) became the story of HMV’s closure.
In between, thanks to the horrific Daily Mail Online (still the Daily Mail only crossed with Heat magazine) which places headlines with pictures all down the right hand panel outlining everything you need to know without even having to click through, there were brief glances at stories concerning Calum Best, James Middleton, Chantelle Hayes and several dozen other non-celebrities.
The news concerning HMV was barely covered by the national press with only NME.com and The Independent reporting it in any detail, yet it was the only story to leave an impression on me. Possibly because it was the only piece of genuine news I stumbled across, but mainly because it stoked that old devil called nostalgia.
I shed no tear for the passing of the once-former music store giant due to their laughably over-priced merchandise, but part of me couldn’t help feel a tinge of sadness at this particular store closure. Back in my record-buying days visits to London involved trawling the likes of Upper and Berwick Street in the dingy, elbow-room only confines of serious record shops, but there was always time to take a detour to the Oxford Street behemoth to marvel at the sheer beauty of so much music under one roof.
Music megastores were nothing new in the 80s and 90s but HMV at 150 Oxford Street – once the biggest music shop in the world – was the daddy of them all. It was the only reason to visit London’s busiest street, unless you had a strong desire to purchase a Beefeater teddy bear, and its place seemed as secure as Selfridges.
With indignant haste it soon became a dinosaur, a symbol of a bygone age that wasn’t actually bygone. Record buyers decided that not having to waste an entire day fighting the horror of crowds of shoppers just to pay way over the odds for the latest release when you could now stay at home and click a button was quite a good idea.
I embraced the change as much as the next techy geek, but reading the article I began to pine for those long lost days immersed in vinyl and CD’s searching for that all elusive, long-since deleted Moose B-side. Unless you shared the passion it’s difficult to explain the joys of ambling around second hand record shops, but I can safely say that there was no such thing as a wasted second in a record store.
HMV biting the dust matters little, but the passing of a way of life for many of my generation and those before is cause for much sympathy, even if for many of us we hadn’t even really noticed it had gone.