I’ve been thinking about Record Store Day. As far as retail ‘events’ goes, it is, undeniably, ‘a good thing’. After all, it’s definitely totally indie, there are only independent record stores left now. It gives lovely shops like Rough Trade East, where I chose to go for my retail fix, a massive boost. And, because it’s something to do with music, it’s suffused with this mystical idea that you are in some way doing something more than buying something when you go and buy something.
Now, I’ve been attempting to get totally zen about purchasing stuff. Usually, outside of the local green grocers, where I can’t help but be tempted by the purple sprouting broccoli and the buttony vine tomatoes, I can usually sail down a high street or a cool back alleyway, past all the shops, without a blink, without one little pang of the old – oooh, I really NEED that thing, without a tinge of retail regret when I get home.
But today, oh today, I found myself slipping, like the alcoholic fallen off the wagon, my little look into the shop turned into a whirl of old style shopping.
First, I picked up a Gotan Project single. New tracks, good for the radio show, I heard myself mumble, probably actually out loud, not just in my head. Then the Daphni mix of the new Hot Chip single, because, well, it’s Daphni, and, well, that will be good for the show too.
Then, with two shrink wrapped beauties under my arm I headed for the 7″ single counter, a table stocked with little discs of delight, wrapped in coloured paper. Tasty audio macaroons, each one bright and shiny, each promising a different flavour. A copy of the Velvet Undergroud’s Sweet Jane in original picture sleeve slipped into my collection; closely followed by a soul version of a Nirvana song, bought on the strength of the little info label, so courteously attached by one of the RT staff to tempt people like me. Ooh, only 200 copies in the whole world, I gasped. Then, all the old habits coming back, I made one more round of the bits of the shop I had already visited, just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, eager to add to the little stack of stuff in my sweaty hands.
Once you have bought four things, another one doesn’t seem like that much of a big deal, so I quickly added a 12″ from The Very Best, then, in a moment of clear vision, headed for the till before things got really bad. I think it was the sight of the Â£22.99 price tag on the reissue of the Velvet Underground’s Loaded album that did it. Though of course on a track by track basis my single, with only two tunes for a whopping Â£6.99, is actually more ridiculously over priced.
So, out of the shop, 45 odd quid poorer and on some sort of high from the queueing and the bustle and the buying and the barging and the general good vibes inside the store, I strode out into the spring sunshine in search of a pub to watch the second half of the Chelsea Arsenal game.
Of course it can’t last. Apart from the collectors and the geeks, we will all, inevitably, end up consuming our culture digitally. There really is little point in owning a carrier of music or a film when what you want is the music or the film. It takes up space, it gathers dust and eventually hurts your back when you put it in a box with lots of other carriers and try to move it somewhere. Almost all the music I buy now is digital and unlike the luddites and the product fetishists, I actually like it that way. I have never been that big on stuff.
But, despite the fact that I have been parted from some cash, despite the fact that it’s not entirely necessary, I still think it would be a tragedy if Rough Trade and all the other shops like it round the country were to disappear. I will always love looking round them, smelling the smell of slightly damp cardboard, feeling part of some sort of indefinable something that is just so cool and so beautiful, Even if, most of the time, I get some ideas then go home and buy the download.