Jan 28 2013

The End Of An Era? Goodbye To HMV…

This afternoon I did what I quite often do on a day off and headed into my local town centre in Windsor for a wander. I generally do this a couple of times a week. I go for coffee, do the food shopping. And I always have a look in HMV.

Not today though. Because it has gone. I posted this photo on Twitter and it caused quite a reaction…

HMV Windsor

Now I wasn’t particularly surprised at the stir this caused considering who I follow on Twitter and who follows me. There are a lot of independent musicians and fans of independent music who may well have little need of such a chain and probably haven’t visited a branch of HMV for years. But HMV has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember, so I thought I’d drop a quick post here partly to say goodbye and partly so you can share your thoughts too.

When I was learning music as a kid I dreamt of the day when I could walk into a big record store and find something that I was on. Sad but true. Now (well, until today anyway) I can walk into pretty much any branch of HMV and find at least one record that I’m on somewhere. Which is a great feeling. And I don’t get that feeling when it shows up on iTunes; even for my own records.

HMV Vintage Poster

But this is by the by. Obviously the massive shift in the music industry and the change in the way that people buy their music has had a huge effect on the high street. Richard Branson shut down his Virgin Megastores years ago. He saw it coming. They were largely bought up by the European firm Zavvi, which lasted all of five minutes. Fopp (my record store of choice) went bust when they tried to expand and got partially rescued by HMV. So they are doomed too which is a bloody shame as they were possibly the best high street music retailer (even after the HMV takeover) for both commercial and more esoteric music.

We can all see where HMV got it wrong. They failed to keep up with online trends, sporting one of the shoddiest websites around. They failed to compete with online giants like Amazon and play.com and lost out. Perhaps high street record stores were always doomed to vanish the minute music consumption shifted to digital from physical media (even given the supposedly renewed trend for vinyl). But I really thought that there was room for at least one big chain to survive on the high street. And HMV was the last man standing.

Vintage HMV Advert

I suspect that many of you reading this will probably say you buy your music (whether physical or digital) almost exclusively online anyway and won’t be sad to see HMV disappear from our high streets, citing it’s out-moded business models and pricing policies. And you’re probably correct. But I will miss browsing around the stores and finding little gems. I buy a lot of CDs folks, and I buy them in shops. I like to see what’s just come out in the new releases, see what’s on offer. I’ve bought a few albums having heard them playing in Fopp. I’ve even bought a couple of albums because (sharp intake of breath!) I like the cover. Yes indeed. I am particularly good at that it turns out. I like to happen upon things in Fopp and occasionally take a chance on something I’ve never heard of if it’s a bargain. I’ve never done that on Amazon.

I do also buy a lot of music digitally, either via Bandcamp or iTunes (yes I still use iTunes!). I like having the choice. If it’s an album by someone I love, I will buy the CD. I’ll always be first in the queue at Fopp when a new album comes out by someone like Bjork, Antony & The Johnsons or Sigur Ros. But I want to go to a shop. If I have to order it online I will most likely buy the download. It’s cheaper and it doesn’t take up valuable shelf space!

I know this blog post probably makes me sound very old-fashioned and over-nostalgic, but I really will miss record stores. And yes, I know there are still some independent record stores out there, but they are few and far between and even fewer stock anything I’d be interested in at a sensible price. HMV often did. And Fopp always did.

The same argument applies to DVDs too. I often pop into HMV and pick a cheap film to watch later in the evening. Can’t do that anymore. In fact as I walked through Windsor this afternoon the thought occurred that there is now not a single shop that sells music or films. Not one. And I’m sure mine isn’t the only town centre where this is now the case. @PintoDexter commented saying there are no dedicated camera shops on the high street since the demise of Jessops earlier this month, but at least you can buy camera gear in other electronic stores. You’d be hard pushed to go out and buy a CD or grab a film to watch tonight…

So tell me; will you be sad to see Fopp and HMV go? Am I really the only one? Do you think this will have any knock-on effect on the music/film industries? Do post your comments below…

This Store Is Closed: HMV


Dec 24 2012

Last Post Of The Year!!

Yes indeed folks, it’s the final post of 2012.

Turned out the world didn’t end and we’re all still here and probably should have done the Christmas shopping earlier.

Duke Special & Simon Little on stage at Shepherds Bush Empire

Following on from the previous post, I can report that the Duke Special gig at Shepherds Bush Empire was really rather excellent. We had some superb guests including Michele Stodart, Boo Hewerdine and Beth Rowley. It was so good to be playing on stage with all the regulars again after such a long time.

Duke Special & Band on stage at Shepherds Bush Empire

A few videos have already surfaced on YouTube from the show. Here’s the Duke and Michele performing John Prine’s In Spite of Ourselves. Loved this performance…

And here’s an old favourite, I Let You Down, featuring Chip, Ben and me at the start of the show. The Undertaker did indeed make an appearance. Frankly, I needed little excuse to don the tailcoat and top hat once again…

That’s all for now. Hope to see you all at a gig sometime in the new year. Have a lovely Christmas. I shall leave you for now with the latest offering Foreground Music, Vol. I from me, Jez and Mike. Do pop over to the Bandcamp page and grab yourself a copy (my solo records are all available on the same link). We’re all so proud of the record and we’ll be looking to do some more recording and live shows in the new year; watch this space! Until next time… See y’all in 2013 :) x


Oct 12 2012

Gear Clearout Alert!!!

Hello folks,

Just a quick post to let the bassists and guitarists among you know about a couple of bits of gear I have just posted up on eBay for sale.

First is my Lexicon MPX G2 guitar effects processor and R1 midi controller. This is the processor I used to create all the sounds on my first album Mandala (CD’s still available by the way… hint hint). And those of you familiar with Steve Lawson (aka the mighty @solobasssteve), this is the unit he uses for all his solo bass work. It’s a great piece of kit and they are pretty hard to come by, especially here in the UK. Here’s the link…

Lexicon MPXG2/R1 Controller

The second offering is my beloved Warwick ProTube IX bass amp. I bought this from a guy who got it from Cass Lewis from Skunk Anansie. It sounds absolutely amazing and has been my backup amp for a couple of years. I’m attempting to scale down my bass rigs at the moment and this is just a bit too hefty for my usual requirements so I’m letting it go. The fan is a bit loud once it’s revved up and the little W light doesn’t light up anymore but these are minor issues. The amp works a treat. And it’s essentially 1000 watts. Which is rather powerful folks. Here’s the link…

Warwick ProTube IX

Happy bidding folks!

I’ll be at Nolia’s 11 on Stamford Street, Waterloo tonight 9-12 with the Alex Hutton Trio if you’re about. Hopefully see some of you there.

Until next time…