Old albums of the year / the death of HMV

So many things to squeeze into this post, which I still want to be quite brief. Let’s go.

It’s very rare that all one’s favourite records of any given year are actually newly released in that year. Back in the day I wrote a top ten for Stylus about this very idea, and I still subscribe to it. In 2010 about half the CDs I bought were actually reissues or just general back catalogue stuff that I’d never got round to buying before, so I thought I ought to celebrate that stuff a little too.

I also thought I ought to say something about HMV, which has suffered its worst ever year-end finances and is closing 40 shops (plus 20 Waterstones), because HMV was generally my record shop of choice growing up.

This is largely because my brother worked in the Torquay and then Exeter branch of HMV for many years when I was younger (he’s 9 years older than me), and the 30% family discount we received was a great boon to my formative musical tastes. He then worked for a record company as a sales rep, which also helped (I remember nicking copies of DJ Shadow, Spiritualized, and Money Mark albums out of the boot of his car). He stopped that job about the same time as I met my wife, who worked at the time in Exeter’s (now defunct) Virgin Megastore, and thus my discounted record buying was able to continue, for a while at least.

One of HMV’s problems is falling CD sales. Approximately 90m CD albums were sold in the UK in 2010, or around 1.5 per person. My wife and I bought around 80 between us last year. I’m in my 30s now, and suspect that some kids who see me in record shops might think I’m a “£50” man as described by both The Guardian in 2004 and NME just yesterday. If, that is, I was ever anything but the youngest person in Fopp or at the (now less than 15% of floorspace) music section in HMV. The music industry’s complete failure to understand, deal with, and then participate in the online world is beautifully illustrated by the fact that kids today don’t mock £50 man because, well, they don’t spend any money on music themselves. Even my brother-in-law, who I love to bits, tweeted a link yesterday to a site that shows where your local independent record shop is. He is 24 and hasn’t paid money for a CD in years to my knowledge.

Anyway. Those albums I loved this year that aren’t from this year. Here they are. Ten of them. I’d describe the music but right now I feel it’s far more salient to mention where I bought them from.

1. Harmonia – Deluxe (purchased from Amazon)
2. The Boo Radleys – Giant Steps (purchased from Amazon)
3. Cluster – Zuckerzeit (purchased in Bleeker Street records, NYC)
4. Vince Guaraldi – A Charlie Brown Christmas (purchased from Amazon)
5. Brian Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy (purchased from Amazon)
6. Lindström – It’s A Feedelity Affair (purchased in Fopp, London)
7. Pantha Du Prince – This Bliss (purchased from Amazon)
8. Robert Wyatt – Shleep (purchased in Fopp, Exeter)
9. Suicide – Suicide (purchased in Fopp, Exeter)
10. Bob Dylan – Time After Mind (purchased from Amazon)

Near misses include the red and blue compilations by The Beatles, Q Tip’s Renaissance, and the remaster of Repeater by Fugazi. You can probably guess where they were all bought from. It wasn’t HMV. Though I might buy the new British Sea Power there on Monday.


8 responses to “Old albums of the year / the death of HMV

  1. I boycotted HMV for most of my adult life because, when I was growing up, they were owned by Thorn EMI, who made nuclear weapons. Or so I was told. See also Boots and beagles.

    When I finally got over that and started going in again, I inevitably left fuming because they never had the CD I wanted. I guess they mean different things to different people.

  2. I once took a cheque from EMI in full knowledge of their umbrella ownership by Thorn EMI, who do indeed make arms I believe. As do the company that own Sony. And probably most other major labels. Fully trying to unravel the ethical ontology of the music business, any business, would make you run to Alaska and starve to death in an abandoned bus, I suspect.

  3. Or just turn into Godspeed You! Black Emperor, eh?

  4. Your three Fopp purchases in the top ten are effectively HMV purchases, as they bought Fopp when it folded.

  5. Very true, and I should have acknowledged that in the main post. I think it speaks volumes that I simply couldn’t have got those 3 records in my local HMV though.

  6. Love that Q-Tip album.

  7. Pingback: On the long demise of HMV | Sick Mouthy

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