English is a very confusing language, especially to those that claim to speak it. Words that sound the same have a different meaning, often violently so.
And then there are differences in humour. Most Americans would see nothing odd in citing a winning race horse as ‘full of spunk’. In the UK that kind of talk could get you reported to the RSPCA, if not the Police.
There are 30 recognised dialects in the UK, and 24 in the USA alone.
Close study of the variants between dialects shows the rabid retardation of national stereotypes. Amongst the formal written versions of our bastard tongue ‘Standard American English’ is by far the most formal, cold, corporate and deceptive type.
Those who spend their lives mincing up the mind mashing minutiae involved on when one word means what and goes where and why Americans do not realise ‘pants’ means underwear do not agree on a lot.
But some polar oppositions between seemingly same words they all dig. One of these gruesome twosomes is the vital contrast between ‘Store’ and ‘Shop’.
In British English, ‘Shop’ refers to a single, small, clearly specialised place that sells only one kind of thing.
As in the best place to buy second hand vinyl in South London - if not on this part of the planet. Rat sells CDs too. And buys collections of records. That is it.
No-one is trying to sell you a coffee, pop concert tickets, a stupid hat or a fake vintage suitcase that has something claiming to be a turntable in it.
No organic locally sourced bean casseroles will be available for £11.99 each and we do not take reservations for the booths with a lovely sea view.
Rat Records is just a shop that sells second hand vinyl and CDs. You come in, we know what you want and so do you.
‘Store’ suggests something far larger, selling several kinds of stuff - and might be one place of many under the same brand.
The Americans can swing either way, but most educated ones tend to say ‘Shop’ when they mean somewhere of a human scale that you know and knows you. ‘Store’ means something else. ASDA is a Store, and if it does not sell some kind of vinyl and a nasty prison labour Chinese hipastamatic way to ‘play’ it, it soon will.
So you might have a few 180 gram digital sourced ‘reissues’ (as in a giant CD with surface noise) of common classics you can get at Rat for a fifth of the price. But you also can get a nice customised vintage jumper that says ‘Dad Rocker’ in diamante and a refreshing pomegranate smoothie while having a go on a restored Addams Family pinball machine. Fun, but not exactly focused on music.
So, as a Shop, we looked at today’s overblown, money mad mutant orgy offspring of Urban Outfitters, Radio 1 and Gourmet Burger Kitchen and thought about what RSD once meant, and might mean again. We thought about what it meant nearly a decade ago - when not just the small shops but the big stores were dissolving before our eyes like penny sweets dumped into boiling pig piss. The net and illegal downloads of pop not worth paying for, much less listening to was mincing it all up. RSD was about championing the local survivors - especially in the USA, where small groups of ‘Mom and Pop’ Stores still kept the vinyl faith and held on. It seemed a noble cause. One day in the calendar year for the foundation of the funk to show its best, spread some love and get some in return.
Looking back, most of the stores (and some shops) that got flushed by the future had sucked harder than an atomic penis pump for a long time. Tiny Top 40 selections at laughable prices, sold lovelessly next to batteries and disposable headphones so expensive they might as well have been made of spider silk and emeralds. Staff who forgot to get their CV to Burger King in time, less connected to music than a wet breezeblock. And worse. This is why, somehow, even in the dark days of the 00s, Rat kept the lights on and people grooving.
RSD has outlived its purpose, and the fact it has been hijacked by labels keen to get max dollar for Bee Gees B sides and the new Star Wars ‘soundtrack’ is so well known the music press are mostly too bored to talk about it.
And that is why much in the old DIY punk rock way we have gone underground to dig up the real spirit of ‘Record Store Day’.
This year, for the first time, we have taken the highly controversial decision not to officially participate in RSD.
Instead, we have declared Saturday, April 16th as the First Ever RECORD SHOP DAY.
We appreciate Record Store Day - it is the biggest day of the Rat year when we try our hardest to bring out the most and the best for the least. Tom, Philippe and Pete have been known to reluctantly wipe away their tears, wince and put some of their own private favourites in the bulging racks. Anything and everything that gets someone into the habit of appreciating great music in the blood warm and bone deep way it is meant to is welcome.
Looking over lovingly at RSD like a disappointed friend that has grown apart, we wish it could go back to what it was meant to be - or change up entirely.
The war is over. Vinyl won. Record Shops and Stores that matter are alive and well, just like they always have been.
Unless and until RSD evolves into something more than a chance to hawk super rare Disney picture discs endorsed by Metallica, join us in declaring your sonic independence by celebrating Record Shop Day this Saturday.
Start your own tradition - chances are you already have.