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HMV - The High Street Horror Show, Continued
When a giant falls down dead, the first thing everyone does is to look around for the assassin.How could it happen? What's to blame?In our tragic complex age, people and media alike try to go for simple stories and explanations of why bad or unexpected stuff happens. It makes the world easier to understand, heroes and villains, who killed whom and what single factor caused the cancer.And one of the biggest easy knifemen to point to is the Internet as the Thing that Changed Everything Everywhere Forever Totally. Failed businesses from Kodak to struggling newspapers blame this electric demon as if its appearance is something as new and unexpected as hailstorm of UFOs appearing inside a shopping mall.A comforting lie that the lazy, cynical fat cat crew tell themselves, the punters and the hacks until it becomes almost True. This fig leaf needs blowing off fast. The emergence of the internet and the changes in the way people use and buy music and movies has been a very slow, very obvious process taking over a decade and half. Any real business brain would have had plenty of time to evolve with it, however painfully. Instead they just stayed in bed and counted the money, making us all the poorer. Even though they sucked and slung sugar spew rather than art most of the time.Why? In any industry when a huge player tanks, it rips ripples of unexpected damage into unexpected places, and takes oxygen out of the ecosystem. HMV gave people the habit of buying music and movies in a physical way. Not only are physical discs always the best quality, they remind people cultural objects are real and worth paying for. Especially everyone not lucky enough to be born in an urban area with choices. It also gave labels and artists a place to sell product, and a partner to buy it from them in big quantities.It's all too easy to forget the vast majority of music and movies are still sold as discs, over 70%, and HMV was the biggest seller of them. And when even the zombierape Majors are quaking at the closing of this shopfront, imagine what it feels like to all the rest.People inside Nipper's kennel realised even in the 90s things were changing. Forget about the cancer of dipshit downloading, internet stores and what looked like an attempt by the majors to sell direct meant it was time to change. Time to create a smaller network with far nicer, more dynamic stores. Stores with performance spaces, cafes, decent carpets, lighting, expert staff and concession areas from the labels themselves. Focused just on music and movies - no batteries, no copies of Heat, no phone cases. A venue, a destination, somewhere to enjoy visiting for the sake of it, not just to get something you already wanted. And can get on Amazon anyway.This would have meant doing things toxic to the retail retards in charge - slim down, while spending to invest, let more diversity in and share the lucre with labels more? Profits would go down for a good while? What would the City say? HMV didn't even ask. It just gorged on the CD+DVD gravy train until it was too stupid and sick to smell it's own death. Meanwhile punters gave it more love than it ever deserved. There is no excuse, and should be no mercy for those that ran it into the ground.HMV has been a High Street fixture since 1921. When I first came to London decades ago, the flagship store on Oxford Street was my first and only destination in that deadening crowdfuck of consumerist blah. It was a palace of music and movies, with everything there. Not as cheap as elsewhere, but plenty to explore in a buzzy space with other kids clearly into the same genres able to advise. Go downstairs into the Jazz Department behind a soundproofed door and the cool went up. Telephone book sized guides to consult on every record even.Then slowly, sadly the magic wore off. Only to be replaced with total revulsion and contempt.My tastes matured and mutated far beyond the mainstream in a way that meant browsing there didn't appeal - I went in to get what I wanted when I wanted it, fast. Amazon was still for books.I remember when I worked nearby and popped into the place to get a copy of Chris Morris and Peter Cook's magic improv CD, Why Bother? for a Birthday gift and running into the now sadly faded satire master when I crossed the street. Prices started to get comically way, way off Amazon so I brought my "internet enabled" mobile in and would sometimes discover that £17.99 was a high cost for a CD which oddly seemed unlikely to be in stock anyway. The overworked staff did not know anything, and even popular albums showing as "sold out" in the racks often were jumbled underneath.Retarded Pop Noise overwhelmed all but the lonely Jazz bit, along with cheap headphones, overpriced blank CD-Rs (smell that irony) and batteries. Then it was only worth visiting for the January Sale. The first time I picked up some decent cult films on DVD and comp CDs. The second time I had to hunt through the heaps of Celebrity Dance Hot Workouts and IBIZA PARTY 2000 Vol 12 horsejizz to get a couple things I didn't even want to justify the trip. Not been back since, and this was at least ten years ago.Jessops and Blockbusta are also belly up, but unworthy of any comment.In this time of stagnant de-evolution and passion drought, the words of Antonio Gramsci, an Italian freedom fighter writing from jail in the dark 30s, offer some light:"The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear."And with all that morbidity around, you'd think Philippe would be in a sympathetic mood. But no dice. I tried to give him a ticket to a guilt trip about all the HMV vouchers out there now worth less than novelty bog roll. After a moment's reflection, he regretfully informed me Rat is unable to honour them as they represent bad taste cubed: thought free gift x tastelessness.He will not accept them for Rat's amazing super sexy amazing new in of classic rock, jazz and alternative rock or hip hop, blues and country, most original sparkly and beautiful :The Likes of Kraftwerk, Clash, Pistols, Ramones, Television, Only ones, Gang of Four, Bowie, Pink Floyd, Bob marley, Brian Eno, Leonard Cohen, Stevie wonder, Crosby Stills and Nash and Neil young (solo too), Gram PArsons, Pat Metheny, Tim Hardin, Prince, Otis Rush, New Order, Beach boys, Phil Spector, Jimmy McGriff, Jimmy Weatherspoon, Jesus and Mary Chain, Joni Mitchell, Sun Ra, Wire, poison Grils, Portishead, Alternative TV, Swell Amps, Velvet Underground, The smiths, PIL, Robert Wyatt, The Pop group, Suicide. Isley brothers, The headhunters, Shaft in africa, Gang Starr, Lakim Shabazz, Jackie Mittoo, Marley Marl, Beastie Boys, Jay Z, ...the list goes on and on, but you'll have to come instore to see it, and seeing as you know is believing!So dry your eyes about the High Street suicides, and come on down Saturday...!
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