Saturday, September 10, 2011
The last record shop
That was mainly due to Clive himself, the same age as me, with similar tastes in music. His recommendations could be trusted. His tendency to stock obscure Nick Lowe box sets, not to mention every jot and tittle of the Costello oeuvre, was wholly admirable. He is one of only two people I know who can talk knowledgeably about the work of Californian singer-songwriter Peter Case.
I helped Clive with his stall at a couple of early Shetland Folk Festivals, watched vinyl vanish from his shelves (the second-hand tapes he once dealt in at two previous, tiny locations, had already disappeared) and was happy to spend cash when he moved to large Commercial Street premises, where computer games and DVDs featured heavily. A branch in Orkney opened and closed quickly. But Clive's in Lerwick would go on forever, surely? On our remote archipelago, we needed, deserved a great record shop. How would we get the good stuff otherwise?
Then came Amazon. Then came iTunes. Play.com. A big new Lerwick branch of Tesco. And now Spotify. For me, deluged with free CDs due to the radio show, and with a Spotify Premium account as well, my CD purchasing fell away to almost zero. Clive announced that the shop would operate using half its floorspace, concentrating on specialised material, local folk, country and with a range of new vinyl too.
But it didn't work. History is against shops like Clive's, and especially in Shetland, the internet has revolutionised shopping. Now we can have DVDs and CDs winging their way from one island (tax-free Jersey, where Play.com is based) to the Greater Zetlandics in a flash, and at prices less than Clive was paying wholesale. Or we can stream and download, listen and forget in less time than it takes to say: "How much diesel will I use getting into town and back?"
So it's nearly over. The shop doors will soon shut forever. There's a closing down sale, but I've been avoiding the place, because I didn't want to look like some kind of scavenger, having spent so little there in recent months. Today, though I went in, bought a DVD, and found Clive in positive mood, looking forward to a new start doing - well, he knows not what, as yet.
He has been a musical mentor and guide, a shaman for hundreds, maybe thousands of Shetland's music fans. He has stocked indie releases by local bands, put up posters, sold tickets and been a crucial force for all that's good in the world of twangy guitars and great lyrics.
The last record shop in Britain will be sorely missed. But not enough, and by not enough people, for it to remain open.