Tag Archives: Nick Hornby

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL RECORD STORE . . . OR OPEN ONE!

This Saturday, April 17, is Independent Record Store Day worldwide. 

Many’s the happy hour I spent in Record World, Tower Records, Dayton’s, Happy Tunes, and more . . . perusing, considering, talking, hanging out, pouncing on something I’d never seen, wondering whether to spend twenty dollars (1972 dollars!) for BUCK MEETS RUBY or EASY NOW.  I grew up in suburbia, where every department store had a record section.  Those days are mostly gone, although I live near enough to Mr. Cheapo’s to visit, and Academy Records and Second Hand Rose still offer New York thrills. 

But here’s novelist Nick Hornby’s commentary, very much to the point:

“Yes, yes, I know it’s easier to download music, and probably cheaper.  But what’s playing on your favourite download store when you walk into it?  Nothing.  Who are you going to meet in there?  Nobody.  Where are the notice boards offering flat shares and vacant slots in bands destined for superstardom?  Who’s going to tell you to stop listening to that and start listening to this?  Go ahead and save yourself a couple of quid.  The saving will cost you a career, a set of cool friends, musical taste and, eventually, your soul.  Record stores can’t save your life.  But they can give you a better one.”

I would disagree only with Hornby’s understatement: I think record stores did save my life, or, at least, they helped me find something that has continues to make me very happy. 

And he is also correct about the social context: a Jiffy bag with a CD from Amazon through the mail is a great thing, and I am delighted to receive one, but it just isn’t the same as visually eavesdropping on what the fellow in the next browser is looking at or (one afternoon in Dayton’s) getting yelled at my the cashier for making an insufficiently reverent remark about the late Bud Powell record he was playing.  Yesterdays, oh, yesterdays!

Thanks to Jim Eigo of Jazz Promo Services for Hornby’s exhortation.

NICK HORNBY, RECORD STORES, and “POP MUSIC”

I visit www.jazz.com. with some regularity, and I’ve even had my own blogposts featured on it.  A good deal of what is posted there is not my thing, but some of the content is fascinating. 

Today I encountered there an article published in the Guardian by the popular British novelist Nick Hornby on the death of record stores.  That isn’t a particularly original observation: everyone who’s bought even one record during the last half-century could write similar articles about the phenomenon. 

Hornby proposes that new pop-music blogs that offer MP3 downloads are the new local record stores, and that the internet has become a global music market.  I can’t say much about the first proposition, because I don’t find twenty-second musical snippets valid enticements to purchase, but the second is surely true.

But this casual pronouncement made me sit up straight:

After my local CD shop closed down, I was getting ready for a musical life that turned in on itself, before dying slowly from malnutrition.  Any piece of music becomes drained of meaning and excitement if you listen too much to it, but a three-minute pop song isn’t going to last you a lifetime.  Popular music needs to keep flowing. If the fresh supplies stop, it’s you that becomes stagnant.

I am enthralled by this terminally short attention span: “Any piece of music becomes drained of meaning and excitement if you listen too much to it.”  This hunger for new sensations clearly isn’t just Hornby’s artistic immaturity; it defines contemporary culture’s glorification of disposable ersatz-Art, novels that exhaust their ingenuity before the reader is well into chapter two; music that bores the listener on the first hearing.  (It all sounds dismayingly like a dystopian restaurant where the food is stale as soon as it leaves the kitchen.)       

I don’t know: I’ve been listening to Lester Young and the 1938 Kansas City Six, to Louis and the Mills Brothers, to Billie Holiday and Count Basie, to the Blue Note Jazzmen . . . for almost forty years now.  And if I were to hear one of their recordings now — even though I could hum along with it, knew the solos and the accents by heart — that music wouldn’t be “drained” for me.  The next time Hornby comes to the US for a book tour, I hope he’ll accept my offer of music that doesn’t grow old.  I’d be glad to share some Teddy Bunn and Bessie Smith records: they should restore him!

The full text of Hornby’s piece can be read at http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/sep/06/nick-hornby-mp3-record-shops