What a dream! If your on a trip across America making a film about independent record shops, why not take it one step further and compile a book on the subject with the bonus of some essays and interviews before the digital age of mp3s takes over total control of how we buy and listen to music? That’s what Emma Pettit did and Old Rare New is the comprehensive book to proove it.
Think of it as a better version of Dave’s Gorman’s America Unchained as there’s more eccentrics, loads of great interviews with important figures from both sides of the pond, a number of essays form folks that have lived a vinyl lifestyle, loads of album cover images and labels that all go to show how important independent shops are/have been to the record industry business and how fast they are disappearing.
This isn’t a new subject as we all know from our experiences (see Spencer Murphy – Independent Record Shops) and the too often seen “Going Out of Business” signs. But on the bright side, Old Rare New (the title taken from a sign at Etherea Records in Manhattan) has some optimistic visions from contributors along with lots of reminiscences of past glory days of 78s, 45s and 33s.
After the excellent introduction by Barry Seven (ex-Add N to (X), current Horseglue Records and fan of Cheapo Cheapo Records since the age of 12), the first chapter is the American side of things as Emma goes coast to coast on her own “incomplete guide”. The USA has been the holy grail of dusty fingers since the days of Bill Haley & The Comets; from Northern Soul warehouse rejects to $1 cut-out bins on the quest for a bargain and/or rarity. The stores style still range from the basement crammed to the rafters with milk creates and cardboard boxes, to specialist stores with a passion for 78s to the new concept of cool and trendy ‘venue’ stores with in-store gigs (al a Daedelus). Being a geek, I’m just happy to discover that someone else is just as interested as me to know where the back cover of a New York Dolls album was taken.
And this leads onto the sub-plot is, as Barry Seven says, he’d buy anything that looks “interesting”. Whether that would be the artist, label, cover art, title, producer, sleeve notes and any countless other parts of the record. Cover art was always a big thing for me and cover images reproduced in the book include Pharoah Sanders on ESP, Deep Dark Blue Centre by Graham Collier and even, AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (I cover I’ve had since it came out in 1976 and never bothered getting the record).
The book also features contributions by variety influentcial industry figures like James Dean Bradfield (Manic Street Preachers), Devendra Banhart, Billy Childish, Joe Boyd (major figure from the 60′s including producing Fairport Convention), Bill Brewster (author of Last Night A DJ Saved My Life), Jonny Trunk (Trunk Records), Rob Da Bank (Radio 1, Bestival and young vinyl addicts Kitty Daisy & Lewis), Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Nick Luscombe (Flomotion Live and ex-Resonance FM). I actually got to hear about this book listening to Luscombe’s radio show on NME.com (don’t miss tonight’s show, see links below) and you could say that Flomotion’s move to download is a symptom of the record industry adjustment?
So whilst innovative ideas like Record Store Day may have provided a brief rest bite in the decline of the Independent Record Shop, total extinction is thankfully a long way off yet. You didn’t have to crave the thrill of buying a white label or wanting to replicate the full vinyl experience of hearing a great record in a club on your home sound system to appreciate this book. It marks the card for ‘total extinction’ as kids these days are seemingly happy with a mp3 download with artwork smaller than a thumbnail. Indeed, the future looks as bleak; even The Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach DJing Manhattan’s Other Music on Record Store Day with two iPods propped up by inactive turntables. Rock’n'Roll?
So it’s a subject matter with a conudrum like Nicolson’s Is Jazz Dead? (Or Has it Moved to a New Address). Old Rare New finds that ray of light amongst all the dark at the end of the hole in the middle and it’ll make you re-think you’re online music purchasing so check out directory at the back for your nearest store. Buy the book and keep the faith.
Reviewed: Various – Old Rare New – The Independent Record Shop (Black Dog Publishing) ISBN: 978 1 906155 32 2 UK ¬£19.95 US $29.95 Release date: Summer 2008 144 pages.
Last night’s TV: True Stories: Dave Gorman in America Unchained …blogs.guardian.co.uk
http://gormano.blogspot.com You can download an MP3 of the Q&A from the RSA screening at
http://www.thersa.org/audio/rsascreens210108.mp3 January 25, 2008 4:03 PM
Nick Luscombe: ion Sundays 8pm-11pm (last live show 31.08.08 then download)www.nmeradio.co.uk
Record Store Day a brief boost for ailing retailers – Reuteurs.
www.etherea.netEtherea – Manhattan/East Village – New York, NY “Etherea is a tiny box of a music store that you don’t see much of anymore…”
Other Music, 15 E Fourth St, NYC www.othermusic.com