First Person - with Allan Crow

Allan Crow
Allan Crow

THE demise of HMV seems to have a struck a chord with many people - perhaps more so than any other High Street big name.

The chain’s collapse into administration is much more emotive than, say, Jessops or Comet.

If it isn’t the end of an era then it’s definitely a line in the sand - a recognition that times have changed and the way I bought music as a kid will never be experienced by this or the next generation.

The download generation has won. It has made music as disposable as the packaging on a microwave meal.

I had no great attachment to HMV other than if I was down town I automatically went in for a mooch, but, up until a year or so ago ever visit ended with a purchase or two.

I don’t want to download stuff. I want to own it.

Yes, I know it’s the same thing - but it’s not.

Not to me. I don’t have an iPad or an iPod.

Got an iRon though ... rubbish for playing Springsteen’s greatest hits on mind you.

A to Z of music

And I like browsing for music. I’ll flick through row upon row of releases all lovingly alphabetically listed - apart from HMV whose slap-dash approach to what went where really started to irritate me of late. Stevie Ray Vaughan goes under ‘V’ not ‘R.’ See, that’s where it started to go wrong for the company!

HMV was part of my youth.

I graduated from shopping in Woolies where albums cost £1.99 and singles were 49p and finally entered the world of grown-up record shops.

Then I discovered the Eazy Rider Record Exhange in Forrest Road in Edinburgh. Imagine a shop the size of Debenhams turned over entirely to vinyl and, er, jeans.

Known as the Hippy Market, it didn’t do receipts - the sales assistant simply handed you the record for inspection for scratches, a nod of the head concluded the transaction and you stumbled back into the daylight some four hours after first going in.

I bought hundreds of albums there, and topped up my collection with sorties down the High Street to The Other Record Shop then on to Leith Walk and Vinyl Villains, back up to Cockburn street and then off to Clerk street where there was a braw wee shop, the name of which escapes me now.

I’d still go mainstream as well - back then even John Menzies sold records before Virgin unleashed punk and the newsagent took fright at all those scary punks descending on a Saturday afternoon! - before then discovering Bruce’ Records and Sleeves over here.

Vinyl faded, CDs came in, but still those shops survived.

They were wee communities where good music people could browse for hours without so much as a tut or tsk of disapproval. I miss them.

Amazon clicks

When the big guns such as Virgin and Tower started to topple then it was game over.

I hope HMV survives in some shape or form - please, please leave FOPP in Rose Street alone! (shall we man the barricades now?) - because buying music should never be as soul-less as sitting in front of a PC staring at Amazon’s adonyne ‘‘if you like this, why not try this’’ click through.

What next - virtual concerts? Oh hang on, all those saddos who film live gigs on their phone have just about created them anyway.

I’m all for technology improving sound and making music more accessible, but we need shops like HMV - or perhaps better, more vibrant independent outlets who understand the importance of where artists sit in the alphabet! - to celebrate music. Heck, to make a noise by pumping up the volume and drowning out the shopping centre’s own in-house DJ.

So, anyone want to teach a grumpy old man how to download stuff?