Thursday, January 17, 2013

Good night Goliath

Courtesy of Pretty Handsome Studios
The blogosphere and twitter-land have been set alight these past few days by two contrasting headlines: one concerns horse burgers...resists Shergar and Red Rum joke...and the other of course, is the news that HMV has gone into examinership (or receivership in the U.K.). The latter has sparked a plethora of posts and social network-shouted opinions concerning where "music" goes from here. This post is not concerned with any of that. Nor is it concerned with the horrendous ethics and mismanagement of the company's upper echelons who eventually ran the place into the ground.

HMV was the place to work when I was a teenager. It wasn't just that all the staff looked really cool (covered in tattoos and nose rings with pink hair - PINK HAIR!) it was more that the place seemed to allow folks to express themselves a bit more as opposed to a supermarket chain (measuring your exact length of chin stubble) and a good chunk of them played in local bands too so from the outside, the place wasn't merely a retail space, it was closer to a way of life.

On leaving college I managed to find my way across to the other side of the counter and I spent years as a "black-shirt", going on to become rock and pop buyer which was a huge thing for me. The chance to order in music that I adored and inspired me greatly and share this with willing shoppers for new music? To a bushy-tailed young music nut, that was a tiny little dream come true to be honest. As if by courier-assisted magic, within days of clicking on a few keys, A-Z pockets would gleam with the back-catalogues of Sparklehorse and Red House Painters. It was Cheshire cat stuff on this fella's face then when those same pockets would appear empty come the end of the week.

Besides that though, the place had an uncanny ability to hire lovely, interesting people. I made so many friends in that place that are still friends today and no one really passed through the place (be it Christmas temp or full timer) without being involved in some sort of wild night out...and boy were there mad nights out. Nudity, stolen Christmas trees, crowd-surfing in small bars: just some of the common-place activities on a regular HMV night out.

There are so many that is impossible to list them all but specific fond memories include:
  • that young, wide-eyed innocent who was looking for an underground band that I had probably never heard of called "Neervana". The lad's eyes lit up when I produced the whole back catalogue for the band and went through my favourite's with him. That feeling of seeing someone's passion for music bursting out of their eyeballs is something special.
  • being introduced to Wilco
  • constant amazement at how quickly and consistently all the Tiesto stock was stolen
  • meeting probably the best friend any one could ever have
  • doing our bit to get Ryan Adams' Cold Roses into the chart by sneaking him on to the chart wall any chance we could get.
  • the 15 minute clean up at the end of the day where the three evening shift folks got to pick one track each. Cue lots of behind-closed doors air-guitaring

For all the grievances I had with the big boys at the top of the pyramid, the groundfloor workers gave me some of the happiest times of my life. So, like so many before them have done, I hope all the incredibly gifted and hard-working staff go on to bigger and brighter things. Maybe some will even pick up positions in Tower Records or Plugd, who will surely prosper with the disappearance of the fallen retail giant's shadow. That has to be at least one ray of light at the end of all of this.


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