Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Last Shop Standing: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the Independent Record Shop - DVD Review (Blue Hippo Media)
This documentary is based on author and former label representative Graham Jones’ 2009 book Last Shop Standing: Whatever Happened to Record Shops? and the DVD contains the 60 minute main feature along with 70+ minutes of outtakes. This rise and fall story is a ‘feet on the street’ narrative told through the eyes of well-known UK musicians (which include Billy Bragg, Paul Weller and Johnny Marr) and numerous indie record shop owners.
The main feature starts with “Act 1: The Rise”, which describes the rise of the UK indie records due to a demand for US imports (Elvis Presley, Bill Haley) and this demand continued through the first British invasion bands and the rebirth of the indie music scene that came with the punk era. This act though ends on a hesitant note with a mention on how machines in indie record shops were used to compile chart positions so label reps were ‘gaming’ the charts by giving records away.
“Act 2: The Fall” is a very familiar story to anyone who remembers the pre-90’s vinyl era as the record labels killed vinyl to push the CD format…and the death of vinyl was followed by the iTunes/download era of music. To re-phrase a quote from Richard Hawley (Pulp) – there is a time and place for all of these different formats of music and all could have co-existed together but the industry threw the baby out with the bathwater.
During this act, Jones cites the statistic that, in the 80’s, there were more than 2,200 UK indie record shops and by 20009, there were only 269 shops left. Johnny Marr puts forward an interesting hypothesis that the indie shops didn’t close due to the consumers’ shift away from vinyl but rather it was the industry’s forced death of vinyl that killed the record shops.
“Act 3: The Rebirth” walks the viewer through how the indie record stores have innovated to survive. Indie stores are now selling tickets and food (the shop Pie and Vinyl is highlighted) along with regularly having in-store performances and being an active part of their local music scene. The introduction of Record Store Day is given a lot of positive press for bringing people back into the indie shops and artists like Nick Cave are cited for releasing indie-store only pressings. Johnny Marr attributes some of this rebirth to how vinyl records now mean something to kids in a way it didn’t 8 – 9 years ago.
The bonus features are predominately the unedited interviews with the musicians and shop owners whose memories form the basis for this film. Unlike other outtakes reels that I’ve seen which generally have a lot of filler or (boring) director commentary, the interviews with Paul Weller, Johnny Marr, Billy Bragg, Richard Hawley and Sid Griffin (who doesn’t appear in the main film) are well worth watching.
Last Shop Standing