Ian Clayton column - Romance of the record shop

NPOC - Pocktoberfest - Richard Hawley on the main stage
NPOC - Pocktoberfest - Richard Hawley on the main stage
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I wrote last week about reading and posed the question: who reads books these days? I have never had so much feedback on one of these articles.

Most of the people who contacted me still prefer to read a proper book, one made of paper that you hold in your hand, as opposed to words that come to you on digital downloads.

David Bowie on stage at the Town and Country Club, Leeds, last night (wednesday).

David Bowie on stage at the Town and Country Club, Leeds, last night (wednesday).

The interesting thing about the responses was that apart from one or two people who stopped me in the street to talk about their preference for “proper” books, most of the comments came to me on email or by text. That’s ironic isn’t it? People use digital communications technology to say they prefer something more analogue.

One of the messages I received came from my friend Rich Short. He put an interesting idea into my head.

He suggested perhaps there should be a national book store day, where writers release limited edition copies of new writing and do in-store performances of their work.

Richard bases his idea on the very successful National Record Store Day model, where new music is released on bygone formats like the seven-inch single for collectors. Seems like a good idea to me.

This year’s Record Store Day will take place this Saturday. It all started in America in 2007, when more than 700 independently-run record shops came together to celebrate the unique culture of record shops and shoppers.

On the third Saturday in April every year the shops celebrate the art of music by retailing specially-made releases of music and many big names throw their weight behind it.

This year David Bowie is releasing some of his back catalogue on the much-loved single format.In Britain, record day started in 2008 and has been a huge success. Folk musicians in particular are some of the biggest supporters and this year the venerable old label Topic, the world’s oldest independent record label, is releasing some new songs by Eliza Carthy.

My old mate Richard Hawley is also a great supporter of record shops and “proper” records as opposed to downloads.

Richard once told me that he couldn’t bear downloading. He said: “Downloading music is like going into a hardware shop and asking for a bucket of steam, you get nothing out of it.”

As someone who has collected books and records for most of my life, I have to say I agree with those who like to hold something real before they listen to it or read it. But then I’ve always been suspicious of new formats in anything.

I think it’s just the way multinational companies make even more money out of people from something that already exists. I did finally move on to CDs but it took me a long time to change and I still vow and declare I have yet to hear a CD that sounds better than a well-recorded slab of vinyl.

I guess I’m just a romantic old nostalgic, but I do miss the old fashioned record shop.

Who remembers Mrs Jay’s at the indoor market in Pontefract? Now that was a proper place. I bought my first T Rex singles there and then there was Celia’s at Castleford, a record shop full of grubby denim-clad rockers vying to be the first to purchase the new Deep Purple LP.

Who could forget the The Kiosk record bar on the corner of Finkle Street in Ponty? I bought my first Bob Dylan records there and that music changed my life. I don’t think a digital download would ever do that.

There aren’t many record shops left now and many towns don’t have one at all.

We’re lucky in Pontefract, of course: we still have a fine record shop in Seen and Heard and I know from talking to Ken and Chris who run that grand emporium that people travel there from far and wide.

All this has left me wondering. Do you think there’s scope for an independent bookshop round here? One that specialises in putting on evenings of readings by authors and maybe hosts book clubs with nice wine and coffee?

Or am I really spitting in the wind now?