"If you walk down street Oxford Street, you do not see niche record stores among the chains. We warned Mr Todd [Spillers Records] that he is standing in the way of progress. The rent in their present location will at some point be unaffordable." The words of Michael Brown, Investment Director, Helical Bar, the owners of the land on which Spillers records stands. This was back in 2007 when he was trying to shut the place down. Fortunately it has had a reprieve following a high profile campaign which had support local politicians, pop stars - and you.
Shame on you Mr Brown. You are the epitome of money grabbing capitalist development with no concept of individuality; you are symptomatic of the mentality that has led to town centres from Lands End to John O Groats being filled with the same chain stores selling the same goods in high streets that look exactly the same. You suck the soul out of towns and leave them bereft of character.
It’s not even a concept that makes commercial sense; if all towns are the same, what unique selling points do they have to attract consumers? Why would I go to Cardiff rather than Newport, Sw*nsea or Bristol? Why even bother with a town, why not an out of town shopping centre?
In fairness, there are many that love the world that the likes of Mr Brown is trying to create; Cardiff is now ranked as the sixth most popular shopping destination in the UK. The humongous St David’s Two development is responsible for this. It is a huge glass and steel cathedral for those that want to worship consumerism, filled with chain stores, dominating the city centre and making the old Hayes Island now feel quite claustrophobic. It was completed some time last year, I have yet to set foot in it, I have no intention of setting foot in it, it puts me off going into the town centre, it leaves me cold.
In the shadow (literally) of this twenty first century shrine to mammon lies Spillers, the oldest record store in the world, marking the entrance to one of Cardiff’s Victorian arcades, full of non-chain niche stores. This is why I rather shop in Cardiff than Sw*nsea or an out of town retail village. It defiantly stands in opposition to the malignant expansion of malls (and the sort of people who use the word mall)
.I am not adverse to a bit of downloading or internet shopping, but at the end of the day there is no substitute for standing in a decent record shop rooting through the racks looking for something and happening across something new.
I look through the dividers marking out the bands with back catalogues, then sift through the CDs by lesser bands simply filed under letters of the alphabet. If I am after something in particular I might have to check under different categories in case I disagree with the shops definition of punk, reggae or whatever.
The Ruts, for instance, may have split thirty years ago but even though I bought everything when it first came out I still cannot help having a quick shufty through the Ruts rack in case something rare or unreleased or dubbed up has been released without me knowing.
Now you could argue that you could do this in HMV, but then you have to cope with rack upon rack of tripe and you won’t find anything that is not selling by the skip load. If you want anything a little bit different, it has got to be an Independent.
As you go through the door of Spillers, for instance, turn right and you have several racks of ‘local and self released’ CDs. The chains are not interested in selling Kilnaboy, PAIN, Sick Note or the Clay Statues, but Spillers lap it up.
Independent record shops deserve support if only for that reason; they support local bands and therefore help keep music interesting. Today I supported my local record shop by buying CDs by local bands; Cardiff based welsh language dub/hip hop vetrans Llwyber Llaethog (Mily Way) and Pontypridd based ska heroes Tattsyrup (which is not actually welsh, it is apparently something that was on sale in the local shop for local people in The League of Gentlemen - yes, they are all ex-students)
And another thing …… strike up a conversation with the staff in Spillers and you might discover a new band, learn about new releases, hear about an upcoming gig or just spend five minutes talking to someone who shares your passion. Talk to the staff in HMV and you will be lucky to find out the time of day – as for the staff on the record counter in ASDA……….
Independents are a dying breed though. Downloading, high rents and supermarkets utilising their buying power to sell the mainstream names at outrageous discounts have all led to a drop in the footfall through these emporiums of sonic delights.
Three years ago Chris Brown, employee of the independent record store chain, Bull Moose, located in Maine and New Hampshire, conceived the idea of International Independent record Store Day. Now, once a year, all over the world record shops put on events with in-store performances, DJ sets, sell special Record Store Day releases and t-shirts and generally make it (even more) fun to call into an independent for the day.
Spillers joins in the fun. This year we have DJ sets from Bullet for My Valentine, Bethan Elfyn, DJ Rascal, Gary ‘Twisted by Design’, plus Spillers regulars Ben and Sam. There are also in-store performances from The Automatic, Christopher Rees and Cosmo. Before the shop had even opened people were queuing to get into the niche shop that Mr Brown thinks has no place in the Town Centre.
I don’t do queues at the best of times. I certainly do not do queues outside shops. I was, however, determined to support my local record shop today so timed my visit to coincide with an appearance by my favourite tame hippy. Some people say he changes his underpants every week, whether he needs to or not; and rumour has it he once appeared the National Lottery live. I don’t know if this is true, but I do know his name is Cosmo.
Whisking into the store at the last minute to avoid being mobbed by his fan club, he quickly plugged in, tuned up and got down. Browsers tapped their feet in the right place, nodded in agreement with the Anti-BNP song and giggled at the Oi Mush Song. With a few brief songs he agitated, educated and offended in equal measure. The gig was like a flash mob (but without the mob). One minute he was not there, then he was, then he wasn’t again. Surprise surprise, he then went to the pub and bummed drinks of his fan club – and waxed lyrical about how people who hang out in record shops are a bit nerdy - so get we get our own back by telling you where you can download his latest album for free
But remember folks, you cant skin up on an MP3
Labels: CARDIFF, cosmo, record store, record store day