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A few years ago, I came across an article in my local paper about a butcher on my nearby High Street closing down his family business after almost a century of serving the community on that same spot
The interview was sad, poignant and dripping with bitterness. Basically, the butcher was saying that while the week before he closed down was one of the busiest he’d ever had and he had been inundated with good luck message from shoppers, neither their custom nor their best wishes were really appreciated.
“I told them it’s too little too late,” he said. “It’s all very well saying how sorry they are that my shop is shutting but if they’d bothered buying their meat here last week, last month and last year, I’d never have gone to the wall,
“It’s only when something like this happens that people realise the damage they’re doing.”
I recount the tale because the fate that befell that particular butcher – and the baker, candlestick-maker and so many other local concerns for that matter – is also afflicting music shops up and down the land.
That’s why my first blog of 2011 is an unashamed advert for a gem of a shop tucked away in one of Newcastle’s less frequented thoroughfares,
I make no apologies for giving RPM Music, which has just moved to Old George Yard in the Cloth Market a plug. I’d like to think it doesn’t need it and that business is thriving. I honestly don’t know.
What I do know is that it is when shops such as this do disappear, only then will we realise just how good they really were.
A couple of weeks ago, I had some spare cash to spend after Christmas and, not having received any music in my stocking for once, decided I’d buy the Heaven And Hell Live At Wacken DVD, the last recording of the band before Ronnie James Dio’s sad death last May.
Initially and for convenience sake, I popped into HMV on Northumberland Street. Now I’ve not got a problem with HMV and over the years must have spent hundreds of pounds at that particular store, not to mention the many hours spent browsing.
What I do have a problem with is when a shop is at risk of losing its own identity.
Now I appreciate record sales are down and for a shop such as HMN to survive, it has to diversify but heading for the first floor where the DVDs are sold, it wasn’t a case of struggling to find the specific one I wanted, I had a problem finding the music section.
The store had actually sold out of the Heaven And Hell DVD so I made my way to Windows more in hope than expectation. I should have known better.
Windows is a thriving business when it comes to selling instruments and sheet music but its days as the North East’s most cherished record store were over when the rock CD department lost its prime site on the lower ground floor, having to make do with sharing space with CDs of every other genre.
These days, I’m told they only stock “best sellers”. You get the impression rock CDs are sold out of duty rather than affection.
And so to RPM and an Aladdin’s Cave of rock and alternative music. Naturally, they stocked the DVD I wanted and I dare say if I’d tested the assistant with something more obscure, they’d have either found it or ordered it in within 48 hours.
At this point and to avoid sounding too biased, it’s worth mentioning Steel Wheels too, another independent music shop which does Tyneside proud. Like RPM, its strength is its specialism, its devotion and its expertise.
Neither shop sell CDs as cheaply as Amazon or HMV but they should be cherished and utilised by those of us who still prefer music bought rather than digitally imported.
I can’t pretend I’m on a crusade to boycott the big outlets and there will be times, I order my music online but I don’t ever want to be like those customers of the aforementioned butcher, saying how sorry I am that a store’s closing down only to be berated for being too late.
And by the way, the search for Heaven And Hell’s new DVD was well worth it. It’s excellent.