It’s quite possibly the most annoying, frustrating and saddest conversation I’ve had this year.
And to think, it had started off so innocuously.
“Could I have a copy of Joe Bonamassa’s new album Live From Nowhere In Particular?”
“Sorry,” came the reply. “How do you spell that?”
Clearly irritated, I spelt it out – twice! – before expressing my surprise that an assistant at such a renowned music store had never heard of one of rock’s finest guitarists.
At moments like this, sarcasm overwhelms me: “And I suppose you haven’t heard of Led Zeppelin either?” I said.
She looked at me in obvious triumph: “Of course I’ve heard of him.”
Now had I walked into this same store 12 months ago, not only would I have been guaranteed a warm welcome, the strains of Bonamassa’s Les Paul would probably have been filling the air.
Any rock fan growing up in the Tyneside area won’t need me to tell you which shop I’m talking about and how it’s devotion to rock music has declined to such an extent that if you asked for a Judas Priest album today , you’d probably be directed to the religious section!
Having bought hundreds of LPs, cassettes and CDs there over the years, I doubt I’ll ever return and that’s nothing to do with the assistant’s manner.
In fact, if truth be told, I was probably a lot ruder to her than she was to me. But I couldn’t help it.
For realisation suddenly hit me that like the Mayfair and the Handyside Arcade before it, JT Windows’ decision to significantly reduce it’s rock music catalogue meant this was the end of a Newcastle institution in the form so many of us had grown to cherish.
Years ago, the music section downstairs (and walking down those stairs was not a journey recommended after a few lunchtime pints ) was a place to meet your mates. I remember queuing for several hours in 1980 when Ozzy Osbourne held an autograph session there.
It was where you’d hear the first rumours of a band touring and if a rock album had been released that week, you could guarantee it would get significant airplay.
And of course, there were the two lovely female assistants whose names I never did find out but who must have been working behind the counter for over 20 years.
Now that pair wouldn’t just have known who Bonamassa was, they could probably have told you his life story.
Back then, there were four places to buy your records _ Virgin, HMV, Callers (which had a surprisingly good range) and Windows. The latter was invariably the cheapest if only because of it’s habit to sell new releases at £3.49. That extra penny came in handy.
Anyway, I can’t see myself buying another CD there in the future and I probably won’t be missed. And neither will you if you’ve been a regular customer.
For Windows are now concentrating on more profitable areas of music and as the Bonamassa-starved assistant told me, the business is doing very nicely thank-you, selling it’s sheet music, guitars, pianos trumpets and other instruments.
CDs of all genres, I suspect, will continue their gradual decline and within a decade, the shop will probably have taken the decision to stop selling them all together to concentrate on those profitable musical enterprises.
It’s probably inevitable, undoubtedly sensible but still sad, very sad.
Ian Murtagh 5 Sep, 2008
* Apologies to all rushonrock readers unable to access the Self Made Man archives this week. We are working to fix a problem affecting some users.