Try as I might, I couldn't remember when I last entered a proper record shop. Amazon now owns me & my entire music collection. I have surrendered to the instant charm of immediacy, the siren voice of the cheap download.
Last weekend I snuck away from the keyboard & wandered into an independent record store in Covent Garden. It was a meandering kind of morning; Lazy, hazy sunshine for slow saturday starters, a long breakfast watching the world wake up around us.
Where people used to wash down a full English with a mug of tea & the daily papers in a rush, they now saunter through sun dappled squares, taking out a skinny latte & muffin, surfing on their iphones.
And so to the record store - We can't even call them records anymore. My kids think a record is something you get from the Police & my explanation that the Police did indeed make some great records only adds to the air of generational confusion.
It's a clash of cultures, a flashback to a simpler, shared world. One where we all went to town on a Saturday morning to buy the same records. Now in 2010, alone behind my laptop, we develop obscure tastes for exotic blends of Peruvian trance-punk that no other human being will ever enjoy with us.
The record store - It wasn't the same of course. The lighting was too good, the carpet clean rather than the expected residue from decades of dirty feet, the fragrance too fresh. But the racks were there, even some vinyl, 1000's of CD's - no cassettes of course.
Despite the unaccustomed plushness of the store, the racks were enough. I stood in front of the A-C's & began flicking through, the dull familiar clacking of plastic cases a portal back to the old world of musical youth. Back to the halcion days of recording the Top 40 on a Sunday afternoon & masterfully pressing pause just in time to keep the voice of the DJ from penetrating your Maxwell C90 mixtape. Only after a song had won my heart on the C90 would I search it out on the shelves & purchase the whole album.
For a few brief moments I stood in harmony with those days. Alongside me, other balding, waist expanding 40 somethings, knowing glances every so often revealing the conspiratorial truth between us: 'We are the music lovers, we are the pioneers, the guardians of taste. We're keeping it alive for an ignorant nation. We alone know how to take it slow, take our time, savour it in our hands before coming home with our prize in a bag.'
For the record, I emerged with the frighteningly modern Plan B - The Defamation of Strickland Banks; some old school George Benson blues from 1969; & from the back of the bargain rack in a cobwebbed corner, Devon's finest, Seth Lakeman, weaving modern folk stories.
So, here's to the independent record store - May you survive until next time I stumble across you with time on my hands!