Wednesday 16 January 2013

Buying 7" singles in HMV

This was the haul one afternoon, August 5, 1987 (how do I know? Because I was still young enough to catalogue everything I bought) from HMV in Oxford Street.

In 1987 I had four main ways of buying records:
  • ordering new releases from the local Our Price

  • sending a 50 pence piece and a SAE for a fanzine with flexi disc

  • buying journalists' unwanted promos from the local second-hand shop

  • making a very rare foray uptown to the big HMV

  • I could have bought all those singles pictured by ordering them from Our Price, but nothing beat seeing them in the racks. I hadn't heard some of them, but I'd certainly read glowing reviews of them in fanzines.

    Some of them were old - Albino by The Dragsters I'd heard a few times the previous year on Janice Long's radio show, for example. I probably didn't have enough money to buy it at the time and there was always something new each week I'd set my heart on to buy. Seeing records in the flesh, you have to buy them there and then,

    I have no idea why HMV stocked The Wildhouse's Groovy Me ep with its hand-painted sleeve and labels, but I'm glad they did because I only knew it from fanzines. It's worth knowing that none of these records had barcodes.

    I'm not suggesting that HMV would have survived if it had continued to stock a wide selection of underground records. It was, as people have often complained, too expensive. It was the only place I saw Eric B & Rakim's Paid In Full album on import. There was no album I wanted more. But at £14.99 it was well out of my price bracket.

    The next summer in a different HMV I tried to buy Felt's Pictorial Jackson Review. The sleeve states that the UK price is £4.99; HMV refused to heed that so I looked elsewhere. Serendipitously, I stumbled across an independent record shop half an hour later and bought it for £4.99.

    After that, I had no reason to go to HMV again. It had served its purpose. I don't know if there is a demographic in 2013 that's too young to be able to order online (the equivalent to not having a chequebook in 1987) and doesn't know about, or has regular access to, an independent shop. If there is, it definitely wasn't being served by HMV.


    1. The main HMV branch in Birmingham closed last July, although the smaller second shop in the city centre remained open for business. With the Tamworth branch, it was a case of spot the cds among all the dvd/computer games which seemed to take precedence over the music. I heard to day the Tamworth branch have had to employ extra security staff due to aggressive and abusive behaviour from some customers unable to use their gift vouchers!

    2. I worked in a second-hand record shop 8-9 years ago. We'd often get alcoholics coming in trying to sell sealed CDs still with the HMV stickers on that they'd just stolen from the nearby HMV. They needed better security! I went in to that HMV a few months ago. You're right - mostly headphones and games.