Still raging

As the light dies

by Rick Johansen

To the chagrin of my long-suffering partner, yesterday was going be the day on which I purchased the Rolling Stones new album on the day of release. I’ve heard quite a lot of it, mainly via social media and on sites like You Tube, and to my ears Hackney Diamonds could be their best album since 1971’s Sticky Fingers. No, really. I know that some folk will say that Some Girls and Exile On Main Street are better and, as usual, that will be a matter of opinion, but honestly, this album is truly exceptional.

With Mick Jagger now 80 and Keith Richards a few months away from being 80, I can’t say I was expecting this. While I still consider the Stones to be the greatest rock and roll band on the planet, I do understand that the vast bulk of their live show comprises songs from the 1960s and 1970s and precious little since. I set aside my usual ambivalence to bands who just play the oldies with the Stones because their back catalogue is so sodding good. And I can’t imagine going to see them without hearing Honky Tonk Women, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Gimme Shelter and all the rest of it. In fact, despite the excellence of the new material, I can’t help thinking Mick and the boys will still pack their setlists with the old songs, but what the hell. I needed to have this record. So, yesterday I set off to buy it. It didn’t end well.

Record shops have been dying out for years. Despite the revival of vinyl, the slow, lingering death of the CD continues, but it’s not dead in my eyes. As with the vinyl of my childhood, I still feel the very old-fashioned need to own my music and even now I enjoy few things more than browsing in a record shop and eventually buying something.  Imagine my excitement when I arrived at the cleverly named Mall at Cribbs Causeway for a period of browsing and buying in HMV? Then, imagine my disappointment when I discovered HMV was closed – forever. Not only was it closed, it had been for nearly two weeks. I was far more upset than I should have been.

I blinked hard a few times at the shuttered-up shop, perhaps hoping that it was all a bad dream. Or maybe it had moved? HMV has moved before at the Mall. That could be it.  But a quick glimpse at the shop’s twitter feed confirmed the truth. HMV was gone and it was gone forever. No Rolling Stones for me, no nothing.

I fear I am raging against the dying of the light when it comes to buying music. Only today, Barry Can’t Swim‘s new album dropped through my letter box, a couple of days after Lack Of Afro‘s superb Square One, but they didn’t come from conventional record shops. Instead, I bought them direct from the artists because – and I know this is a minority stance – I like to see them paid for their work. (Yes, I know I could have bought the Stones’ new album direct from them but maybe they don’t need the money so much, although I still believe they should be paid.)

I didn’t exactly burst into tears when I discovered the passing of HMV at the Mall, but I felt, and still feel, quite flat. This vanishing world of entertainment means a lot to me, as it always has done. And as I have grown older, my music obsession has only grown deeper and more varied. I don’t want to let it go until I really have to.

That said, some things just aren’t available by way of hard copies so even I have to download stuff on occasions and that’s fine. But even then, sad bugger that I am, I literally pay for the album rather than just steal … sorry … stream it for pennies.

I don’t see any end to it. Next week sees the release of the new album Madres by Sofia Kourtesis, the brilliant Peruvian DJ and producer and later today, in the last remaining HMV in Bristol, I intend to finally buy Hackney Diamonds, which as some wag pointed out, sounds more like a dodgy massage parlour in east London.

Where will I store all this music? Well, sometime soon I’m having a proper Man Cave cum music room where I may decide to live forever, assuming I can actually move when I get in there. It’s what happens to it all when I die that concerns me most. The local recycling centre, I fear, but I suppose I’ll be too dead to care.


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