1991 – Postscript on Record Stores

Another aspect of listening to pop in the provinces that I failed to mention in my previous post is the crucial role that independent record stores played in making things accessible. Halifax in the late 80s and early 90s was fortunate enough to have a handful of independent stores that functioned as nodal points and gathering places for both the cool kids who made up the Haligonian pop cognoscenti and curious enthusiastic outsiders like myself.

Inexplicably, I cannot seem to remember the most important of these, a small shop run by a taciturn guy which migrated from location to location until it finally closed down around the time I left Halifax. Though taciturn, the owner was nice and I was quietly thrilled when I moved to Halifax that he already knew me from my repeat visits and soon began to order things in if he thought they might be of interest to me. He specialized in British imports and was of the age that surely meant that his anglophilia was grounded in punk and post-punk.

Someone somewhere has probably already written the article that goes beyond the sentimentality of High Fidelity to document how these kinds of stores, in the way they brought together both people and product, were essential both in the transmission of subcultural knowledge and in the formation of a loose community that saw the eager and enthusiastic browse alongside the cool and confident. I am keen to see Jeanie Finlay’s Sound it Out documentary, which looks at the last remaining indie shop in Teesside, for precisely this reason. These are increasingly the disappearing spaces of the modern city and whilst I’ll refrain here from any kind of full-on lament, I do think there is something very interesting in the way the convergence of people and product generated community through commerce.

Sound It Out (2011, Directed by Jeanie Finlay)

Given that I’ve indulged in two long digressions thus far, it seems utterly reckless to promise that I’ll get to talking about pop music in 1991 next time round. Nevertheless, the plan is to revisit Foxbase Alpha. See you there.

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