Last Shop Standing

The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the Independent Record Shop
Directed by Pip Piper
Screened at FACT 1st December 2012

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

One notable omission from this documentary film about independent record shops was wonderful Probe Records from Liverpool, but don't blame the director Pip Piper. They were asked to take part but turned the chance down. Independent from the independents. I like their style!

Perhaps they did not want to be associated with Diane Keen from The Musical Box, based in Tuebrook in Liverpool, who, in a Q & A debate following the screening at FACT, decried the advent of punk rock in the late 1970s as "terrible music," but thought disco music was the bee's knee.

Rent-a-quote Billy Bragg, as well as Paul Weller and Johnny Marr, all made cameo appearances but did not add anything particularly relevant to the film.

More than 500 independent record shops have closed in recent years and our guide to the reasons for this was record distributor Graham Jones, who wrote a book upon which the film is based.

The main causes for the demise were rising building rents, the proliferation of free downloading, prolific supermarket sales, and in my opinion, the increasing conservatism, in regard to music tastes, of a lot of the British public.

Only 5% of albums - I am surprised it is that high - released nowadays are issued on vinyl and are generally expensive, costing £20/£25, and almost of inferior vinyl content compared to those produced in the 1960s and 1970s.

No mention at all was made about the poor cousins of recorded music output, cassette tapes, which were issued in abundance at the time they were regularly sold, and more often than not cheaper than vinyl or CD albums. I still regularly play them, the majority of them housing recordings I made from the radio, and the reproduction levels, even after 25 years or so, is of a surprisingly high level.

The film ended on an optimistic note, with a reported resurgence in the purchase of turntables among young peopleand people flocking to independents on the Annual Record Store day. Pity that these folks and others do not frequent record shops on a more regular basis.

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