There is a romantic image of the local record shop which Nick Hornby captures with exquisite detail in his novel High Fidelity. "The shop smells of stale smoke, damp and plastic dust-covers, and it's narrow and dingy and dirty and overcrowded....this is what record shops should look like, and only Phil Collins' fans bother with those that look as clean and wholesome as a suburban Habitat."
The shop in Hornby's book is staffed by a bunch of oddballs, united by an obsessive love of recorded music and committed with an almost missionary zeal to the business of supplying it to the public. The owner measures out his life in an endless succession of music-related lists – everything from his Favourite Records (Singles) to his Top Five Dream Jobs.
Graham Jones, one of the founders of Proper Music Distribution has been doing his dream job – or variations on it – for most of his life, and the true story of his time spent working in and around the world of independent record retailing is every bit as colourful, funny, strange, and occasionally sad as any fictional yarn.
Graham has some lists of his own, and in Last Shop Standing he has amassed many extraordinary tales of the best shops he has done business with over the years and hilarious accounts of the worst. He reveals the truth about chart hyping and shines a light on some of the extraordinary shenanigans that have regularly gone on behind the scenes as record companies go about promoting some of their biggest hits (and misses).
But the most shocking list is the one that begins and defines Last Shop Standing: a roll call of some of the 540 record shops that have closed in the last four years alone. For record retailing is an industry in crisis. Beset by the onward march of the supermarkets, the growing popularity of music downloading and a host of other rapidly emerging market trends, the traditional record shop has become an endangered species.
While Graham recognises such problems, and explains them with an insider's knowledge and eye for detail, he remains committed to the future of the industry that he loves. As well as being a eulogy to an era that is fast fading into history, Last Shop Standing is also a celebration of the unique spirit of comradeship and entrepreneurial ingenuity that has enabled so many shops to keep operating successfully in such a harsh trading environment.
All of which makes this a most timely and important book.
Graham has amassed a fantastic collection of anecdotes on his travels around the record shops of Britain, and Last Shop Standing is a unique slice of social history and record industry folklore. It is also a damn good laugh. (David Sinclair, November 2008)
Let's make things happen, Reflex is my last shop standing... ;)