HMV’s Loss Isn’t Mine

January 14th, 2014 by

I’ve channeled my inner Walt Whitman, and got my feathers a little bit ruffled. Mainly because people are saddened over the closing of HMV Oxford Street. Defiant declarations against its proposed replacement – a(nother) Sports Direct – are loud enough, and people pour forth #HMVmemories while fearing the loss of a flagship.

How weird though, to think about it. Getting sentimental over a place that was used to extract money from our accounts in exchange for packaged reproductions of metaphysical creations – songs, shows, games. Things we can’t touch, yet which are bundled up at a cost.

Habitually I find the loss of shops on the High Street a moody thing. Particularly the loss of stores providing us art for our pounds. It’s an economic indicator we can hardly fail to notice. Yet when it comes to music, aren’t all of us attached? For my part I was lucky to be brought up with relative freedom of access, and a modest amount of spending power. As a result I have my own memories of and attachments to musical mediums.

I can still sense the delight that my father’s LP collection inspired. The delicately crackled riffs of ‘Hotel California’ and the artwork of Tubular Bells sleeve. Further memories include straightening the folds of the insert of 1977 by Ash, and a studying a variety of printed lyrics to recite at will – I know all of Coolio’s ‘C U When U Get There’, and this is entirely down to dedicating more time to it than my maths homework.

There’s little doubt either that my liking for lyrics made physical was a factor in my becoming a writer. And yet, as I now place greater importance upon art access than its mediums, the lack of an outlet like HMV doesn’t particularly sadden me. I’m saddened by the jobs lost, by the impact on employees, and by the lost potential to mingle and meet other music lovers (this never happened). Am I saddened by the loss of a retail legacy? Not much. I mentioned Whitman earlier, and did so because he once stated:

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes”.

And it’s true I feel conflicted. Conflicted because the loss of culturally significant mediums (books, DVDs and CDs) strike hard at our humanity. But should they? The depletion of natural resources and the world’s forests should surely be of greater concern than the lack of CDs on Oxford Street. After all, we can download now. Art itself isn’t vanishing.

Of course it’s a shame for purposes of whim and fancy that HMV isn’t being replaced by a garden. Whitman might have liked that, and it might also show some ecological intent and realign concerns. But whatever moves in will be another reminder of the power of pounds and of physical goods.

The loss of a music store won’t affect everyone. My father left his LPs behind long ago. He now downloads the music he loves, and prefers clutching spades to boxsets. At least I know I’m in some company then, when I think of ‘physical music’ as more an enjoyable side note.

The loss of a store is a shame of course, but the loss of the art would be worse.