Last Shop Standing – the film

To the Showroom cinema for the first local screening of the Last Shop Standing documentary, telling the story of the rise, fall and (nascent) rebirth of indie record shops, and based on the book of the same name by record distributor Proper’s Graham Jones. The film is actually quite intense, trying to cram an awful lot into what seems a curiously short running time of just an hour. But if you’re in any way connected with these shops, and most vinyl fans will be, then it is absorbing stuff. They’ve rightly kept the focus mostly on the shops owners and staff, quirky but committed people, with just a few selected guest slots from respected musicians (equally quirky but committed) filmed in their own favourite emporium.
Cutting and splicing the interviews, the story is told largely matter of factly in the manner of people just wanting to get on and keep things going. Given the miniscule budget and shooting schedule they’ve done a fine job and I can recommend it to anyone who has loved or still loves record shopping.

king bees record shop manchester, simon robinson in doorway

Kingbee Records in Manchester, featured in the film (photo © Chris Meloche)

It does as I say try to squeeze quite a lot in and as a result some incidental shots get lost – gallows humour style notices not on screen long enough to read are a real annoyance – while the hand held focus changing does strain the eyes at times. But at least they’ve done it, and hopefully it’ll give people pause for thought as they moan about cities losing their identity while scrabbling round the web to shave 30p off the cost of a CD (and don’t tell me they don’t because we had one guy do that with us – two phone calls over the price, and he was then most put out when we suggested his calls had probably wiped out any supposed saving). The unscripted scene of manager Keith leaving Hudson’s Records for the last time after 105 years is so poignant you may just need to wipe a tear from your eye.
Supermarkets are part of the problem, selling goods for less than smaller dealers can buy it, though surprisingly the dreaded Amazon word isn’t mentioned. The lasting message from the film is that it is vinyl (“they used to be records” one shop owner jokingly grumbles) which seems to be much of the driving force behind these stores surviving into the future, and despite the continuing struggles, might keep them going. And the story (not on screen) that the film crew all purchased something at each store they visited shows how this can be achieved.
The film comes hot on the heels (for me at any rate) of the Sound It Out film, and of the two that has more humanity and depth, focusing as it does on just one shop and it’s loyal customers. I think the makers of this one have missed a trick by not giving more screen time to shop owner’s own particular passions; the scenes of one guy playing his album of bizarre animal noises raised one of the biggest laughs at the screening.

The documentary is out now on DVD and being sold through the indie record shops. It is also being given selected screenings at art cinemas around the country. Check their website for updates.
I reviewed Sound It Out on the site here and discussed Hudsons in Chesterfield here.

3 Responses to Last Shop Standing – the film

  1. Chris Meloche says:

    Looking forward to catching this on DVD. KIngbee Records… been there, done that. 🙂

  2. vince chong says:

    There is a documentary made here in Toronto on vinyl collecting which I have not seen, but according to a vinyl seller I talked to it offended a few people. Basically interviewees were made to look stupid or deviant which was perhaps a sad attempt at humour. I heard a second programme is out comprised of stuff he could not fit into the first one. Vinyl shops here in Toronto are thriving so far with new used vinyl shops opening recently. I have no idea if they will survive. But since nobody buys CDs anymore (with exception of me!), vinyl is still king here. Pity about the shops in the UK. I still think every city needs one to buy and sell. Since there are not a lot of docs on this subject I hope to find this dvd someday.

    • simon robinson says:

      Let me know if you find any more Vince, I feel a theme night at the art house cinema coming on! I think what was good about the Sound It Out documentary was it made you laugh at some of the characters, but then turned things around so you had a lot of sympathy for them by the end. Let’s face it some people do take the whole scene very seriously, but you need a sense of humour and to be able to step back from it and remember it’s not important to 99% of the population whatsoever!

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