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.
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. http://www.lastshopstanding.com
I reviewed Sound It Out on the site here and discussed Hudsons in Chesterfield here.