Nick Hornby: For the Record

In 1995 <b>Nick Hornby</b> published <b>High Fidelity</b>, a novel about a record store owner with a turbulent relationship history. In the book, he pretty much nailed the mindset of a music obsessive, so unsurprisingly, he was the first person we thought to ask about <b>Record Store Day</b>

Feature by Paul Mitchell | 31 Mar 2009
  • Nick Hornby

In short, is Record Store Day a good idea?

"Oh, of course. I’m not sure what it can achieve - although it would be great if the depression caused a collapse in high-street rents, thus encouraging independent stores of all types to return. But  record stores have been a vitally important part of our culture – think of all the bands and writers and tastes formed there. I don’t see anything replacing that."

What constitutes a 'good' record store in your experience?

"Any record store that champions something it likes – as opposed to something that someone in an office a long way away thinks will sell – is all right with me. I want mis-spelled handwritten recommendations! I want a noticeboard advertising for a drummer! I want a second-hand section, and  an assistant who looks at most people with utter indifference or even contempt!"

In keeping with the sentiments evoked in much of your writing, are record stores in danger of becoming like 'curiosity shops' for the nostalgic, or will there always be enough keen enthusiasts to preserve them in their current guise?

"I don’t think the keenness of enthusiasts is the problem. The problem is that there’s just no way to make a living from record stores any more. It seems to me that there were always two types of customer: the ones who wanted to own the music, and the ones who wanted to own the artefacts. I, like a lot of people, belonged to the former camp: I spent a lot of time flicking through browser racks because it was the only way of finding the music I wanted. Now there are many other ways, and I use them. In the new digital culture, there’s an online equivalent for everything there used to be... with the obligation to pay removed. And the people that run the mp3 blogs are as knowledgeable, cranky, enthusiastic and snooty as any indie record store owner."

How have record stores helped shape your life?

"I guess there’s an obvious way: my first novel was about a record store.  It was written partly because I used to hang out in record stores a lot, and I could see that they were funny, and beautiful, and sad. I am still a novelist, fourteen years later. My whole career was built on High Fidelity, really. But more than that: I have made friends through record stores, because I met kindred spirits. And when I was in my teens, record stores taught me what to listen to, and how to listen."

Where does the musical revolution go from here?

"The musical revolution was crushed by the jackboot heel of Simon Cowell."

Record Store Day takes place on Saturday, 18 April 2009. More information on participating shops and artists is available here.

Avalanche Records will feature live in-store performances from Broken Records (Edinburgh) and The Virgins (Glasgow) plus many others.