Passions: “Last Shop Standing: The Rise, Fall & Rebirth of the Independent Record Shop”

By on December 6, 2017

Pip Piper’s 2012 documentary Last Shop Standing: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the Independent Record Shop — now streaming on Night Flight Plus — gives us an in-depth look at the rise, fall and re-birth of the UK independent record shop.

Based on record distributor Graham Jones’ 2009 book, Last Shop Standing: Whatever Happened to Record Shops?, the documentary chronicles how record store owners and vinyl collectors have all had to deal with the changes, from the original vinyl days during the golden era of the ’60s and ’70s, through the chart-hyping of the ’80s and the rise of the compact disc… all the way up to the present day, when record stores have seen a resurgence in vinyl sales but have also found themselves struggling on a day-to-day basis to stay open amid the flurry of illegal downloads.

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Graham Jones

As a sales rep for a UK record label it was Jones’ job for more than twenty-five years to visit these shops, and so he witnessed first-hand how they were facing “death by a thousand cuts” as retail sales began to drop over the past few decades.

The facts, says Jones, are simply astonishing: in the 1980s, there were 2200 record stores in the UK. Between 2004 – 2009, 540 independent UK record shops have closed down, a new one every two days.

By 2011, there were only 269 left.

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In order to document what was happening, Jones says he toured the country and interviewed staff at fifty record shops in order to document their tales before they closed, but he also saw that renewed interest in vinyl LP s had been the reason that a number of new stores (exclusively selling vinyl) had opened, which offset some of the closures, which he has said was a “dramatic transformation in the music retailing landscape.”

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Jo Good, Radio Presenter, 6 Music

Read more about Last Shop Standing below.

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According to his self-penned mini-bio on IMDB, director Pip Piper is the CEO of the Producers Forum and a part-time instructor teaching film distribution, in addition to being a filmmaker, and so he too knows a little something about the topic at hand.

Piper conducted interviews with over twenty record shop owners, some of whom have had to diversify — like London’s Rough Trade East, who added a café and gig space — in order to stay afloat financially.

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Billy Bragg

He also talked to a wide variety of musicians and leading music industry figures — including Paul Weller, Johnny Marr, Norman Cook, Billy Bragg, Nerina Pallot, Richard Hawley, Clint Boon and Tony Wadsworth (former chairman and CEO of EMI Music UK) — who tell us how record stores helped shape their own musical educations and gave them the opportunity to discover new bands and new releases, a place to congregate and build new friendships and even find a significant other with the same musical interests.

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As we’re sure everyone who has ever shopped in a record store knows, they’re a part of our shared culture, a safe haven for both musicians and music fans to congregate, to browse away for a few hours, and then walk away with music they might not have even known existed when they walked through the front door.

Last Shop Standing was crowd-funded by Piper and his company, Blue Hippo Media, who raised money (approximately £7,000, or about $9391 US) through Indiegogo. One hundred seventy music fans chipped in so that Piper could complete the film in about a month.

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Johnny Marr

Piper and two sound recordists traveled around to more than twenty record shops all over the United Kingdom, where they’d always end up buying records as well as talking to people like Johnny Marr, who apparently is a regular at Manchester’s King Bee Records.

Marr is quoted on the DVD box as saying:

Last Shop Standing is more than just a film about collecting records. It’s about passions, and people caring about what they love. It is a story about records, and some other very important things.”

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Paul Weller

Paul Weller — who contacted Piper when he heard about the film being made, after talking with the manager of Honest Jon’s, a shop he regularly visits — was interviewed later and edited into Last Shop Standing during post-production.

The documentary was then screened in over one hundred cinemas in the UK and internationally before being released on DVD, during a time when an estimated over five hundred record shops have closed in the UK (like the 105-year-old Hudson’s Record and Tape Centre in Chesterfield, and Brighton’s Rounder Records, both now closed, sadly).

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Keith Hudson

Last Shop Standing was chosen as the UK’s Record Store Day film of 2013.

The film — which clocks in at less than an hour in length — ends on a strong note of hope, as a new generation of music lovers who have taken to the “shop local” vibe, and events like the annual Record Store Day have breathed new life into the surviving shops.

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It was Record Store Day, in fact — every third Saturday of April, launching in the U.S. in 2007, and in the UK in 2008 — which helped bring about interest again in records, and over the ensuing years there have been a steady increase in organized Record Store Day events, with many stores hosting live bands in addition to offering special vinyl releases.

In 2013 alone, there were over 400 exclusive vinyl releases, only available from independent record shops, which got people back to shopping in record stores again, even if it’s just one day of the year.

Watch Last Shop Standing: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the Independent Record Shop on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.