As threatened, throughout April - in celebration of Record Store Day - I offer up a daily post related to all things record shop.
And if any of it sounds like a Manifesto, consider it good practice for my election campaign next year.
Day Twenty Six of this steaming pile of japery, kinghell boring bullshit and contentious nonsense...
Frenzy Blip, Misery Porn and The Proctologist's Finger
Welcome 'Deaders to the first RSD related post written in speedos, reclining in the Ground Zero afterglow of Record Store Day, the mushroom cloud dissipating in the Spring sunshine, a blip of frenzy that will quickly disappear in the rearview mirror as we accelerate the bandwagon towards June 18th, and the SECOND DROP of RSD22 releases. 'Fore that though, I'm gonna leave a rubber skidmark on the asphalt, take a trip into the Culture Desert with my snorkel gear, and dive headfirst into the noxious & tepid pool signposted Misery Porn.
Misery Porn - more commonly known as the 'Soaps' - has been brainwashing Britain for generations. I have a theory that the most popular British soaps exist solely to normalize poverty and hopelessness, a kind of, 'this is just the way that it is' shrug of the shoulders; apolitical and devoid of genuine context. A story about an Eastenders character scrounging in the supermarket bins too embarrassed to use the local food bank isn't trivializing food banks. But robbed of all political and social context, the stories intention, while commendable, that using a foodbank is nothing to be embarrassed about, is nothing but misery porn if its not bothering to explore political ideology, or make the point that as a society we should be ASHAMED that foodbanks NEED to exist at all.
When Shrewsbury/Bristol avant-noize label Violent Discharge asked me to program the line-up for their comblimation tape, a fantastic collection of local talent generously donating their work to raise money for a Shrewsbury foodbank, I didn't need to remind myself why the tape existed, but I felt then, and now, that people do need to be reminded why foodbanks exist.
Of course, mixing politics with anything other than more politics is a potential choking hazard, even when you're adding a generous splash of context. Lucky for me then, that Context is my middle name.
Which is why, whenever I'm frequently asked, 'How's business?' (sometimes an incredibly personal question, no?) I always answer honestly, and then liberally apply context. My rehearsed reply to, 'So how was Record Store Day?' is swimming in context gravy so thick, your inquisitive spoon will stand upright.
Context, 'the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood' is everything.
This is why British soaps aka misery porn are completely devoid of context. The people responsible for creating the economic carnage that necessitates the existence of over 2000 foodbanks in the UK don't want people to apply context...
And so much for all that.
My last Record Store Day media interview in 2019 is arguably my proudest LFD moment, tempered as it was/is by the context of the conversation.
At some point during Record Store Day I took a call from 6 Music. Liz Kershaw wanted to talk to me live on her show, about RSD. I'm not blasé about media interviews, but they don't faze me either, which is perhaps partly why the conversation didn't seem to be going to Liz's liking:
CONTEXT. Firstly, I'm from Willenhall. I'm genetically predisposed to self-deprecating humour and being weirdly unassuming. To many people born outside of the Black Country, this can appear to be miserablism.
CONTEXT. Unfortunately I AM also a miserable bastard, pessimistic to the point that the glass isn't half empty, some thieving toe rag has robbed it, and is right now, at this very moment, flipping it on ebay.
CONTEXT. In 2019 the 'Vinyl Revival' was already in retreat. Regardless of what the industry was saying (who needs experts? How 'Brexit means Brexit' of you! - ed) it was obvious to me that beyond the 'legacy' titles and the older blokes replacing their CDs with records, the number of my younger regulars was diminishing rapidly. The FAD, which peaked in 2016/2017 was (FAD)ing.
CONTEXT. In 2019, we were standing on the abyss of the consequences of the Brexit result. A Brexit agreement negotiated by an assortment of sociopaths, inveterate liars and chiselers more akin to a criminal enterprise than a government.
No doubt some of this made it's way into my tone and my answers to Liz's list of questions. Wrapping up the interview as quickly as possible, Liz asked me what I thought about the future. Now. Scroll up a teeny tiny bit.
Then Liz told me to, 'cheer up'. On NATIONAL RADIO. On RECORD STORE DAY.
Forgetting the Black Country humility for a minute, I'm quite a sharp guy. I think about stuff. A lot.
And one of the things that boils my piss more than anything else in the whole world is people telling other people to, 'cheer up'.
Firstly, at the most basic level, you can't order someone to 'feel' an emotion. One can provoke or elicit a genuine emotional response through gesture, or action or speech, but you can't order it.
Secondly, I'm not afraid to admit I've sometimes struggled with my mental health. And in 2019 I was still co-running the men's mental health group Music In Mind in the shop with members of the Shropshire council mental health team, a get together for men accessing mental health services through their GP. In that CONTEXT I find the instruction to 'cheer up' insensitive, insulting, and quite stupid.
End Of Interlude
Now. I'm not going to be making claims about predicting future events like NOSTRADAMUS did or er, David Icke, or anything like that. But what I will say is that Liz Kershaw, in 2019 responding to my bleak assessment of The Future with, 'Cheer up Andy' in the context of everything that has happened since, does make one pause for thought:
I think I'm a bit like a proctologist's finger, lubed up with context, plumbing the depths, rummaging around, taking the temperature. It might not be pleasant, but never ignore what the proctologist's finger is telling you.