DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Last Shop Standing – The Rise, Fall And Rebirth Of The Independent Record Shop (2013)

A glimpse into the enthusiastic cult surrounding india record shops.

Published on May 23, 2013

Last Shop Standing – The Rise, Fall And Rebirth Of The Independent Record Shop (2013)

Cast: Richard Hawley, Johnny Marr, Paul Weller, Norman Cook, Billy Bragg (documentary)
Studio: King Midas/ Converse Entertainment CVX903106 [4/23/13] (Distr. by MVD)
Director: Pip Piper
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: Dolby Digital Surround Sound
Language: English
Length: 124 minutes (Film – 50 minutes; Extras – 74 minutes)
Rating: ****

Before the advent of digital music availability, the record shop was the center of the universe. Rows of plastic-wrapped vinyl were more than enough reason to pass the time. The release of a new album (33 1/3 rpm) or single (45 rpm) prompted a mad rush to the store. Suddenly (or at least in hindsight, suddenly), the conversion of technology to compact disc destroyed the vinyl analog product. More devastating was the introduction of digital downloading. Individual tracks could be separated from an album, and transferred to mobile devices. While there has been an upsurge in audiophile vinyl, the delivery system of music has been altered in a significant way.

Last Shop StandingThe Rise, Fall And Rebirth Of The Independent Record Shop is an interesting examination of the record store phenomenon in the U.K.. It traces the meteoric rise of these shops in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Based on the book, Last Stop Standing by Graham Jones, the film interviews various individuals (including musicians and shop owners) and explores the subculture of independent record shops. The narrative examines the influence of rock and roll (which included 78 rpm) that spurned the mania for vinyl. Of course, Elvis Presley (the British were anticipating a country star) was the catalyst. Then the sixties and The Beatles continued the craze. Individuals who didn’t want to get conventional jobs opened independent record stores. Each decade brought a slowdown and then an upsurge, like the ‘70s punk movement.

The decline of record stores was attributed to many factors including CDs, mass merchandising (like supermarkets) and music industry over-hype. Additionally, sales-hungry label employees engaged in questionable tactics. Vinyl records were becoming more flimsy, and the quality became inferior. There is a hysterical laserdisc commercial by John Cleese. Of course, downloading and the influence of business over music changed the culture. There were always vinyl enthusiasts, but not enough to support stores. At one point in the ‘80s, there were over 2200 U.K. record shops. Downloading single cuts may have dealt the most lethal blow. By 2009, there were only 269 shops were left. Now there is a modest upsurge in vinyl, national sales days, and independent stores are making a comeback. Throughout the documentary, the viewer gets a glimpse into the enthusiastic cult surrounding Indie stores (almost the opposite of the smarmy clerks in High Fidelity). Many British rock musicians attribute that their passion for music was charged by record stores.

The sound quality (DD Plus)) is excellent. The dialogue is crisp and very clear. The background music sounds great. Also, the video quality is pristine. There are a slew of extras (longer than the feature) featuring additional interviews and commentary on current record store trends.

—Robbie Gerson

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