Today is Record Store Day. That it was felt necessary to instigate a Record Store Day says a lot about how technology is changing life's landscape. It would be hard to argue that digital technology hasn't enhanced our lives.
In my line of work, designing digitally has revolutionised what we are able to achieve and the speed we can achieve it, and many of our products can be sampled and delivered via digital manufacturing. The digital explosion has democratised creativity and allowed everyone to 'have a go'. From animators to film makers to musicians a bedroom at home has become a creative studio.
But we are human, we are physical, we are tactile and most of us have a desire to surround ourselves with possessions. We collect, we hoard, and we get pleasure from holding things. It may save space by getting rid of our books, magazines and records, it may reduce the use of resources but for many of us it would take away joy and as my pop used to say "You are only here three score and 10, enjoy it".
As a child, my house was full of visual stimulation, from my mum and nan buying vibrant cotton prints to make their summer dancing dresses, to the evocative album covers that spanned '60s quadraphonic exotica to those wonderful '60s Beatles album and single covers. I used to love helping my mum take a dozen 7" singles out of their beautifully designed sleeves and stack them up on the drop down arm of the stereogram. As if by magic, once Cliff's Summer Holiday would finish and then the arm would move across, the mechanism would click and Elvis would take over.
As a young teenager, the first thing I would plan after watching the likes of David Bowie, Slade, and The Sweet at King George's Hall. Blackburn, was how could I earn enough money to buy the album at Ames Record Bar in The Precinct. It drove me on to develop a work ethic by doing errands around the house and work at the local farm.
As I moved into my mid-teens, I spent just about every evening in my mum and stepdad's pub, washing glasses and dishes and 'waiting on'. Every penny went on buying Northern Soul records at Wigan Casino or disco and funk at Blackpool Mecca, as well as spending hours in Ames buying DIY punk gems like Spiral Scratch and Teenage Kicks and all those Linder-designed Buzzcock's albums.
And you know what? I would meet people, we would chat, we would learn about upcoming gigs, form bands, form friendships. Records shops like Ames Record Bar were social clubs for like-minded music lovers and unlike today's digital music forums, we could actually see the whites of people's eyes, and have real human interaction. Ames Record Bar was a reason why Blackburn town centre was a magnet for me in terms of a social and cultural hub... don't get me started on the contribution of digital to the continued decline of mankind's greatest social gathering space, the town centre...
Records were one of my routes into design. The sleeves became artworks that I would pore over and the excitement about a new release was about the whole package.
Records have always taken pride of place in our living room. Mrs H and I like a tidy house, we don't have many ornaments, but records are our art collection and from our Red or Dead days through to our Vintage Festival days, they have been a constant source of inspiration, have allowed us to recall great moments in time and are a visual record of the history of art, graphics, cultural thinking. They provide warmth, comfort, belonging and should we, like many, develop some form of dementia in our old age then I am sure that our records will be one of the stimulations that will help us keep in touch with ourselves.
There is a place for digital music, having a vast music library in your pocket is pretty cool and useful, but going into your local record store, a veritable art gallery and having a physical chat with a fellow music lover, enjoying a coffee, perusing the magazine racks, being stimulated to go and watch a local gig or that hand written ad for a drummer.
You can be sure that most performers make their music with a visual stimulation or also have a visual way to express their music. The record store brings music, art, design and people together and in a way it has been the record store that has been the inspiration to the Vintage Festival, which is about music being part of a much wider cultural landscape and like a record store is about far more than just listening to a band.