Last Shop Standing – The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the Independent Record Shop Pip Piper (2012)
Graham Jones’s book identified a key facet to the music industry and asked one of the most pertinent questions: Whatever happened to record shops? At once a simple question now leads to many more, as the documentary based upon this book, Last Shop Standing: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the Independent Record Shop poses to answer this question. At the film’s screening at this year’s Brighton Film Festival, there was a buzz of excitement from the audience and warm praise. The students that attended the screening were excited about the film and hoped that it would raise awareness for record shops across the country.
The narrative of the film is simple, as Pip Piper and Graham Jones visit a plethora of record shops from all over the country. Including, London’s Rough Trade East, Intoxica and Brighton’s own Borderline and the sorely missed Rounders Records. The informal nature shines through as the interviewees are always at ease when talking about their business. This makes the viewing all the more rewarding, as they are all genuinely interested in their trade. Indeed, for most of the film, memories play a huge role as the likes of Norman Cook, Paul Weller, Nerina Pallot and many more recount their love for all things vinyl.
Separated by three acts, there is a systematic account of the rise, fall and rebirth of these supposed ancient commodities. Even though this may be a stale way of doing things, for the complete novice (like me), I found it really interesting to go through an entire timeline and learn the ‘ins and outs’ of a fascinating industry. As you go through the journey, you become connected with the characters on the screen and the constant battle that they are waging with the supermarkets and online music stores. The emotional connection becomes even more tangible when we learn that shops all around the country are closing at an alarming rate. Indeed, from 2000 shops in the 1980’s to just over 200 in 2009, this shocking statistic is a sobering canopy over the entire film.
However, the vast collection of record shop owners and well-known supporters remain optimistic about their future. With the national record shop day held every year, crowds of people flock to these stores, craving a more human touch to an industry which has seemingly become cold with illegal downloading and cheap supermarket CD’s. The documentary doesn’t entirely answer the question it sets out to do, but what it does do is re-introduce to people a forgotten world of music camaraderie. As people filtered out of The Basement there was an overwhelming sense of excitement. Many students felt the intimate screening pushed the message of the film further and hoped that it would aid in more people watching the film. As such, If the buzz from the festival is anything to go by, I can only see independent record shops reviving after their much publicised rise and fall.
By Ben Taylor