Nightmares on Wax: The demise of the indie record shop


There’s just 23 days left before my home town says farewell to its last remaining independent record shop.

Quirks record shop closes at the end of January.
The closing down sale is underway – happy New Year indeed…
In all honesty, the signs that this family business, and staple of Ormskirk’s Church Street for the past two decades, was doomed have been evident for some time.
The closure several years ago of Quirks’ other shops in Formby and Crosby forewarned the inevitable. And when, in early December, I was informed by long-time manager Wendy Kirwan, that the Ormskirk branch was to follow suit, while being utterly miffed, I can’t say I was at all surprised.
And given Wendy’s shrug of resignation, neither was she. ‘What now?’ asked my friend. ‘I really don’t know,’ sighed Wendy, ‘I’m absolutely gutted.’
As early as 2004, Formby-born owner Paul, who’s family founded the business in 1954, lamented the plight of the small business, saying: “We carry the widest range and are a specialist service, however, if the current trend continues, music will just become supermarket-orientated and there will be no choice.”
He was not wrong.
The trend has been growing steadily for many years.
In little over a decade, West Lancashire and Merseyside has witnessed half a dozen indie record shops fold.
First there was Stan’s; a curiosity shop stacked full of second-hand fodder among the biggest sounds of forever.
Stan’s was a regular haunt of ours during school dinner hours, somewhere to hangout as he humoured us with industry myths while we lingered amid the must, rarely if ever, buying anything.
In fact that’s incorrect; Paul once bought an Iron Maiden CD for about four quid while I ordered an inlay card for Prince‘s 1999.
It’s safe to say the trade was less than minimal. And it was hardly a shock when poor Stan relocated to the indoor market before closing in the early 90s. The last time I spotted Stan he was running a mobile disco akin to something off Phoenix Nights…
Then there was Andy’s Records in Southport; an over-priced, sterile joint, which I rarely frequented, except at the post-Christmas sales when it was want to throw up some choice cuts. Andy’s introduced me to Neil Young and Jane’s Addiction among others. But given the average price of a CD was equal to that of a small car and that the average resident in Southport cared more for Daniel O’Donnell than David Bowie it was always doomed.
Taylors, of Ormskirk, a newsagent still plodding on today, sold ex-jukebox records on the cheap for years and despite cashing in at a fiver a pop, that too gave up the ghost.
Another favourite from my school years was Southport’s Market Records. Traditional in every sense of the word: uncommunicative, lank-haired assistants who wreaked of pot and wore the same stale clobber every time you went, records coated in a thin layer of dust, smoke-stains and peeling price tags all the while indistinguishable, god-awful metal blared from a prehistoric soundsystem.
It was great. Well, to be honest, it was shit. But it was great in the fact that it was there – it provided an outlet for us to journey to at weekends; jump the train, splash a few quid and make the same grunting noises to the denim-clad hobo behind the counter as he stashed our swag in a brown paper bag like illicit contraband.
In the grand scheme of things, Market Records was major-league, having two stores – one in the indoor market and one not. After years of location switches and downsizing, Market Records bit the bullet in 2006.
And now Quirks.
A cornerstone of Ormskirk. A place which I’ve forever made my first port of call in the town. A place which when I was at school carried some kind of inexplicable importance.
A place to not only feed your ears, but buy posters, gather fanzines or as the times have changed catch a rare in store session from visiting musicians.
I remember way back in the day, a lad named Colin in the year above – who proved his music-mad status by growing dreads and wearing Doc Martens and a Taxi Driver parka to school – was given 10% discount at Quirks such was his record-buying obsession.
This accolade far outweighed any in my young mind. I was both jealous and in awe – he had suddenly joined the elite. Maradona, Liam Gallagher, Viv Richards, Ultimate Warrior – and Colin from Year 11. INCREDIBLE.
I’m not going to lie. In recent years, what with the internet dictating, and major retailers compelled to lower prices while employing year-round sales, I hardly spent a penny at Quirks.
Which, considering a good wedge of my cash is spent on records every week, is symptomatic of the small independents extinction – if I wasn’t parting with my hard-earned pennies, who was?
Only last March former Creation chief Alan Magee declared the record shop dead while rock critics alike suggested they were an unnecessary commodity.
It is hard to disagree.
With Probe and Hairy’s of Liverpool the last remaining bastions of taste and independence, sadly, it appears the only question remaining is not will the record shop survive, but when will it cease to be?