25 July 2006

Whatever Happened To The Theory Of Our Price ?

Whatever happened to Our Price?

Well, I know what happened to it - takeovers, mergers, Gordon Ghettoisation etc - but what happened to it conceptually? What happened to the theory* of Our Price? Where'd that idea go?

I mean, I lived in Yeovil during the whole of my formative music years but I still managed to buy, off the shelf, my first Coil record in Our Price in the Quedam along with the first Young Gods LP (on the day it came out!), several Swans and Nick Cave records, super-rare (now) Current 93 and New Beat 12"s, Half Man Half Biscuit singles, albums by Pere Ubu, Negativland, Nurse With Wound, Dead Kennedys, Big Black, Kukl, The Stupids, Crass, Spacemen 3, Throbbing Gristle, Zoviet France etc etc.

There was often only one copy available and you sometimes had to race your friends all the way from school to get it but it was there, just shoved on the shelves amongst the Phil Collins and The Style Council; ready for pasty-thin little floppy-haired kids to like the cover and take them home to have their minds melded.

This wasn't the legendary** Acorn Records shop, this was Our Price: brightly lit, red n white lightnin' disked corporate mongrel Our Price where you had to pass a stack of nasty Rick Astley suits just to get them to play that first Revolting Cocks album you'd been curious about for a month or so but never quite managed to save up enough dinner money to pay the Import price.

They'd knock it down eventually. No fucker was gonna pay the Import Price.

The people behind the counter would play a seemingly random mix of stuff allday, so that Kylie would segue with the Jello Biafra spoken word album and everyone would get to smile and shrug and wish they'd not just taken back that Anti Group album and swapped it for a stack of singles from Sarah Records.

I mean, who were the buyers for Our Price back then? And where have they gone now? I mean would you hope to buy any of these records or their now equivalents (er... maybe another post there) in a provincial HMV or Virgin or Woolworths?

Or even a non provincial megastore?

The Young Gods - Fais La Mouette

The Young Gods - Did You Miss Me?

Both Yousendit Swissarnaments

This remains one of the greatest, most influential and most underrated albums. I still listen to it all the way through about once a month (i.e more than almost every other album I have, even though I only have a copy on an old C90 because I sold the LP for drugs and drink at University - can't regret that, I still have the music and now fewer brain cells to worry about any flaws it might have).

When the The Young Gods re-defined a strange, neo-classical guitarless rock by simply stuffing their sampler with inappropriate grooves in 1987 they really did change more than they knew and never really kept on like I wanted them to. It seems to me that their first album in particular was genius only by accident - these guys wanted to be rockstars but they just didn't know how and somehow they managed to regurgitate a form of primeval/ futuristic rock via the huge slabs of sound that made up most of their first S/T album.

When Gary Glitter storms/creepy crawls back to Europe under a hail of piss bullets and space-dust phlegm their version of Did You Miss Me will be playing from all the rooftops.

If I was the government I'd be fucking off all that EbbCoe Olympics shite and arranging this right now, just in case - divert a few funds from the Iraq War And Peace effort and install wind-powered speakers 200ft tall all around the coast just blasting it out at the planes and the trains and the boats as they come in...

*Not qute sure if there was a theory but there seemed to be. Maybe someone bought everything that got over 6/10 in NME or Sounds or MM or Underground - I knew a friend that did that, more or less any record given a 6+ in NME and he'd buy it regardless of genre.

**Admittedly within a rather lmited geographical/metaphysical range


kek-w said...

Well, Amie and Matt are long-gone from Acorn...but the others are going strong, now joined by Flinty.

But I still find it heartbreaking to see all those CDs in a photo of Acorn. It's just not right.

Our Price in Yeovil was startlingly eclectic...I bought loadsa cheap records in there, back in the 80s. My ex used to know one of the blokes who started up the chain...I think he got offered a place on the board of WH Smiths after they were bought out, but they made him wear a suit, etc so he quit and spent his buy-out cash on crappy 80s sportscars, blahblahblah.

GTTRBRKZ said...

hmmm, yes, excellent post. Bought all sorts of wonderful weirdness at Our Price in Broadmead 'back in the day', though I think the old Virgin megastore had a similarly hectic approach too. I think that all recordshops -high street or otherwise - were better back then. but that's the way of the world. i mean, you don't need to buy a young gods album in the high street now, cos u can order it online or grab it off soulseek or whatever. they were great days, and we must always remember and cherish them, but alas they're gone forever i fear. and yes the first young gods album was heavy, though myself i only play it about once a year now.

Ed said...

Fantastic to hear some Young Gods stuff. I too had wondered what had happened to Our Price. Those of us stuck in really quiet places in the 1990s sometimes had to contend with only a Woolworths- Our Price seemed a treat when I made it to Peterborough or Leicester...
Love this blog by the way. If you have time, check out mine: http://www17seconods.blogspot.com

doppelganger said...

With Our Price went a whole culture. Now we seem to have lost:

1) Bunking off school purely to hang about in Our Price
2) Promotional lifesize cardboard cutouts of pop stars that you'd fight to get your name on first when they were discarded (Kate Bush in a bed with two dogs oversaw the whole of my A-Levels)
3) Large blank orange stickers on plastic sleeves of obscure dance imports - upon which shop assistants wrote 'witty' descriptions of the track (one of the best bits of working in a record shop I thought)

Loki said...

... someone had a cut out of that guy from Go West - Peter Cox??? - with the eyes cut out and red card undernearth... Tony Blair evil eyes Tory poster style...

can't remember who tho... it kinda dominated the surroundings....

shykitten said...

I came to Our Price a bit late, after it had already been WHSmithized, but I am ambivalent about it, mainly due to getting a teenage Christmas job there one October only to be 'let go' after about three weeks, apparently for not single-handedly halting the shop's ongoing financial irregularities (so, the till receipts still don't balance; I know, let's blame that incompetent/funny-looking new kid).

But at least it was managed by a genuine music fan (if also, looking back now, a hilarious poseur), who bought all the best new releases himself at a staff discount. At the time they were in the process of pulling out all the vinyl racks and replacing them with CDs. I used to like how they stocked random 12" singles that had long since exited the chart (or never entered it) simply, it seemed, out of a sort of apathy on the part of the staff, who were far too busy chatting up customers.

As far as I could tell, that was the Our Price 'theory': flaunt your latest trendy acquisition or insider info in order to try to get off with that girl/guy who comes in every day and stares sultrily over the counter while listening to some hideously overpriced import on headphones. Or maybe that was just a kink of the provincial Our Prices, those dingy tackeramas dotted across the rump of East Anglia like a rash you had to scratch, because if you were a locally restricted music obsessive you didn't have that many options.

Of course now, compared with the Daleky atmosphere of the Virgin Megastores or the endless bargain buckets of HMV, both with their identical and invertebrate back catalogues, Our Price seems like a distant dream of understated cuteness.

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