A couple of weeks ago I was in a big record store, not one I often go to these days. I buy my new releases off the internet now, second hand record shops for everything else. To me the big record shop chain stores are all for Fifty Quid Man, that figure from the 2000s, marketing mythology, the office worker or professional male who’s doing ok, he’s not rich and what with the kids still living at home and all that, he’s not going out as much as he’d like. Fifty quid on albums, it’s a little gift he gives himself each month, maybe two. When he was younger Fifty Quid Man was into BritPop or punk. Grunge passed him by except for Nirvana, because everyone digs them, the MTV generation, yeah? He’s got fifty quid at a time to spend or so the marketers say, so they’re after him, big time. Fifty Quid Man loves reissues and Coldplay when they have something new out. If Fifty Quid Man isn’t a dad he wants to be, some day.
The store has rows of computer games, a shy selection of CDs, a big load of Beatles merchandise, from shot glasses to pencil tins, and a wall of vinyl, reissue-heavy but a better selection of new stuff than I’d expect. Actually, there’s some good albums in here I wouldn’t mind, I’ll have to slip back some time. But I can’t think about that now, I’m there to watch an in store performance. Merseyside group Hooton Tennis Club are new kids on the slacker enthusiast block, debut album out four days before on Heavenly and I’ve been rocking out to it all weekend.
So I’m there on the ground floor of the shop, watching the band set up and sound check. The only other people in the room apart from black suited and booted security guards are a gaggle of teenage girls. Hooton Tennis Club’s album ‘Highest Point In Cliff Townʼ has been picking up some cracking reviews and it’s selling well but we’re not talking the need for crash barriers just yet and the teenage girl audience, it’s to be expected. The album’s full of clever words, observations and tunes, the group are nice boys, clean. I wish they’d been around when I was fifteen. These girls, they’ve got taste.
The shop starts filling up. I missed the group at LIMF the weekend before so I’ve made today’s trip especially. But I’m freaking out a bit. There are teenage girls all around and children, they make me itch. They’re so giddy, fiddling with phones, and I’m dying for someone to come in I can stand near at least, so I don’t look like some sort of weirdo who surrounds herself with girls a third her age. Some lads wander in, mid-twenties maybe. One of Hooton Tennis Club lets on to them as they’re sound checking. Damn, they’re friends of the band so standing with them might look a bit odd. A bloke in his earlier thirties is there, I think maybe I’ll loiter around him. I notice he’s carrying a camera. He’s a photographer, not here for the tunes. I’m dying here. There is no one from my own peer group present at all.
Then I see him. A bloke of about forty, thin up top and wearing a suit looking interestedly about, standing on his tiptoes and trying to get a view of the performance space. Thank God. He’s the Fifty Quid Man for me. I go and stand near him to stop feeling ridiculous, but then I notice he’s got two teenage girls with him, I’m guessing his daughter and friend. Blow it, I think. I’ll feel mortified whatever I do. I’m staying put.
The group starts playing. They’re good. I’ve seen them twice before, in a club environment. It feels slightly strange standing in a high street shop at five o’clock in the afternoon, blue skies and soft sunshine on the shiny shop floor instead of a dark club with a beer in my hand but it’s free and they’re playing, so I’m happy. The teenage girls are too, and the lads, sixteen, seventeen year old boys. I edge to the side.
Hooton Tennis Club are doing a signing at the end of their set and I’m considering it. I’m thinking, should I ask them to sign my copy of their album “for my daughter Cath”? Lovely girl she is, lads. Loves your album big time, don’t mind it myself, now I come to think on. You’ve got some good tunes there. Keep it up.
Should I, though? Really?
I decide against it, in the end. I walk away and leave the teenage girls and boys to it, me with my dignity intact. Or so I like to think.
Hooton Tennis Club play Liverpool’s Kazimier on 8th December. My socially awkward self will be there. (NB. I have no daughter). Highest Point In Cliff Town is in the shops now (Heavenly).
(First published in The Guide, September 2015)