For the record ... now the music's over
Nick Ward laments the end of an era with the closure of iconic Nelson music store Everyman.
So Everyman is no more. Greg Shaw fought hard to keep the ship afloat, but was slowly ground down by the changing nature of the way people enjoy music. Change is inevitable, but Nelson has lost another little piece of its character and culture, and in my humble broken-hearted rock‘n'roll opinion, it sucks.
I grew up in Blenheim, which had a pretty good record store of its own, but Everyman's reputation preceded it among anyone who cared about music - like a Kiwi ancestor of High Fidelity, only less argumentative, and with a bit of Nelson's "hippie" flavour. So, starting when I was a teenager, I'd often jump in my car after work on Fridays and zoom over the Whangamoas for a bit of late-night shopping.
Sure enough, I found cool staff who were soon welcoming me by name and suggesting new releases and second-hand gems to add to my growing collection. I thanked them by selling them my rare Peel Sessions and Birthday Party EPs and other treasures for a pittance, during occasional fits of self-righteous musical restlessness.
Loveable iconoclast Greg was energetic, intense and never short of an opinion, and not bothered about who knew it. Christine Cachemaille mothered casual customers and music nuts alike in a no-nonsense manner, while Vicky Brown had a knack for hunting down eclectic classical releases.
The Everyman bods were so good to me that I didn't mind driving to Nelson and back just to exchange an album, after a glitch in their filing system. After a genuine apology, Christine talked me into leaving with a few more records. She was good that way. There were many other delightful and knowledgeable staff over the years - none of whom I'd categorise as nerds or obsessives, all of whom brought their little bit of colour to the Everyman story.
One of the reasons I was so happy to move to Nelson in the '90s was that I'd be closer to my favourite record store. Sure, I'd cheat on her with the likes of Galaxy in Christchurch and Slow Boat in Wellington, but I always came back. And I loved her even more for being a tireless supporter of the arts, from the original Wearable Art Awards to the refurbishment of the Theatre Royal.
So many memorable Everyman moments are stuck in my mind. In-store performances by acts as diverse as Paul Ubana Jones and Minuit. Customers queuing from before sunrise to buy the Princess Diana memorial single. Greg's pioneering discount CD store down the street, where I picked up a heap of great jazz.
The staff playing hacky sack on the footpath during a power cut. Summers around the cusp of the millennium, with Entrain and the Gathering happening, when a greater number of interesting people than usual would drift between Everyman and Zippy's, and asking whether there might be any jobs going.
And don't forget queuing for Wearable Art tickets (before it got all super-professional), then thrilling to the Everyman team's inspired music selections during the show.
Everyman was the place to go to get tickets for everything, but while it was a mainstay of the Nelson Arts Festival, it slyly thumbed its nose at the whole thing by hosting the "Nelson Idle" competition to find the region's most talentless performer.
The loss of record stores, however inevitable, is a loss for our social culture. They were places to bump into fellow music lovers and fossick and share and learn, and argue the merits of our favourite sounds without the lazy, cowardly abuse of anonymous internet posts. They were places where alliances were forged, bands were formed, mickeys taken, lifelong snobbish grudges nurtured.
The sterile, anti-social practice of downloading music doesn't cut it when you grew up buying records with brilliant gatefold cover art and extras like stickers and wildly intemperate anarchist newsletters - sold to you by people who could, after a few minutes of chat, recommend a near-faultless list of records that would change your life.
When I wrote a feature about Everyman six years ago to celebrate its longevity, digital music rips and sales were making their presence felt, but Greg told me that one of the reasons he wanted to keep the store going was he didn't want to disappoint its co-founder Mike Beveridge, who'd arrived in back in town and was surprised to find his baby still operating. I admired that.
More recently, he gave me a copy of I Want That Record!, a documentary about the last remaining independent record stores in America. It was hard to know whether to view it as a sign of defiance or an omen.
There were still some of us who kept the faith, and the vinyl revival helped a bit, but it was hard to avoid the unwelcome feeling that Everyman was living on borrowed time. Now the bigger picture of technological change has had the final say, and Nelson has lost another store with unique individual local character and a distinguished pedigree.
When Beveridge and fellow Nayland College teacher Darryl Kennedy opened what was then the Everyman Book and Record Shop in 1975, they named it after a 16th-century English morality play which contains the line, "Everyman, I will go with thee in thy most need and be thy guide", and whose core lesson is that at the end of your life, what matters is the good deeds you've done.
Everyman lived up to that ideal. For nearly four wonderful decades, it was a reliable guide to great sounds that moved feet, minds and souls, and enriched thousands of lives. It provided happiness, culture, community and inspiration - a business with true character, founded and nurtured by people with true passion and personality. Goodbye, and thank you so very, very much for everything.
The Nelson Mail