November 27, 2013
Irony wins again as Soho’s oldest record shop is denied an encore by a series of farcical bids.
There’s something pretty depressing at the core of this story, which, like the shop itself, will be long-forgotten by the time On The Beat has been transformed into another soulless coffee shop. Here’s a man who has worked behind the counter of a ramshackle rock ‘n’ roll record shop for 38 years, who’s never sought publicity or acceptance (or for that matter inspiration) from the outside world and doesn’t even own a computer, who with one last stab at the romance of that “High Fidelity lifestyle” (his own words) put his livelihood, vinyl and all, up for sale on eBay at the modest price of £300,000. Of the 44 bids placed, 32 were for £100 or less, and nine of those were of just £1.
As insulting as these bids are, the response, initially, was of great support. When we interviewed Tim Derbyshire a week into the month-long auction, he broke off twice to answer calls from other journalists, his story was shared thousands of times online and his girlfriend who had been charged with administering the eBay account had to take a short holiday for fear of being overworked. An early speculator took a punt at £150,000, but that was as high as it got. but when it came down to real business, Tim says he only received three phone calls all month.
Speaking to NME, the experience certainly doesn’t seem to have improved Derbyshire’s estimation of the outside world: “I’m not too bothered really, that’s life. I’ll move on to something else, I may take up brain surgery. Most people have got a brain, well maybe not everyone.”
As for his plans now: “I’ll be closing down in January, I’ll be gone by the end of the month. This is my last Christmas.”
Tim Derbyshire’s On the Beat probably represents a dying trade; a romantic, wine-soaked, liberal attitude to shop-keeping or, the Bernard Black “this is my shop and I’ll only sell if I want to” business model which saw him snub Google’s interest in buying the whole stock. As Derbyshire hinted to NME, he might just “leave the key in the door” when he leaves.
The only hope now is that no Starbucks would dream of taking on a pokey store front on dingy olde-London side street, once a gauntlet of five thriving record shops.
Read our full interview with Tim Derbyshire on the history of On the Beat here.