The Day the Music Died

“I just wondered if you are hiring?”

It was a fateful question. I was standing in a freezing cold phone box on Briggate in the middle of Leeds calling one of the city’s two record stores. I’d left college with a degree in English and Fine Art and had absolutely no idea what to do with it. Working in a record store seemed like a fun thing to do until I figured out a more lucrative option, but I was too intimidated to walk in and hand them a resume so I decided to call first. Even that took every ounce of courage I had.

First I called Virgin but a surly voice informed me that they never hired people without retail experience. Thankfully HMV had no such qualms and, after convincing the manager I didn’t view myself as over-qualified (I didn’t actually view myself as qualified for anything!), I was in.

So much happened as a result of that one phone call – 13 years with HMV, a husband, 2 international moves and a career in HR. It had taken me half an hour to pluck up the courage to make that call after the guy at Virgin was so rude. What if I had bottled and just walked away from the phone box? Who would I be married to now? Where would I be living? What would I be doing?

Such small decisions set the course of our lives and for that particular decision, I am profoundly grateful.

It all came back over the last few days after hearing that HMV, struggling to survive, has sold its Canadian division. Phil and I were two of the first Brits to go over to Canada to help grow that business and what a great time we had! As the profits grew and grew, the company took such good care of its employees and all my memories are of fun things – boat cruises on Toronto harbor, surprise bonus payments, crazy parties, free baseball tickets, concerts, and in-store appearances (Alice Cooper throwing dollar bills off the roof of our Yonge Street store was definitely a moment to remember!).

HMV gave both of us opportunities that truly changed our lives. And they took care of us personally too – I will always be grateful for the paid flights from Canada to the UK when my dad became terminally ill, and the salary that kept arriving in my bank account during that time even though I wasn’t earning it.

The company is losing money now – it’s amazing they kept going this long frankly – and no doubt the new owners will start closing lots of stores, leaving nothing but memories for the employees and the customers. But oh, what good memories!

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4 thoughts on “The Day the Music Died

  1. Sadly, its true. The stores in the UK are becoming thinner and thinner on the ground. I was in the one in Bath today and noticed that very little wasn’t on sale. I don’t think we’ll have a nonspecialist audio store in town for much longer.

  2. What’s a “phone box”? Oh, I’m just kidding.

    Thinking about what determines the path of your life is so interesting .. and a little scary. Most all decisions come into play .. where you go to school, whether you decide to go to the park that day, the concert or bar that night, where you decide to live, who you find a job with, what television shows you watch (heh), whether you leave at 8:00 am or wait until 8:30. I know when I see an accident on the freeway I always think “thank God we didn’t leave earlier or it could be us”.

    Sounds like HMV was a great company to work for!

  3. I don’t think it’s as much fun as it used to be – hard times tend to strip the fun out of any company – but I do know people who have been there for 20 years or more and won’t leave until the last store is closed down.

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