The film version of Nick Hornby’s beloved music-geek novel High Fidelity is perhaps the most faithful adaption I have ever seen. The filmmakers so revered Hornby’s work that they elected to go with direct narration, just so that John Cusack could deliver huge, unaltered swaths of Hornby’s prose – paragraph after paragraph of it – directly to the camera. The film is, for all intents and purpose, a recitation of the novel.
They moved the setting from London to Cusack’s comfort zone of Chicago (which inexplicably entailed changing the main character’s surname from Fleming to Gordon), thereby avoiding a Costner/Robin Hood debacle, and they made one truly reprehensible plot change: Rob is not supposed to have sex with Laura in the car in the rainstorm. He is supposed to decline it because he is presumably concerned about STDs, a little puerile, poisonous and self-smiting payback for her affair with Ray. It is reverse Hollywood Puritanism. The censors made them add the sex.
Otherwise, the film is the book. High Fidelity in both forms also stands as the definitive depiction of record-store culture and, specifically, of record-store-employee archetypes. I know at least four people who own record stores (John Lefsky, Rick Lange, Spike Priggen and Doug Wygal), and High Fidelity’s Rob pretty much nails what their days are like: boxing mail orders in the back, chatting in the front. But it is the dichotomy of Rob’s two employees, Barry and Dick, that is a pitch-perfect taxonomy of the breed. Dick is withering shy, and maybe a little cooler-than-thou. You have to go to him and pry to get taste out of him. Jack Black’s Barry, on the other hand, is the collar-grabbing apostle of rock. You will be schooled by him, like it or not. Most real record clerks are somewhere in between, but that is why they are archetypes and not people.
I am not sure anyone would have predicted the return of vinyl, and with it the flourishing of record stores, and with that the renaissance of record-store culture and its barbershop vibe of feverish cultural engagement and curation. But here we are. It gives me hope that the guitar might come back someday to, re-revolutionized and once again be the alternative to something.
The 12th annual Record Store Day falls on Saturday, April 13. The event is now recognized on every continent except Antarctica. In-store performances, all manner of sales and swaps, swag and treats: It is just a good day to visit one or more of our local establishments, from the cozy closet of Rhino’s New Paltz location to the sprawling warehouse with the fully outfitted live stage that is Darkside in Poughkeepsie, from Jack’s Rhythms in New Paltz and The Vinyl Room in Wappingers Falls to the Woodstock Music Shop, from Rhino’s stylish Kingston headquarters to the densely loaded Rocket #9 just down the street.
The Record Store Day website informs me that there are 21 participating stores within 80 miles of New Paltz. Eight of those are within 30 miles. I can reach two of them on foot – and so I will, on Saturday, for a taste of an old world come alive again. Read more here: https://recordstoreday.com.