Record store's closure leaves a big hole in the middle

BUSINESSES in Warrnambool come and go and usually it’s a case of “farewell, we hardly knew ye”.

The Exploders perform at Capricorn Records on Liebig Street in 2007.

The Exploders perform at Capricorn Records on Liebig Street in 2007.

But sometimes something closes and it feels like a piece of our collective history has been erased.

Such was the case when the Savoy Restaurant and the Criterion Hotel closed. Their legacies were long and it was hard to imagine Warrnambool without them.

It’s also the case with Capricorn Records, which recently announced it was shutting its doors after 35 years.

This is sad news. Such is the esteem this store is held in that it might be the only Warrnambool business that has had a song written about it that received national airplay.

Port Fairy exports The Smallgoods paid tribute to the record store on their debut album Listen To The Radio with an indie-pop nugget titled Capricorn.

The song details the days of wagging “12th grade and (spending) my whole week’s pay” in there.

It’s basically a love letter to the record store and how it was a place of musical discovery for so many south-west youngsters — “you’re the place it all began, ripped my head right from the sand,” Ben Mason sings, adding in the last verse that “I’ll spend my life indebted to you”.

To some people, this might sound like an over-the-top reaction to have towards a business, but it’s something myself and many others can relate to. 

"The end of the bricks-and-mortar music store is a sign of the times."

In the days before triple j reached the region’s ears, Capricorn Records was one of the only places we could find the types of music not heard on local mainstream radio, and in the post-triple j days, it was the only local place you could actually buy these amazing new sounds we were hearing.

From the mid-’90s until recently, I had an almost-continuous layby at the shop. I’d pay off a couple of CDs and immediately pop a few more on there.

I’d spend ages in there, ordering in hard-to-find items and chatting with the staff about new albums and their latest discoveries.

The staff members became my friends — I even went to a Rolling Stones concert in 2006 with a bunch of guys from the store — and like so many people, I bought my first album there — it was New Kids On The Block’s Hangin’ Tough on cassette (I was nine).

Capricorn Records owner Michael Fitzgerald holding his 2004 Aria Music Award for Best Independant Retail Store.

Capricorn Records owner Michael Fitzgerald holding his 2004 Aria Music Award for Best Independant Retail Store.

As a musician, I can’t speak highly enough of how important Capricorn has been in my musical education. People often remark on the seemingly disproportionate number of musicians to come out of this area — Capricorn Records has definitely helped play a part in cultivating that wealth of talent.

But that will no longer be the case.

The end of the bricks-and-mortar music store is a sign of the times. The way we purchase and listen to music has changed, and what hope does the likes of Capricorn Records have in the face of rampant piracy, iTunes, Bandcamp and streaming services such as Spotify and Rdio?

But, as with the demise of any local business, this should serve as a wake-up call for Warrnambool. If you don’t support local business, it won’t last.

I will miss buying my music from Capricorn Records. 

As such, it seem fitting to bid the place farewell with a song lyric, and I can’t think of anything more apt than the Joni Mitchell line: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”.

In April 2010, Georgina Hay, 16, Maddy Rhodes, 16, Aimee Bishop, 16, Riley Hood, 16 and  Micaela Ledin, 16, lined up outside Capricorn Records from 5am to get tickets for the bushfire appeal concert.

In April 2010, Georgina Hay, 16, Maddy Rhodes, 16, Aimee Bishop, 16, Riley Hood, 16 and Micaela Ledin, 16, lined up outside Capricorn Records from 5am to get tickets for the bushfire appeal concert.

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