The Sid James Experience

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From High Fidelity (novel by Nick Hornby), 1995.

The beginning of chapter 14:

Ever since I've had the shop, we've been trying to flog a record by a group called the Sid James Experience. Usually we get rid of stuff we can't shift - reduce it to 10p, or throw it away - but Barry loves this album (he's got two copies of his own, just in case somebody borrows one and fails to return it), and he says it's rare, that someday we'll make somebody very happy. It's become a bit of a joke, really. Regular customers ask after its health, and give it a friendly pat when they're browsing, and sometimes they bring the sleeve up to the counter as if they're going to buy it, and then they say 'Just Kidding!', and put it back where they found it.

Anyway, on Friday morning, this guy I've never seen before starts flicking through the 'British Pop S-Z section,' lets out a gasp of amazement and rushes up to the counter, clutching the sleeve to his chest as if he's afraid someone will snatch it from him. And then he gets out his wallet and pays for it, seven quid, just like that, no attempt to haggle, no recognition of the significance of what he is doing. I let Barry serve him — it's his moment — and Dick and I watch every move, holding our breath; it's like someone has walked in, tipped petrol over himself, and produced a box of matches from his pocket. We don't exhale until he's struck the match and set himself alight, and when he's gone we laugh and laugh and laugh. It gives us all strength: if someone can just walk in and buy the Sid James Experience album, then surely anything good can happen at any time.


The next morning the guy who bought the Sid James Experience album comes in to exchange it. He says it's not what he thought it was. 'What did you think it was?' I ask him. 'I don't know,' he says. 'Something else.' He shrugs, and looks at the three of us in turn. We are all staring at him, crushed, aghast; he looks embarrassed. 'Have you listened to all of it?' Barry asks. 'I took it off halfway through the second side. Didn't like it.' 'Go home and try it again,' Barry says desperately. 'It'll grow on you. It's a grower.' The guy shakes his head helplessly. He's made up his mind. He chooses a secondhand Madness CD, and I put the Sid James Experience back in the rack.