ARTS / Cries & Whispers

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The Independent Culture
THE CAMPAIGN'S sabbatical has been rudely interrupted. I hear that buyers of Laserdiscs, the digital video format, are finding themselves in the same inflatable boat as CD collectors. Campaign supporter Adrian Korsner of Whetstone, North London, complains that big stores such as HMV and Tower Records are putting a premium on the discs. He was irked when he went to the West End to pick up the movie LA Story and found it marked pounds 21.99 at HMV, pounds 23.99 at Tower - but only pounds 19.99 at Pioneer's Laserworld outlet, where prices reflect the manufacturers' wishes. It wasn't an isolated example: The Cream of Eric Clapton was pounds 20.50 at Laserworld, pounds 23.99 at HMV, pounds 30.99 at Tower; the Rambo Trilogy (three discs) was pounds 69.99, pounds 79.99 and pounds 70.99. On Spielberg's Hook, HMV ( pounds 42.99) and the Virgin Megastore ( pounds 42.49) were in close agreement; but not with the suggested price, which is pounds 34.99.

Korsner wrote to HMV to complain. David Roche of HMV retorted that as there was no longer retail price maintenance, prices were bound to vary. Yes, but by pounds 10.49? A spokesman for Pioneer agrees that there's a problem. He says the UK Laserdisc Association has been talking to Virgin and HMV about agreeing a standard for 'consumer-friendly' prices. In the long run, he predicts, prices will come down as Laserdisc takes off. Korsner is doubtful. 'Laserdisc is a medium with a lot of promise,' he argues. 'But these prices will put off potential buyers and drive it into the ground.'

RUDOLF NUREYEV, Dizzy Gillespie, Sammy Cahn, and now Audrey Hepburn. Four grave losses in the arts, and all within a fortnight. If you think about it, none of them had done any great work for years, two of them were old, and the other two were known to have fatal illnesses. But you don't think about it, or not at first; their going hits a nerve, regardless of how expected it may have been, and how little art it denies us. They say these things come in threes; I trust they're wrong.

MY NOTE on coughing in the theatre struck a chord, or is that a cord, with a colleague who saw Keith Jarrett, the jazz pianist, at the Festival Hall a year or two ago. During a particularly sensitive interlude, somebody coughed. 'Jarrett stopped the show and gave a five-minute lecture about how rude it was to cough in the quiet bits.' Going back a bit further, Joan King of Devizes recalls the music critic, born in 1889, who lost his job after urging that persistent coughers 'be removed, placed side by side in the road, and treated by gently passing a warm steamroller over their chests'. He was George Bernard Shaw.

READERS who want to see the Town & Country Club saved for the nation may like to know that there will be a demonstration there on Wednesday, at 6pm, before the concert by Julian Cope. If you've had such good times at the T & C that you can't remember exactly where it is, it's at 9 Highgate Road, NW5, near Kentish Town station (Underground and British Rail). I look forward to seeing you there.