Saturday is the second fully blown UK version of Record Store Day and this time around it seems to be considerably more high profile. As much as I still cherish my Rough Trade tape, signed Lucky Soul LP, Graham Coxon 10” and Magnolia Electric Co 7” from last year, the avalanche of splendour on offer from 9am on April 17th is quite something to behold.
I was a little dismayed to see the NME taking a sneery pot-shot at independent record shop staff in amongst their otherwise fairly sizeable mentions of this important day. I refuse to believe that there are that many record shops left full of surly, elitist staff with meticulously crafted enormo-hair. Yes, they still exist and, yes, you may occasionally encounter them, but with the dramatic decline in record shops in the UK, few establishments are so carefree with their clientele. Every bit of footfall, every physical visitor is crucial and those of us who still value the unique service provided by actual record shops can tell of many, many positive experiences in the nation’s musical emporiums. Emporia. Emporiums. Oh, sod it.
I’ve previously written about numerous wonderful record shops that you’d be well advised to visit this Saturday and this seems a convenient time to remind you of those pieces.
Rough Trade East – The Record Store Day hub and a vast pleasuredome, the likes of which were the reason for the invention of credit cards. You will enjoy yourself, you will buy loads and you will spot loads of albums you’ve already bought with frustrating ‘free bonus discs’ available.
Action Records – An online presence to be proud of, but also a marvellous shop in the great tradition of record stores, situated in Preston. Stuff piled everywhere, racks creaking with superb stock and staff who can answer pretty much any question you put to them, They take vinyl seriously and their prices are very competitive.
Rockaboom – There’s no website for this cracking little shop in Leicester. Carl, the one man music dispensing machine, is a laid back chap with a shop full of wonderful music. His increased leaning towards vinyl is helping matters for him, while his CD prices easily match or often outclass local rivals, HMV and Powerplay. He is as obsessed with music as you are and I’ve enjoyed numerous conversations with him about all sorts of records, most recently the illustrious Tindersticks back catalogue and the splendid Galaxie 500 reissues.
Resident – Probably my favourite out of a number of wonderful record shops in Brighton, Resident was mentioned as part of FUTUREMUSIC 09’s exploration of how we purchase music. It uses staff-written labels to recommend records to you, it’s priced competitively, has a good stash of vinyl and genuinely seems to be run by people who likely blow almost all of their wages before they even leave work. It’s one of those shops I wish I lived near enough to that I could visit regularly.
RPM / Reflex – Newcastle, like Edinburgh and Glasgow (more on both soon), is a city that still has a reasonably healthy record shopping climate. Windows, Steel Wheels, Reflex and RPM are all well worth a visit. RPM tickled me most, looking as it does like a truly old-school record shop. Posters everywhere, old plastic racks on the wall, plain price stickers and stock in every available space. The music was not only up nice and loud but also bloody decent. As I said in that original piece, it smells like a proper record shop. Would love to revisit it some time soon.
Spillers – I don’t appear to have ever written a full piece about this most spellbinding of shops in Cardiff and, apparently, the oldest record shop in the world. However you want to describe it, it is a veritable treasure trove, with the available space used to great effect thanks to their notorious ‘photocopied sleeves on a bit of plastic’ display technique. Prices are great, stock is wide and with a great depth – the era of the back catalogue being easily available may have been stabbed by the HMV bosses, but Spillers provides the life-support machine. The vinyl range is far from comprehensive, but suitably quirky and curious and always worth a browse. And, inevitably, about £20. The display of box sets at the counter is an age old tricks, but there’s a something about the way this lot do it that makes it harder to resist than in most shops. Add to all of this their wonderful, wonderful staff and their delightful t-shirts, including one I have from last year which actually marked Record Store Day and you’re on to a winner. I’ve had conversations at the till not just about my purchases, but also a three-way chit-chat about what the person next to me was buying. They are part therapists, part feeders, but they’re bloody good.
Jumbo – Not the cheapest, by any stretch, but you can feel the record shop heritage hit you in the face as you enter the fabulously timeless Jumbo in Leeds. Nearby fellow indie Crash is well worth a visit too, although Jumbo’s size and thus variety of stock makes for a more satisfying browse. The simple window displays using LP sleeves are tantalising and the vinyl selection is pretty bloody substantial. It may not be the cheapest price in the country, but if you want it, there’s a fair chance they’ve got it.
Avalanche – Now, my experience of both Avalanche stores is pretty recent, having been up in Scotland only last week. I have to say, I’m a Glasgow shop man, myself, but they’re both decent places to buy your music. I got the impression that the Glasgow shop is thriving rather more and a little more on top of the new releases. While there wasn’t masses of vinyl, what they had was very good. Very knowledgeable staff, with whom I discussed Record Store Day and, in particular, the special Blur release. Regular readers will remember how I used to always budget an extra £10 when I went to the now deceased Reveal Records of Derby because I knew I’d end up buying whatever was playing in store. And so, in Glasgow, I ended up adding King Creosote’s ‘Rocket D.I.Y.’ to my bundle of purchases as a result of thoroughly enjoying it whilst browsing.
Monorail – Another Glasgow based palace of delights, this one. Situated in the Mono cafe, Monorail is the most esoteric shop on this list and the one least likely to be able to furnish you with the indie chart smash you’re trying to track down. No bad thing. The enormous quantity of vinyl available provides a dangerous thrill and the staff are friendly, knowledgeable and, as with a few examples I’ve already mentioned, clearly as obsessed with it all as much as their customers. Whether it’s Mazzy Star vinyl reissues you’re after, vintage Four Tet 12”s or the vinyl box set of Tom Waits’ ‘Orphans’, they’re all there waiting for you, along with piles and piles of other great stuff. The really noteworthy point is how decent their prices are – clearly, there’s a market for a shop dealing only in the more cult side of alternative music, and it’s a market that’s sufficiently successful that the customers don’t need to pay a little extra to keep it afloat. Works for me.
Obviously, there are bloody loads of brilliant independent record shops that I’ve missed off this list. Please, feel free to comment and post about your favourites. The more positive comment about physical record shops, the better. Few music fans have not had a positive experience of one kind or another, and it’s a great shame to think that there might be future generations coming through soon for whom the whole concept of record shopping may mean nothing. All of the shops participating in Saturday’s festivities can be found by clicking here whilst a reasonably comprehensive list of the special releases for the day can be found here. Just loading that list of shops to get the link has reminded me of wonderful places like Diverse in Newport, Badlands in Cheltenham, Polar Bear in Birmingham and Head in Leamington Spa. While we don’t have many independent record shops left now, so many of the survivors are truly great. Please, give them your custom on Saturday and mark Record Story Day with your fellow music obsessives.
Just make sure I get a Blur single, ok?