RSD13: A love letter to record shops by Pete Paphides

April 20th was a surprisingly pleasant day, emerging delicately from weeks of rain and brutally cold mornings. For me, it began at 3:25 am in the not especially sleepy centre of Bristol. A purposeful walk up Park Street followed, witnessing the tail end of some fairly substantial nights out. A heaving kebab shop at ten to four in the morning is a new sight to me. I’m a record collector: what do you expect? By four, I was fifteenth in the queue at Rise in Bristol and by six I was nursing a hot drink in Friska, the wonderful cafe which now inhabits most of their ground floor. It was a splendid morning and I could go on, but this year’s Record Store Day writeup is not really about me. Immediately after the event, I asked for your experiences of the day and your opinions on how it is run. You can still contribute here. The record shop debrief has already happened in London, but I’m hopeful that there is scope for a little dialogue this year between the organisers and the fans. We support those shops all year round and, judging by your responses, also rather enjoy RSD, but there seem to be few kinks to iron out, a few grumbles to pacify, some legitimate concerns to be heard. 

Over the next week or so, Just Played will feature various musings on the event from the perspective of you – the record buyers – which, I hope, will largely serve to underline the massive appreciation of independent record shops that exists amongst a growing community. To begin, I am absolutely delighted to be able to host a guest piece from acclaimed music writer, host of 6 Music’s ‘Vinyl Revival’ and all round record shop connoisseur, Pete Paphides


Midnight on Friday night and I still don’t know which record shop I’m going to head for. On previous years, I’ve headed for Berwick St on the basis that there are a few shops there to spread the demand, but with every passing year the queues get bigger. Flashback on Essex Road would be a more sensible option, but they open at 10am, and if you’ve already been awake since 4am, those extra two hours (most shops open at 8am on Record Store Day) are really going to pinch. Up in Manchester, they’ve been queuing outside Piccadilly Records since late on Friday evening.

I’m 43 and I’ve been buying vinyl from record shops for most of my life. For a brief period in the 90s, when vinyl appeared to be on its last legs, I stopped going to record shops. For about two years, I found myself struggling to connect with music in the way that I had done before I started writing about music for a living. Finally, I realised that the thing that made it exciting again was the thing that made it exciting in the first place. It was the same thing that I felt the first time I went to Discus Records in South Yardley, having been told by my mum that I could pick any two records I wanted (I chose The Barron Knights and John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John). I don’t remember too much about Discus, but I do recall a couple of curved hoods fixed into the wall at head height – the sort that, in the 60s, used to form the acoustic booths where people would try out the records they were thinking of buying. In 1979, there were no longer record players in the ones at Discus and, without them, I couldn’t work out what the booths were for.

Record shops. Thirty-four years later, that’s still pretty much how this works for me. The velocity at which, say, Spotify allows me to consume new music dilutes the entire experience. It appeals to the worst of my nature. If I don’t understand what I’m hearing, then I just move onto something more immediate. It makes me more passive. In fact, I think it makes us all into mini-Simon Cowells, sitting back on our easy chairs, hands poised on the buzzer, imperiously daring artists to entertain us. Does your favourite artist want you to listen to them on Spotify? It’s unlikely. In the late 90s, Spotify and iTunes were beyond the realms of most people’s imaginings, but my charmed music journo life gave me a taste of it – the free CDs landing on my doormat at a greater velocity than I could hear them made a similarly passive listener of me.


The record that pulled me back in was Belle & Sebastian’s ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’. Beautiful as it looked on the CD, it was pretty apparent from the filtered image of the girl on the sleeve and the impeccably chosen font, that this was a design for an actual record sleeve. And, as with The Smiths a decade previously, the record sleeve and the music to which it paid host were part of one complete package. So I went to a shop on Hanway Street W1 and there it was. And not just ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’. Record shops were also where the fun was.

Central London is still ace for record shops – within a half-mile radius of Berwick Street there are half a dozen – but there’s something about a local satellite town shop that elicits a different thrill. I guess that feeds back to those formative experiences at places like Discus and my main childhood record shop Easy Listening in Acocks Green, shops that would have to run the gamut of local musical taste – from grandmothers after the TV-advertised Julio Iglesias record to the local goth after a March Violets 12-inch. Those shops were just as much for everyone as, say, the fishmonger or the hardware store. When you found an obscure record you loved in those shops, it seemed to cement the connection between you and that record. It felt like you were rescuing it. But, more to the point, for most of the time I went to those shops, I wasn’t looking for obscure music. I liked chart music. I liked the ex-jukebox records that came in a sealed plastic bag, five for £1.25 with the titles of all five records typed onto the plain white sleeve of the top single.

I still like those sorts of shops now – which is sad, because there aren’t many of them left. Long immortalised in the lyrics of ‘Shakermaker’, Sifters in Manchester used to be one of them. These days it’s just secondhand records and CDs, but behind the counter, you can still see the specially made wooden shelf with 50 seven-inch size sections, each corresponding to a position in the top 50. When Bob Stanley and I visited the shop a couple of years ago, “Mr Sifter” aka Peter Howard told us that on the week of a really big number one – say, ‘Hello’ by Lionel Richie – they could expect to sell 100-200 copies.


David’s in Letchworth Garden City is one of those old-fashioned, there-to-reflect-the-needs-of-the-locale type of record shops that has, miraculously, kept going. Two years ago, I went there and picked up an Anne Briggs reissue and a few seven-inches of songs that I didn’t even know had come out on seven-inch. Not the indie stuff that always appears on seven-inch. But proper pop hits like McFly’s ‘Shine’ A Light and Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s ‘Bittersweet’. The sort of songs that are still, after all this time, most ideally suited to the format. There they were on the countertop in a wooden box marked “NEW RELEASES”, just like the box at Easy Listening thirty years previously.

So, when I wake up on the early hours of Saturday, I plump for David’s again. Who would be queuing in Letchworth at 5am? Thirty people, to be exact. I’ve layered up, but within half an hour, I start to lose the sensation in my toes. Just behind me are three people in their early 20s. Not an ounce of fat to spare between them. The sole woman among them has a huge rip in her jeans. There’s a blanket in the car. I feel like running back to fetch it for her. I ask one of them what he’s hoping to pick up. “Perhaps the Miles Davis? I’m not really sure.” Mostly, he’s here, because it’s a happening of sorts. And whatever he comes away with will effectively serve as a three-dimensional diary entry of Record Store Day 2013. And, of course, the records you actually buy are diary entries. You remember the shop; you remember what else you were doing that day; and, by extension, what was happening in your life at that time.

The other good thing about actually going to the shop – in fact, the best thing about record shops – is that you invariably come away with something you didn’t know you wanted. More than any other day, that’s worth keeping in mind on Record Store Day. After three hours of waiting – three hours made easier towards the end by the trays of tea and coffee served by shop staff – I’m in the shop. The queue takes you past racks of new vinyl. In the reduced section, I notice an album whose existence on vinyl is news to me – a selection of covers recorded by Elton John when he was a jobbing musician on budget price soundalike albums of current hits. Also on the record are a selections of songs he recorded for Joe Boyd’s publishing company Warlock. When Elton originally sang them, these versions of songs by Nick Drake and Beverley Martyn were intended not for public consumption, but to entice mainstream artists to record them. The odd thing about Record Store Day is that it drives people to extremes in order to procure releases on the list, and yet once they’ve got what they were after, they walk straight out of the shop, oblivious to the other rarities sitting there. Three years ago, the must-have RSD release was Blur’s ‘Fool’s Day’. By the end of the day, copies were changing hands on Ebay for £200. And yet, around the same time in RSD-participating store Sister Ray, a single copy of much rarer Blur release – their 300-only 1993 gig freebie ‘The Wassailing Song’ lay untouched on the wall for a reasonable £75.


Back at David’s, records by Stephen Malkmus, The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Velvet Underground, The Beta Band and Big Star are gone by the time I get there – but I secure Pulp’s ‘After You’, the seven-inch of two unreleased Paul Weller tracks and Low’s ‘In The Fishtank’ session with Dirty Three. No time to dwell on that though. I have to be at Phonica in Poland St to speak with Tom Ravenscroft for BBC 6 Music. From the exterior of the shop, you can see the massive HMV logo. Because HMV isn’t an independent record shop, it’s not allowed to participate in Record Store Day. From this vantage point – streets teeming with people scuttling between Berwick Street’s specialist indie stores – it’s hard not to feel a little sorry for the place, so far removed from its original purpose in 2013 that it wouldn’t occur to most people to buy a record there. Over to 6 Music in Western House to speak with Tom and Edith Bowman. Once we’re finished there, I leave the building and diagonally to my left I notice a Record Store Day banner draped outside a terraced townhouse on Langham Street. Just beside the buzzer is a sign that says, “ifmusic”. Up the steps and in the carpeted hallway are the pigeonholes of various offices and, among them, one that says: “ifmusic: 2nd floor.” Shops in places where you don’t normally find shops. Odd little rooms full of records. These are the sorts of things that collectors have dreams about. But up two flights of stairs is a room which thinks it’s a shop: a coffee table with two decks, and shelves and boxes full of records. “Are you here for Record Store Day?” I’m the only customer. On Record Store Day.

And the two blokes who work there – middle-aged, smart, dressed in a manner that suggests they have Gilles Peterson on speed-dial – are lovely. They’re more like tailors, sizing you up for a possible purchase – which could be a touch vexing, except for the fact that they’re incredibly good at it. He hands me a compilation I’ve never seen before called ‘Forge Your Own Chains: Heavy Psychedelic Ballads And Dirges 1968-1974’. And I’m thinking that I’m not sure I want anything heavy or dirgey on a day like this, but he places it on the turntable and an utterly celestial spell of sunkissed psych-rock – ‘Song Of A Sinner’ by Top Drawer obliterates all resistance. In my sleep-deprived state, with the sun streaming into a place that I’m not even sure exists, it all sounds divine: the stoned tidal funk that plays out under D.R.Hooker’s ‘Forge Your Own Chains’; the beatific motherly embrace of Ofege’s ‘It’s Not Easy’.

Yes, there’s a Record Store Day box too – and in there, I find a few more things that the Letchworth shop didn’t have: a repress of an Italian electronic instrumental album called ‘Desert’ by Antonio Vuolo and Elio Grande and a 12-inch of remixes by The XX. But, once again, the real magic doesn’t really come from what I was hoping to find. It’s the stuff I didn’t know existed. There’s an album by Oscar Brown Jr – who I knew through a track called ‘Gang Bang’ on a great Warners comp called ‘People Get Ready: Protest Songs From The Atlantic & Warner Jazz Vaults’. It’s a sublime flute-laden tale that details what happens when the urge to riot is superceded by the urge to fuck. So here’s ‘Movin’ On’ – the album that originally featured ‘Gang Bang’, and it’s £10. “Can I put this on?” I ask one of the ifmusic guys who may or may not exist. The qualities that make ‘Gang Bang’ so brilliant pervade almost every other song.


Just one more stop now. Flashback Records on Essex Road have called to see if I fancy doing a DJ set as part of their Record Store Day festivities. I ask if they’d let me do a set of songs taken from their bargain boxes outside and they kindly agree. With five minutes to spare, I get there and amass my “set.” The tempo of the day has decelerated in the afternoon sun and the queues have dissipated to a trickle of curious shoppers. Most cheap records fall into one of two categories: the rubbish ones and the ones that are so brilliant that they sold millions and, as a result, are too abundant to be worth anything. I cue up ‘Precious’ by The Jam; ‘Legend Of Xanadu’ by Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick & Tich; ‘Rock The Boat’ by Hues Corporation; ‘Always On My Mind’ by Pet Shop Boys – the records you’ll always find in the kitchen at parties. Every one a winner; every one a pound. I’m sad that I didn’t locate the Stephen Malkmus record – yet, in terms of pure pleasure, I’ve long since got ten times more value out of my own copies of the records I played at Flashback. Probably a good time to regain that perspective. Not least because on this, of all days, perspective is as scarce as the very records that made you join a freezing queue in Letchworth at 5am.

Read more of Pete Paphides’ writing on his fabulous site ‘Hidden Tracks

Rough Trading Leads To Lack Of Choice

Bella Union boss Simon Raymonde tweeted the following comment yesterday:

Simon RT tweet

If only it were that simple. But surely, surely the country is crying out for a few more decent record shops that operate in the spirit of Rough Trade? Today, as regular readers will have been expecting, I undertook my traditional Bank Holiday record shopping trip, this time attempting to seek aural pleasure in the music emporia of Nottingham. Now, I admit that this does rule out some of the more specialist options – Rob’s Records, The Music Exchange etc – but in terms of conventional music shops, offering a wide range of new releases, what is there available? Three branches of HMV and a Fopp, also owned by HMV. Since Selectadisc’s demise last year, the East Midlands has become a desolate wasteland for the music fan. The excellent Rockaboom in Leicester and the none too shabby Music Mania in Stoke aside, there’s little to get excited about. How can this be?

Even more dispiriting is what HMV have done to the old Virgin/Zavvi store on Wheeler Gate, where it has taken a ten year lease. Previously the big high street music presence in the city, as a Virgin Megastore and then a branch of Zavvi, HMV have ripped out the soul of the store along with most of the stock. It has vast swathes of open space, a few aisles for music and a complete lack of focus. Compared to the footfall on previous bank holidays when it was Zavvi, it was doing a fairly passable impression of the Mary Celeste today. There’s no vinyl for sale, the back catalogue is hideously basic and pointing out the fact that HMV were ever a music retailer seems like the ravings of a madman.

I know that music is a tricky thing to sell these days. I know that plenty of businesses have gone to the wall in the last decade, but where’s the ambition? Where’s the desire to even try and cater for all of the city’s music fans left with little option after the closure of the final sizeable independent store? Zavvi had racks of vinyl at competitive prices that saw a regular turnover; why no interest in these customers? Let’s not forget that their demise was brought about by the failure of Woolworths rather than a particularly wayward approach to business. I presume they’re not stocking it on the premise that people don’t buy it, but I’m keen to know how exactly they’ve tested that theory. It’s a self-perpetuating shitty state of affairs whereby HMV have fallen so far down the list of places music fans actually go to when they want to buy new releases that they aren’t likely to actually receive visits from people who could actually be spending loads during this difficult financial period. Once you feel disenfranchised, why bother going back? This is my first visit in the best part of a year and I’ll be in no hurry to go back.


HMV have conspicuously marginalised music over recent years, but the Wheeler Gate store in Nottingham is a fine example of a retailer not having the first clue about what it is doing. Lacking in customers, stock and direction, it’s hard to know exactly what it’s there for. How does it anyway offer anything different to the other two branches of the same store elsewhere in the city, let alone its ‘major in skinny-jeans and a band t-shirt’ offshoot, Fopp?

I am in no doubt that a decent, well-stocked, well-promoted independent store in Nottingham – provided the location wasn’t too costly – would prosper. As one of the many people who started to travel further afield when shops like Reveal in Derby closed down so as to seek our new music thrills at Selectadisc, I would suggest that it wouldn’t just serve the people of Nottingham but also many throughout the East Midlands. Whether or not that could be fulfilled by the Rough Trade model, who knows? But the approach of the current Rough Trade West store installed in the old Selectadisc shop would likely bring many music lovers out of the woodwork at some speed. Far be it from me to suggest some kind of lovely internet campaign to beg for more independent music stores in the UK -  I noticed Simon’s tweet was only retweeted five times, hardly a resounding response – but I don’t see any harm in having a good moan.

Headless Highcross

I can’t help noticing that I’m attracting quite a lot of traffic from people attempting to find out if Head Entertainment have reopened the Zavvi store in Leicester Highcross, as a result of a recent post I did about the slightly uncertain future of the Head stores that have hitherto appeared. Thus, I feel compelled to offer up the information for those who would like to know. Put simply, the old Zavvi store in Highcross can’t reopen as a Head store because it’s already reopened as Powerplay, seemingly the same people who run the Powerplay Direct website. Now, that website’s not too bad and I’ve bought a few things from them previously but the shop, admittedly in its very early days, didn’t do an awful lot for me. It opened at the start of the month and had its ‘official’ opening on July 4th, mere hours before half the shopping centre got closed due to a pane of glass falling from the ceiling and smashing in rather close proximity to a coffee shop. After this inauspicious start, I visited the following day. The old Virgin black and yellow tape is still on the metal stairs up to the first floor, the old classical music section is still out of action and has ‘classical’ written down the door with the Virgin Megastore logo still visible. The stock is bizarre. While there are some Fopp-like DVD bargains, the rest of the DVD stock is random at best, both in content and price. As for the music range, I didn’t find anything to buy and I did try quite hard. There was the usual chart stuff at the usual prices, some back catalogue bits and bobs that ranged from obvious to esoteric but, in all cases, without much depth. Prices were nothing special and most of the display space given over to music (the raised bit of the first floor, so not much) was filled with the usual 2 for so many quids type offers. I wish them well, as we need as many music retailers as possible, but they’re not worth a visit on their own. Hope that helps!

P.S. Anyone able to confirm how Rockaboom is doing? Wasn’t open on the Sunday when I was there. Lovely little shop.

Heading for the end?

Since Zavvi took its final breaths in February of this year, Simon Douglas, ex-Zavvi boss type, has been trading a handful of the old sites under the name Head Entertainment. You can spot a Head store by its chronically cheap looking logo, done out in the Zavvi colour scheme and quickly bunged over the name Zavvi on the shop frontage. The shops are, from what I can gather, pretty much a dumping ground for all of the leftover Zavvi stock that Douglas got from the administrator as Zavvi shut for the final time. This does mean that the vast majority of the stock in store isn’t especially thrilling but it’s worth having a look at the bargain CD section. This largely consists of shelves over-stuffed with unsorted CDs and then large crates and boxes full of discs dotted around the shop. It’s a feat of endurance and not for the weak willed.

If the Meadowhall branch is anything to go by, all of these CD boxes have now been marked down to £2.99 or less, suddenly making for some decent bargains amongst stock that was previously the fairly regular price of £5/6. Picked up some Pixies, Iron & Wine, Nirvana, Black Mountain, Modest Mouse, The Aliens, Lambchop, The National, Sigur Ros, Edgar Jones and Isobel Campbell at £2.99, plus Soft Cell and Yo La Tengo at £1.99 each. Throw in the spangly 2CD edition of The Chemical Brothers’Brotherhood‘ at £6.74 and you’re looking at a decent haul for not much cash. Like I said, it takes some time to sift through the vast piles of crap in order to find these, but there’s plenty of decent stuff available.

Despite all of these joyous bargains, it’s hard to see where Head is, er, heading. They’ve got a small selection of current chart albums in at normal prices, but pretty much everything else is stock from up to Christmas 2008 reduced in a seemingly arbitrary fashion. Presumably, it depends how many boxes of each title the Zavvi warehouse had at the time of the sale but it does seem odd to see some recent stand up DVDs at £2.74 and others at £9.99 or more. Rumours circulated when it launched that it was done so with very short term leases and that it’s nothing more than quick attempt to flog off tonnes of stock at customer-friendly prices. Suits me. But when I was in one of the stores a few months back, I asked what the situation was and was told, “Well, we need more variety on the high street.” Now, this seems more than a little disingenuous when the stock isn’t being updated with new releases (barring the small rack or two of new albums) and the whole shop is operating one big sale. In light of these mixed messages, it’s hard to know what Head is. Apparently, the old Zavvi shop in Leicester’s Highcross centre will reopen as Head in early July, while the Bluewater shop has already closed and Meadowhall is rumoured to be going the same way in a couple of months. Apparently, it’ll be having a ‘summer clearout’ from Thursday. How a clearout shop has a clearout is beyond me, but it could mean ever cheaper prices on good stuff. I think it’s fair to conclude that Head isn’t going to be one of those shops that is fondly remembered in years to come but, while it’s still there, it’s worth picking through the odds and sods.

Cucumber sandwiches all round

I’m supposed to be working. That’s why I’m here. If you like, you can imagine the traditional apology for a delay in posting. Feel free to inset it about here. Done? Splendid.

If you like buying records from people then you will soon be officially ‘odd’. It’s not possible, apparently. Even the odd record shop still going – yes, HMV, I’m talking about you – doesn’t appear to actually want to sell music anymore. Branded ‘listen’ or ‘hear’ or something equally patronising, music is gradually being shunted into the small section previously reserved for ‘special interest’ DVDs and magazines. In the last couple of months, we’ve had the demise of Woolies, Zavvi and, more personally, the news that Nottingham’s Selectadisc is shutting up shop at the end of this month. I’ve written about this topic many times on here, so I’ll try not to witter on about the same-old, same-old, but I’m genuinely pissed off at the fact that my record shopping will soon be done almost exclusively online. Where’s the fun in that? Anyway, Selectadisc has always been a shining beacon of how to run a record shop – I’ve said as much here and Nottingham’s Left Lion folk have a tribute here too.

The other thing I felt compelled to mention – admittedly, once again, fuelled by work avoidance – is the new project from Neil Hannon and that fat beardy bloke from Pugwash, called Thomas Pugwash. While his voice is largely unremarkable, the splendidly, well, splendid voice of Mr Hannon delivers the goods aplenty on the Myspace page for this new venture, charmingly called, The Duckworth Lewis Method, as in cricket. The album’ll be out around the time of The Ashes for prime cash-in factor. They appear to have forgotten that neither of them sell many records, but it’s quite sweet logic, nonetheless. Anyway, whatever the sales figures, the track they uploaded yesterday, ‘Gentlemen and Players’ is sublime. I’ve not been able to stop playing it since I first heard it. I’m playing it now, actually. Go listen yourself. Click here.

Should probably do some work now.

Oooh, it’s lunch time.


When rock stars grow old

One of the many splendours of Sky + is the way in which it invites you to record even the most minimal and insignificant fluff, just because it’s no effort at all. For me, the clearest example of this is the Channel 4 tendency to show exclusive first plays of new music videos at some time around midnight. Can I be arsed making sure I’m watching the telly for that precise five minute window? No. But give me the chance to press a button, forget all about it and then come back to it another time, and I’m in!

Last night, Channel 4 played out the new video from Morrissey, for ”I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris‘. This morning, feeling a bit fluey and equipped with a strong cup of tea and some Nurofen, I settled down to flick through the telly. As I watched this particular video, I could only think of one thing. Doesn’t Morrissey look old? Let’s be absolutely fair to the chap – he is actually getting on a bit. It’s not like he looked 25 last week and now he looks like he’s smoked Amy Winehouse, but he just seems to actually be looking his age or even a little older.

It’s no great surprise, people get older after all, but my first proper exposure to Moz was his Nineties Britpop incarnation and he was still rather spritely then. Even his most recent albums were supported by performances that suggested a man full of energy, passion and natural charm.

Watch this and see if any of that is still there now:

See? I’m not imagining it, am I? Now, I should confess that the reason why I’m so struck by his aging appearance is entirely selfish. I can’t help thinking that time must have seriously moved along if ‘my’ generation of indie legends are starting to look a little rough around the edges. Noel‘s greying, Supergrass have the sideburns of a randy farmer who, in times of loneliness, has been eyeing up the goats and Moz looks like he’s been cryogenically frozen and is now being operated by strings. I’m getting ever nearer to dropping out of the traditional ‘new music’ demographic and it feels odd. Of course, there are self-imposed boundaries that don’t exist in the real world, but it still feels a bit strange to look at the figureheads of my youth and find them appearing more than a little lived in. Still, doing an impression of a Weeble trying to seduce a small dog is nothing compared to this silly old tart.

As for the song, it’s quite good actually. It’s Morrissey-by-numbers, but after ‘Ringleader Of The Tormentors’, which was about as much fun as an aneurysm, I’ll happily take that. After all, that’s what made us all like ‘You Are The Quarry’ so much, wasn’t it?


As this blog is actually called Vinyl Junkies, I should take this moment to point you in the direction of your nearest Zavvi. They’re currently flogging all of their vinyl at half price. Provided your local shop had a reasonable range prior to their administration issues, they should have plenty for you to pick up at rather splendid prices. Ok, they’re not exactly giving them away, but anyone used to buying plenty of vinyl is used to fairly robust pricing, so getting it at half price is quite a big deal. I’m quite happy to tell you this as I’ve already cleared out the two stores nearest to me! Get there while you can.

This is, of course, the precursor to a potential repeat of the recent insanity found in Woolworths stores, as stock was cleared prior to closure. Nobody’s saying anything about how secure Zavvi’s future is right now, but it’s hard to imagine any single buyer coming in and keeping the chain as it is now. While I picked up a fair old number of CDs and DVDs in the Woolies clearout, it was a rather depressing affair. Plenty has been said in the media about the demise of this much-loved chain, but anyone who loves music has their own precise memories of the Woolworths music section and it still seems odd that it’s not there now. I was in one store a few hours before it closed and it was very odd. Imagine that Britain is at war, everything – even pick’n’mix and large plastic replicas of minor characters from Doctor Who – has been rationed. Sprinkle in some paranoia and desperation and that’s a little bit like how it felt. Still, cheap CDs, eh?


And finally, it’s been such a long time since I posted here that I never did anything about albums of the year for 2008, so I’m just going to re-post the list that I submitted to the end-of-year lists on the various music sites I frequent.

1. Elbow – ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’
2. Laura Marling – ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’
3. Tindersticks – ‘The Hungry Saw’
4. Joan As Police Woman – ‘To Survive’
5. Pete Molinari – ‘A Virtual Landslide’
6. Bon Iver – ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’
7. Portishead – ‘Third’
8. Malcolm Middleton – ‘Sleight Of Heart’
9. She & Him – ‘Volume 1’
10. Paul Weller – ’22 Dreams’
11. Our Broken Garden – ‘When Your Blackening Shows’
12. Helios – ‘Caesura’
13. James Yorkston – ‘When The Haar Rolls In’
14. The Last Shadow Puppets – ‘The Age Of Understatement’
15. Jamie Lidell – ‘Jim’
16. Fleet Foxes – ‘Fleet Foxes’
17. Elvis Costello & The Imposters – ‘Momofuku’
18. Calexico – ‘Carried To Dust’
19. Glow – ‘I, Yeah!’
20. Ladyhawke – ‘Ladyhawke’

Honourable mentions to: Beck, Nick Cave, Jenny Lewis, The Dears, R.E.M., Max Richter, and Ray LaMontagne

Even looking at it now, I’m fairly certain I’d shuffle a few of them round, but it’s a moment in time and nobody really cares anyway, so that’ll do. Feel free to post your own via the comments section, should you be that way inclined.

Did you find e̶v̶e̶r̶y ANYthing you were after?

I’ve ranted about this before, so stick with me on this, but the lack of decent music shops is alarming. Obviously it’s not alarming to many people otherwise we wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place, but for those of us who enjoy picking through obscure new releases and well-chosen back catalogue stock, the end is increasingly nigh. Last summer I found out about the demise of Derby’s last remaining indie store, Reveal Records, which closed its doors for a final time at the end of last year. The reports of record shops in London closing keep coming thick and fast and Left Legged Pineapple has shut up shop in Loughborough, Track has departed from York and Selectadisc has downsized its operation in Nottingham.

I had the misfortune to be in Northampton yesterday and I haven’t had such a poor record buying experience in a long time. I couldn’t find a traditional indie store to speak of, and judging by a search of the net that is indeed the case, and the one second hand store, Pied Piper, that has something of a reputation is some way into a depressing ‘closing down’ sale that consists of utter toss that you couldn’t pay me to take away. They will continue trading in a different manner, so I can only hope they’ve kept the decent stuff back for that venture. There’s Sidewinder, a very specialist dance shop but beyond that I could find nothing. What’s even worse is that HMV and Zavvi haven’t opted to capitalise on this. HMV appeared to have no vinyl whatsoever, while Zavvi – currently doing a wonderful job of filling their stores with vinyl nationwide – had a limited stock that appeared not to have been updated in months. The Last Shadow Puppets single, ‘The Age Of The Understatement’ was released yesterday on CD and 2×7″. I could not find either 7″ anywhere, which is a major surprise. Why, when they happily pile it up in other stores, aren’t Zavvi and HMV catering for music fans? Saying, “did you find everything you were after?” at the till counts for fuck all if it’s a token gesture and the answer is of no consequence. I was amazed that people living somewhere as big as Northampton have so little access to music. Now that HMV find music a dirty word, favouring DVDs, the stock is growing ever more conservative and the range is diminishing rapidly.

Now, there’s no point me issuing a rallying cry for people to go dashing off to their local indie store and purchase a record or three, as I suspect the game is already over and we’ve lost. In addition, if you’re reading this, the chances are you already frequent indie stores wherever possible. The thought that in the not too distant future I won’t be able to have a proper browse in an independent record store upsets me more than it probably should, but I won’t pretend otherwise.

Thankfully, a stop off at Leicester to visit Rockaboom restored my confidence in the indie store. Well-run, competitively-priced and sensibly-stocked, this small indie store is a flashback to the glory days. There’s a second-hand rack, a great back-catalogue with most essentials in stock at less than a fiver and new releases are shoved wherever possible, ensuring you get exposure to as much great music as possible. There’s a good selection of vinyl, local bands are covered and the traditional rail of metal T-shirts is there by the till. Both Last Shadow Puppets 7″s were duly purchased, along with the Jim Noir album which, to dispel one of the rumours about independent stores, was actually a quid cheaper than HMV or Zavvi. I don’t imagine you’ll go out of your way to visit, and they don’t have an online presence, but if you happen to be in the area, treat yourself.

All of this neatly links in with this weekend’s ‘big’ event, Record Store Day. We’ll just have to allow the Americans the word ‘store’ on this occasion, as it’s for a good cause. You’ll have noticed the logo for this in the top right of the blog for the last few days and by clicking on it you can read the philosophy behind the event. Worthy of your support, I would argue. Rough Trade East is having a whole day orgy of live music including the sublime Jason Molina (Magnolia Electric Co / Songs:Ohia), up and coming Glasgow band of note, Make Model and Billy Bragg. Full info here. Action Records in Preston will have live performances from 4pm – info here. Spillers in Cardiff are in the middle of organising something. Avalanche, in Glasgow and Edinburgh, are listed on the Record Store Day site, although I can’t find out what they’re doing. By visiting the RSD site you can access a list of all stores participating. It’s mainly US, but worth a look. If your local indie store’s not on there, ask them why not.

If you’ve got info on particularly lovely indie stores you know of, please let me know and I’ll bung it up on the site – the more promotion the better. If you have any Record Store Day news, then likewise, bung it in the comments.