In praise of the record shop

April 14, 2010

April 17 is “Record Store Day” – or  “record shop” to us Brits. An attempt, I guess, to celebrate what was once the weekend mecca of every music loving teenager in every small town in this age of file-sharing and downloading. However shitty the town you grew up in was, I can bet it had a grubby, badly lit record shop lurking down a back street. Barnsley’s was Casa Disco. Not particularly cool or trendy, (it had its heyday in the Norther Soul era) it was still the place to see and be seen every Saturday. A place to spot the guys (and very occasional girl)  sporting the names of their heroes on their backs – usually Crass, Killing Joke or the UK Subs; to read the ‘drummer wanted for punk band’ notices and occasionally to buy records. Usually we just flicked through the acres of prog rock to find a Pop Group or Birthday Party album that we couldn’t afford. The guy who ran it put up with us, knowing we’d surprise him with the occasional purchase.

The only other shop in town selling vinyl was a tv and ‘gramophone’ showroom that, bizarrely, had a box of records that they kept under the counter and would only get out if you asked. No-one knew about it, so I got some real gems – including the Joy Division free flexi , but the dragon behind the counter insisted I had to ask her nicely for it “as it’s free”. Quite a challenge, it turned out, for a sulky 15 year old punk, but  I really really wanted it.

Friends tell similar tales: Chris, who hung out with other middle class white boys listening to Keith Hudson and King Tubby in a shop in Regency Cheltenham that specialised in Jamaican imports; Peggy working for records in a shop in Crouch End run by a guy claiming to be John Peel’s cousin. Gems all.

I vividly remember the thrill of discovering Bonapart’s and Rough Trade on a trip to London. The kids in there were really, really cool. And the vinyl. I blew a months pocket money on ‘Spunk’ a Sex Pistol’s bootleg. That was the trip I decided I was moving to the capital.

Where Rough trade is still flying the flag, God bless ’em. And Black Market and countless others I hope. And I hope it’s not just sad 40 something blokes hanging out in them these days. Get off-line kids and support your local record ‘store’. It bloody needs you


One Response to “In praise of the record shop”

  1. Great article and I hadn’t realised that Record Store Day was so close. There’re a couple of albums that I’ve been wanting to get so I’ll make sure I go into the local independent store on that day to buy them. Meanwhile, this is a great quote by Henry Rollins:

    “I have watched independent record stores evaporate all over America and Europe. That’s why I go into as many as I can and buy records whenever possible. If we lose the independent record store, we lose big. Every time you buy your records at one of these places, it’s a blow to the empire.”

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