I thought I’d jot down a few words to contribute to the Love Record Stores initiative launching today to send love and thanks out to independent record stores/shops that have a big place in the hearts of artists everywhere at this uncertain and troubling time. The idea is to tag indie record shops you love, show support and encourage others to check them out and shop online whilst their physical shops are closed. Here’s a list close to my heart:
The Book & Record Bar, West Norwood, London
This shop, more than any in the last few years, has been a very big part of my life. From my first visit on RSD back in 2014 to last week, Michael Johnson‘s shop has become a hub of musical and artistic activity including a radio station, party nights and much more besides. I’ve met so many people who I consider to be good friends through this place, including the love of my life, and even ended up lodging with Michael at one point a few years back when a house purchase was taking way too long. When we first met I foolishly offered to try and sort out his packed to the ceiling basement. It was like digging a hole only for the earth to keep falling back in, as soon as I’d clear some floorspace by installing shelving, it would be filled by more records or audio equipment.
The shop has a fine line in left field new releases and an excellent selection of used electronica, jazz, psych and the encyclopedic Michael to ask for any wants. In fact, if you send him your wants list whilst the shop is closed he will endeavour to find what he can in his stock and send you a quote – message him on the Facebook link below. To add to this the shop has many rare books, a very good used sci-fi section and a fully licensed bar, what more do you want? The shop’s Discogs page is here if you want to support while it’s closed.
Big shouts out to Peter Williams, my Further partner in crime who was central to getting the Out of the Wood radio show started through the shop (fast approaching its 200th show). Alex ‘the Orb’ Paterson who I see in there most visits and who set up WNBC.London to broadcast his numerous shows, the weekly Thursday shop show and the aforementioned OOTW each Sunday between 12-2pm. Also to Dorian, the regular Sunday staff member and great anecdote-teller, who puts up with all our selections each week.
Check out their new website The book and record bar
Rat Records, Camberwell, London
Still the cheapest, most regularly restocked record shop I know, my local, 21 years at this site, small but perfectly formed, a beacon of light in the haven of scum and villainy that is Camberwell. A used record shop in every sense, you won’t find new releases here unless it’s a fluke but you will find a small queue outside at 10.30am every Saturday when the New In racks are restocked from collections bought up and down the country by owner Tom.
Their policy of pricing to sell keeps stock turning over constantly and they will wait several weeks before putting a rare record on their Discogs page, (closed at the moment due to the shop being shut) preferring to let visitors and regulars have first dibs. They also do a fine line in extremely cheap CDs and have a record cleaning service. I’ve done several in-store DJs sets including a goodbye set for Pete on his last day working in the shop and also Philippe‘s 40th birthday party in the local pub after closing. But my favourite was when Jonny Trunk and myself delved into a collection of soundtracks the shop had bought, playing our favourite tracks after which the records were sold to punters who came to listen.
The Music & Video Exchange, Notting Hill and Greenwich, London
The old M&VEx shops were the second hand Mecca’s of London, Camden, Soho, Shepherd’s Bush, and four or five shops in Notting Hill alone. Sadly only one remains in that location these days, the Dance & Soul and Classical shops being folded into the Rock & Pop premises over the last decade. The 80s and 90s, even part of the 00s, for these shops were digger heaven with bargain basements of records for £1 a pop (or less) that would take you days to get through and would always yield treasure of some sort. In the golden days of the vinyl promo I would save up several months of unwanted 12″ and take a full bag in there and wait whilst the staff went through them and quoted a price. “Cash of exchange?”, always exchange, which was double the cash value in vouchers to spend in the shops (including the book and comic ones). The trick was to have a few really hot current promos in there which would get you more than if you waited another month.
Back in the early 90’s I blew my first ever pay cheque from a full time job after I left college there. The bargain basement in the Notting Hill shop was the first time I ever saw a wall of Paul Young’s ‘No Parlez‘ LPs, a foretaste of the ubiquity of that album which now enjoys its own account on Twitter. In the 90s I bought an original UK Stereo copy of Dudley Moore’s ‘Bedazzled’ from the Soundtrack shop, probably the most I’ve ever spent on a single record. I remember finding a Mike Oldfield 12″ acetate for £1 in the basement, it’s one of the only records I’ve ever ‘flipped’ on eBay, it made a lot more than a pound and ended up in the hands of an Italian fan.
Sadly those days are long gone although they do still buy and sell the same way, marking the records down by a pound each month or so until they’re eventually bought or end up in the bargain bin. The Greenwich shop has mysteriously survived and thrived over the years and every buyer will know the pain of trying to remove some of their old stickers, especially the burgundy brown ones, which would ultimately rip, mark or tear the covers of the records you’d just paid for, even if you used lighter fluid.
The Greenwich shop also has a really good Instagram account.
Reckless Records, Sister Ray, Sounds of the Universe, Soho, London
Not much survives of the glories of Soho past, the original Sister Ray shop is gone to the developers, as has the M&VEx that was there, Groove, Cheapo Cheapos, Mr Bongo, Selectadisc, the 2nd Reckless shop, Unity, Quaff, Ambient Soho (my first job in a record shop) and a ton of other small dance music shops.
Plenty still cling on though within its square mile, Reckless being my favourite because of its used nature and the general scuzziness that still lingers from the old days. Both Sister Ray and Sounds of the Universe (formally Soul Jazz) have moved about over the years but are always reliable for new and old releases from specialist dance music to reggae to rock with everything in between. SOTU also has a great downstairs packed with books, DVDs and more music and the label puts out some cracking compilations.
Sounds Of The Universe
Audio Gold, Muswell Hill, London
A specialist hi-fi retailer, hire company and repair shop with plenty of records to boot. I’ve only been a few times but loved it and my old mate Robin from Hexstatic works there. They had collector Shane Quentin and myself in for a special flexi disc set for the last RSD and treated us to free pizza afterwards – always worth a visit and the staff are lovely. https://audiogold.co.uk/
The Diskery, Birmingham
This is a dusty diggers paradise, one of the oldest record shops in the UK, it’s housed in a ramshackle building with back and upstairs rooms you can root around in to your heart’s content. Downstairs is the main shop with LPs, 45s and 12″s and the back rooms have boxes of 7″s to rifle through.
Upstairs, if you brave the rickety stairs and don’t go in the room with the ceiling about to fall in, is a lottery of broken audio equipment, soiled and sleeveless dance singles and more. Last time I was there I found a rare Universal Indicator 12″ (early Mike Dred/Aphex Twin) discarded and coverless in a pile for £1. They also occasionally offer tea or coffee if the shop isn’t busy and once I even got a mince pie at Xmas. The Diskery Facebook page
Kingbee, Vinyl Exchange, Piccadilly Records, Manchester
Kingbee is out in Chorlton, a few stops from the city centre on the train. Well worth the trip, it’s a packed-to-the-gills used shop with decent prices and lots of choice. I was once looking for a white label 12″ of A Certain Ratio’s ‘Good Together‘ and, seeing as I was in Manchester thought it was more likely then anywhere else, and there it was in the bargain bin for £1. https://www.kingbeerecords.co.uk/
Vinyl Exchange is your northern equivalent of Reckless or the Music & Video Exchange, used records in every category you can think of, all a bit scruffy, some a bit pricey on the wall, tons of cheap bins, CDs upstairs, vinyl downstairs, just dive in. https://www.vinylexchange.co.uk/
Piccadilly across from Vinyl Exchange, is just one of the best records shops in the UK selling new music. Similar to the Rough Trade East model, they have meticulously worded/reviewed info on all the underground /independent titles with a depth of knowledge that only comes from working in a record shop and hearing everything and anything that comes through the door. Their mail order online is also excellent https://www.piccadillyrecords.com/
Dig Vinyl, Liverpool
Upstairs in the Resurrection clothes shop now (it used to be down in a basement when I first visited), Dig has an excellent, well-priced selection of random dance music and much more. I bought loads when I was there last time but spent very little. https://digliverpool.co.uk/
Rarekind, Wax Factor, Brighton
Rarekind is your hip hop-centric diggers shop with new independent releases as well as tons of used stock including jazz, funk, soul, library and soundtracks. Friendly and with loads to get stuck into, even my partner (who’s a hardened digger herself) had to go and get coffee last time we were there as I was taking so long. It didn’t help that there was a tiny techno shop upstairs too. https://rarekindrecords.co.uk/
Wax Factor is one of my dream shops, books and records combined, I remember it from the 90s and it’s still there, virtually unchanged. The amount of 7″s in the adjoining room is astounding, if you can’t find something you want in there you either haven’t looked hard enough or don’t have the time to sift through. They don’t appear to have much of an online presence unfortunately but the reviews here say it all https://www.yelp.com/biz/wax-factor-brighton
Monorail, Mixed Up Records, Glasgow
Monorail is your quintessential indie shop, expanded out into the left field realms of avant garde electronica and soundtracks. It reminds me a bit of Rough Trade West in London but it has better decor, it’s also located in a very cool part of the city adjoining a bustling bar and restaurant and has an excellent mail order service. https://www.monorailmusic.com/
Mixed Up is further out in the Hillhead area, down a small side mews and is well worth the trip for used records, all in great condition at reasonable prices. I always come away with something from there and have been down on the floor rifling through the 7″ boxes many a time. https://www.mixeduprecords.com/
Island Vintage Vinyl and Vinyl Head, Ramsgate Island Vintage Vinyl is a father/son-run business with specialist hi-fi and audio equipment and used vinyl, super-friendly-service and tons of stock, especially good for dance music and vintage rock https://www.islandvintage.co.uk/
Vinyl Head is probably the funkiest looking shop I’ve visited in the UK, it’s full of cool design objects, mobiles and has a huge Octopus snaking its tentacles across the floor. A lot of the stock wasn’t priced when I went there which is a usual no-no for me but I found plenty of stuff. The shop’s Discogs is here (with prices, obviously) being that you can’t visit the physical location.
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