In the week running up to Record Store Day, I found myself on an eagerly anticipated and newly agreed to record shop based holiday. Having consented to attend various UK sites of historical interest with Mrs O’Elves, I had in return been given carte blanche to do some archaeological digging of my own in any local vinyl stores I could find. After much planning, well, a good couple of hours on the Internet, I had in front of me a plan to visit 11 record shops in 5 towns over 5 days.
Here’s how it went down.
Day 1 – London
Having drawn up a list of a dozen of the most highly recommended record shops in London, I planned to hit East and West London on the first day and then Central and North London the following, half, day. So, after bidding farewell to the family at St Pancras – they were off to some museum or other, I headed off to Angel (which in my head should be Angel Islington, but I’m not sure why – perhaps our chirpy cockernee wizard can help me out on this) and the first shop Haggle Vinyl, which was due to open at 9:30. It was closed. It remained closed up to 10:15 when I gave up and decided to travel further east to the world renowned Rough Trade East, but not before peeking through the window and deciding I probably needed to return at some point.
Rough Trade East – 91 Brick Lane, London, E1 6QL
Just as well I had given myself plenty of time to get to Brick Lane as I managed to get lost coming out of Liverpool Street Station and had to revert to getting another, unnecessary, tube to get a bit closer. I then walked up and down Brick Lane at least 3 times before deciding to ask someone where the shop was. Unfortunately, not only did the person I accosted not know where the shop was, they didn’t seem to know any English either. Undeterred, I asked a likely looking lad with a very tidy quiff; it seemed to me he must be local as he looked liked Chorizo Garbanzo and so it proved.
KOE: ‘Scuse me, lad, can you tell me where Rough Trade Records is?
Local Herbert: See that facking sign behind you? It’s there, you muppet.
And it was. And it was good. Well, it was very large anyway. Walking in to what can only be described as an aeroplane hangar full of music, I was good to go. Here is what I found…
Tim Burgess – A Case For Vinyl (7″) – one of my songs of the year in 2012 – what an appropriate start to my haul.
Bronco Bullfrog – Never Been To California (7″) – I only know of this band because of their just released single on Fruits de Mer. If it’s good enough for Keith, it’ll be good enough for me I reasoned.
Man Or Astroman – Analog Series Vol. 3 (7“) – I love this band and have, literally, tens of tapes with songs/sessions recorded from John Peel shows. I only have a couple of records though and was really taken by the cover of this one. Defcon 0, eh? I understand there may be Astroman vocals on one of these tracks.
Voo – Songs We Used To Dance To (LP) – a Liverpool band that I have been put onto by wizards’ favourites Mean Jean. Both the singles I have are excellent so I have high hopes for this LP.
Public Service Broadcasting – Inform Educate Entertain (LP) – I like what I’ve heard from this lot on soundcloud and the like and had this LP on my vague wants list. I also have their RSD14 single towards the top too.
Man Or Astroman – Defcon 5…4…3…2…1 (LP) – yes! More futuristic guitar twang.
Good Vibrations Soundtrack (CD) – I know, I know, it’s not vinyl, but, hey, there’s a lot of vinyl in the film so surely that counts.
A very pleasant record shopping experience despite feeling intimidated by the rather too cool for school youngsters behind the tills (do we still have tills, grandad?). The one lad I did speak to though – to ask for directions to the Soundtracks section, since you ask – was very pleasant and helpful and not in any obvious way scornful of my musical taste. Not a lot of bargains to be had, but loads of really interesting stuff and an excellent way to spend 2 hours.
Haggle Vinyl – 114 Essex Rd, Greater London N1 8LX
With a suitably stuffed record bag, I made my way back to Angel and a walk up Essex Road past the green to the now open Haggle Vinyl with its reassuring whiff of used vinyl and distinct lack of crowds. Yes, I was on my own, the coat was off, and I was digging…
Sadly, amongst a lot of records from the 1980s that I didn’t buy then and don’t need to now, there wasn’t that much of interest. Nevertheless, I had a very enjoyable time flicking through well organised crates and found time to chat with the owner, who was pretty keen to close up (you’ve only just opened, mate!), but didn’t in any way rush me. I also found a record I have owned in the past and am very pleased to again…
Green On Red – Here Come The Snakes (LP) – a bargain too: very nice condition and a classic that everyone should have at least one copy of.
Flashback Records – 50 Essex Road, Islington, London N1 8LR
Feeling a little deflated in having only secured a single further addition to my collection, I wandered back up Essex Road to the next shop on my list, Flashback Records, which had a couple of boxes of used vinyl outside and what appeared to be a few more inside.
Well, I was nearly right, the boxes outside were of little interest being mostly novelty records whose novelty (if there had really been any) had worn well away. Inside, the crates were full of new records and some pretty interesting selections too, but I had bought my new records for the day and wanted some proper digging material. A quick glance towards, but over, the CD racks, made it clear that thankfully there was more downstairs and it was here that I was not to be disappointed.
Au Pairs – It’s Obvious (7″) – VG+ in terms of condition and EX+ in terms of content
The Wedding Present – Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now? (7″) – with a great B-side too
The Human League – Travelogue (LP) – their second and therefore not quite their best album, but still fantastic squelchy stuff
The Brilliant Corners – Why Do You Have To Go Out With Him When You Could Go Out With Me (12″) – top title, of course, and at times quite a Go-Betweensy sound with surprisingly vicious guitar solos.
Milky Wimpshake – Heart And Soul In The Milky Way (LP) – bought purely on the basis that Garbanzo likes them and I liked the song he bought to the pod back in the day
Dead Mellotron – Glitter (LP) – no idea what this is like, but the cover is cool in a primary school sort of way and I like the band name.
All this excellent stock was being soundtracked by The X-Ray Spex LP that I hadn’t heard for years and it was definitely now at the top of my wants list for the next day. Just a shame that Flashback didn’t have a copy as that would have sealed the day. Still, a fantastic basement of records here on Essex Road and highly recommended.
Having only managed the 3 East London shops on my list, the plan was changed to hit the centre of town the next day and leave the delights of North and West London for next time.
Day 2 – London
So it was that day 2 began with X-Ray Spex in my head and central London, specifically Soho, record shops in my sights.
Sister Ray – 34 Berwick St, London W1F 8RP
The first port of call was Sister Ray on Berwick Street, which, you’ll be relieved to know, I found without incident.
A really good range of new and used vinyl here with a couple of ‘sale’ crates to flick through too. This is what I came away with:
Goat – Run To Your Mama Remixes Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 (2 x 12″) – have I mentioned I love Goat? Oh. Still some interesting remixes here from the likes of Gnod and Hookworms.
Frank Zappa – Joe’s Garage Acts II & III (LP) – to complement the Act I that I have had for years and never got round to completing. It’s about time to find out what happens to Joe. I reckon it’ll involve oral sex in some way.
Throwing Muses – Firepile EP (12″) – a bargain with a tremendous version of Hendrix’s Manic Depression. Kristin can sure play guitar.
So impressed was I by the set up and depth of interesting stock, I bought a T-Shirt to commemorate my first time inside a record store I have done plenty of business with online.
Reckless Records – 30 Berwick St, London W1F 8RH
Further on down Berwick Street – now, officially, my favourite, easy to find street in Lahndahn, there’s Reckless Records…
… a full on digger’s paradise, this store had me from the first crate inside the door, in which I found, I kid you not, this fantastic copy of the X-Ray Spex – Germfree Adolescents (LP) – first press with laminate cover and lyrics on the inner sleeve.
The Clean – Vehicle (LP) – this is the album that has the track covered by Guided By Voices on their split single. I reckon the rest of it will be just as good.
The Replacements – I Will Dare (12″) – another band I really love. This is a very nice copy of the single with a couple of covers on the B-side.
Cover Me compilation (LP) – with the likes of Southside Johnny, Gary US Bonds and Johnny Cash covering The Boss. I think I know all these versions, but we shall see.
Sounds Of The Universe – 7 Broadwick Street Soho London W1F 0DA
Just time for one more shop before leaving London, and it was Sounds Of The Universe, which can be found just round the corner from Berwick Street, now, officially my fave… etc. and so on, that had that particular honour.
As it turns out the shop name was apposite as I found myself presented with a lot of music by artists I had not only never heard, but had never heard of. I am guessing that a lot of the stock is dance related (not a genre I am very familiar with), but I can honestly say that upstairs the only artists I recognised were some of the more obscure Krautrockers – ex-members of can, Neu!, etc. but with nothing as obvious as a Tangerine Dream LP. [The shop is associated with Soul Jazz Records – TTW Ed.]
Downstairs, there were a couple of more familiar ‘post-punk’ crates and I was tempted by a very nice copy of PIL’s second LP. In the end though I went for a CD compilation, as much due to the relief I felt in recognising nearly all the artists on it as anything else, that I had seen both in RTE and Sister Ray, but that here was nearly half the price. There is no such thing as a poor record shop.
Punk 45: There Is No Such Thing As Society compilation (CD) – with The Users, The Mekons, Television Personalities, Swell Maps, Josef K and other well known acts.
So, that was the end of the first stage of the shopping spree and I reckon I’d done particularly well with the top finds being:
New: Man.. Or Astroman LP
Used: X-Ray Spex LP
Unknown Pleasure: Dead Mellotron LP
Back to Liverpool for the mighty live pairing of Lumerians and Boogarins and then it was time to Hit The North!
Day 3 – Newcastle
I had only ever been to Newcastle before to visit St James Park, or whatever it is called now, and have therefore only ever come across locals dressed as massed barcodes. It was with some surprise then that having parked in the Grainger part of Toon that the predominant football shirt on display seemed to be related to Gateshead. It was also surprisingly easy to find…
Beatdown Records – 1, Clarendon House, Clayton St W, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 5EE
The unprepossessing doorway to Beatdown Records, formerly Steel Wheels (for you oldsters and, ahem, Saxon fans out there) gives the misleading impression that you are entering a tiny shop, but another surprise was in store (literally) as I ventured inside.
Having eschewed the new stuff upstairs, this is what I found after 2 full hours in the basement.
Goat – Stonegoat (7″) – 2 non-album cuts here both are electrifying on the Live Ballroom Ritual LP
Kenickie – Nightlife (7″) – I was sold on the leopard print vinyl, I admit it.
Hotel Cleveland compilation (LP) – I have got Volume III in this series because it’s got tracks by Doug Gillard and My Dad Is Dead on it. This, the first volume, features Prisonshake, Ghost Sonata, Crash and the superbly named Starvation Army. It is bound to be great.
The Saints – The New Rose Years compilation (LP) – very pleased to find this as I do collect The Saints – this album compiles tracks from A Little Madness To Be Free, The Monkey Puzzle, Out In The Jungle and the classic Paralytic Tonight, Dublin Tomorrow EP amongst others. Top band. Top collection.
Paul Revere & The Raiders – Goin’ To Memphis (LP) – fairly battered, but only 2 quid, although I only know the title track so we’ll have to see if it’s a bargain.
Preston School Of Industry – Monsoon (LP) – isn’t this somehow connected to Pavement and Steve Malkmus? It’s got Scott McCaughey and Jeff Tweedy on it for sure.
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Architecture & Morality (LP) – a nice cut out copy cover albeit the rereleased light blue version – for a quid – happy days.
Bee Gees – Best Of Bee Gees early compilation (LP) – my only purchase for under a pound. It features my favourite BG track – Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You. Their first album is a corker.
Kenny Process Team – Surfin With… (LP) – no, me neither, but what a cover (and cover story) “a most unlikely looking pop trio with unkempt appearance, shabby trousers and a penchant for baggy jumpers…” no less.Described as “seventeen first rate numbers” and seemingly from Leeds. I’ll report back.
Heaven 17 – Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry (Part I & II) (12″) – another sub £1.50 offer and you get parts 1 AND 2. “Liberation for the nation now!”
This was definitely the highlight of the record shopping experience to date, made even better by the lads throwing in not only a branded tote bag, but also a much needed slipmat that looks like this on my turntable:
RPM Music – 4 Old George Yard, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE1 1EZ
After a short food break (with a piece of pizza bigger than my face for £1.50 from the market!), it was back to it with a short trek across town to RPM Music an emporium neatly hidden round the corner from what appears to be a pub.
There I picked up one new record: Sean Rowe – To Leave Something Behind (7″) – me and Chozza saw this guy blow Josh Rouse off the stage last year and I’m hoping this single is as good as his album.
and a few top second handers:
a reduced 3 fer combo: Human League – Being Boiled / Elvis Costello – Radio Radio – pic sleeve / XTC – Statue Of Liberty (7″s) – late 70s classics all
They Might Be Giants – Don’t Let’s Start compilation (LP) & They’ll Need A Crane (12″) – as always some cracking song titles from the Johns: Hey Mr DJ, I Thought You Said We Had A Deal, Kiss Me Son Of God, We’re The Replacements…
Miracle Legion – Me And Mr Ray (LP) – it’s that Mark Mulcahy bloke. We like him.
Camper Van Beethoven – Eye Of Fatima (12″) – I have the Telephone Free Landslide Victory album, which is great, but failed to keep up with these boys over the years. This looks interesting though and features a very lengthy explanation of the 4 tracks in tiny print that I’ll need my readers for.
Reflex Records – 23 Nun St, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 5AG
Ignoring the CD stall in the market, I next head directly for another Geordie legend, Reflex.
Little in the way of second hand bargains here, but lots of really tempting new stuff. I was talked into the 2 x Neil Young LPs against my better judgement – it’s Trans era Neil for chrissakes – and I couldn’t resist yet more Space Rock / Drone/ Psychedielia especially if it is on the Rocket Recordings label.
Neil Young – Cow Palace 1986 Volumes 1 & 2 (2 x LP) – a radio broadcast from Brisbane no less. Should I have gone for the solo Neil circa 1970? I really don’t know what to expect from this collection.
Crystallized – Celebrating 15 Years Of Rocket Recordings compilation (2 x LP) – featuring Goat! Gnod! Teeth Of The Sea! etc. etc.
Newcastle had worn me out, but I was one happy wizard.
The top finds being;
New: Crystallized compilation
Used: Goat – Stonegoat single
Unknown Pleasure: I have high hopes for Kenny Process Team. Probably unwisely.
Day 4 – Stockton -on – Tees
Leaving our base in Northumberland to head for the North Yorkshire coast and Whitby, it only seemed right to stop off at the record collector’s Mecca that is Stockton on the way. Presumably, there is a bingo hall here, but little else seemed to be open on a Sunday afternoon. Luckily, the record shop was.
Sound It Out Records – Yarm St, Stockton-on-Tees, Stockton on Tees, Cleveland TS18 3DR
I’ve seen it on film, of course, but to be outside THE Sound It Out Records store was still quite a thrill. It was even better inside.
When I arrived there was one customer in the shop, deep in conversation with the staff about a 4am queuing for Saturday. Christ, this is hardcore stuff. It took a little while to work out what was in front of me. 20% off second hand records, you say.. I’ll have a look through everything you’ve got then – yes, the 2 tiers… This is what I found:
The Ventures – (The) Ventures In Space (LP) – Spaced themed Ventures? What’s not to like?
Marc Bolan – You Scare Me To Death (LP) – I really need to educate myself beyond the hit singles and The Slider LP and this gatefold houses a full discography to work through. The album itself seems to be posthumous (not the bloke in De La Soul).
Human League – The Lebanon (12″) – possibly my favourite hit of theirs, here in a longer version. Good.
David Thomas & The Pedestrians – The Sound Of The Sand And Others Songs Of The Pedestrian (LP) – one of two albums under this name that I had to decide between both featuring Richard Thompson. This appears to be their first collaboration. Pere Ubu + Fairport Convention? Pere Convention. Sounds like a meeting of fruit.
The further I went, the further I entered into the world of the unknown and it was now a matter of basing selections on the cover, the title and/or band name only…
The Dots & Stops – If I Look Uncomfortable, It’s Only Coz I Need To Do It (LP) – this was the album title that did it.
The Suncharms – Tranquil Day (12″) – the band name.
Alles Fuer Zuhause: Die Neue Deutsche Welle compilation (LP) – German new wave/synth pop – great cover. I recognise none of the artists. Extrabreit, anyone?
Stomu Yamashta – Go (LP) – not enough Japanese experimentalism in my collection obviously.
An excellent selection of new stuff that I know nothing about too? You’re spoiling me. OK, then… I’ll have some of your Ferrero Rocher, er, shiny 180mg vinyl.
New Build – Yesterday Was Lived And Lost (LP) – great album title + cover. I think it might be fairly miserable. Excellent.
Eternal Tapestry – A World Out Of Time (LP) – I love the cover and the fact it is on Thrill Jockey gives me great confidence that I’ll like the sound. I anticipate spacerock.
Cathode – Chad Valley (7″) – I picked this out of the ‘local bands’ box and was given the following local (non) recommendation: “you won’t like that”, which combined with the fact that is described as lo-fi electronica, sold it to me. Obviously.
Jacco Gardener – Cabinet Of Curiosities (LP) – not really an unknown this as I have come across this fella’s name in loads of articles, but I don’t know what he sounds like. I probably should. I think he’s part of the rising psych movement.
I had set this shop up as being the place I particularly wanted to visit in the North East and it really didn’t disappoint. Not only was there an unbelievable mix of affordable stock, but I left with the promise of a store T-shirt and compilation CDs of local acts to be sent on in the post. Legends.
Day 5 – Whitby
It’s fucking windy in Whitby, isn’t it? Anyway, I found time between visits to what I am happy to declare the best restaurant in the UK to pop in to the only record shop in town, the aptly named Folk Devils.
Folk Devils – 16 Sandgate, Town Centre, Whitby YO22 4DB
I say aptly named because there was predominantly folk music on offer. Now I’m not averse to a moment or two of yer hey nonny no, but there was a lot of stuff here that I really had no idea about. Some of the new LPs seemed to enter into electronica territory, but it was the second hand stuff that offered the real treasures.
The Imposter – Pills And Soap (7″) – my second EC pick of the week, this one has an extended version on the B-side
Darren Hayman – Minehead (7″) – part of the trilogy of EPs recorded at Butlins. I anticipate the sound of a ukulele.
Squeeze – Babylon And On (LP) – I am aware of fellow wizard, Rebel Rikkit’s current infatuation with late period Squeeze and it seems only fair that I join in. I only really know the opener here, but it’s a belter.
So, that was the end of the final leg and I returned to Liverpool with a good foot (12″) of vinyl to get through. As I do so, I will add comments below about the records bought, but if you know and love these records (especially the ones I know nothing about), please let us know too.
In the meantime, here’s a playlist with a selection of the songs from the record haul described above. And remember, a record shop is not only for Record Shop (let’s reclaim this, UK) Day.