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The record store that shaped your musical taste

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The record store that shaped your musical taste Empty The record store that shaped your musical taste

Post  eddie Mon Apr 16, 2012 8:23 pm

Mine was the basement of WH Smith's in Ealing Broadway, accessed by means of a spiral staircase, its bannisters cushioned in red leatherette. Here I bought the teenage record collection (Dylan, Stones, Beatles, Faces, Kinks etc etc) that has essentialy formed my musical taste to this day.

For added street cred, I've subsequently discovered that it was situated a mere hundred yards from what used to be Alexis Korner's Ealing Rhythm n Blues club, in the reeking and insanitary basement of which Mick and Keef first encountered Brian Jones.

In those days, you could listen to your prospective purchase in a booth over a pair of headphones (incredibly hi-Tech, to my teenage mind). I must have whiled away hours in that basement on Saturday mornings.
The records shops that shaped our lives

They were tiny, tatty – and terrific. For Record Store Day on Saturday, our pop writers remember the shops where they first fell in love with music, Sunday 15 April 2012 18.15 BST

The record store that shaped your musical taste The-Legendary-Alans-Recor-008
Alan’s Records in Wigan, which became Laura Barton’s home from home

Freewheelin' in Nottingham

It was the place where I first heard Bob Dylan, in the late summer of 1963, listening to Freewheelin' in one of those booths where the walls were covered with sound-deadening board, and there was just enough room for me and the girl. We reeled back up the stairs into the Nottingham sunlight with the world looking a very different place.

Like many good record shops, Rediffusion was located in a basement – in this case, below the place where the company did its real business in cable TV rentals. Maybe half-a-dozen doors down from the Odeon cinema, where the Beatles played, it was in the city centre and had the best stock for anyone who fancied himself as a hipster.

The manager, Keith, and his assistants weren't specialists but they paid attention to their more obsessive customers, even schoolboys like me, and I ended up working there on Saturdays. Very decently, Keith allowed me to order expensive imported Blue Note albums, even though he and I knew there would be no takers for Grachan Moncur III's Some Other Stuff. I'd spend those days playing the latest from Joe Tex or Solomon Burke on the shop turntable, while dealing with queues of elderly ladies who wanted something by Jim Reeves but didn't know the title and could I get all his records out in case they recognised it?

A few weeks ago, a Guardian reader reminded me of those times: specifically, the occasion when I refused to let him hear Can't You Hear My Heartbeat by Herman's Hermits because it was so bad. I wouldn't mind that as an epitaph. Richard Williams

Cider with PJ

One weekend in the mid-1990s, the Woolworths in Gainsborough suddenly became inadequate. What did Pavement, Mogwai, Jurassic 5 and Mercury Rev actually sound like? To find out, most Saturdays we would catch the train to Lincoln, where we spent afternoons drinking throat-shredding cider and trying to smoke.

Sonic Sounds, with its piles of records and CDs and T-shirts crammed into a tiny upstairs room, had a kind man behind the counter who would recommend things to accommodate my widening tastes. I found records that changed the way I heard music: from PJ Harvey to Prince to Bikini Kill. Then one day, I came back to find its doors closed and its sign gone. (This is perhaps what happens if you give teenagers discounts simply for their enthusiasm.)

Then, a few years ago, I went to a car boot sale and the Sonic Sounds man was there, behind a table creaking with records I had flicked through 10 years ago. I thanked him. I told him I was a music writer now, and that this might not have happened without his shop. Then I bought I Don't Care by Shakespear's Sister. It's a brilliant album. Rebecca Nicholson

Singles: 10p a go

Like millions of others, I used to buy my music in Woolworths. The East Grinstead branch of Boots didn't stock enough singles, WH Smith seemed too expensive, and the town's independent record store Jingles (now a computer shop, irony fans) wouldn't open for another five years.

None of the staff knew my name, and I didn't spend hours chatting to them about bands. I was there to buy music I would invariably listen to in my bedroom by myself. Nor did I "lose entire Saturdays browsing the racks", as old stuff was of no interest. I'd go in, head for the chart wall, and see if they had what I'd heard on Radio 1. Sometimes a bargain bin appeared with 7in singles 10p a go.

Every Record Store Day, I read about the planet's best independent music shops. And every year, I feel as if my early music-buying experiences – picking up Love Is Contagious in a gatefold sleeve or a Samantha Fox tune on pink vinyl – are somehow inauthentic since they took place in a shop that also sold pencil cases. But I challenge anyone to love their teenage music more than I loved those singles I bought in Woolworths. Peter Robinson

Watch out for the skater boys

Alan's Records was a small shop with a tatty front that faced the new market building in Wigan. The records were upstairs, above the skate department. To reach it, you had to navigate the sweat and clutter of a dozen teenage boys ogling skateboards and trying on Vans. I was preposterously shy. I would hold my breath and keep my eyes on the floor as I walked through. Nor would I look at my fellow music-buyers, but I did eavesdrop on their conversations: tantalising mentions of Shellac, Hüsker Dü, DJ Shadow, Felt, Orange Juice, Super Furry Animals.

Later, when my boyfriend and his best friend worked there, I remember the feeling of homecoming that would rise in my chest as I climbed those stairs. This was where I bought Pixies records, Bis, Slint, Sonic Youth and Yo la Tengo. I remember resting against the counter listening to Elliott Smith, Tortoise, the For Carnation.

I never went to a youth club. I never hung out with the popular crowd. I was never invited to those raucous parties everyone gossiped about on Mondays at school. But in this small store I found a place to fit in, put down roots and grow. Laura Barton

I yearn for those swirly carrier bags

In 1980, high streets would have a dedicated record shop that served the needs of housewives, rockers, soul boys and skins. If you lived in the Birmingham suburb of Acocks Green in the early 80s, Easy Listening was yours. When you bought an album or 12in from Easy Listening, it came in a carrier bag that featured an illustration of a gramophone and the shop logo in a swirly font resembling that of Scooby-Doo's Mystery Machine. I must have thrown away dozens over the years. I'd give anything for one now.

I loved Easy Listening, but it was clear the owner – the spit of a younger Gerald Kaufman with an inexhaustible supply of diamond-patterned jumpers – hated me. He hated the way I waited for my favourite single to drop out of the charts before snapping it up from the 50p rack and the time I would spend deliberating over which of two 7in singles was more deserving of my pocket money. How could I possibly choose between Sad Cafe's Every Day Hurts and the vanilla reggae delights of The Chosen Few by the Dooleys?

Then Easy Listening got chosen as one of 250 shops whose sales would be used to help compile the UK top 75. Life got really exciting. Reps from major labels would pull up outside and carry boxes of 12in singles from their Astra hatchbacks and stuff them into the 99p rack. This is how records were hyped into the charts. I built up a collection for next to nothing. Pete Paphides

The smart older sibling I never had

On 21 August 1997, I switched off my alarm, rose, and headed out to What Records in Hinckley, Leicestershire, to queue to be among the first to buy Oasis's third album, Be Here Now. It didn't matter that there were only a dozen other fans queuing: it was big news. The local paper was there and everything.

When I read about famous record stores – Rough Trade in the early 80s, Probe in Liverpool with Julian Cope and Pete Burns working behind the counter – I sometimes feel I missed out on the real experience. I didn't spend my days in What Records chatting about rare vinyl, exchanging revolutionary ideas and forming socialist ska bands. Even after several years of tipping my paltry part-time wages into their till, I was barely on nodding terms with the staff. Yet, without this escape route from a world in which none of my friends cared much about music, my life would have been, basically, a bit rubbish. It was here I discovered the Velvet Underground, Nick Drake and the Flying Burrito Brothers. What Records was the smart older sibling I never had.

The shop no longer exists, but these days Hinckley's teenagers can get a far richer musical education online. I don't envy them. Those journeys home with a pink paper bag stuffed with CDs – and I had little idea about how they would sound – were almost as important as the music itself. This is especially the case with Be Here Now, the act of queuing outside a shop on a Thursday morning being more memorable than the record itself. Tim Jonze

Abba in an Egyptian oasis

When I was a gawky tweenage expat, there was a shop in Alexandria, Egypt, called Sarai Market. We used to buy food there: bootleg US butter ("Not for sale," trumpeted the label), corned beef, corn flakes. Around the corner stood one of those "everything" shops that sold, alongside perfume and cheap watches, bootleg cassettes. I bought most of Abba's catalogue there – and the Bee Gees'.

It was not a record store, but it was my first record store. In it, I discussed the finer points of Benny and Björn's brilliance with the English-speaking guy who ran it, while my dad rolled his eyes. I still won't hear a word said against Abba. You can say what you like about the Bee Gees.

Then a miracle happened. It felt huge at the time and it's all the more astonishing now. A "real" record shop opened – in dusty, bustling, complicated, ancient Alexandria. My friends and I used to leave school and head over to paw the vinyl in awe. Previously, our pop fixes had consisted of tapes kids brought back from the States and videos of this new thing called MTV that we all watched and rewatched until the tape warped.

It was in this shop that I first picked up a record by a band called the Smiths. Even before the record had gone anywhere near a needle, I was undone: the lyrics, printed on the inner sleeve, were like nothing I'd ever seen. The frisky, bell-like guitar-playing was a world away from the poodle rock bands on MTV had prepared us for. I wish I could remember what the shop was called. I wish I had thanked the guy more at the time for opening up his oasis. Kitty Empire

The one-hour browse

It was the early 1990s and I was living in Manchester, a graduate with little money. I was too shy to have a girlfriend and had no idea what I was going to do with my life. The only certain thing was my love of music. Back then, we still had the crazy idea that you needed to pay money to hear recorded music. The place I frequented was called Vinyl Exchange. Music fans didn't so much visit it as make a pilgrimage. I usually went with my friend Mark on Saturdays: we would walk in and agree to reconvene after an hour of intense browsing. The store was invariably filled with equally intense looking young guys – and it did seem to be mostly men – methodically sifting through the albums.

Mark would head to the drum'n'bass section to seek out the latest LTJ Bukem, while I would try to complete my Tom Waits collection. What made Vinyl Exchange so addictive was that there was no way I was ever going to work through every shelf. That's what kept me going back, week after week.

Today, music is laughably easy to find but what's been lost is the excitement – of walking into a record shop believing it contained an album, as yet unheard, that could change your life. Sarfraz Manzoor

The very loud shoebox

On a trip to Bristol, I stumbled into a shop called Idle Hands: a cramped, shoebox of a store you could hear from a mile away. They would play me rare Mala, Coki, EZ or dubstep from a local producer. They offered me a micro-slice of record shop culture that I thought had passed me by, which led me to discover new music. After all, it's the job of the record shop to open you up to new music and new forms. My short-lived experiences are locked in that shop. Kieran Yates
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Post  eddie Tue Apr 17, 2012 2:09 am

Location of the Ealing Broadway branch of WH Smith's:

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Post  Dick Fitzwell Tue Apr 17, 2012 2:51 am

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