“A record store, like Jesus and a puppy, are for life, not for a one day celebration.” So texted my associated editor, Orestes P. Xistos when I asked him if he’d join me in filming the people queuing outside Record Collector, a shop smack in the heart of the now dying Broomhill area of Sheffield, England.
It’s a strange sight. Between the many closed shops and abandoned takeaways (Northern Soul, what happened?), the discerning music fans queued as early as 7 am, waiting to pay through the nose for limited edition vinyls of various sizes and genres. Some would not find what they looked for, making me think of the old story about folks in the last days of the U.S.S.R. queueing for bread, only to find all gone or ending up buying something else…
-Tovarisch, I come for 12″ of Mad Season!
-Nyet, we only have Coldplay‘s picture record. If you’d been earlier, you could’ve buyed the primo stuff, a magnificent album by The Twang.
-Oh, no one would buy that! Gimme a copy of Bat for Lashes singing ‘Kalinka Maya’ with a stylophone!
–That’ll be 8000 ruples.
Anyways… As I walk to the queue, I realize I’m in two minds about this day: some celebrate that physical media is still selling (with vinyl increasing sales); some chide people, appealing to a slightly self-righteous mentality that if people cared about record stores, they’d be regular customers.
I guess both sides have a slightly extremist approach. You have to be truly disingenuous to believe that you’re paying a fair price for some of these releases (8 pounds for a 7”?) but at the same time, you have to be a real bitter spoilsport to chastise people on social media for queueing for something they hold dear to their hearts.
Still, enough editorializing, I don’t feel up to the task of explaining my stance, as I’m somewhere in the middle: I like physical media and I’ll try to buy as often as possible, but I’m unemployed (doing Postgraduate studies doesn’t pay). I also think there’s some elitism starting to breed in some consumers, but it comes with the territory.
Now, Record Store Day 2013…
Record Collector is a strange beast, as it is two shops conjoined together only by a mysterious red door (Santa’s workshop), a sort of Charybdis and Scylla ready to put up a fight against the rash of supermarkets afflicting Broomhill. The CD shop, way bigger in the inside than it looks from the outside, was sort of busy in the early morning hours (10 am), with people diving into the shelves, hoping to find an album in the strange arrangement that defies logic but helps you get a good wrist & finger exercise. A 20% discount was being offered.
The vinyl shop was where the action was happening and whereas the CD shop sprawls, the vinyl section is like that crawling section of Die Hard (except no wifebeaters are on sight). I didn’t try to swag my way in (I hate queue jumpers), so I just twisted the arm of a fella taller than me to take a shot of the cluster of people trapped inside, wiggling an index finger to ask for an album, wiggling a pinky to say “yes” or the ring one to say “no”. Record Collector‘s Twitter stream was busy with “[album] is now sold out”, a sort of electronic town crier narrating the escalating decimation of supplies.
I noticed that a few people in the queue looked fidgety at the site of a fat foreigner (México represent!) taking photos and video of their faces without their consent. Before getting hit with another class lawsuit/restraining order combo, I scampered away to the next stop in this day that is the music fan’s equivalent of Maundy Thursday (no, I’m not washing your feet).
Previously located on Rockingham Street, Vinyl Demand is now on Carver Street, just by Grosvenor House Hotel’s remains. A very tiny place, it’s almost blink and you miss. But whatever it lacks on visuals it more than makes up on selection and the encyclopedia-like knowledge of its owner, who does carry a one man army struggle to keep a record shop in fair Sheffield’s city centre.
I notice on the outside two boxes, selling records for a quid. A couple entice my attention, one of them a “guilt purchase” of an album I downloaded, the other one an album I ruined via crayons, glue and glitter when I was 4. I pick up the latter and in true Sloucher tradition, I let it fall down to the ground. The record withstands Newton’s revenge, thankfully. I also grab a CD copy of Prodigy’s Fat of the Land, an album that I’ve lost two times (both times stolen by a woman – odd).
A quick conversation about the whole record store day phenomenon happened. It’s obvious that sometimes generation gaps can explain the outright befuddlement people have when watching the other generation’s actions, but it seems that the love of music might be the one thing able to permeate and unite all generations in one go. Just don’t expect them to agree on their favourite band. You might as well try to reunite both the Holy Catholic Roman Church and the Orthodox Church. Come back, dudes, we are sorry about that “separated brothers remark”!
Whoa, sidetracked – again! This coffee is powerful! It’s Java Toba from Pollards, a powerful mojo-fuelling brew. Pollards was a nice place but sadly closed. Will this be the fate of Record Shops? Perish the thought, but remember: a big sale once a year won’t save a shop from oblivion, you need to give them constant care and nurturing.
Sorry, who’s turn is on the high horse? I’m done.
Right, last stop was LP Record in Arundel Street. I realise I took a wrong turn when I pass the Admiral Nelson and a couple of bald headed fat blokes shout some unintelligible racial abuse at me. So it goes.
LP Record IS in Arundel Street, but closer to the Hallam Hubs. The ground floor is a cozy little place, with a t-shirt sporting John Peel’s visage gazing at you when you open the door (“life has surface noise“). There’s a good amount of records and cds and the young people attending the shop are very friendly. The shop is busy so I make my way upstairs.
The upper floor is occupied by the lovely Knife & Folk, a collective of artists in Sheffield. The gallery/shop might be tiny but it’s carefully decorated with artwork. A quick chat with the attendant brought up the gig that was being organized with Penelope´s that night. Sadly, I would miss this gig as I had to read a paper about the impact of anions on the heavy metal release from sediments.
As you do.
Queues, bacon sarnies, a very cheap Eagles album (unbreakable too – it fell again on the way back home) and a lot of nice conversations. Maybe Record Store Day can be a bit more than it looks. If you’re serious about supporting record stores, try to put aside some money for music. Buy one less pint (or two) per week. The satisfaction of a good record supercedes any pleasure derived from alcohol. Unless it’s a Prodigy album that manages to fall down from your slippery hands, crack open, roll down Whitham road and get smashed up by a Stagecoach bus. In that case, just buy the mp3s.
Words, Photos and Apologies: Sam J. Valdés López.
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