Monday, 26 August 2013

Challenge #27: Sarah vs the Record Shop Pilgrimage

I've always wanted to go on a massive music buying splurge, visit loads of indie record shops and buy what the hell I want. Since I don't earn a lot I never really have any spare cash to do anything reckless - or anything much at all really - but with it being a special birthday I thought what the fuck, let's have some fun.

The plan

So, I came up with a plan. Visit as many record shops as I could during my birthday weekend in London. I gave myself no limits on spending, but I had to buy at least one thing from each shop I visited. I knew that part wouldn't be difficult since I usually want to buy shit loads of stuff.

Since there are only 274 record shops left in the UK - compared to over 2,200 in the 1980s - London was the obvious choice for accessing as many as possible. I did a lot of Googling, made a map (see below), saved some cash and off I went...

Camden (Tube station: Camden Town)

First stop was Camden and Out on the Floor Records (Inverness Street), a shop which I must have passed a thousand times and never noticed. It's pokey little shop, but it's got a ok punk section, which is always the first thing I have to check. Unfortunately, they keep all the second-hand punk and metal downstairs, which is only open at weekends, so there wasn't a great deal of trawling to be done.

I opted for 'Let's Get a Bit A Rockin' by the 101ers and that was it - first purchase in the bag. Oh and I also got a comment on my Amoeba tote bag, which was nice.

Here I am getting a little bit a rockin' 
at Out on the Floor

Camden Lock Vinyl (Camden Lock Place) was next on the list. I come here every December and always like flicking through the boxes of old punk 7" singles, although I rarely buy anything cos my visits are always a little too close to Christmas to be able to treat myself. Well, not today. Today I'm going to buy those old punk singles I always drool over.

The Clash and Sex Pistols singles

Then it was on to some place in the market that I'm not sure even has a name. I also come here quite often, but I think this visit was a lucky one as I found me 'Come on Pilgrim' by The Pixies from '87, which was probably my favourite find of the whole trip. It's got some of my favourite Pixies songs on it, including 'Nimrod's Son'.

The sleeve's a little battered, but I kinda like them like that as it shows they've been loved and used.

The Pixies was probably my fave purchase

Somewhere in Camden market

Rough Trade West (Tube station: Ladbroke Grove)

Then it was off for my first ever visit to Rough Trade West. I visit Rough Trade East every time I'm in London, but I'm not sure what took me so long to make it West, since it's awesome. East is great cos it's massive, has loads of vinyl and new stuff, plus a great book section, but West is a bit of an Aladdin's cave thanks to the downstairs second-hand section, meaning you've no idea what you might find.

It's also got a lot of heart thanks to the sleeves and posters all over the walls and the fact that it's tiny. My only complaint is that the racks are quite high up, so if you're a short arse like me you can only look about half way through before you start struggling.

I loved routing through the second-hand section. I actually an original 'Motown Junk' by the Manic Street Preachers that had me weeing my pants for a few minutes, but I decided to put it back as it was a little out of my price range. Plus, this was only my fourth stop and I knew I still had a few stops left of my tour.

I decided to go for 'True North' by Bad Religion on record, which was released in January and also came with a free CD of the album too. The awesome thing about buying new vinyl now is that most come with a download code too, so you can still add it to your iPod or what-not, as well as drinking in its beauty and actually holding it in your hands. And you just can't go wrong with a bit of Bad Religion.

Rough Trade East (Tube station: Aldgate East)

Rough Trade East is by far my favourite record shop for the following reasons: cool punk n hardcore sections in CD and vinyl, great book section, has an old school photo booth, does nice coffee and the staff are friendly. I have never once visited this shop and left empty handed. It's impossible.

After a dangerous amount of time browsing - for every five minutes you look you find at least one thing you want - I narrowed it down to the latest Mariachi el Bronx record (even though I have the CD cos  I knew it would sound amazing on record), 'God Save the Queen' by the Sex Pistols (reissue), Eight Miles High by Husker Du (reissue), Vaya by At the Drive-In and 'Songs the Lord Taught Us' by The Cramps. Awesome stuff.

Showing off the Mariachi

Reckless Records and Sister Ray on Berwick Street
(Tube station: Tottenham Court Road)

Then it was off to Reckless Records, which is the kind of record shop I really love. Since all the stuff is second-hand you don't know what you might find, so putting aside at least an hour for trawling is recommended. I got my hands on a Pegboy 12" EP from '93 and a Volbeat CD for a tenner. Not bad, not bad.

Sadly, while I like Reckless, what letting it down are the incredibly rude staff. The guy that served me basically just grunted at me, looked at me like I'd taken a shit on the counter when I asked for a bag - surely not an unusual request - and then chucked it at me. So while it is a pretty awesome shop, I'm not keen on the idea of giving my hard earned cash to such a dickhead.

Me and my Pegboy

Ahh, Sister Ray. I'm including it on my list, because I went in, but I didn't actually get to buy anything from here as there was only one person serving and a fucking massive queue. Since I had to catch my train home I left empty handed, which was obviously disappointing. I have been here before though and bought stuff, and I'm sure I'll be visiting again at some point, so it's not the end of the world.

That's my I-wanna-buy-shit-but-the-
I'm-going-to-miss-my-fooking-train face.

And so that was it, homeward bound with my arms about dropping off thanks to the weight of all that awesome shit...

Interesting little fact for you... 

Sister Ray and Reckless Records, on Berwick Street, can be seen on the left-hand side of the cover of '(What's the Story) Morning Glory?' by Oasis.

Berwick Street 1995

Berwick Street 2013

Run down of my finds

Let's Get a Bit a Rockin' - 101ers (12")
Anarchy in the UK - Sex Pistols (7")
Know Your Rights - The Clash (7")
Come on Pilgrim - The Pixies (12")
True North - Bad Religion (12" plus free CD)
Mariachi el Bronx II - Mariachi el Bronx (12")
God Save the Queen - Sex Pistols (7")
Eight Mile High - Husker Du (7")
Vaya - At the Drive-In (CD)
Songs the Lord Taught Us - The Cramps (CD)
Fore - Pegboy (12")
Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood - Volbeat (CD)

Total spends

Errrm, it was something in the region of £100. Whoopsies.


The coolest and most fun way to lose a load of cash in two days. Also the perfect way to spend your 30th birthday if you love music. And I'm pretty sure I should take some of the credit for the rise in sales at independent record shops in the first half of the year - sales grew by 44% in the first six months of 2013. With this trip and then my Record Store Day splurge at Rough Trade East in April I think I've certainly done my bit.

Unfortunately, I didn't quite have enough time to visit all of the shops I had put on my list, but I did give it a good go and I'm sure I'll get to all the others at some point.

Plan your own record buying adventure 

If you fancy a little a record shop tour of London yourself then you might find the map below handy. Just remember to take plenty of cash!

View Sarah's Record Shop Pilgrimage in a larger map

Verdict: A most excellent win for my record collection! 
A massive fail for my bank balance.

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