Record Store Day, the celebration of music imprinted on vinyl in shops staffed by people who still make mix-tapes, heaven in another word, goes from strength to strength. The high street music retailers may have gone, but a hardy nucleus of independent traders continue to survive and, on at least one day a year, to thrive.
This year I enjoyed Record Store Day in Berwick Street, London. When I first arrived in the capital every other shop on this stringy Soho thoroughfare seemed to sell records, as is chronicled in a lovely little pop-up exhibition at Number 2 Berwick Street, by the British Record Shop Archive and the Museum of Soho. Only five survive today to my knowledge, but it’s enough of a critical mass to still make it a hub for vinyl-lovers.
These days, while buying recorded music is in decline, the live music scene is enjoying a golden age. Part of Record Store Day’s success is down to its attempt to stimulate the former by enticing customers to record shops with a free dose of the latter. As a result this weekend I enjoyed an intriguing performance by the Young Knives, and an introduction to the finger-picking sound of Ryley Walker, which indeed encouraged me to immediately go off and buy his LP.
Thanks to my friend Syed and his advice to avoid the hour-long queue at Sister Ray in favour of walking into Phonica, which was selling an almost identical list of Record Store Day special releases, I also picked up a satisfyingly weighty bag of fantastic new records. Included in the haul was Bert Jansch’s seminal debut album with cracking original sleevenotes (“A lot of people play the blues, but nobody really lives them. Bert Jansch lives them..A lot of his friends keep guitars, just for him, should he drop in”), a Robert Plant live-recording with the Sensational Space Shifters, and a Ramones single that some bloke handed me for free as a way of advertising his cafe. Now I’ve got to get to a turntable to have a listen..