Cassettes, CDs, mini-discs , MP3s, online streaming services…it’s fair to say the poor old LP has been given a bit of a kicking in the last few decades. Record shops that were once social hubs for society’s music lovers have all but been swept away and you’d be hard-pressed to find a factory that hasn’t branched out into more modern pursuits. But thanks to a mix of eclectic collectors, DJs and die-hard nostalgics – as well as a new generation of hip, young things who can’t get enough of a rare 12″ or two – records are finally ready to do the rounds again. Here, Bob Stanley (Saint Etienne) highlights some of the most significant old school and up and coming vinyl related locations around the UK.
Extended-play time is not over yet.
130 Talbot Road, London, W11 1JA
For almost forty years, this independent store has been the heart of underground music in Britain. In the late seventies and well into the eighties (when they looked more like tourist attractions than harbingers of revolution), punks would hang around on the pavement aside. These days, you’re more likely to find electronica geeks pawing rabidly through limited edition, exotic German 12″s. Fortunately, operations have also expanded to include two other shops in London (East and West), meaning you have absolutely no excuse to not visit wherever you are in the capital.
45-47 North Parade, Bradford, BD1 3JH
Pubs and record shops have been disappearing fast in the last decade, so new places that combine the ambience of both are to be welcomed. Bradford’s Record Cafe opened just before Christmas 2014 in what had been an old bookies, selling craft beers and new vinyl. For a city whose musical heritage (Smokie, Kiki Dee, New Model Army) is slender, this is the best thing that’s happened in years.
Joe Meek’s Studio
304 Holloway Road, Islington, London, N7
In the early sixties, independent recording studios were almost unheard of in Britain. Joe Meek was the first producer to create pop records with an instantly identifiable, distinctive sound – you can hear it on the space-age Telstar by The Tornados and John Leyton’s ghost story-cum-love song Johnny Remember Me – and he did it all with a Heath Robinson set-up in his flat in Holloway Road. Every producer, from George Martin to Pharrell Williams, owes something to this man.
Salford Lads Club
St Ignatius Walk, Salford, M5 3RX
Manchester’s redevelopment has a lot to answer for. If you want to seek out iconic venues like The Haçienda, The Boardwalk or the Factory Records HQ, you’ll only find new-build flats and offices. The road junction on the sleeve of the Smiths’ Strangeways, Here We Come has also been swept away, but thankfully, the Victorian Salford Boys Club which appears behind the band on The Queen Is Dead is still there and still thriving. And don’t worry if you’re a fan of the female persuasion; these days it’s open to both boys and girls.
The Ziggy Stardust Cover
23 Heddon Street, London W1
For many years, the ‘K West’ sign on the cover of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust was still in-situ on Heddon Street; a nondescript back alley just off Regent Street. It was pinched on a dark night in the nineties by a major league fan of the Star Man, but the telephone box in which the singer posed is still there, waiting for Bowiephiles to take a souvenir picture or two.
108 Tib Street, Manchester M4 1LR
Some enterprising character should open a Northern Soul collectors shop in Wigan, preferably on or near the site of the town’s legendary Casino club. Until they do, the best shop – by a great distance – for vintage sixties soul 45s is this longstanding institution in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. There’s no soul snobbery here either – the staff are the friendliest you’ll find in any record shop in the country. Beat that.
Olympia Record Fair
Hammersmith Road, Kensington, London W14 8UX
While record fairs still thrive in venues as bijoux as Saltaire’s Caroline Social Club and as hip as Birmingham’s Custard Factory, the biggest of the lot – and therefore the one with the most second-hand records – is at Kensington’s humongous exhibition space, Olympia. The one-time National Agricultural Hall covers 16,000 square metres and room for up to 400 stalls. If you’re looking for rare Swedish Beatles pressings, or a stall dedicated entirely to Metallica, then this is the place for you.
The Gramophone Company
Hayes, Middlesex, UB3
Check the small print on any Beatles sleeve and you’ll find it was printed by Garrod & Lofthouse (at factories in the small Surrey towns of Redhill, Caterham and Merstham), while the record itself was pressed by The Gramophone Company – the original name for EMI (Electric and Musical Industries, if you were wondering). The art deco Hayes factory closed down just before the big vinyl revival, but the site is currently being regenerated under the telling name ‘The Old Vinyl Factory’. Happily, in among the flats and offices, there is also a brand new record pressing plant, so you could say it has come full circle.
FEATURE IMAGE C/O OLYMPIA RECORD FAIR
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bob Stanley is a writer, film producer and member of the pop group Saint Etienne. His book, Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop charting the history of popular music from the 1950s to the present day is available now. He is also a renowned record collector, and DJs regularly around the world playing eclectic sets ranging from film soundtracks to soul and psychedelia.