Vinyl Revival Interview With Author Graham Jones

vinyl revivalTo start off my series of social media sites and blogs that I follow and highly recommend, I asked a few contacts on Twitter to tell me about their adventures in music and record store worship over the years. I felt that during this time of lockin music blaring and worship we could all use even more entertainment to help us get through. Please check out their films, blogs, and all other goodies listed.

My first kind victim is Graham Jones, author of The Vinyl Revival And The Shops That Made it Happen, a documentary based on the book The Vinyl Revival. He’s created two other fun books, The Last Shop Standing and Strange Requests and Comic Tales from Record Shops. He has a great presence on Twitter, where he shares some of his tales, and a podcast. Actually, he’s got a lot going on.

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So how did the “I gotta blog/write book about record shops!” come about? 

Back in 2009, I had been working as a record company sales rep for 25 years and so many of the shops I was visiting were closing. Not only were they losing their business but some of their homes. It was a very depressing time for record shops. In the UK 540 had closed in just 4 years. Nobody seemed to be noticing the record shops vanishing from our High Street, so I decided to do something about it and write a book. My Auntie who was in her 80’s told me when she was a child the High Street had coin shops, stamp shops, and candlestick makers yet nobody talks about them anymore. I wanted to document the stories of record shops before they all closed. I toured the UK and interviewed 50 record shops who I thought would be amongst the ‘Last Shops Standing’.

How did you first get the push that writing and blogging just weren’t enough, it had to be a documentary? 

Much to my surprise, the book did well, it seemed to strike a chord with music fans. It also brought an amazingly lot of publicity for record shops. Many had features in their local paper, many did radio and TV interviews thanks to the book. I was approached by a film company to turn the book in to a film which again I knew would bring lots of publicity for the shops. The film company struggled to get the film financed so we ended up going down the crowdfunding route. The money was raised by music fans. We were grateful to the artist Richard Hawley who organized a fundraising evening for the film. Along with a soundman, a cameraman, the producer Pip Piper and myself piled into a car and drove around the UK interviewing musicians in their favourite record shops. The film became the Official Film of Record Store Day 2012 and was screened in over 90 venues across the world on the day.Strange Requests and Comic Tales From Record Shops

What are some future projects you may be developing?

My third book ‘The Vinyl Revival and the Shops That Made it Happen’ was also turned in to a film. It features Nick Mason of Pink Floyd and Phil Selway of Radiohead and updates the situation. It had a cinema release at the end of 2019 and came out on DVD last month. Bad timing as all the shops were shut. It is also available on Vimeo.

I have just started a Podcast telling funny stories from the crazy world of record retailing. You can listen on Spotify https://open.spotify.com/show/5k0WMLkk9sjtxs5N8hR54l

What has been your greatest challenge in keeping your books/blog/FB/Zine/Twitter full of great content?

It is not difficult; the world of record shops is ever-changing. Being known as the man who has visited more record shops than any other human plus the three books and two films have made me a magnet for record shop tales. Most days I will get an email from a record shop somewhere on the globe with a funny tale of what has happened in their shop.

Along with meeting some great record shop owners and, have you met any of your music heroes as a result of your publishing? 

Interviewing Paul Weller, Norman Cook, Richard Hawley and most of all Johnnie Marr was a thrill. Johnnie Marr spent ages with us and was full of very funny anecdotes. It is always lovely when somebody you admired turns out to be even nicer than you could have hoped. I also spent an enjoyable weekend in the company of Andy McClusky of the band OMD in Oslo. We were both talking at a music festival and we were both from the same area of the UK. Andy was a big record shop fan, so we had a lot in common.

Any great followers you were astounded checked you out? Bought your Book? Wanted to be in your Doco? 

We were coming to the end of filming “Last Shop Standing” when we received a message that Paul Weller had asked if he could contribute. We were thrilled to have him. Record shops always tell me when a famous musician has bought the book and various people in the music industry mention it too. I have had messages that the likes of Elton John, Roger Taylor of Queen, Colin Blunstone of the Zombies had copies. Biggest thrill was meeting Johnnie Marr and his first words were ‘Loved the book’. I could have retired then.

Anything you can tell us about your daily routine to stay sane in our current global lockdown? How have your music habits been affected?

I am furloughed from my job as it involves traveling around the country selling to record shops. As they are all closed, I have no work. It had given me the chance to listen to lots of records I have not heard in ages. I also started the podcast and have been writing a few things on my record shop blog.

https://grahamjonesvinylrevival.blogspot.com/

What blogs/Zines/Books/Documentaries are you obsessed with right now?

I have been reading a lot of late. Just finished biographies of Robert Johnson, The Go – Between and my favourite was Viv Albertine of The Slits.

Where can people discover your media or publications?

I hate to say it but unless you are in the UK were my books and DVDs are available in record and book shops, Amazon is your best bet. All the books are available on Kindle.

 https://www.facebook.com/vinylrevival1

https://www.thevinylrevivalfilm.com/

Check out on Twitter @revival_vinyl

Message for the world at large right now?

Keep calm and carry on listening to records. Music is here to make the bad times better and the good times even better.

The Writer as a Consumer

The first record bought?

‘Ball Park Incident’, a single by the band Wizzard. First LP Sparks – Kymono  in my House

How did you listen to new music when you were young?

My early memories of my Dad who was a big Beatles fan and used to play them on his record player. Before I bought my own I utilised his. On the radio I listened to DJ’S John Peel and Johnnie Walker who introduced me to new bands. I still get excited today when I hear something new that is brilliant

First gig you went to. Who were you with and what did you wear?

I went with some schoolmates to see the now-disgraced Gary Glitter at Liverpool Empire. These were pre-punk days so I am sure I would have been wearing jeans

Favorite bands or artists in your youth?

Mott the Hoople – though I do remember going in to a record shop with my Mum and her saying ‘He wants a Dr Hoople poster”.

After that, Queen – first time I watched them it cost me 75p

The Beatles

David Bowie

Then punk came along

Buzzcocks

Joy Division – first watched them supporting The Buzzcocks. So many bands I enjoyed during then.

The Stranglers

The Clash

The Smiths

Julian Cope

The Waterboys

The Saw Doctors

Of Monsters and Men

First Aid Kit

What is your favorite new artist/s?

Jade Bird – Best female singer-songwriter I have ever seen. Dynamic live and superb lyrics. The first album came in the charts at number 10. I would expect her to make a big breakthrough with the next.

What Twitter or other social media accounts are you hooked on lately?

#loverecordshops – promoting record shops and helping organise 20 June as a day full of exclusive vinyl releases.

Favorite music venues?

Barrowlands Glasgow were I watched the Saw Doctors and Waterboys play together on New Year’s Eve. The last number featured a pipe band and as I left the venue fireworks lit up the sky – magical.

Eric’s in Liverpool where I watched so many punk bands.

The Vinyl Revival Film

The Vinyl Revival from Blue Hippo Media on Vimeo.

Watch on Vimeo

DVD Out of Print Documentary The Last Shop Standing

Books:The Vinyl Revival And The Shops That Made it Happen, The Last Shop Standing, Strange Requests and Comic Tales from Record Shops

Vinyl Revival Podcast on Soundcloud

Vinal Revival on Facebook

39 Years of Faith in The Cure and RSD2020

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I remember the first time I heard the music of the new Cure record, Faith, on the college radio station. It was another night of me staying up late to catch the beginning of a student-run set and getting new TDK 90 and longer cassette tapes ready. It was damned difficult for a 16-year-old to find the great imports coming out of the UK. And if you did, it wasn’t the one you had been looking for. Or because it was so costly, as, in a Japanese Kimono sleeve, you wanted to make damn sure you liked as much on the album as possible before you lay down that kind of cash. So most of my early favs were of course taken off the radio. Lucky for me, some of the kids spinning would play the whole record and tell you the tracks off each side so you could edit. It was a way to survive until you could get a clean factory copy. When I heard “Primary” for the first time, it was all I could do to not start dancing on the bed. Frowned upon at 1 am in the morning. Still, it would take a few years before I got a good copy of Faith on CD.

So it was when Faith was released by The Cure on 14 April 1981. Many of us “alternative” kids had another step into the new genre of Gothic music that was evolving out of Post-Punk.  It was a great follow up to their 1980 release 17 Seconds and tour. It was filled with more moody chords and lyrics in the same vein, but as discordant as the mood of the band. The recording took place at Morgan Studios in September of 1980, without Matthieu Hartley, who left under that creative differences mist.  The recording started at the studios, but the remaining members of The Cure, Smith, Gallup, and Tolhurst, with Former Member Porl Thompson back for cover design, would try several studios after not getting the sound right, including Abbey Road. It was a turbulent time of transition for the band. Did you know that there was a soundtrack to a short film involved? “Carnage Visors” only made it to an extended cassette version and would finally turn up on a 2005 reissue with the single only “Charlotte Sometimes”.

So this record in its 39th year this week will probably get a 40th-anniversary reboot. But I’m happy to have the original track lineup on 180 vinyl. If you’re feeling a little dystopic in these trying times try a little Faith for some classic The Cure dirge. It will make you melt and dance at the same time. Perfect for your home COVID dance club.

Will COVID-19 kill the Independent Record Shops?

Not if we can help it. Americans get their stimulus checks rolled out this week. We know it’s hard, as many are laughing at how little it will cover to pay rent and bills. But if you can spare a few dollars, try to find a local record shop that is doing curbside. Here in Portland, it’s Music Millenium and a few other smaller shops. Others have had to close up. Call up with your list of wants, help keep someone employed in this insanity.

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Record Store Day 2020 Update

You’ve probably heard by now that RSD has been moved to June 20, 2020, due to the COVID-19 shut-downs around the world. While it looks like this terrible virus and the country may be shut down through mid- June, keep an eye out on their website. Many artists have decided to go ahead and sell the RSD releases via their own sites. Here’s to a socially distanced line, that will go for blocks. As if anything else couldn’t get more muddled this year.

Record Store Day New Date

How Record Stores are Getting Vinyl To You During the Pandemic

‘A grinding halt’: Record stores struggle to stay afloat amid coronavirus crisis

Support your vinyl shops! Check and see if they are taking phone orders and either doing curbside or shipping. Keep small businesses alive!

It’s National Album Day, But Just Not Here

download-6Yup, the UK has one upped it on us in music again. It’s #NationalAlbumDay UK and I have been getting album favorites hitting my Twitter feed since 4pm yesterday. Apparently some enthusiasts who are night owls and insomniacs were blasting and promoting their favorite albums at 12:59 UK time. Not the 3:33pm GMT blast off time. Wait, is it called Greenwich Mean Time anymore?  It’s a way to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the album format being promoted by BBC Music channel and hopefully as many independent record shops as possible in the UK. Yeah, I know, really it’s about making money. But if it helps get the smaller shops some business, it’s more fun places for you to go and look for your albums.

I had known about this for a few months, looked to see if the US or Canada were doing something similar (please don’t let the Canadians beat us to this). I had not seen anything on the newswires for a US version. And why the heck aren’t the big record labels here in the US picking up on this and promoting it, even for their UK artists or trying to get the same thing here in the US? I just visited Warner Bros. Records US and UK sites. Not really seeing anything on it. But reading some of the US music websites rag on about it, it’s the UK beating the US to a great marketing campaign scheme. Gasp.

But the UK is mad for it as they say, and really it’s an indie thing, right? Go independent labels and record shops! If it helps keep people going into the small record shops and supporting the indie labels, I am all for it. And the record album is not dead, as recent charts show, vinyl is way back. And many musicians are happily rereleasing on vinyl that which they had to make on CD because of that format change years back. Come on, analog is cool.

What is National Album Day anyway? We already have the National Record Store Day which has made it across many continents. Works great for the bands and the record labels, so why not this one? Going to the main website for the National Album Day, the deal is this: At 3.33pm you play an all-time favorite album of choice. Even if you are and American or Canadian or anyone else in the world, if it’s 3:33pm in your time zone, go for it. The internet IP address thing where its says you can’t play this video or song in your country doesn’t work here. Go analog on this if you can! You can share with them at @AlbumDayUK or #NationalAlbumDay. Here I go, I’ll put one up that’s having a anniversary release this week. (More about that later)

Main Rules

At 3:33pm carefully place revered album on the turntable. Stuck out and away, on download.

Remember, you have to play the album from start to finish, no skipping about. If anyone complains, explain this.

Use the hashtag #NationalAlbumDay when sharing your joy.

Enjoy, meditate or dance freely.

Complain online about all the published best album of the day results. Optional, but we know you want to.

In reading some of the news articles in the UK about how the posting voting has gone, it seems there are some top favorites.

On OfficialCharts.com, claiming to be the official word on music, they will be posting how the voting is going. I have used this mega site before and it is a rather extensive online database site. They claim that The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has claimed the top spot. However they are basing a lot of facts on this on lifelong sales of the album.  Frankly, this is no surprise. I was listening to it yesterday while walking in the park. It was the second record I ever bought, and have listened to it ever since. Coldplay have 3 albums in the running (sigh). But reading further on the charts site, most of what they go on are statistics. How are votes really being cast?

The National Album Day site has suggestions on how to get involved. Many Physical retailers in the UK and indie record labels are really pushing the Twitter feeds and having in house promos. After reading an article at NME, in which 7 of their writers discuss their favorite album to be tortured in a dark room by for 24 hours on repeat by? Yeah, I didn’t see that in the rules, and I kinda get their humor. It’s another #hashtag day, right? Not if you are really a music lover. Real music lovers will hop around like maniacs and it does fall on a Saturday so that makes it a bit easier for some. What, you can pogo at work, right? Reading further on their collected selections, there are only two albums on the list provided that I can even agree with: Talking Heads:77 and The Beatles White Album/The Beatles. Yeah, oldies but classics you can put on the turntable and sing along with. They influenced a lot of other bands. The rest of the offerings, not really appealing to me. But you may like some of them.images-1

So, is this about pushing record sales, or celebrating the album? Iain McNay, chairman at the British independent label Cherry Red ( The Fall, Howard Jones, Alien Sex Fiend, 999) helped to create this national day of celebrating the record album. It’s about the album. His purpose was to celebrate the creation and thought processes that go into creating songs and creating an album.

Remember, in the the early years of records, it was about cramming a bunch of recordings from studio sessions and live performances on an single 45 rpm or EP 12 inch just to promote a band and get them known. Back in the 70s and 80s, new bands would get a few singles/cassettes together just to promote in shops, creating their own labels.  Albums are very expensive to produce in the classic studio sense, studio time is very costly. Over the years and as bands matured and got more power with their labels via fan base, concepts, thought and themes came about and albums are now not just a collection of songs unless they are greatest hits compilations. With digital and technology advancements, making any space where you could fit musicians, instruments, laptops, soundboards and sound proof a recording space, even more creativity with albums occurred. Don’t forget the revival of vinyl has many bands going back and rereleasing on vinyl the way they really wanted their album to be, and new bands releasing on all formats.

Not to be left behind, the team at National Record Store Day will be promoting other countries picking up on the new hashtag. It sounds like getting an album day started on a national level in other countries will happen. So why not hop on the wagon and just do it now? US East Coast, you got that album on the turntable?

National Album Day BBC

NME Article

US Take on Billboard

Complete Music Update

https://recordstoreday.com/

 

The Punk, Post-Punk, Gothy Girl is Resurrected.

Gaol Breaker

I’ve bunked off from the gaol. It’s been some 6 weeks or so since I have blogged. I have spent the last 5 weeks crawling out of a weird, wet, dank abyss called Recovery From Major Medical. I have survived a surgery that some don’t, I was lucky I was very fit going in. I am forced off work and we don’t have temp disability here. Why, I feel like I did back in the early 1980s, no hope, no future. I’m alive. Appropriately listening to The Specials ‘Ghost Town’, because the Tibetan Tube Throat singing with accordion/box music at the cafe was really grating on my nerves. Now we’re on to The Fall, ‘Totally Wired. I’m waking up. I pay my taxes, and no real help for me in medical. Oh, yeah, I live in America, the corporate health empire of the world. If you are lucky and live in Canada, UK, Ireland,or the continental EU and have social medicine. Fight to keep it. Here you spend your whole recovery period fending off calls from hospitals while the insurance companies duke it out. So now I am listening to Talking Heads ‘Once in A Lifetime’, wondering where this life is going. And now we segway into ‘Mirror In The Bathroom’ by The Beat. Yeah, girls, makeup after a medical just doesn’t want to work. Actually not wanting to work for a while now. Argh. So not going there with the Albatros Eyebrows so fashionable lately. Again, unless you can pull off a good Siouxsie brow, just keep it simple.

This was a life changing event for me, but I am trying to crawl out of it. Vaughn likened it to having a Scottish Basket Hilt or Japanese Katana Sword run through me and twisting the ribs apart. Now I have to heal from it. I managed to get my Sandman tee shirt on, black skirt, black jacket, boots and thigh high socks on. I look like a Gothic wreck. Good. My red curls got unfurled from the stupid braids of sickness.  I drove for the first time, really slow, no maniacal California driving. Was very good and did not play tunes in car, needed to focus. Speed limit, don’t attract trouble. Made it to the cafe.

Ah, ‘Fade to Grey’ by Visage. Ooo, baby I feel even better already. I have been listening to a mix of digital and records when I can get to the turntable. Unfortunately the non-working thing has curtailed any record buying. But I am selling things off on eBay hoping I can maybe afford the 40th Anniversary Reissues of the Bauhaus Catalog on colored vinyl starting next month, check out Peter Murphy’s site for details. I’m working on the second cup of decaf coffee. I made it to my cafe I usually write in. I really just wanted to feel somewhat myself.

Bauhaus to Reissue 6 Records on Colored Vinyl for 40th Anniversary 

Record Store Physio

One of the tests of where I am truly at with the body has been a visit to two local record shops, Music Millennium and Everyday Music. One I actually found a vinyl copy of The Waterboys ‘An Appointment with Mr. Yeats’, which unless you are on the East Coast or L.A. aren’t likely to find. It was nice to hear some Yeats set to music and try to get back to listening to records. At EDM, it was more of an exercise to see how long I could stand up, can I flip record bin dividers, and even better spell Siouxsie right so I could look for the 12 inch? I kid you not, the really bad side effect of being a Ginge and anesthesia, is it may take weeks to get most of your spelling back. It’s scientific. Yeah, so flipping the records in the bin is a great way to tell how you are doing when recovering.

I’m in the Hawthorne. There are two record shops, Exiled and Jackpot. Okay, no money, but the singles bin can be a great find for super cheap. Hmmm. Oooo, playing ‘Generals and Majors’ by XTC now, that’s the marching orders, right. Also, there is a convo going on in the cafe I have been trying to drown out, because I don’t want to know. Time for ‘Sorry for Laughing’ by Josef K right now, turn that volume up.

Alternative/Punk/Post-Punk/ Group 

I’m dying here in Portland. Great music when you get to it, if we can get them to come. Got tickets for PiL and Echo and the Bunnymen in the next months. But really dying for some Alternative Culture. Yeah, you can still be Alternative if you are over 30, get over it.

I lived in San Francisco too long. It’s hard meeting people when they know you’re from another state. Portland may be the Weird Capital, but they can take a while to warm up to you. And finding anyone into my musical tastes near mine has been impossible. I was so desperate I looked on social networking sites. Nada. So, in my insane creativity and having to think about it, I decided I would try an experiment and create a group and see if anyone shows up. Insane, I know. Probably no one will come or be interested, but I have to get into the Phoenix frame of mind, that bird with singed wings is gonna fly. So, I have to craftily word an invitation. What insanity can I brew from this crazy idea, or will it be typical and no one will show?

Sad about this world that we have gotten so distracted we have to meet in pre-fabricated ways like this. It used to be that you met like minds at the record shop. Here if you try to talk to someone about an exciting find they think you should be sent to the looney. Funny thing, you are already there. Isn’t that what it’s about?

The Real McKenzies

If I make it through this week of killer Phisio (yeah actually they have me going to medical Physio), Vaughn has said we will attempt to see a great Canadian/Scots Punk band called The Real McKenzies I have been listening to for the past few years. If I can show that I am doing better. I need to see if I can manage to get through a show, even if it means being taped to the pillar and doing Pathetic Pogo. I may do a chair Skank if I can find one. But my minder is telling me it depends on how I do this week. So bunking off and driving and making it back in one piece will count I hope.

Oh, and for those of you in the US (West Coast), and don’t know yer ancient history, Gaol here refers to jail. It’s how it was spelt in dem olden days.

We’ll leave this on Elvis Costello’s, ‘I Can’t Stand up For Falling Down’. But really, ending on XTC’s ‘Dear God’, because our world is just as bad as it was 40 years back and what have we learned in this time? Share the music, share the lyrics, wether it’s old school or new groups, get the music out there. It’s the only way to save this race. Hope you enjoyed the convoluted playlist.

Crossroads Records, Portland

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Some CD and cassette action for fans

Crossroads Records 8112 SE Foster Rd, Portland, OR 97206 (503) 232-1767

Ratings:  Very Good All Genres, Jazz, Alternative, Folk, heavy on Rock. WARNING: There are 50 vendors selling out of this store. Good choices, but a lot of them.

Crossroads Records is one of the better vinyl shops in Portland. When other stores send you there to look, it means that’s where some of the employees may go to shop. Mainly a lot of used selections and some good rare finds. I say rare as in 1960s to present. Many music dealers sell out of this shop,(50 +), so they are always combing the highways and byways looking for great music deals. Check often. Here’s the rub: There are 50 different vendors, and 50 different styles of selling.

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Rock heavy store, also check the uppers for collectables.

Pros

Singles are fairly organized, but as you walk in you will notice the 45 heap as well. This means another mans trash is your treasure. The other 45s are by genre, but not always listed by bands. You will need to dig through quite a few crates and boxes. 12 inch singles and EPs are with the LPs, or for some vendors in their own bin. There are a lot of Indie label singles available, some new. However, that is just one vendor’s 45s. Check all sections and look below. Below can be very disorganized. But if you love a dig, you can for hours and may find some gems that are often overlooked.

CDs and Cassettes: Yes, are plentiful and fairly well organized.

Hit up the JUST IN bins first of course, by vendor. Then check the genre for your band in the main isles. You may want to check on Discogs while you shop, the band you like may have been in several genres (rock/folk) over it’s lifespan and if you don’t find it in one area, it may actually be in another.

>>>>>How To Survive Crossroads Records

Since you have a massive selection, you need to think on the level that yes, it’s a collaborative. It’s a bit more organized than the huge swap meets, or 50 small record shops under one roof. That said, here’s the store’s break down and how you can plan to work that to your advantage:

  1. There are many rows and a vendor can be one whole row or more. So that means each vendor has their selection organized the way they want it. This means you must adapt per vendor. Each vendor has their box style, for example row of bins the same, same labeling, one vendor. Some are good about putting a name at the front, some it’s by box and color. Some are very good at labeling for alpha or band names, some label sparsely. And some have their idea of where a artist may need to be, that isn’t what you think should classify that artist or band. Once you like a vendor or the way they do their small store within a store, you know where to go for future visits.
  2. Start from the front of the store or the back and work it, row by row. Plan your first visit to be mostly figuring the bins out by vendor. Also, if you know you are mostly a Jazz fan, you can comb all rows and boxes underneath labeled Jazz. You obviously know what you want. The same for Alternative/Indie. Pretty much all vendors have Rock.
  3. Strongly advise you look for the same artist/band in all vendors. Example: I found 3 different copies of U2’s October in various states. The best copy or collector’s copy really worth having will be behind the counter, so if you are really that into the best, ask. But if you want playable but with best no-scratch surface, you will need to go through all copies and go from there. Also, look above as best copies for each vendor are sometimes there (cover).
  4. Bring a microfibre cloth and solution. They don’t supply you with cleaner to try the records out.
  5. Keep in mind you may pay more than a brand new 180 vinyl if the copy in hand is first release, as you would expect. But if you are on a budget and patient, you can find a copy that has been well kept, or even one that was a recent rerelease and someone has sold back.
  6. Ask. If you know you have certain recordings you must have, or prefer to just be really focused, ask the counter people which vendors tend to have X. If they don’t have you specifics, they can tell you who may carry it at another shop.
  7. If you are into really old collectors records, 1920-1950 vintage, there are a few vendors that have some, but the stock may not be out. They may have their better collections as an appointment only situation, or know someone else that collects like they do. Hopefully this is a good networking connection for you.
  8. Take a friend with you. You like to geek on the records anyway, so have a friend come along. They know you and if they bump into something you may like, they will let you know. Or you find records they like. It’s a classic record geek time well spent with a friend.

Cons

Fairly decent listening table, but it’s a one table store and no place to sit. You will have to wait your turn. However, the equipment is in better shape than in some record shops, at least there isn’t packing tape all over the tone arm head holding it on (as of this review).

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Many different vendors, so check all the genre sections.

2nd Avenue Records PDX

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2nd Avenue Records 400SW 2nd Ave, Portland OR 97204 503-222-3783 11-8 pm

Ratings: Good, mostly new vinyl

This grand dame of record stores is starting to show it’s age, but still has great things to offer to Portlands vinyl crowd. Heavy on the rerelease vinyl, you will not find a lot of retro or used records here, unless you are looking in the 45s. The store carries rock, Reggae, the Country and International sections do have some used to choose from, especially the country.

What this shop is known for, memorabilia and tee shirts, lots of band shirts and boxes of badges from bands. These are all reproduction. Ask for anything rare or collectable. Very heavy on the new vinyl, multiples.

Cassette fiends, you will have to dig a bit. They have boxes of them.

What’s nice is they actually have taken the time to sort out and have band labels and dividers for singles. Much of the singles are reissues, but there are a few used and some rare. However, if you are looking for that fun find in used, you had better try one of the other shops in town.

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Listening Booths, That Snug Beauty of the Past

download.jpgYou never know what you will take for granted. I have a terrible pet peeve about record shops. You have to have a playing table and headset that is not trashed available if you sell used vinyl. Why can’t people respect equipment? Bring back the days of a listening booth or serious listening tables. So much disappeared in the late 1980s when CDs became the preferred mode of recorded transport for your tunes, prior to iPods, and ancient ritual of the record store was phased out, the Listening Booth.  I say bring it back. People will flock you your store if they see you are serious about providing the space, even if it’s stuffed in the corner. Make it appealing. Make no mistake, people are going back to vinyl and music store experiences, downloading is convenient, but shops are tactile and Nana is taking the kids to the record shop.

This magical listening place was where you could take the records you wanted to purchase and listen to them before buying. Some stores had the playing version, and gave you the sealed version. Others let you listen to the one you were buying to make sure it was pressed correctly before you left the shop. It was a ritual, a small cell like in a confessional box and you could listen to them. But with the CD explosion at the end of the 1980s, and the medium being near perfect out of the case, and many people with portable players, less people were buying vinyl, and many of these banks of booths disappeared.

I have been lamenting the loss in these last few years of such a beautiful, claustrophobic cubicle, of sound. A place to set out all the records you want to buy. Since we have gone from just buying new vinyl to buying old and rare editions, it is essential to have a good place to listen for any damage, because you can’t bring it back.

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Most large record shops had at lease one or two rows of these booths at the back of the shop. They were very common in larger cities like New York, Los Angeles, London, and Paris. Nowadays, you have a small setup near the record counter with a player that is usually falling apart and filthy records and no cleaning  supplies. I recommend brining your own record cleaning tools when you go shopping. I find it very sad that most of the record shops have very poor equipment for you to listen with, but I supposed you can’t blame them. Back in the day, people knew how to respect vinyl and treat it well. These days people do not seem to respect equipment. They treat it like a toy.

What’s the answer? Set up your record shop with at the very least two working turntables, if not four. People will not want to wait in queue to check their records and may leave some records behind. I have seen this happen. If one breaks down, you have the others. Even a wee stool would make people happy. Bring back the listening experience in the store, you will get repeat customers if you do.

Now and places with good listening booths or tables to try before buy? There are a few around. Do you have one in your town? Let us know and we’ll add it to the list.

Phonic Records in London, England has a row of good turntables and headsets.

Public Possession, Munich Germany has rows of turntables to listen on

Rush Hour Amsterdam Clean well lit place for vinyl and CDs, quality listening turntables and headsets

Creekside Vinyl in Creekside Vinyl 1a Monks Granary Standard Quay FavershamKent ME13 7BS Record cleaning services, listening area with good tables and headphones. New and used, all records graded.

Rough Trade New York New store with booths. Newer vinyl and CDs, won’t find used here. But great space.

Rough Trade London East London location, good selection new, used, listening space.

Love Music, Glasgow 34 Dundas Street, Glasgow, United Kingdom G1 2AQ 

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