Sunday, December 17, 2017

Tesco in Tresco

I hate chain stores, supermarkets and the homogeneity of the UK high street as much as the next person; I love the beauty and untouched tranquillity of the Scilly Isles but come on, Tesco really need to plonk a huge superstore on the island of Tresco, just so they can say we got a Tesco on Tresco.

(The island of Tresco is occasionally misheard as Tesco. Which reminds me – sort of – of when I was in Iceland, the country. I got a call from an employment agency. I told them we shouldn't talk for long, I was in Iceland, this call will cost you a fortune. Oh, doing your shopping are you? The agent said. No, I said, Iceland the country, not the supermarket. Oh! she said, okay, let's make it brief.)

(Looking through old notebooks, this is what I wrote about the Isles of Scilly at the time:

The sweet smell of gorse as the sun sets.
Wild garlic growing in the hedgerows.
The giant ancient anchor in the field of bluebells.
Balmy, hazy islands in the distance
Like a giant's stepping stones.
Shipwrecks and seals.
Daffodils and dolphins.
White, deserted beaches.
"Don't come back here,
They'll be no more water!"*

*Personal joke, you had to be there.)

Friday, December 15, 2017

South London record shops

First things first: I pretty much love all record shops, and there’s little more I like in the world than flicking through racks of vinyl. Naturally, however, I rarely buy any – vinyl has got very expensive. Suddenly records which you'd only pay £1 for at a car boot sale or charity shop are being sold for £15 in record shops. And though it's becoming rarer to find good records in charity shops or boot sales, I still occasionally do (and today: Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, Awesome Mix Vol. 1, sealed LP, as new, £2, Richmond charity shop), though it takes a lot of looking.

Vinyl is everywhere again (though for many it never went away) – market stalls and hipster coffee shops and Tesco may have a rack of records (and even in the back of an organic food shop in Peckham). Vinyl sales are at their highest since the 1980s. Record Store Day has done a great job of the resurgence in vinyl... and pushing up prices.

Of course, it's all a con. Music companies must be laughing all the way to the bank. How many formats can they sell us the same album in? Well, first of all on vinyl, then 8-track, then cassette, then CD, then MiniDisc, then remastered CD, then box set CD with reissues, demos, out-takes and live discs, then (for audiophiles) Super Audio CD (SACD) and DVD Audio, then mp3, FLAC and dozens of other formats. And now vinyl again! In 180g, coloured, limited editions. Oh, there's a new process called half-speed mastered, where the record is recorded at half speed  – apparently true, though it sounds like a joke from The Onion.

Anyway, despite Berwick Street closing several of its record shops, many new ones have popped up in the last couple of years. In South London alone I've visited the following (in no particular order) in recent months: 

Dr Vinyl
Tooting Market, Tooting SW17
Apparently Dr Vinyl has some 20,000 records in his basement and he's been trading for 30 years.

Nighthawk Trading Post
Haynes Indoor Market, Crystal Palace SE19
The indoor market in Crystal Palace has been going for decades. Nighthawk has a good selection of rock records and some CDs. There's another record stall in the market too, selling heavy metal and rock.

Project Vinyl
Crystal Palace SE19
In the middle of the Crystal Palace triangle, a small record shop specialising in dance music.

Bambino
Crystal Palace SE19
Junk shop on Church Street which has a decent basement of vinyl. 

Rat Records
Camberwell SE5
Self-proclaimed best record shop in South London, Rat Records has an eclectic mix of blues, jazz, world, punk, electronic, punk etc. 

Turnstile Records
Streatham SW16
Lovely record shop in Streatham, specialising in jazz, with a mix of old and new records has recently unfortunately vanished! (It was open when I started compiling this list so I'm keeping it in. Does it signal the downturn in vinyl? It only opened two years ago.)

Record and book bar
West Norwood SE27
A converted pub is the location for this great shop which also sells books, coffee and has seating. 

Rollin Records
West Wickham BR4
Fine mix of records from 1950s-1970s; friendly, knowledgeable staff. You may even get chatting to a local legendary Melody Maker journalist from the 70s who frequents the shop.

Sugahill
Sydenham SE26
Nice cafe selling soul, jazz, hip-hop and rock records & some CDs.

Tome Records
Bermondsey SE15
Haven't actually been to this one, but online reviews suggest it's a hidden gem.

Casbah Records
Greenwich SE10
Great shop selling new and vintage vinyl (and CDs), books and T-shirts. Pricey.

Music and Video Exchange
Greenwich SE10
Not many of these left. Large selection of records and a bargain basement.

Rye Wax
Peckham SE15
Ah, Peckham, the new Dalston. Basement venue in the Bussey Building is also a cafe, bar and gallery. Of course.

Container records
Brixton SW9

Record shop based in a repurposed shipping container.

Pure Vinyl
Brixton SW9

Only open a couple of months, situated in the lovely converted building The Department Store on Ferndale Road; small selection of new and used vinyl; obvs reggae but also soul, jazz, etc. I must say, a bit poncy.

Wanted Records
Beckenham BR3
Huge collection of vinyl and some racks of CDs.

101 Records
Croydon CR0

Trading since 1986, has hundreds of secondhand LPs, 45s and CDs. In the owners own words the shop is ‘engaging and scruffy’.

Soul Brother
Putney SW15
Pricey but good selection of soul, funk and jazz LPs.

Banquet Records
Kingston KT1
Indy, punk and Emo records and CDs; a lot of new and reissues. They also put on bands and have club nights.

Collectors Record Centre
Kingston KT2
Old school record shop selling secondhand vinyl and CDs; trading since 1991. 

Elsewhere on the web:
VinylHub is attempting to catalogue every record shop and event in the world.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Recent barngains

 Joanna Newsom, Have one on me, 3 LP box set, £1, RSPCA
This was almost a missed barngain – a young hipster (beard, hat) had the record in his hands, wasn't sure about it, looked it up on his phone – I was watching him out of the corner of my eye whilst pretending to browse a book (Jay Z's Decoded), heart beating like crazy – then he put it back. What made him put him back (apart from my staring with daggers at him)? That it's a great album (9.2 on Pitchfork)? That it's worth over £30? I admit, Newsom isn't to everyone's taste – her combination of childlike, sometimes screechy vocals combined with difficult lyrics and accompanying harp grates for many, but I love her. One album over three LPs (clocking in at just over two hours) though, involves six switching over of record sides. Nevertheless, a beautiful box set, not complaining at all.

Grayson Perry, updated and expanded Thames and Hudson monograph, £4, Sue Ryder
Signed by Grayson Perry! Found on the floor, underneath a pile of other books, underneath the actual bookshelves.

Brutal London: Construct your own concrete capital, £4, British Heart Foundation
Lovely book focusing on nine buildings in the capital (including the Alton Estate); includes card cut-out models of each so you can construct your own mini brutalist city.

L'Amour, Lewis
Silent Passage, Bob Carpenter
Crossroads, Kenny Knight
All CDs, £1 each, MIND 
To sell anything nowadays, a good story is needed. Audio obsessives love a treasure hunt and mystery to be solved as much as anyone, and record labels such as Paradise of Bachelors and Light in the Attic specialise in re-issuing long-lost gems, along with alluring narratives to go along with them.

A 1980s Nick Drake, if you will, all hesitant and almost whispered vocals, synths and guitars, Lewis was the nom de plume of stockbroker Randall Wulff, who privately pressed a couple of LPs which vanished without trace. His first LP was eventually found in a flea market, and the rest is history. Sort of. Randall was eventually tracked down several years after the CD release, and showed no interest at all in it, or any of the royalties.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Barngains
London through its charity shops