London may have its downsides: traffic jams, crowds, the £10 gin and tonic, but it also has sixty-odd places to buy records. Sixty-odd reasons to put up with the stresses and strains of life in the capital.
Even with a backdrop of retail woes (British Retail Consortium figures show consumer spending fell more sharply last month than any time in the last 25 years) record shops have blossomed, and it is good to see something to help record buyers feed their vinyl addictions.
Graham Jones helped out buyers of new vinyl by releasing a book, “The Vinyl Revival & The Shops That Made It Happen” which gave a guide to the nation’s independent record stores still standing in 2018.
But what about those music fans who like to buy second hand vinyl?
In the same way that buying cars is expensive if you only ever buy shiny new ones, vinyl can also be an expensive habit if you limit yourself to new releases.
As has been documented previously on these pages, you could spend a fortune buying (for example) new Elton John albums when their used counterparts can be picked up for just a few pounds. Whether the Rocket Man is your cup of tea or otherwise, when done right, vinyl can be cheap, and we all like the rush of having nabbed a bargain.
But where to start?
Thankfully for those in the capital, there is a new book, beautifully put together and written by DJ, record collector and author Tom Greig.
“Vinyl London: A Guide To Independent Record Shops” documents in detail the many places vinyl enthusiasts can feed their habit across London.
Featuring sumptuous photography by Sam Mellish, Greig describes close to sixty shops in detail, highlighting what is special about each one, whether they focus on new or used vinyl, and what you might find.
This is tremendously useful. Schlepping fifty minutes through London, avoiding stressed, over-caffeinated commuters tutting and trampling over everyone in their way, or dawdling tourists standing inexplicably on the wrong side of the escalator and then navigating a packed central line hot enough to fry an egg on if you had enough elbow room, only to find the record shop you are visiting is overpriced and specialises in your least favourite music is something we can all do without.
This is where Vinyl London comes to the fore. Where else could you discover the shop that puts all its new records out on a Saturday morning, with a fresh line of those in the know queueing outside? There are shops with sidelines – a decent comic book selection, or audio equipment. There are those who never sell online. Those who do and are fairly priced, and one or two that are a little pricey, which is always good to know before you make a long trip. If you happen to be in the area of course, that’s another thing…there’s always something interesting in every shop.
There’s a punk specialist, those with strong reggae, dance, rock n roll or calypso sections. There are those in the suburbs, in the West End, those with alphabetised selections, and those with little or no order to the selection. There are vinyl cafes, and importantly the record fairs that spring up on a regular basis. There is also the whereabouts of London’s largest selection of singles outside of Tinder’s database.
The book is an indispensable, lovingly crafted, and worthy addition to any vinyl fan’s collection. It was published yesterday and is available from all good bookshops, record shops and online via this link…