This is a topic that I know has been discussed many times over the past few years but it’s one that I still think is both sad and important: the decline of the independent record shop. As I have already alluded to in previous blogs, many of my positive experiences with music have in some way involved an independent record store. As such, I want to address the topic by recounting some of my personal memories and, in so doing, thank those shops for the invaluable service that they provided.
At the time I started listening to music to any real serious degree, there was no Internet. Well, there was, but it was still in its very infancy. Do you remember TV programmes giving out a website address as if it was more complicated than nuclear physics? ‘That’s w…w…w…dot…etc, etc’. Anyhow, I digress.
So, in addition to recommendations from friends and magazine reviews, it was down to the local record shops that I would go, in search of the next discovery to enhance my precious CD collection. In Ipswich, there were the chains: Virgin, the newly-opened HMV and Andy’s Records. But in addition, there was also Rex Records and Out Of Time Records, a new and second-hand record exchange shop.
Rex Records was the only shop with any kind of metal section and, despite being small, had some quality stuff on offer – as I previously blogged, this shop was responsible for my embossed first-day cover of Machine Head’s ‘The More Things Change’ album. For that, I will always be grateful. Speaking of Machine Head, it was an independent store in Devon that was responsible for getting me into the band in the first place, by placing ‘Burn My Eyes’ in a prominent position so that it caught my eye and lured me into the purchase. Elsewhere, an independent store in Exeter offered me my first dalliance with W.A.S.P., principally because ‘Still Not Black Enough’ was adorned with a parental advisory sticker. Rebellious eh?!
Hopefully you can just make out the embossed cover!
Back closer to home, Out Of Time Records remains a great place to go for the odd gem here and there. Ramshackle CD racks, vinyl in boxes on the floor and CDs, records and posters all over the walls, all coupled with that unmistakable, slightly musty smell – a really great, magical place. The turn-over of stock is not the quickest, but a trip every couple of months to get your fingers mucky by flicking through the stock is an absolute must. Marillion and Carcass are notable discoveries that I attribute to this great little emporium!
Andy’s Records was the next to bite the dust, but not before helping me to discover the utterly awesome Iced Earth. They had ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ on the shelf and, employing my ‘front cover’ selection process, I bought it and have never stopped playing it. Andy’s Records was also the provider of my very first metal T-shirt, in the shape of Guns N’ Roses, which was worn until it died!
Virgin turned into Zavvi before falling foul of the Internet revolution, and I suspect that HMV is on its last legs as a high street retailer. Both of these chains have provided bitter-sweet moments but it is the independents that retain the most affection.
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