Record Store Day 2012 Feature – A Note From The Editor
After reading the quality of the Record Store Day posts we’ve had so far it was a bit daunting putting pen to paper on my own piece, they have all been brilliant and I’d like to thank everyone who contributed, but I wanted to say something that about why we feel Record Store Day is so important.
When I first started to gather my thoughts for this article I originally intended to just write about one record shop that meant a particular amount to me, but the more I reflected on it a realised that there’s really been three store that I want to tell you about.
The first has to be the shop I bought my first record in (if you must know it was Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms. Don’t judge me, it was 1985 & I didn’t know any better). I know the spirit of Record Store Day is really about the independents but in many towns around the country there is no independent and in Milton Keynes in the mid 1980s all we had was an Our Price. To my 14 year old self, this shop was simultaneously a place of wonder and fear. On the one hand, it contained an Aladdin’s cave like plethora of musical delights that I was desperate to experience but on the other it was peopled by that scary species, the record store worker; in their late teens to mid twenties, unimaginably cool to my young self, and who would delight in peering down from their position behind the lofty counter with the express purpose of scaring off any that were not truly committed to the musical cause.
Of course, that feeling passed and as I got older friends of mine got jobs there and it became a very different place; a place to hang out, a place to discover some of the music that has stayed with me for all my life and of course a place for us in our turn to look down on the younger kids coming in and judge whether they were worthy to breathe the same musical atmosphere to us.
So the seasons passed, my tastes moved on and so did I. In the mid 1990s I found myself at university in Manchester and a whole wide world of record store offerings had opened up before me. As well as the usual HMV & Virgin Megastore we had access to Vinyl Exchange, Eastern Bloc, King Bee Records and Fat City to name but a few. However, there are two in particular that contributed to creating the musical enthusiast you see before you today.
The first of these is Piccadilly Records on Oldham Street. Piccadilly Records is exactly what I imagine when I think of independent record shops; racks of vinyl as far as the eye can see, posters for local gigs covering every inch of wall space and queues of young, mostly bearded, people by the listening decks. On the very decks I first heard Massive Attack’s ‘Mezzanine’, CJ Bolland’s ‘The Prophet’ and that perfect moment of stillness before the drums drop on Lamb’s ‘Gorecki’.
I spent so many happy hours hunched over the listening post with a stack of fresh vinyl, trying to imagine if tune x would fit with song y in my DJ set the next night. It was an oasis of calm in what became Manchester’s Northern Quarter, a haven for nerds like me to go and discover their next new favourite band.
The other store that continually left me struck with wonder was Sifters in Burnage. It has entered in to modern folklore that this is the shop where Noel Gallagher bought the Beatles records that eventually lead him to form Oasis (“Mister Sifter sold me songs, when I was just sixteen, Now he stops at traffic lights, but only when they’re green” – ‘Shakermaker’) but we don’t hold that against it.
Unlike Piccadilly Records, Sifters is not about the new, it’s about the old, the second hand, the lost classic. My friends and I eventually came to the conclusion that they must have a time machine in order to get their stock such was the constant quality of condition of their wares. Mint condition Led Zepplin ‘II’ for £4? Yes, thank you very much. A first pressing of ‘Darkside Of The Moon’ for a fiver you say? Load me up. Much of the ‘classic’ side of my record collection, what I didn’t steal from my parents anyway, came from Mr Sifter and I will be eternally grateful.
So, this is why records were a vital part of my formative years. They continue to be today. I find it hard to resist a nicely packaged piece of vinyl and will always buy them, Record Store Day or not; I’m of that generation.
The reason Record Store Day is important though is to bring the message that music is worth something to the generations coming up behind mine. We live in simultaneously exciting and scary times in the music industry. The advent of the internet has broken the old model of music retail, has cut out the need for labels and shops as the only way for bands to get their music out there. Direct to fan selling is without doubt the future but at the same time the internet has introduced the concept that music can be consumed for free, that it has no intrinsic worth. To an extent bands are being complicit in this. So many of the bands we work with feel the need to let their fans have their music for free, in digital form at least. Convincing them and indeed fans that there is a value in the time, the talent, the effort required to make music is hard, and I understand why, but I also fear that they are selling themselves short.
There is already a generation out there that doesn’t understand the intimate relationship between a pencil and a cassette tape; in the not too distant future there may well be a generation that looks at us with incredulity when we tell them that we used to walk down the High Street and go to a shop and part with our hard earned cash to emerge with carrier bags full of silver coated plastic and bits of vinyl with grooves cut in to them.
THIS is why Record Store Day is important. We implore you to get out there and support your local store, not just today but all year. When you hear that special piece of music, that lightning strike moment that touches you in a way no other art can, reward the artist whose talent and effort has made it possible.
Tags: Dan Salter, Editor, Record Store Day