Friday, 7 April 2017

Column: Record Hunting

I, like many other people, am a collector of records. Otherwise known as a record collector. I am quite new to the game of record collecting having only started just over a year ago. However I have already collected over 100 records - mostly 12" rather than 7". A lot of people I know who don't collect records always question why I buy them and not just get the digital versions of the songs. Digital music is fantastic, I love being able to listen to a song and then own it within seconds. The rise of digital music has been so beneficial to so many small bands to get their music out to the world, in a way that they wouldn't have been able to in the past. But owning a record makes the music feel so much more special. Digital music can be a bit throwaway whereas having a physical copy of your favourite albums makes it feel more special.

Normally I buy records online from one of the many brilliant independent distros. I do this because the selection is usually better and you can often get a great deal. That said, nothing beats going into a record shop, digging through all of the records and finding exactly what you didn't know you were looking for. I could spend many hours and probably many more pounds when I go on a record hunt.

A couple of weeks ago I organised a Sunday in London with my good pals Jordan and Dan with the intention of hitting every record shop we could find and hunting out some gems. I obviously was on the hunt for punk rock albums whilst Jordan is a massive fan of electronic music, particularly the Anjuna Beats label. Dan was just there to hang out and catch Pokémon.

With me heading towards London from Bedford and Dan and Jordan heading from the Colchester/Ipswich area we deciding to meet up at Liverpool Street station and make our first stop Spitalfields Market. Last year Emma and I visited Spitalfields Market and discovered stall after stall of record sellers and went crate digging on every single one of them. I managed to come away with an original copy of End Of The Century by The Ramones. That made me one happy man. This made me think that Spitalfields Market would be the perfect place to begin our record search. After we met up at Liverpool Street we made our way to the market. It was jam packed full of people which made it quite tricky to move around but I made a bee-line towards where the records were last time we came. They weren't there. I guess it's only on a Saturday that the records stalls are there. Not a Sunday. The day started with a little bit of a fail but not too worry as Rough Trade East was just around the corner. Rough Trade is probably one the best known record shops not only in London but in the entire UK. They sell records from every possible era and genre you can think off. I, of course, went like a bullet to the punk section where Jordan, who was actually visiting his first proper record shop, immediately found the electronic section. Sadly there wasn't much in the punk section that cola-ed my coke and Jordan was unable to find anything for himself, so we decided to head to Soho for some lunch at Chipotle and continue our search around that area.

Whilst enjoying some absolutely delicious burritos we decided on where to head next. The Soho area of London has a few record shops so we decided to visit Sister Ray, Reckless Records and Phonica Records. I've been in Sister Ray and Reckless a number of times and always found them to have a great selection of old punk records. There were a number of Ramones records in both shops but sadly they were all the recent Rhino represses rather than the originals that I was hunting for. Sister Ray in particular is a great store with a massive selection of different genres. I did notice they had a great selection of records from The Clash, another band that Emma and I are collecting original records from. Unfortunately we have all of the ones they had for sale! Next we headed to Phonica Records. This was my first time in Phonica and I instantly felt welcomed as we entered the shop. The first thing I noticed was the massive sofa you see upon walking through the front door. There were also five or six record players set up where you could test out records before you buy them. This felt like a pretty cool shop. However the shop focussed more heavily on the electronic music which meant there was nothing for me. Jordan, being the electronic fan amongst our trio, had a good hunt round but unfortunately couldn't find anything that juiced his orange. That was Soho finished so after a quick trip to the Japan Centre and a failed trip to get in the Lego shop (the queue as always was huge!) it was time to go to Camden.

Camden is the home of alternative music in London so I was guaranteed to find something here. I knew of three shops we could hit as well as a small market stall. We started with Out On The Floor Records which has a good selection of old punk as well as a variety of other stuff. Despite these constant failings to find anything that I wanted I was still having a lovely day. There's something quite therapeutic about searching through endless records despite not finding anything you want. After our visits to the Camden Market record stall and Sounds That Swing (which is next to The Dublin Castle) I knew we had one stop left. My favourite shop in London - the wonderful All Ages Records.

All Ages Records is a small shop in the back streets of London that specialises in punk and hardcore releases, old and new. I can spend hours in this shop working my way through the records, starting with the new stock before working my way through the rest of the records in the shop. Any type of punk you can think of seems to be represented. It's a brilliantly welcoming place with the staff always willing to chat and help you out. I've had a few lovely chats with the owner about the Descendents. I remember once I was searching through the records and I was looking through the D section and stumbled across the Descendents album Everything Sucks, got a little excited and decided that this would be my purchase for the day. On this day I found three great records from Rancid, Hot Water Music and The Priceduifkes - I finished the day a very pleased man.

Despite hunting round London for the best part of a day, I only managed to find three records for me that day… and Jordan found none. We had a great day regardless of the lack of results - record hunting is a very fun activity. As useful as the Internet is for buying records nothing beats going into a shop and buying your favourite album on vinyl.

This review was written by Colin Clark.