Cast your mind back through the mists of time if you will to the mid-90’s. Back then any self-respecting music fan would have the greatest love and pride for his/her collection of CDs, tapes or even minidiscs (remember them?). What Records/vinyl they had would mostly be seen as ‘old-hat,’ gathering dust in a charity shop or being put to the back of the collection for a rare moment of nostalgia and retrospection of the ‘good old days’ when the 33 1/3 was king, and albums by 60’s and 70’s groups were cherished and loved.
Fast forward nearly 30 years; and after the poor old music biz had nearly lost its soul through the ‘disposable’/’intangible’ digital age of MP3 downloads, iPod shuffles and internet streaming, a fondness for the oldest and heftiest of musical format returns. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere ‘vinyl’ becomes cool again.
My own love of records began in childhood with my parent’s music. As I got into my teens, this love became more out of necessity – believe it or not, this was the time when vinyl was the cheapest format of them all; a poor cousin to the cd yet easily found in the nearest charity shop. With the right amount of searching (which was half the fun), you could come away with a new favourite album for the price of a bottle of pop. This would even encourage the thrifty music fan to take a chance on an album they weren’t sure they would like. It was a couple of quid, so it wouldn’t even matter if you sometimes got it wrong!
Now, well into my 30’s, my love of record searching has returned with gusto; thanks to the resurgence in accessibility to the format (you can even find a classic record in a supermarket nowadays, such is the demand!).
What I really love about this new found love of the 12 inch is the support it has given independent record shops again. Far too many of these shops closed down as interest dwindled and the market crashed in the ’90’s and 00’s. The lucky ones remain, along with a few new ones, and they are once again celebrated as the special places that they are; full of intrepid independent music retailers who are as passionate about what they sell as the people who come in to browse their collection.
Which all brings me (rather longwindedly) to the subject of this post – the 10th annual ‘World Record Store Day.’ Originally set up to bolster the reputation of and support for independent record shops, the yearly occasion has grown from strength to strength; with eager audiophiles often queuing down the street to lay their hands on special edition records that are brought out to commemorate the day, or just to show some love for their favourite local independent music shops.
It’s an occasion I’ve heard about over the last few years and I’ve always fancied going along to check it out. Sure, I’d never be one of those fanatics that camp out over night to pay ridiculous prices for super-rare editions of records. To me, the experience of listening to records is more about the musical content and the artwork than having the best, rarest edition copy or the most sort after collectible. I can appreciate such things and can admire the passion of those who covert them, but with my budget and my ignorance, to have the albums I love, in whatever state I find them is more than enough.
With this in mind, and with lack of time and money, but a desire to finally take part and show my support for the ‘Vinyl community,’ I found out the closest record shop to me (Rubber Soul Records in Stoke-on-Trent) and trekked off for a whistle-stop visit.
As I walked in, it was good to see the store full of a wide range of music fans; from the typical type 30’s-50somethings like me, looking for the latest acquisition to their collection, to the young men and women who were just starting on their vinyl journey.
I had about 20 minutes to look around, so I had to be ruthless and quick in scouring through hundreds of great albums to try and find something that I loved but could also reasonably afford.
I skimmed past amazing albums that were too expensive and other albums that I thought I might find another day. I was like a kid in a sweet shop; wanting everything but having to think shrewdly with my pocket-money. The whole thing was over too soon, and as I came out of the shop I was so dizzy by the experience that I had completely forgot what albums I’d gone for!
But I have to say I loved the experience. It gave me hope to see the next generation finding its love of this old, cherished format again. It was nice to feel a small part of this special new resurrection of the physical music format, and to support a local independent music shop.
I hope I can do it again next year, and I hope the worldwide celebration continues to grow and grow.
Let me know your Record Store Day stories below, and thanks for reading!