And that’s why this year’s seventh Record Store Day, on April 20, is so important. RSD is an annual global event in which independent record stores come together to champion music with a shedload of exclusive releases and gigs.
Berwick Street in Soho, home to the capital’s densest concentration of indie record stores, is the centre of the capital’s RSD events with stores Sister Ray, The Music and Video Exchange and Reckless Records leading the party.
“The street will be closed off for the day and a stage built,” Charles Taylor, Reckless Records owner, tell us of the special event taking place on the famous street. “It’s the first ever festival to take place in Berwick Street!”
Cult rock band Wire will be playing at the event, as will folk-rock troubadour Frank Turner and rising star singer-songwriter Gabrielle Alpin, in what is one of many gigs taking place across the city.
As much a part of RSD though are exclusive, one-day-only releases, and this year has no fewer than 500 special records, DVDs and books from the likes of David Bowie, Paul Weller and Nick Cave set to hit.
“I’m looking forward to hearing Frank Freeman’s Dance Club by Captain Beefheart and Change Becomes Us by Wire,” Taylor says of the records he’s most anticipating.
Record Store Day’s official film, Last Shop Standing: The Rise, Fall And Rebirth Of The Independent Record Shop, based on Graham Jones’ book, will screen on a loop on the street between 12pm and 7pm. Brit Jones will also be on hand for a Q&A at 5pm.
“[Record Stores] have had to diversify and make themselves a meeting place again,” Jones tells us, explaining how London’s indies have had to adapt and what is key to their future prosperity.
“Many now put on events every week, normally a new or local band, and they support the local music scene and local non-music community, too. They also stock more vinyl and stick to products you’re not going to get in the supermarket.”
Today, with multinationals and chains claiming so much of our high streets, independent record stores, and their knowledgeable, enthusiastic staff, are something not just to be cherished, but to be supported, and Record Store Day is an integral part of this.
“There’s a huge amount of extra publicity for record stores,” Taylor says of the impact the day has.
“We’ll see a lot of unfamiliar customers [on the day] who hopefully will keep returning. It’s also an affirmation of the wonderfulness of music and vinyl in particular.”
Or, as Record Store Day’s UK co-ordinator Spencer Hickman says: “April 20th will be a real celebration of culture – and there’s no better place to celebrate than inside an independent record store!” So get down, catch some bands, snag a rare release, and check out our list of London’s best indies.
Sister Ray | Soho
This West End indie record store had been going strong for almost 30 years, stocking new and second-hand vinyl, CDs and rarities, spanning modern material to classics. Caters to all crowds, is easily navigable and has some absolute bargains to boot.
34-35 Berwick Street, W1F 8RP
Tube | Oxford Circus
Honest Jons | West London
This legendary store first opened in 1974 and specialises in funk, jazz, reggae and soul. Today, Honest Jon’s also runs
a record label of the same name with Blur and Gorillaz star Damon Albarn, releasing compilation albums that dig into geographical enclaves of musical history (the tunes of young black London post-World War II; Afro-Cuban jazz from the Bronx). The eclectic style of both label and shop is matched by past customers – in the early years, it was a favourite of both Johnny Rotten and Courtney Pine.
Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm; Sun, 11am-5pm
278 Portobello Road, W10 5TE
Tube | Ladbroke Grove
Rough Trade East | Brick Lane
This indie institution – the first Rough Trade shop was opened in Ladbroke Grove in 1976 and spawned the legendary Rough Trade Records (see Buzzcocks, The Smiths, The Strokes) – is one hell of an ambassador for the longevity of the record store. The eastern outpost has a stage for in-store gigs and ace Monmouth Coffee. It hosts a number of free shows for Record Store Day. More deets online.
Mon-Thur, 8am-9pm; Fri, 8am-8pm; Sat, 10am-8pm; Sun, 11am-7pm
91 Brick Lane, E1 6QL
Tube | Shoreditch High Street
Soul Brother | East Putney
A must for fans of soul and jazz, the selection here takes in both independent and major labels, plus rare original vinyl and special anthologies from the Soul Brother label.
Mon-Sat, 10am-7pm; Sun, 11am-5pm
1 Keswick Road, SW15 2HL
Tube | East Putney
Sounds of the Universe | Soho
Sounds of the Universe does what it says on the tin, offering up what the owners reckon is the largest selection of world music available in the UK.
Mon-Sat, 11am-7.30pm; Sun, 11.30am-5.30pm
7 Broadwick Street, W1F 0DA
Tube | Oxford Circus
Kristina Records | Dalston
New and second-hand vinyl from a comprehensive range of genres – Brazilian, minimal wave and spiritual jazz are examples – with a decidedly underground bent.
Mon-Fri, 12pm-8pm; Sat-Sun, 11am-8pm
44 Stoke Newington Road, N16 7XJ
Tube | Dalston Kingsland
All Ages Records | Camden
Perfect your mohawk before hitting up this punk, ska and hardcore specialist, which started life at Camden Market before moving into a permanent space to flog CDs, vinyl, DVDs and zines. Sells gig tickets, too.
27A Pratt Street, NW1 0BG
Tube | Camden Town
One for dance heads, there’s vinyl and CDs here, with a focus on edgier club music (think nu jazz, exotica), but enough krautrock and French electro thrown in for good measure. Staff seems happy to help, too.
Mon-Wed, 11.30am-7.30pm; Thur- Fri, 11.30am-8pm; Sat, 11.30am- 7.30pm; Sun, 12pm-6pm
51 Poland Street, W1F 7LZ
Tube | Oxford Circus
Flashback | North London
Proving the record store is far from dead, this Islington gem launched in 1997 and garnered enough of a rep to open a second branch in Crouch End a decade later. Its second-hand stock is well-respected, while the Flashback ethos is to replace “an intimidating run-in with surly cooler-than-thou members of staff” with “an enjoyable way to spend some time, knowing that the staff will be happy to assist you, whether your interest is Frank Sinatra or the Wu-Tang”. Think the opposite of Jack Black in High Fidelity.
Mon-Sat, 10am-7pm; Sun, 12pm-6pm
50 Essex Road, N1 8LR
Tube | Angel, Essex Road
Vinyl Pimp | Hackney
Get face-to-face with this east London up-and-comer’s ‘Great Wall of Vinyl’, which comprises a 12ft-high record collection spanning genres from drum ‘n’ bass to reggae, via pop, rock, techno, jazz, Latin and even more in between. On Record Store Day, acts from labels Planet Mu and Erased Tapes will play in store from 1pm until 10pm. Entry is free, it’s BYOB, and there’ll be burgers on the barbie. We’re sold.
Mon-Fri, 12pm-8pm; Sat, 11am-8pm; Sun, 12pm-6pm
14 Felstead Street, E9 5LT
Tube | Hackney Wick
Lucky Seven | Stoke Newington
This ramshackle little spot (no website) extends the brightness of its post-box-red shop front to the friendly folks behind the counter, and is a treasure trove of cheap vinyl from just £2.
127 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0UH
Tube | Dalston Kingsland, Stoke Newington
Resurrection Records | Camden
Have a penchant for black and corpse paint? Then check out this basement den of all things industrial, gothic, punk and metal.
Mon-Fri, 10.30am-5.30pm; Sat-Sun, 10.30am-6pm
228 Camden High Street, NW1 8QS
Tube | Camden Town
Haggle Vinyl | NORTH LONDON
This vinyl-only independent (above) is the sort of place that demands you set some time aside for a proper rummage – there’s a chaotic assemblage of rare records representing everything from acid to opera. Come in here with your heart set on anything in particular and you’re likely to go home empty-handed, but arrive with an open mind and you could find yourself leaving with an armful of unexpected gems. The staff gets some varied reviews, too, but all seem to agree on “eccentric”. And, yes,
you can haggle on price.
Mon-Sat, 9am-7pm; Sun, 9.30am-4pm
114-116 Essex Rd, N1 8LX
Tube | Angel, Essex Road
Direct Impact Music | Walthamstow
Worth seeking out for finds across reggae, ska, soul, R&B, rocksteady, gospel, soca, hip-hop, bashment, ragga and dancehall genres, on vinyl, audio and video cassettes, CDs and DVDs.
Mon-Sat, 11am-8pm; some Sundays (call to confirm)
158 Hoe Street, E17 4QH
Tube | Walthamstow Central
Supertone Records & CD | Brixton
Bring some sunshine into your life with this long-established reggae specialist. It started out in 1984 and, as a result, the collection is massive.
Mon-Fri, 11am-10pm; Sun, 1pm-7pm
110 Acre Lane, SW2 5RA
Tube | Brixton
Music & Video Exchange | West London
With a constantly rotating stock thanks to the hundreds of records and CDs that exchange hands in this Notting Hill mainstay each day, there’s a formidable collection to browse, covering all genres.
38 Notting Hill Gate, W11 3HX
Tube | Notting Hill Gate