Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The best record shops in the world

In the middle of this debate about the ins and outs of record retailing (including Mr Dracula from Tower in Dublin defending that shop’s pricing policy), people started talking about and eulogising indie shops like Road Records in Dublin, Soundscapes …

Wed, Apr 23, 2008, 08:57

   

In the middle of this debate about the ins and outs of record retailing (including Mr Dracula from Tower in Dublin defending that shop’s pricing policy), people started talking about and eulogising indie shops like Road Records in Dublin, Soundscapes in Toronto and the much missed Mulligan in Galway.

Such praise was not necessarily down to low prices (although it undoutedly helps), but was more about how these stores have the stock, the enthusiasm and the knowledge to win over a community of music fans.

For me (and obviously many of you), record shops are my favourite waste of time. I carry a little notebook with me which contains pages and pages of scrawled album titles and artists to check out. I might read a review or hear a name or see someone mentioned in connection with someone else and it’s all noted down. It’s my never-ending shopping list, the one which leads me from one new sound to the next. Even though I download loads and loads of MP3s every single week, I still prefer to buy the actual disc. That’s probably why it seems as if my gaff is built with CD boxes and not concrete blocks.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve ended up purchasing a CD because of something someone behind the counter has said about the album or has scribbled on a label stuck to the cover before putting it in the racks. Because music is an addiction, you always crave another hit so you add that CD to your stack and take it home with you. The CD may not have been on the rather long list of scrawls in the notebook I carry with me, but I was sold nonetheless.

Record stores have many attributes but it’s that ability to entice you to buy something you’d never heard of before you walked in the door which beats all for me. If a store can do that, it merits your time, money and a word of mouth recommendation to another addict.

There are some cities which I’ve mapped out in my head in terms of record stores. When I lived in London back in the day, my A-Z of Soho was all about Black Market and Mr Bongo rather than the location of this tube station or that pub. I’ve spent many happy hours strolling up and down the one street, Carrer Tallers, in Barcelona because it’s where a dozen record shops are situated (or were – even the Catalan market can’t support that number of shops any more). My first visit to Berlin saw me wearing out shoe-leather trying to get all the shops on a lengthy list.

And that debate reminded me of all the great shops which are still out there. The likes of Waterloo in Austin where you could happily spend 100 bucks and come out with 10 or 11 great albums. Or Other Music in New York, which is happy to lead you down all sorts of avenues you didn’t even realise existed. Or Sounds of the Universe in London, the shop run by the people behind the Soul Jazz label. Yes, it all depends on what you’re after – since I’ve stopped buying vinyl, I’ve struck a lot of shops off my list – but I’m sure there’s many, many more you can add to this list….

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