This year the 22nd April marks the 10th anniversary of Record Store Day so put a note in your diary and make sure you go and visit your nearest independent record shop on the day.
If you are anything like me you don’t need any excuse to go and while away a few hours in a record shop at any time but this special day provides an extra incentive. Many of the shops have live music on as well as selling the exclusive releases that are only available in the participating stores on the day. Many of the artists featured here at BME are included in the Record Store Day Exclusive Releases including a 7” single of ‘Strawberry Fields’ by The Beatles. There’s a couple from the David Bowie back catalogue, a Smiths single, a Motorhead album and a double live album from Elton John (4000 copies only of this).
One of the other attractions of Record Store Day is the records that are made available in a very limited runs. I’ve got my eyes fixed particularly on releases by Primal Scream, Television Personalities and Super Furry Animals. I’m going to need a fair bit of luck to get my hands on all of these because they are so limited but that is part of the beauty of Record Store Day.
Foe someone like me who grew up buying vinyl from small independent record shops I think Record Store Day is a brilliant concept throwing some much deserved light on these purveyors of musical delight. The recent and very welcome rebirth of vinyl makes it even more relevant and fun. In fact in the 10 years since Record Store Day began vinyl has gone from being 0.1% to 14% of the market.
There’s no shortage of vinyl on display at BME helping to illustrate key musicians or musical movements. One of my favourite things in the museum is the 78 rpm of Rock Island Line by Lonnie Donegan. It is the record that inspired many people to form a skiffle group. Our copy I so significant because it was once owned by John Lennon and has been loaned to us by one of Lennon’s fellow Quarrymen band members Rod Davis. We also show the changes in the way people have listened to music from jukeboxes and Dansette record players right through to the present day.
Check out the record store day website and there is a great interview with Elton John, who has been declared the first Worldwide Record Store Day Legend. In the interview Elton’s love of music, vinyl, and generally just spending time mooching around in record shops comes across really clearly. As part of this year’s event he is releasing a limited edition of his live album 17-11-70 in an expanded edition for the first time. Elton is such a fan that he apparently still gets a load of records sent out to him by Rough Trade which makes me like him more than I already did. But Elton isn’t alone – listen to interviews with many of our biggest music stars and often they will talk passionately about the key role a local record shop played in their formative years.
Rough Trade is probably the most well known of the indie shops in the UK and it undoubtedly plays an important part in UK music history. But wherever you are in the world you will probably have your own favourite. Nick Hornby captured the magic of these shops and the often weird characters who inhabit them perfectly in his book High Fidelity. Even though they moved the film version to the US the spirit of the novel largely survives the move across the Atlantic.
My own favourite shops include Probe, which has survived various moves around Liverpool City Centre and is still flourishing. Like Rough Trade, Small Wonder and many others, Probe naturally grew from selling records to becoming a record label to release tracks by artists who came into the shop and thrust demos into their hands.
If you look back through British music in the post war period as we do at BME the importance and catalytic effect of these small record shops is shown over and over again. Just look at the example of NEMS in Liverpool for example. Would Brian Epstein have ended up managing The Beatles if his family hadn’t owned the NEMS record shop just a couple of minutes from The Cavern?