I was reading today about yet another record shop shutting down and it remined me of a very interesting documentary about the rise and fall of independent music shops in the UK. It gave a great insight into how music has changed over the years and about the way in which we purchase and learn about new music. It’s called ‘Last Shop Standing’ and if you haven’t seen it you should definitely take a look. Find out more about it here. This film made me consider my own journey and how and why I became a music lover in the first place. I decided to take a trip down memory lane and look into all the things that I remember that have shaped my musical taste, and especially the shops I spent time in.
My parents both loved music and when me and my brother were growing up it featured very heavily around us. My mum was a Mod and my dad was a Rocker which made for a very interesting combination. Mum always loved the latest tunes and was a big fan of Cliff Richard and the Beatles. We used to have music playing in the house and in the car all the time and I think this had a big influence on both me and my brother. Dad was a bit of a DJ in his youth and we had a lot of vinyl in the house. I remember the hi-fi unit we had which featured a double tape deck with a turntable on the top and room at the bottom to store your LPs. It stayed with us for a long time and in the LP stack were things like Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd and Machine Head by Deep Purple sitting along side various Beatles albums. The first time I heard The Chain by Fleetwood Mac was when I pinched the vinyl of Rumours and played it.
As much as I heard a lot of music growing up, I didn’t begin to buy my own until the late 80’s when I would’ve been around 11 years old. I tended to buy 7 inch singles from places like Woolworths for the latest chart music and I was into the likes of Kylie and especially Rick Astley. I still have Rick’s first 2 albums on vinyl, although sadly they are not currently in my possession. When I left London and moved to the Midlands over 10 years ago they didn’t make the journey with me. In fact, I am not actually sure where they are. In storage I think. One of my tasks is to be reunited with them at some point soon.
Anyway. I come from East London and grew up in a place called Chingford. You’ve probably never heard of it, but the most famous person to come from there is probably a little known footballer called David Beckham. Nearby we have Walthamstow (the end of the Victoria Line on the tube) and also Highams Park and both of these places have produced the high quality musical stars (ahem) East 17 and Blazin’ Squad. Top class entertainment indeed.
We had a few independent record shops where I grew up which we spent a lot of time in. I had to text my brother earlier to ask him the name of one of them as I couldn’t actually remember what it was called! In Highams Park we had a very small shop called ‘Master Blaster’. It sold mostly vinyl I recall and I think this would’ve been where I bought my Rick Astley LP’s. It was a tiny shop which had a section of vinyl in the middle and it was very tight to actually move round someone who was looking through the racks. The only other memory I have of buying something from the shop was getting a cassette of Some Fantastic Place by Squeeze as it was an album I didn’t have. I still have the cassette somewhere actually.
Chingford is sort of split into 2 main areas for shopping with North Chingford having Station Road and South Chingford having the Mount. Both locations had a branch of a record shop called ‘Turntable’ which I spent a lot of money in. The one at the Mount was slightly larger and we knew the staff in there quite well. In fact, we went to school with one of them. They didn’t stock everything, but you could order stuff in and they would usually be able to get it for you within about a week or so. As far as I know, the shop at the Mount went first during the decline of people buying records in the 00’s and was followed by the Station Road branch a few years later. My brother bought some of the storage racks from the Station Road shop when they were having a closing down sale. He also got me a Semisonic mug which they had for the release of the album Chemistry and it’s the one I always use for a cuppa when I go home to see my mum.
Walthamstow is larger than Chingford and has a street market which apparently is the longest in Europe. We used to shop down the ‘Stow on occasion and it was a treat to visit there as they had a McDonald’s and of course a pie and mash shop called ‘Manzies’ which was amazing. On the high street there was a record shop called ‘Sounds Familiar’ which has given its name to this blog. The shop would later change it’s name to ‘Cavern Records’ and this was the place I remember visiting the most. It was a fairly large shop and had lots of vinyl, and Cd’s and you could spend a long time in there checking out the stock. I don’t really recall what I bought from there, but it would have probably been some cassettes or CD singles. It’s gone now which seems to be par for the course for independent stores. There was also a shop called ‘Record Village’ which I think was further down the high street, but I don’t remember it as well as Cavern.
Another place I bought vinyl from was ‘Mike’s Record Shop’ which is in the indoor market at Wood Street in Walthamstow. It’s actually still there I believe and has lots of second hand rare vinyl. I bought some Queen records from there in the mid 90’s including the rare Queen’s First EP which cost me well over £10. Of course you can now pick this particular EP up online for just a few quid, but I’m glad I got my copy by sifting through piles of records and finding a little gem for my collection in a proper record shop rather than faceless online purchasing.
My other half comes from Liverpool and I asked him about buying records where he grew up. He told me that the first record he bought was Dancing in the Dark by Bruce Springsteen on 7 inch vinyl. To be honest though, bought is a bit of a lie. Now, hang on a cotton picking minute here. Do not go stereotyping please. The story is this, apparently when you purchased a pair of shoes from Clark’s shoe shop they gave you a voucher for Woolworths to go and spend on a record. He used his voucher to get the aforementioned Springsteen single and thus started his collection. His vinyl now mostly comprises of 90’s dance tracks as this was what he was into at that time. Compared to my britpop and rock albums it does make a rather interesting talking point.
I still have my 7 inch singles somewhere (probably in the same storage place as my albums I guess) and I got some of these from a newsagent in Chingford Mount. It was a typical newsagents with magazines and sweets etc, but for some reason in the middle of the shop there was a white carousel type thing (the kind of stand you find greeting cards in) filled with vinyl singles in white sleeves. They had all sorts of stuff from chart hits to slightly older singles and all marked up from 50p to £1. We would spend ages in there getting in everyone’s way while we hunted through to find a bargain. I believe this is where I got my single of We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off by Jermaine Stewart. It never actually occurred to me as to why this shop was selling records as it’s kind of strange when you think about it. I just knew it was somewhere else that I wanted to go when I was at Chingford Mount.
Another of my posts which I will publish soon talks about the decline of record shops so I won’t go into that now, but let’s just say that when I think back to when I was younger and visited the places I’ve mentioned above it now makes me sad. I grew up visiting those shops and now none of them actually exist anymore. It is comforting to know though that more independent shops are appearing and that youngsters are visiting them to purchase music. I think Record Store Day is a massive help and I am looking forward to this year’s day on 16h April. Check out what is happening in your local store and join in and support the local retailers.