Record Store Day 2013
Record Store day saw unprecedented levels of enthusiasm for all things vinyl with over 600 releases timed for RSD. Having done Rough Trade and the Portobello Road scene last year , this year I decided to give Soho a try and I am glad I did. All six record shops on Berwick Street joined together for a joint event – the road was closed off and a very professional live stage and sound system erected. Throughout the day I saw spirited performances from the Brainiac 5, Frank Turner, the much-vaunted Mathew E White and the rejuvenated Wire: we missed Steve Mason and the Smoke Faeries. Wire in particular were most impressive. Even though I knew none of the songs (all new material) the band’s live sound is still totally distinctive and recognisable as the extraordinary outfit I first encountered at the Nag’s Head in High Wycombe in 1977. The afternoon was warm and sunny and most shops playing music were soon festooned with clumps of youth drinking and hanging out – a very impromptu and minimally organised street festival, and all the better for it. Art shop Let’s Fill This Town With Artists set up easels in the street and encouraged passers by to draw their favourite LP cover. My primitive version of The Velvet Undergound And Nico (how difficult can drawing a banana be?) was dwarfed by my neighbours forensic recreation of the Residents ‘Eskimo’ – I hope he won a prize.
As to the records themselves Phonica had the 12″ Ashley Beadle remix of Family’s prime lurchfest Burlesque plus Primal Scream’s rocking rendition of the Troggs I Want You. The queue for Sister Ray was still round the block when I joined at three o’clock but they had the Big Star double LP Nothing Can Hurt Me and Hawkwinds punky Urban Guerilla single. Long since sold out were the Small Faces Green Circles and David Bowie’s Drive-In Saturday (Russell Harty version), both of which had to be sourced online subsequently. Throw in some decent pizza and a street record fair featuring the likes of the excellent Rhythm and Blues Records and you have a cracking day out.
But. There are challenges. Many of the most desireable items were on eBay almost immediately at highly inflated prices, which seems rather against the ethos of the day. Record Store Day should be about music, not touts. Major record companies still Get It Wrong. For example, the re-release of See Emily Play. Instead of recreating the highly desireable picture sleeve from the original promo version, EMI released it in a plain Columbia sleeve and featured the sleeve design on a bit of cardboard, shrinkwrapped onto the record. The afore-mentioned Big Star LP came with a sticker so tenacious that it tore shrink wrap and the cover when removed (and I had the harassed but very helpful assistant in Sister Ray try 5 copies). At nearly £40 this is unacceptable.
Maybe RSD is now too big. Could we have one a month ? Or could we have a regional focus ? Having one day a year when music-lovers are encouraged to support their local independent record shop is clearly a wonderful thing. Getting shoppers in more than once a year would be even better.