Scratch beneath the surface and London has a wealth of diverse and individual record shops that won’t make the Record Store Day headlines.
Last week it was announced that there are now more independent record shops in the UK than at any point in the last five years. For shops to survive in the age of Amazon, it’s been well documented that in-stores, coffee, exclusive events and (whisper it) Record Store Day have become invaluable promotional tools to get people through the doors. Perversely, the internet has been equally influential in spreading the word and getting people off their computers and back among the racks. But what of London’s second-hand treasure troves that have existed for years without so much as an email address? What of the record store owner (true story) who wasn’t aware vinyl sales were on the up again?
While much of this ‘revival’ is down to the increase in new releases being pressed to vinyl, any true collector will tell you that the essence of the experience is to be found elsewhere, digging through crates of dog-eared records on a Saturday afternoon not knowing what you might stumble upon. However, spend any time in your Rough Trades or Sister Rays and you’ll know that there’s not much in the way of crate digging to be done at London’s better known independents. Go deeper though and among London’s fifty or so record shops you’ll find more than enough to keep you busy.
Of these we’ve picked out eight of the capital’s lesser known shops, based on our own experiences and the odd insider tip off and spent a bit of time digging in each. Often the reserve of those in the know, these are the shops that have sustained DJs and collectors for decades and prefer to keep their profiles low and the quality high. That said, all were receptive to getting a little more shine here and so, while we’re aware of the self-defeating nature of features sharing ‘secret’ tips, we’re convinced helping keep these places ticking over is positive for all concerned. Many are also hellish difficult to get to, so don’t expect any easy wins.
The eight spots we’ve chosen here reflect what we feel are those who marry strong second hand selections with sheer quantity of cheap records to dig through, and of course with the added fact of being a little further than most off the beaten track. This isn’t a list for the Phonicas or Honest Jon’s of this world, nor is it even for those better known lesser known shops like the Peckham’s trio of Rye Wax, YAM and Do!! You!!!, Camberwell’s excellent Rat Records (who count Kode9 and DJ Food among the regulars) and Love Vinyl in Hoxton, who we whole-heartedly recommend too.
Do you have a favourite under-the-radar record shop in London (or anywhere else for that matter)? Let us know in the comments below.
Name: Lucky 7
Location: Stoke Newington Church Street
Type: More cheap records per square foot than any shop in London
What’s the story: Don’t let the location fool you, Lucky 7 is not a bourgeois boutique with pram parking next to the New Arrivals bin. London’s answer to The Thing in Brooklyn, close to every square cm of this cavernous rabbit hole is crammed with records, books and mags.
If you’ve got the time, spend it in the discount digging rooms to the back and downstairs, where everything’s basically under a £1, and you’re going to have to get your hands dirty. If you don’t, the new arrivals at the front of the store and the handy crates of 7″s by the listening post are always bountiful.
Top finds: As varied as ever, on this visit we took home De La Soul’s ‘A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays’ on 12″ and Which Way Does The Blood Red River Flow? from the buy-on-sight Portland imprint Mississippi records.