The definitive guide to Manchester’s best record shops

By in Features, Record Shopping Guides

The city’s 10 best record shops.

Famed around the globe for football, rain and red-bricks, Manchester can also claim a deserved reputation for sonic excellence. From the seventies onwards, Mancs – official and adopted – have helped shape the musical landscape. From 10cc and the Bee Gees, through Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, Roses and Oasis through to the current crop of Ruf Dug, Levelz, Willow and IAMDDB, Manchester has a long history of doing it their own way.

In the face of terminal under-funding and endless drizzle, Mancunians take refuge at the record player, turning to music for escapism, enjoyment and that ever-important buzz. As full time regionalist, part time label head Anthony H. Wilson once said, “Manchester kids have the best record collections”. So despite a lifetime in the shadow of that London, the people of Manchester keep the chips off their shoulders and in their barms and keep on pushing things forward, embracing each musical wave as it begins to ripple. Punk, indie, baggy, acid house and ‘ardcore all found a home here when the rest of the world was way behind.

At the centre of this vibrant scene stand Manchester’s record shops, safe houses for the aurally obsessed, run by the same fanatics which frequent them. Whether you’re after new, new to you, second hand classics or 50p bangers, the haunts listed here have got your back.


Vinyl Resting Place

Location: 3rd Floor Afflecks, 52 Church St, Manchester M4 1PW

Go For: Second hand bargains and rarities across all genres.

Listening Facilities: Yes

What’s the story? After half a decade behind the counter of Bolton’s X-Records, self-confessed record nerd and pun superstar Alistair Hall swapped the sticks for the big smoke, pouring his energy, enthusiasm and experience into a place of his own. Originally tucked into a tiny corner of alternative institution Afflecks, Vinyl Resting Place first opened its doors in April 2014, quickly finding its niche in Manchester’s vinyl landscape thanks to a great mix of rarities, classics and pound bin bargains.

Built on the solid foundation of Al’s encyclopaedic musical knowledge and wicked sense of humour, Vinyl Resting Place has gone from strength to strength, expanding twice to take on the large corner plot in which it currently stands. Though the hike to the third floor can be cruel on the knees, the well stocked boxes of jazz, disco, house, techno, rock and soul ensure you’ll be there for the long haul, with Al on hand to guide your choices or hunt out that one record you’ve just got to have.


Piccadilly Records

Location: 53 Oldham St, Manchester M1 1JR

Go For: A comprehensive selection of new releases and reissues, whatever the genre.

Listening Facilities: Yes

What’s the story? Manchester’s largest and longest running independent, Piccadilly Records has been at the forefront of the musical scene for forty years now, twenty five of which were under the well trained ears of current owners Darryl Mottershead and Laura Kennedy. Steering clear of the second hand game completely, Piccadilly instead offer an extensive range of new releases across the full breadth of the genre spectrum. If it’s recent and decent, you’ll find it at Piccadilly. And if you’re struggling to find something, you can always ask veteran counter staff Andy and Martin, who can draw on a collective 55 years of Piccadilly experience to help you out.

Driven by a desire to spread the word about new music you’re yet to hear, the staff provide their own review for every single record in the store, making browsing a much more informed experience and counter convos an enjoyable certainty. The extensive selections of indie, Balearic, psych, house and jazz, each carefully curated by specialist buyers, rival any shop in the country, while the warmth and enthusiasm of the staff continue to make Piccadilly Records stand out from the crowd.


Vinyl Exchange

Location: 18 Oldham St, Manchester M1 1JN

Go For: Second hand vinyl of all genres and prices.

Listening Facilities: Yes

What’s the story? In the thirty years since it opened its doors in 1988, Vinyl Exchange has consistently delivered, long since securing its reputation as the North West’s largest used record shop. From its long established Northern Quarter home at the corner of Oldham Street and Dale, Vinyl Exchange caters to collectors, tourists and casual customers alike, offering diverse audio treasures from a range of prices and genres.

Vinyl fanatics should skip the CDs and DVDs of the ground floor and head downstairs to find their promised land, a basement packed with rack after rack of well priced and expertly graded wax. Serious collectors can spend that second mortgage on the high ticket items behind the counter, while the diggers can get their hands dirty in any one of the unsorted bargain bins under the racks leaving the casual shopper to get stuck into the vast array of cross-genre treats. Boasting a friendly, helpful and knowledgable staff and fair pricing whether you’re buying or selling, Vinyl Exchange sets the blueprint for any decent second hand store.


Hi-Tackle

Location: Downtex Mill, Mary Street, Manchester M3 1NH

Go For: Used & new boogie, street soul, jungle, house and disco.

Listening Facilities: Yes

What’s the story? After a couple of embryonic years in the faceless industrial units of Ancoats, boogie kingpin Randy Brunson and tropical cyberpunk Ruf Dug took their multi-media operation to its natural home in the epicentre of Manchester’s Vape Quarter (What? You guys don’t have a Vape Quarter?). Taking over some of the unused studio space above the rough and rugged rave space Hidden (Byker Grove on pingers), the Wet Play pals got creative, setting up a killer audiovisual suite (check out Ruf Kutz TV), 8-bit gaming lounge and mega record shop.

Adorned with toy parrots, hyper-pyramids and Gordon Gekko’s old phone, Hi-Tackle is a neon-tinged play pen for vinyl fans in search of a BUZZ. Stocking the racks with their best finds from decades of digging, Randy & Ruffy have the keenest curatorial eye around, as well as the kind of egalitarian attitude which means they’ll happily sacrifice profits to spread the word about an undiscovered boogie b-side. Chuck in guest crates from extended fam Kickin’ Pidgeon, Il Bosco and the Cheshire Chimp, as well as the latest exclusives from Ruf Kutz, Red Laser and Fruit Merchant and you’ve got all the power-ups necessary for an all night session. Regular opening hours are Thursday from noon til 10 pm, or by advanced appointment (essential if you want the best selection of biscuits).


All Night Flight

Location: Castlefield (Appointments taken via Instagram or email)

Go For: Esoteric, ambient and new age gems. Select jazz and post punk. Aura management.

Listening Facilities: Yes.

What’s the story? Manchester’s newest vinyl hotspot is an appointment-only affair curated by Microdosing shaman and elite digger Tom Houghton. Based in the calm and cultured surrounds of Tom’s Castlefield flat, All Night Flight offers a relaxed retail experience enhanced by its proprietor’s assured hosting skills and attention to detail (even the polythene sleeves are chosen specifically for size, fit and feel).

Senses sharpened by barista-grade coffee and the invigorating essence of mint, you’re free to explore the crates of carefully vetted rarities with the owner on hand to introduce you to a wealth of unheard sounds from around the globe (with particular fondness for records from countries which no longer exist). Allowing ample time to sample anything you fancy on his turntable, Tom translates the slow listening approach to slow shopping; ideal for those in need of a change of pace.


Eastern Bloc

Location: 5a Stevenson Square, Manchester M1 1DN

Go For: House, techno, jungle, drum n bass, jazz, hip hop, food, drink and dancing.

Listening Facilities: Yes

What’s The Story? Manchester’s longest running dance specialist, Eastern Bloc opened in the heady days of 1985, supplying the city’s DJs and dancers with US and European imports, upfront promos and the most essential club artillery for the next thirty years. Faced by the rise of digital DJing and his own loss of hearing, owner John Berry moved the shop to their new home on Stevenson Square in 2011 pouring his passion and energy into the new café (be sure to check out John’s excellent Daal), while putting his faith in an excellent team of buyers to take care of the music.

Though their reputation for system-smashing dance music is well deserved (we’re talking about one of the country’s best jungle / d’n’b specialists here), you’ll find choice selections of hip-hop, soul, funk, reggae, latin or Afro interspersed between the bangers, making it well worth a visit for anyone looking for home listening. The bar downstairs hosts regular in-store sets and sessions from local selectors and label heads, playing an integral role in Manchester’s flourishing dance scene.


King Bee Records

Location: 519 Wilbraham Rd, Manchester M21 0UF

Go For: Reggae, jazz, library, rock, disco and northern soul.

Listening Facilities: Yes

What’s the story? Heading south out the city centre, either by tram or the 85 bus, you’ll find yourself in Chorlton, home to the marigold majesty of King Bee Records. In situ since 1987, when owner Les Hare’s indoor market stall proved too popular for its neighbours, King Bee has been holding it down for South Manchester ever since, providing the mature students, rave veterans, cool kids and soul aficionados with all the second hand vinyl delights they could ask for.

A northern soul fanatic, Les’ knowledge and reputation rivals Beatin’ Rhythm, while the endless boxes of (bargain or rare) jazz, reggae, soul, disco, indie and rock could keep any music fan content for hours on end. The first stop for skint students and full-time dads looking to flog their collections, King Bee’s racks are in constant rotation, pretty much guaranteeing a find on any visit.


Deco Records

Location: 9 Egerton Cres, Manchester M20 4PN

Go For: Used punk, alternative and reggae.

Listening Facilities: Yes

What’s the story? Sticking with the more secluded digging spots of South Manchester, this lesser known gem stands on Egerton Crescent, a stone’s throw from Withington’s main student thoroughfare. Deco’s doors first opened sometime in the ’80s followed by decades of dedicated hoarding, but now, after a change in ownership 3 years ago the cramped cavern has quickly become a refreshing and relevant hang-out spot for local music lovers.

Scaling down the outdated CD section to make room for a student friendly café, Esther put the spotlight on the shop’s baffling and brilliant vinyl stock. While seasoned diggers will find plenty of familiar faces in the racks, Deco has a wonderful knack for throwing up the kind of killer curveballs that you can’t find anywhere else. Though the transient student population could make for slow summers, Deco’s community focus, support of unsigned bands, and guitar repair facilities help keep the place lively all year round. An ideal spot for collectors of every vintage, Deco’s diverse stock and low, non-Discogs prices keep the diggers coming back time and again.


Beatin’ Rhythm

Location: 1st Floor Bank House Studios, Warwick St, Prestwich, Manchester M25 3HN

Go For: New and Used Northern, Modern, Funk & Rare Soul

Listening Facilites: Yes

What’s the story? An integral part of Manchester’s Northern Quarter until an exorbitant rent hike a couple of years ago, Beatin’ Rhythm remains the first stop for any self-respecting soulboy or girl on a vinyl mission. Now relocated to the vibrant suburb of Prestwich, the world famous soul specialist keeps the faith wonderfully with an excellent selection of original and replica 45s, LPs and CDs.

Informed by three decades of retail experience and northern soul obsession, the personable staff are on hand to entertain and educate with recommendations, history lessons or affectionate anecdotes about celebrity shoppers and serious collectors. Though increasingly engaged with the world of e-commerce, Beatin’ Rhythm is very much a classic record store, and as such their preferred method of communication with the regulars is a postal mailing list containing a sampler Cdr of their newest stock. Step within the unassuming red brick walls of the former Co-op offices, and you will find Manchester’s Mecca for northern soul.


Empire Exchange

Location: 1 Newton St, Manchester M1 1HW

Go For: Dusty digging, second hand comics, sensory overload and “adult materials…”

Listening Facilities: No

What’s the story? A thirty second stroll from the sprawl of Piccadilly Gardens, on the loose periphery of the Northern Quarter lies by far the strangest store on this list. Easily identifiable by the booming store front stereo, stack of knackered VHS by the entrance, and stairwell packed with promotional puppets and match day programs, Empire Exchange is the kind of off grid oddity which can easily steal hours at a time.

Between the cabinets of military medals, piles of car radios and extensive collection of second hand books and comics are a whole load of records, of all styles and ages. Acquired from house clearances, car boots and the odd skip, the records are ungraded and largely unsorted, perfect for perusal when you’re after a bargain. True, you’ll soon tire of skipping past James Last and Mantovani, but when you pluck out a stray copy of Rhead Brothers, Mr Fingers or Will Powers the spring returns to your step rather quickly. There’s a load to see in this bric-a-brac grotto, but perhaps steer clear of the adult mags near the counter, one can only hope they’re still sealed.

Photos by Emily Blackburn

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