It’s a tricky time to be selling records on the high street. The changing landscape of the music industry has caused many traditional record shops to disappear, due to the advent of downloading and the increasing perception of music as a free product. Yes, music has been liberated, but the consumer has never been so apathetic towards going out and buying it. Record nerds now live behind computer screens, squabbling about their favourite bands on Last.fm rather than hanging out in the record boutiques of old.
The record shop is an essential component of the pantheon of rock ‘n roll. Unhappy at this state of affairs, and longing for the more social, intereractive and fun record shop experience of yore, my companion and I decided to attempt to map out the various vinyl vendors in town, to create the ultimate York record shop guide. The epic quest was hard and fraught but we succeeded and coming home tired and happy with an armful of LPs.
10A Coney Street, YO1 9NA
Best Find: Donkey Punch DVD
As we began our mission, walking into town from Gallery bus stop, there loomed Mordor-like the most obvious of record shops: His Master’s Voice, also known as HMV. While the shop was huge, the lack of phonograph records dismayed us. Even HMV used to stock trance and drum ‘n bass 7”s, so we felt a bitter resentment that commercial music stores have finally rejected the vinyl format. We flicked through the CDs for a while though, and finally settled on buying a reduced copy of ‘Donkey Punch’ on DVD for three quid.
5 Gillygate, YO31 7EA
Best Find: Pussy Galore – Historia De La Música Rock
Heading up Gillygate, amongst several vintage shops and a Chinese takeaway is this gem. A very smart and well designed boutique, this place is too clean to truly capture the grotty record shop experience (a record shop needs to reek of smoke for true authenticity) but has a fantastic selection of folk, country and blues CDs.
I was cheered up by the burgeoning vinyl area at the back of the shop, which was choc-full of post-punk, eighties indie and classic rock vinyl, as well as plenty of electronica, breaks and dance.
The assistant was also extremely knowledgable and helpful, and offered plenty of musical titbits for our appreciation while engaging with our entirely over-enthusiastic banter. Well worth a browse, especially for specialists.
18 Lendal, YO1 8AU
Best Find: A Shaky Egg
Our spirits buoyed by finding an actual record shop still in business we travelled on. However, looking for shops recommended on the internet, we discovered that the vast majority of these have disappeared. The Lamb CD Shop, which The Independent placed in their 50 best record shops list six years ago is no more. Walking towards Betty’s for a cuppa we came across Banks, and while it looked like a shop for instruments, we thought it might stock some CDs. It had plenty of books of sheet music, but, as neither of us are musicians, it was hard to enjoy reading these. Despite buying a percussive shaky egg, I left disappointed.
1 Patrick Pool, YO1 8BB
Best Find: Black Lips – We Did Not Know The Forest Spirit Made The Flowers Grow
We were just about ready to accept that the ‘High Fidelity’ record shop breed was extinct when we chanced upon Attic Records. Hidden on a street corner near Milk Shack, and up several flights of stairs, it is literally an attic. Walking up to it feels like you’re going to the dentist. A tiny room next to a hairdresser’s curated by a bloke chilling out and spinning records all day (best job ever?) it was just what we were looking for. With sexy t-shirts, gig tickets, obscure art rock LPs for sale, and not even a single CD in sight it was a vinyl fantasy. I felt euphoric sniffing the aged Black Sabbath 12” goodness.
We need more of these classic labour-of-love establishments, with music fans foolish enough to put livelihood on the line to bring real music back to the high street.
Music fans should stop hiding in their rooms and come together. The true record shops that legend tells of are still out there: let’s strive to keep them alive.