I can’t say I go to a physical record shop regularly enough anymore that a particular person who works there gets to know my tastes and throws records my way which send me on amazing diversions and new uncharted paths - as am sure is the case with many amateurs, particularly now that so much buying happens online.
I did have an amazing run when I was younger of going to Eastern Bloc in Manchester and Mark Turner who worked there just throwing loads of amazing weird house and techno my way which I promptly spent my bar earnings and various student finance on. Likewise Pelican Neck, the physical precursor to Boomkat had a massive impact on what I bought back in the day - it had such a particular agenda.
Have you had any particular places or staff who changed the game for your record buying?
From 1989 onwards it was Jeremy Newall at various London shops, starting with the Soho branch of Red Records in Beak Street; then the small Soul II Soul shop in Tottenham Court Road; then Catch-A-Groove in Dean Street and finally Release The Groove in Piccadilly.
I’ve also got to mention the first person who recommended records to me was the guy who had a record stall in the Great Gear Market in the Kings Road. This was around 1984 and I’d be buying funky post-punk stuff like 400 Blows and Brilliant, and he steered me towards things like early UK Tommy Boy releases. No idea what his name was. I just remember he looked like Hamish who was the DJ at The Batcave and The Astral Flight back then.
This is a great topic!
The store that introduced me to the most new music was Aardvark Records in Bloomington, Minnesota. It was right around the corner from my house, so I spent many hours reading the staff picks, and listening to their CD player.
Their staff picks persuaded me to buy Puente’s Beat, Herman’s Heat. They wrote something about a mambo, “Cha Cha Chick.” If it didn’t make you move, you should check your pulse. Frank Zappa & The Mother’s of Invention’s Freak Out! was another staff pick that sold me. It was where I bought my first Elvis CD, and got deeper into ska; The Toasters and Bad Manners. At the height of grunge I spent $30 on a Nirvana “In Utero” import because it had a bonus track. I’d take that money back. Also, the money I spent on Butt Trumpet. They can’t all be winners when you’re a teenager.
Sometimes I’d come home with promo posters of bands I’d never heard of, or tickets to a concert. It was the best!
Mid/Late 90’s - Nice Musique in Madison, Wisconsin. At the time I was a merchant marine working month on / month off. Every month I’d call in an order of stuff I found in magazine reviews etc. After a year or so the owner, Nick Nice, learned my taste and he would always have some great stuff for me to check out. Prior to opening Nice Musique, Nick was a resident at La Queen in Paris so he had is finger on the pulse.
92/93 - Downtown Discs in Platteville, Wisconsin. The owner, Mike Steckling, was the drummer in my college band and our jam space was in the basement. Place was my second home. First shop I realized I didn’t have to settle for what was in stock and began placing orders for him to track down though his various distributors and dark magic.
Remember him in the Brixton Red too
I was very lucky to be working on Portobello in 91/92 so could spend lunchtimes getting learned by Mark Ravenhill in the tiny Vinyl Solution basement.
A couple of years later the office moved to directly above the Vinyl Junkies basement so I spent way too much time gassing with JP & Lewis in there.
Both shops played & sold me stuff I’d’ve never heard anywhere else much of which has remained favourite to this day.
The one that immediately springs to mind for me is Disque which was on Chapel Street Market in Islington in the mid 1990’s/early 2000s - owner Ed (who still sells great records as far as I know) was fantastic at knowing just what you diddn’t know you wanted - combined with a 2 LPs for £20 offer it was deadly…I was never rich but always happy plus I owned about 90% of the Nuphonic catologue!
Got to give a shout pout here to Mark Collings who worked at Tag Records. I only started shopping there, after I moved back from New York. But during the period when Low Life was getting off the ground in the UK and starting to play as a resident at Fabric, he was an essential component for my sets, because he just seemed to have a preternatural sense of the music that I would like. It was mainly known as a tech-house store, but he’d find these oddball records that I never saw anywhere else and he’d keep them back for me to check out. If he said, ‘You’re gonna like this one’, chances are I would.
The Don Carlos mix on this is a good example:
Various kindly souls at the Beggars Banquet in Ealing who would somehow engineer the pocket money of teenage me was spent far and well on things like a 90p (!) 12" of Prince’s ‘Controversy’, 20p 7" from the Au Pairs and Human Sexual Response and Rip Rig and Panic. And whichever of them played Kraftwerks ‘Man Machine’ on the shop stereo and blew my 12 year old mind.
A shout out to to Tim at Picadilly in Manchester who had the best taste in 90s Detroit/ re edits and all that stuff where volume of records wasnt a problem but picking the nuggets from the rubble was and he did that patiently, kindly and with a discount.
Lets see, vinylmania with jerel, and the techno store with denard! over at BPM with susan and sharon and out in brooklyn at sonic groove with jimmy crash and heather heart. later i’d be a driver for a couple stores [temple with khan and joe nassar, and throb with aldo hernandez] and drive on out to watts and nemesis every monday to shop while the store people pulled the weeks orders. bought way to many records because of that.
Its an overwhelming place, piles and piles of stuff everywhere. Still turns up the occasional gem.
You still in touch with Aldo, not heard from him at all since I left NY in the 90s? Hope he’s ok.