I'd just like to write a nice little nostalgia piece on one of the best specialist music shops in London if not Britain. It is hard to imagine such a shop in England although maybe ten-a-penny in the U.S.A. The shop being The Elvis Shop in East London. For those that are interested the address is 400 High Street North, E12 6RH. Telephone number is 0208 552 7551. The shop is open Monday-Saturday 10.30am-6pm. You can get there on the District line tube. I think this shop is much better than the other London Elvis store in Baker street because it is more serious; rather than selling tacky merchandise cards, rings, soap dishes, mugs etc. which is all good if that's what you want - I mean part of Elvis' image was tacky-cheesecake - this store sells records, cds, DVDs and videos. On my last trip I myself bought the videos Aloha From Hawaii, 1968 comeback special and That's The Way It Is. The shop is not massive granted but can you imagine a whole store dedicated to Elvis' music and career? It puts his sections in music chain stores to shame. Issues include his rarest recordings and international releases. And to boot the staff are friendly, intelligent, helpful and know their stuff. If you can't get what you want here the chances are you can't get it in Britain. There is also a mail order service and Mastercard and Visa are accepted. Do hope you check it out. If you do go however keep your eyes peeled for the shop as it is quite easy to miss, the windows are blacked out, the door is kept locked so ring bell and the sign is not to protruding!
For many record shopping involves a trip down to your local record store, normally an Our Price, HMV or MVC. However for some people (myself included) there is nothing that can match the thrills of record shopping in London. Sure there are other great Cities to shop for music in, Birmingham and Manchester are both full of great independent record stores, but it is London that really has the greatest range of specialist record stores. For purposes of space and ease I will only concentrate on the 3 main shopping areas that I normally frequent in my search for the obscure and rare. Oxford Street and Soho Nearest Tube Stations: Tottenham Court Road (Central and Northern Lines) and Oxford Circus (Bakerloo, Central and Victoria Lines) For the London novice, Oxford Street and its packed streets can be a daunting experience, especially at the weekend or towards Christmas. However if you have good orientation skills using the roads parallel to Oxford Street means you can avoid the crush of lost tourists and confused shoppers. On Oxford Street itself you will find the flagship stores for Virgin (corner of Tottenham Court Road) and HMV (halfway between Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Circus). Both stores are great if you are looking for an easy convenient shopping experience. Prices are the same as other HMVs and Virgins, but the range of stock is larger. Out of the two Virgin wins for me, being slightly cheaper and having a more expansive range. Both shops are sizeable, but seem more full of empty space than they do of actually stock. If you are looking for something a little more specialised and cheaper you’re probably best heading off to Soho and to Berwick Street and it’s host of Independent’s and Specialist Dance stores. Berwick Street itself is located off the south side of Oxford Street (again approximately halfway between Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road). The Shops Selectadisc <br> Those of you from Nottingham maybe familiar with Selectadisc (Because that’s where the other branch is). However for those of you who have not familiar with the name, welcome to how a record shop should be. Selectadisc is the biggest of the Soho Independents, as has a great range of music from Indie to metal, from Jazz to Hip-hop as well as every perceivable form of dance music you could imagine. Not only does it stock a huge of CDs it also carries an impressive range of vinyl (including specialist represses of classic albums). Everything is nicely sectionalised with separate racking for new releases and different music genres. Looking for US Alternative, Downtempo releases or a certain artist? No problem each has it’s own section, so there is none of the long winded flicking through racks and racks of stock looking for that one particular item. Prices are good as well, the average cost of a new release CD album being £11. Also many back catalogue releases can be found at knock down prices. Add to this very knowledgeable staff and a good range of T-shirts and magazines and Selectadisc offers everything your average record buying punter could want. Sister Ray Named after a Velvet Underground song, Sister Ray is the main rival to Selectadisc in Soho. The shop itself is located towards the street market end of Berwick Street. Just listen out for the shouts of ‘Poundascoop’ and you will know your heading in the right direction. Sister Ray is another great place for fans of Indie/Alternative as well as Electronic/dance music. No bigger than your average cornershop, Sister Ray is a bit of tight squeeze (especially on a Saturday afternoon) however once inside your find a great range of music, again nicely categorised into genre and artist. Unlike Selectadisc, Sister Ray only carries a small range of vinyl (due to space limitations). This is made up for carrying a more specialised range of CDs including a well stocke
d Industrial and Experimental sections. Again the staff are very knowledgeable. Prices are slightly higher than Selectadisc (average cost of a CD album £12) but then again Sister Ray does offer a good range of bargain prices on selected releases. For more information check their website at www.sisterray.co.uk. Reckless Records Reckless is a second hand record shop that is divided into two separate units. One being a specialist dance store the other being a more general music store. The dance store is a great place to find promos and white label releases if you have the time and patience to wade through a ton of record sleeves. As with most dance music stores the concentration is on vinyl and the CD side of things is limited. The other store is full of more general releases but lacks good categorisation of the stock, which makes looking for something specific a bit of a trudge. However on the plus side it’s a good place to find rarities and deleted items at bargain prices. On average expected to pay about £8 to £10 for a CD album. There is also plenty of Specialist dance music record stores scattered through Soho, covering all manner of styles. Also once you’ve spend more than you should have go for a quick pint at one of the many excellent pubs in Soho. Go on there is nothing quiet like a cool pint whilst you check out your purchases and arrange a new overdraft. Notting Hill and Portobello Road Nearest Tube Stations: Notting Hill Gate (Central, Circle and District Lines), Ladbroke Grove (Hammersmith and City Line) Recently popularised and misrepresented in the film of the same name, Notting Hill is the bustling shopping area in West London. Portobello Road is always busy in the summer and at weekends, so a bit of patience is required when shopping amongst the hordes of tourists looking for the place where Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant stereotyped the area’s residents.
The Shops Music and Video Exchange. (MVE) Just a short walk form Notting Hill tube station, MVE is the King of all second hand music shops. Divided into separate shops specialising in General, Dance, classical, Singles, Videos, Computer games and Musical equipment. The Dance shop is another place to find vinyl rarities and promos. Whilst the other units are good places to find bargain and advance releases of albums and singles. The general store also sells a lot of rock and pop memorabilia for all you hardcore fans and collectors. MVE is also a good place to sell all your unwanted CDs and vinyl. Just don’t expect a windfall (unless you’ve got some very collectable stuff) but they do seem to buy all good quality products. My advice when selling go for exchange rather than cash, as you will get double the value of the items you are selling. Your get vouchers that can be exchanged in any of the MVE shops and that includes branches in Camden, Hammersmith and Soho as well. One thing to remember if you are selling you are selling/exchanging is to bring ID with your address and signature (A household Bill and your bankcard will do) as you will need these to carry out the transaction. Rough Trade Halfway down Portobello Road is Neal Street where you will find the infamous Rough Trade store. Home of the classic Indie label Rough trade. It’s another small shop, which can be like the black hole of Calcutta on a busy Saturday. However once inside you will find another great Independent record store selling a wide range of Independent releases and record labels. Like Sister Ray the store sells more CDs than vinyl and stocks a good range of obscure and esoteric releases. Again we have staff who know what they are talking about, rather than surly teenagers with attitude problems. CD albums are on average about £13 for new releases and back catalogue releases slightly more. Camden Nearest Tube: Cam
den Town (Northern Line) Once you realise that Suggs is there to meet you, your realise that Camden is all year round Glastonbury festival. Full of Shops selling all manner of ethnic and alternative clothing and looking like it has escaped from a Third World country, Camden is a cosmopolitan bizarre full of non high street stores. Let’s hope the plans to gentrify the area by London Transport are halted before they destroy what is a unique and wonderful place The Shops Resurrection Records My all time favourite record store. Resurrection is the most specialised of the shops in this guide. Dealing as it does with Goth, Industrial, Punk and Metal. Resurrection is the only shop in London that stocks CDs and records that your average record store would have no idea existed. Again another small shop (this one is downstairs of a clothing shop and past a T-shirt seller) but holds one of the best ranges I have seen in a record shop in many years. I still remember trembling with excitement when I saw the amazing selection of rare and import CDs they had in, for the first time. CD albums sell for about £12 that is pretty good when you realise that most of them are imports. Resurrection also sells tickets for the more underground concerts in London as well as a good selection of magazines. If you’ve got any rare Goth or Industrial releases for sell, then Resurrection is a good place to sell/exchange them. Camden Market. The International famous Camden Market is full of small stalls selling a variety of different musical styles. Most of the stuff is second hand but it is a good place to find deleted items and rarities at bargain prices. The other great thing about Camden Market is that if you’re shopping with a non record shopping friend or relative, there is plenty of other stalls that will interest them. Camden also has a Tower Records that has a good Indie/alternative section, but
is rather pricey compared to the Independents, but is worth a look if your looking for something a little more mainstream. Finally I admit this not the most comphrensive guide to record shopping in London and I welcome any comments about other good record stores in the Big Smoke. Oh and before I go, remember record shopping should be a joy not a chore, take it easy and enjoy.