Record Store Day: The thrill of rummaging for vinyl when life spun at 33rpm
and live on Freeview channel 276
National Record Store Day - which falls today (Saturday) - sparks so memories of my own journey from Music For Pleasure sound-a-like albums and to the era of punk and a deep, deep dive into heavy rock.
Like many kids I started out buying records in Woolies on Princes Street in Edinburgh.
Back in the 70s, all the songs you heard came via Top Of The Pops and the Sunday chart show on Radio1, so my first purchases were those terrible MFP albums where session musicians drained the life out of the latest hits. I suspect the Music For Pleasure label survived largely because of the sexist pin-ups on the covers - usually a pneumatic woman in a welder’s vest or something equally irrelevant to the actual music.
It was a short hop from there to the K-Tel range where Mud, Showaddywaddy, The Rubettes, and Suzi Quatro had their latest hits pressed into compilations which sold for 49p.
Woolies gave way to John Menzies and Boots which had decent record departments back in the day. I knew things were changing when I went into Boots and got a horrified look from a young sales girl when I asked for a needle ...
The jump into proper, grown up music and real record stores consumed my teenage weekends. Growing up in Edinburgh. I'd get the bus in from Wester Hailes, and spend the entire day mooching around record shops. We were spoiled for choice.
I’m old enough to remember the buzz which surrounded the arrival of Virgin on Princes Street, but the real joy came when you headed to the smaller, independent stores - The Last Record Shop, Other Record Shop, Bruce’s, The Record Shack on Clerk Street, Vinyl Villains down Elm Row, and GI down Cockburn Street too.
But the go-to place remained the Ezy Rider Record Exchange up in Forrest Road. I spent so many hours thumbing through the poly bagged covers I’d emerge with manky fingers and a stack of new vinyl. It didn't just open my eyes, and ears, to a host of bands, it brought music alive.
Stepping inside the stone entrance at what was Oddfellows' Hall, was to disappear into a semi-lit world of vinyl, populated almost entirely by blokes with band names and logos embroidered on their jackets, The patches and art work defined them.
Receipts were never issued - you were handed the album and left to check it for scratches or marks that might make the needle jump. I couldn’t begin to count the hours I spent going up and down the rows of vinyl.
Heavy rock albums dominated my weekend buys. Purple, Zep, Rush, Rainbow, Gillan, Quo, Nazareth, and Sabbath, but there was still room for deep dives into the 60s, encounters with a host of singer-songwriters, and some full blown weirdness - everything from Iron Butterfly to Captain Beefheart, and a short dalliance with Frank Zappa.
Then as now, albums were things of beauty to be poured over. I’d devour the sleeve notes and lyric sheets and be thrilled if some extra insets dropped out as I took the vinyl from its cover.
Sammy Hagar’s ‘Red’ album came in red vinyl, while I had ELO’s Out Of The Blue double album on blue vinyl until an ill conceived playground swap saw it exchanged for a 12-inch version of Ronnie Biggs and the Sex Pistols’ A Punk Prayer.
A collection of more than 1000 albums was transported around umpteen houses, a few garages and one spare room before finally being sold as a job lot for 75 quid to a dealer.
I still buy CDs today rather than stream anything - there’s just nothing to beat the feel of an album in your hand, even if I now need specs to make out the small writing in the sleeve notes.
I hope today’s vinyl junkies get the same thrill I got when dropping an album onto the turntable for the very first time, and then sliding it into its proper place in their collection, organised alphabetically and in chronological order of release. Is there any other way ...?