Saturday 18 April is the first international Record Store Day. As the phrase would suggest, this started in the US and is being adopted by independent record shops (see what I did there?) in the UK and elsewhere this year.
Record shops are somewhat under threat these days, and not just independent ones. Time was you could spend a happy Saturday afternoon walking round most towns of any size and visit half a dozen record shops of different sorts. Now you can struggle – and even the corporate chains have been disappearing, whilst those that remain are mainly DVD shops. But independent record shops – such as Beatdown Records or RPM in Newcastle where I can sometimes be found browsing at lunchtimes – are hotbeds of local music scenes and of diversity in music. I’m not going to get all Nick Hornbv on you, but they can be formative and transformative as well as sometimes, to be honest, off-putting and inaccessible-seeming to non-cognescenti. So very much like other arts spaces then…
I spent my first wage packet (summer job, carpet warehouse) on a Pere Ubu album I still have and a Passage lp I don’t, from the fabulous Action Records in Preston, not too long after it opened. It's still hanging in there, remains as atmospheric as ever and is taking part in Record Store Day and which you can visit here. The last thing I bought there, earlier this year, was a second-hand copy of Weary Blues by Langston Hughes and Charles Mingus, which just goes to show how record shops can grow with you. (No, I didn’t sell the Passage record in revenge for Richard Witts’ later history of Arts Council Great Britain, I rather enjoyed that, I just went off synthesizers, long before I'd ever heard of the Arts Council.)
So even if you’ve got out of the habit of visiting real record shops, forgo Amazon for a day and visit your local record shop – many have special events on.