I fucking love Record Store Day

I figured I’d start this article/rant/whatever with a bold statement. I really do fucking love Record Store Day and I’m sick of seeing a constant stream of negative articles about it. So much so, that it inspired me to write something here on Scene Better Days for the first time since *checks the website* August 9th 2014. (Shit, seriously, it’s been that long? Sorry Cream!)

So, what’s to love about RSD? Major labels activating the magic “re-issue” function on their corporate super-computers and waiting for the profit to roll in. Yeah, totally, that is a huge part of it. BUT… and here’s the saving grace… the only place to buy these corporate profit-making shiny discs is an independent store. Whilst I’m sure Sony making a massive windfall was hardly the original intention of RSD, a part of that massive windfall is staying with the likes of Banquet in Kingston, Resident in Brighton, Soundclash in Norwich and [insert your local record store here].

Plus, if you don’t want an over-priced David Bowie re-issue you don’t have to buy it. If you don’t want to bid 300% face value for it on eBay you don’t have to. Case in point: I’m a rather massive wrestling nerd. This year Sony re-issued the two “classic” WWF albums on vinyl for the first time since their original pressing in the 80s. Two dreadful albums of 80s wrestlers “singing”, packaged together on coloured vinyl in a gatefold sleeve. Asking price? £50. FIFTY FUCKING QUID. But, as I wanted it, I bought it. I could have easily left it be, but I wanted it and bought it and have no one to blame but myself. I have no right to own this product, and if the asking price is £50 then so be it; it’s my choice whether to part with my bundle of cash of not.

Negativity aside, I want to write about my positive experiences of RSD over the years. Last year me, my long-suffering girlfriend Claire and a friend made an early morning road-trip to the short-lived Moon Unit Records in Bishop’s Stortford. Were it not for RSD, I can’t see that we’d have gone to Stortford at all, especially not to give our money to an independent record store/bar/café.

The few years before this, me and Claire road-tripped to Kingston to spend hours queueing outside Banquet. One year, our friends Matt and Stephie joined us and we spent hours together chatting shit and drinking coffee. Another year, I finally met the mythical Richard Heaven in the flesh. Every year we’d find ourselves chatting to random people we’ve just met, united by our willingness to queue up at 6am in April for what is essentially a sheet of plastic.

So, onto this year. Within the past year, Cambridge has grown two new independent record stores. In previous years, RSD has been virtually non-existent here. Heffers is a bookshop with a small – mostly classical – music section but, as they’re an indie, they qualify for RSD and usually stock a very small handful of releases and go largely unnoticed by the public. With both Relevant and Lost in Vinyl opening since last year’s event, Cambridge has two legit places to spend RSD and, therefore, your hard-earned cash. Truth be told, I’ve still not made it into LIV yet, so I can’t really talk about them, except to say they had Nada Surf frontman and Cambridge resident Matthew Caws playing in store.

Relevant, however, was a different story for me. Long story short, I found myself working there; making this the first RSD I’ve spent on the other side of the counter.

Relevant is the epitome of independent. It’s run by a husband-and-wife team, with Angie running the café upstairs and Andy running the record store downstairs. Our RSD began with the café opening at 6am, and numbers being dispensed to the customers, ensuring they got their records in the order they arrived. The basement opened at 8am, with handfuls of customers called downstairs – in numerical order – whilst we hoped to have what they wanted in stock. My role was chief crate-digger, going through our numbered boxes of RSD stock to find those aforementioned magic sheets of plastic people were craving.

I don’t want to get too much into the economics side of things, but consider this: people came into us at 6am, bought coffee and breakfast from us and – long story short – pumped money into the local economy, be it directly by buying from us, or by our staff using their wages to buy things.

But anyway, it’s election season and you’ve probably heard enough dickheads talking about the economy without this dickhead joining in. We’re here to talk about records.

The day was loads of fun. Sure, some customers had to leave disappointed, but the overwhelming atmosphere was incredibly positive. People were happy to be here. The customers were (mostly) happy to be buying those records they wanted and the staff were happy to help and be able to just shoot the shit, talk music all day and play some obscure RSD release of pop music from Thailand. I had a shitload of fun. I just love talking music with people. It’s why I got into the whole record store/record label/gig promotion culture in the first place. RSD is almost like some sort of convention for record nerds.

Want to know what I bought? Well, you probably don’t but here’s what I picked up from Relevant:

• Bis – I Love Bis 2LP
• John Grant – With the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra 2LP
• Madness – Lovestruck – 7” with pop up “Madness Theatre”
• Metallica – No Life Til Leather tape
• Various – Sensible Record Labels LP
• Run the Jewels – Bust No Moves 12” EP
• Lonely the Brave – Call of Horses 12” EP

I’d toyed with the idea of getting the Metallica tape – purely as it’s a tape – but decided against it, until I actually saw it and saw how faithful a job they’d done recreating their original demo, with replica C60 sleeve and handwritten tracklisting.

I won’t get too much into each release I bought; I’m sure you don’t need a paragraph explaining each purchase. The Bis LP did rekindle my love for them, and I recommend you all go and re-listen to Bis. Even if it’s the video on YouTube of them doing Kandy Pop on Top of the Pops.

Anyway, I digress. In addition to the record-buying festivities, we had a bunch of live music in the café all day, starting with Stornoway playing a stripped back set, followed by a signing session for their new album. Which, in turn, lead to even more extra revenue due to all the sales of aforementioned new album. You’ll notice a recurring theme here, being that – ultimately – most RSD-related activities seem to end up with money being pumped into independent businesses. Obviously, I’m aware that a huge chunk of money is going to major labels too, but the rich are gonna get rich. Let’s be honest here, we’re not going to change that. If we can have some of this money go to people who deserve it – the honest, hard-working folk who run record stores, play in bands and run indie labels – then let’s accept it.

So, rants about the economy aside, Tuesday saw me and Claire in Surrey so – after bullying her – she agreed to drive to Kingston so I could spend yet more money in Banquet. What RSD goodies did I bring home?

• Vanilla Pod – Seeing Out the Sunrise LP
• plus the aforementioned WWF – Wrestling Album / Piledriver 2LP

In addition to a whole host of non-RSD releases. Do I have any regrets? No. None at all. I bought a whole heap of music I wanted from an independent retailer. As I said, I didn’t need to spend £50 on that WWF double LP but I wanted to, so I did. Even ignoring any financial expenditure, I had some good chats with the guys at Banquet and got to look around the racks and take a punt on a few things which would have otherwise passed me by. (Note: Claire took a punt on a record by a band called Turnstile who turned out to be some sort of crucial-as-fuck beatdown-hardcore-meets-nu-metal hybrid and were surprisingly good).

I guess I could summarise as follows:

Spending money in independent retailers is a good thing. Please do more of it.

And, with that, I shall finally shut up. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you at RSD ‘16.

– Ian Perry

Ian Perry runs an independent record label called Aaahh!!! Real Records, promotes gigs in Cambridge as United Cambridge, and invites any criticism (as well as invitations for vegetarian tapas) to ian@real-industries.co.uk

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