Record Store Day returns this Saturday April 21st. Ahead of the annual race for limited edition vinyl New Boots contributor Peter Dennis took a trip around Northampton’s independent record stores to find out more about the day and what it means to local shops.
Older readers will recall fondly the plethora of independent record shops that peppered the town centre. Abel & Sons on the Market Square, which at one time boasted the largest stock of records in the East Midlands. John Lever on Gold Street, with its popular listening posts and own record label. Memory Lane began life in the much missed Emporium Arcade, while Spinadisc on Abington Street was a popular destination for vinyl aficionados. In fact music was such an integral part of the cultural fabric that records could be purchased in chemists, newsagents and supermarkets.
The lamentable decline of the independent record shop has been a national phenomenon, but compared to towns of a similar size Northampton still has several independent sellers and attracts buyers from surrounding areas like Milton Keynes and Leicester – who are void of such amenities.
If you arrive in town by train then your first port of call will be Spun Out on Gold Street. Coincidentally the store occupies the premises that was John Lever’s, so the fact that it’s another record shop provides a nice symmetry. “We’ve been here 18 years” explains manager Chris Kent. “At the moment we’re selling lots of rock, reggae, soul and indie. Having seen a slump in the vinyl market I’d say Record Store Day has been a godsend. It’s pointed out that you still have this resource, these independent shops where you can get immersed in music”.
“It’s all about getting involved”, he continues. “The initial Record Store Day has gained momentum and a lot of it is down to the fact there’s this exciting day that will give you a ticket into this club at your local record shop. We get a fair amount of people queuing up early because they know we try our hardest to have a good selection of all that’s released. This year we’ve also got Thee Telepaths playing live in store at midday, and DJs playing all day long.”
Walking up Abington Street next to the library you will find Watt’s furniture shop. Enter the store, ascend two flights of stairs and you will discover Vinyl Underground. Now in its 25th year they became a record shop almost by default, after selling specialist Detroit and Chicago imports unavailable anywhere else. The shop which has a reputation as a ‘digger’s paradise’ where you can browse through thousands of records. Owner Aidy Harland: “I love the fact that RSD supports independent and local businesses so I really want to get behind it and join in with it. We extend the shop and we have 300-400 people through here on a Saturday. We have a huge variety of releases and there’s a queue outside from 4am. People come in here who are regular customers just to enjoy the day. That’s what it’s all about; people coming in and talking about music”.
Behind Northampton College, on St Michael’s Road, you will find Spiral Archive. The shop is housed in an old printing works building, with approximately 35,000 items. The shop was founded in 1999 by local artist and musician Alex Novak when vinyl sales were at their nadir. “I think if you look at it as a niche thing those people don’t go away”, he elaborates. “The people who are interested in records will always be there while other people kind of dip in and out”. While Spiral Archive doesn’t stock official Record Store Day releases, it instead opens from 11am until 4pm with half-price sale on everything. Novak also organises a record fair around the corner at The Lamplighter on Overstone Road – open from midday until 4pm – with local DJs playing vinyl right through until 1am.
To find out more about this year’s event and the limited edition releases, visit the official RSD site at https://recordstoreday.co.uk