The day after my thirthieth birthday I decided to make a nostlagic pilgramage to Newcastle to visit some of the old Indie record shops where I spent countless hours as a student (10 years ago). At the back of my mind I was half expecting they would’ve all caved in to financiar pressures and I was in for a day of disapointments. How wrong I was…
The first place I sought out was the tiny Boxset stuffed frontage of Reflex Records. This was by far my favourite haunt as they always offred 3 for 2 deals on CDs so I would usually go in to get a specific album I’d crave and then pick up another two as well. The other two would consist of a more obsure LP I’d heard was good and other record I’d grab just because the sleeve looked cool. Reflex have a great and varied stock of intersting Punk records you won’t find anywhere else and you can almost be gaureented that anything you pick up off the racking is going to be great.
Today it looks the same as always and is just as good. As before I went for the 2 for 3 deal picking out ‘Big Star’s – #1 Record’, ‘The Best Of Tony Joe White’ and ‘The Flamin Groovies’ Flamingo’.
Next I crossed the street and entered the gorgeous Edwardian tiled promenade that is the Central Arcade, home of J.G. Windows LTD Music & Instrument shop. It used to stock a good collection of fine psychedelic and progressive records in the basement but oday the music is upstairs alongside the instruments. I remember spending quite a bit of time staring at the Guitars in the big windows Wayne’s World “Oh yes it will be mine” style. Today I spent a while drooling over Springsteen’s expensive ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’ boxset while the shop assistant tried to help me talk myself in to buying it (Fortunately without success). But I didn’t walk out empty handed, I grabbed a copy the 20th anniversary edition of Nirvana’s ‘Bleach’ because it has a whole live concert as a bonus.
After a couple of trips into Forbidden Planet and Travelling Man Comics to hunt down a couple of ellusive volumes of ‘Lone Wolf & Cub’ I headed to RPM Music. As I got halfway down the alley I was horrorified by the shuttered-up, red-paint-peeling frontage that presented me. As I looked closer I sighed in relief as I saw the “We have moved” sign. My best memory of RPM was going down there to get a Jon Spencer LP and instead being reccomended an import EP by some then little known band called the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (A top tip I tink you’ll agree).
The new black shop is a little smaller but still has all the same charm as when it was round the corner. The friendly guy at the counter kept pointing out potential purchases that I’d missed and such is the quality of it’s stock that I actually had to put a few items back before heading for the till as my wallet was protesting at the four I’d already selected. I got three CDs including ‘Dan Sartain Lives’, ‘The Zombies’ The CBS Years 1967 – 1969′ and I finally got myself a copy of ‘The Dead Weather’s Sea Of Cowards’. I also picked up a Limited Record-Store-Day exclusive 7″ from The View covering The Tweeds powerpop classic ‘I Need That Record’. The original is my favourite Geek-Record-Collector song so a new version was irrresistable. Afterall it does feature lines like…
“You’ve got to live for the music if you wanna stay alive… collecting all the records from 1965!”
Unfortunately I didn’t get time to see if the great Steel Wheels (Home of a huge collection of rare Iggy bootlegs) was still there. Maybe I’ve got rose tinted spectacles, but there’s something missing about London record shops compared to Newcastle record shops. The Geordie staff are smiling, friendly and they love having a chat about the records. Also the selections are just better, they don’t stock much crappy Pop but they don’t stock much trendy Avant-Garde bollocks either. They are just little aladdin’s caves, stocked wall to wall with musical adventures waiting to be had.
Shame I couldn’t stick around ’til the evening for a trip to my favourite Newcastle Club ‘World Headquarters’. They used to have shelves setup behind the DJ booth with all the LPs that the DJ was playing so you could stare at the artwork while you danced all night to Marvin Gaye and Public Enemy.