You might have seen that HMV was in the news lately. As it slides into administration, there’s been an outpouring of nostalgia for the 92-year-old chain, not to mention sympathy for the plight of its staff. I’ve certainly shopped in a few branches over the years, especially the one on Oxford St. in London but my nostalgia is even more pronounced for the “Mom & Pop” stores that bit the dust long before this recent HMV news.
One such store was “Caroline Records” just off Portobello Bridge in Dublin. It was a pokey wee place run by a husband and wife team. I bought my first Jackson Browne record there (The Pretender) and I still have it on vinyl. I probably bought at least one record every week (on Thursday when I got paid, in cash). I lived just around the corner in a bedsit on Lennox St. It was while I was living there that I started to build my record collection.
I used to visit another amazing record store every time I was over in London. I couldn’t remember the name of it but UKBob (who has a great blues show on WRFG) came to the rescue just the other day (as we were talking about HMV in Oxford St). He pointed me to this link, which indeed sounds about right for the place I used to visit. There’s more info on Ray here
Like all good discoveries, I came across it by accident and I can still remember the first time I walked into it. Certain records shops just had that ‘feel’ about them and this one had it in bucket loads. My eyes nearly popped out of my head as I scanned the rows and rows of records and seen names like Johnny Shines, Taj Mahal, Lightin’ Slim, Big Joe Turner, Little Milton, James Cotton, and Lightin’ Hopkins looking back at me. I bought as many records as my meager stash allowed me and basically went hungry for the rest of that trip.
This happened every time I went over to London. I’d promise myself that I’d keep enough for a few decent meals and a few pints but inevitably I’d end up spending just about everything I had in Ray’s place – and I’d always go there as soon as I arrived in the capital because I was so afraid all the good stuff would be gone if I arrived even a second later. I know, not a very logical thought as the place was packed with goodies but I just couldn’t help myself. I suppose the payoff is, I still have the vinyl whereas any pleasure derived from a good piss-up or a fancy meal would be long gone by now.
If you scroll down that page I linked to for Ray’s place you’ll see a short video you can click on at the bottom, which shows another musician with obviously a great taste in music also browsing the store! 🙂
Gosh, just writing this brings back so many memories of the hours of pleasure I’ve gotten from listening to those records over the years. I still have my trusty Technics SL-D303 turntable (in fact I bought a new stylus for it recently), so now if you don’t mind I’m off – on this rainy and windy Sunday afternoon – to spin some vinyl in honour of the unique record shops I bought them in. The first one on the turntable is going to be Little Milton’s Blues ‘n’ Soul (recorded on Stax Records in 1974).
I can hear the crackle already in my mind as he starts to sing an incredible version of “Woman Across The River”. Sweet!!