While in Scotland last September I decided on the spare of the moment to compile a mini compendium of quality record shops that I visit regularly while holidaying there. However this initial idea grew legs and increased in size to include shops I had not visited before. I tried to make it as comprehensive as I could but as was kindly pointed out to me by a number of commentators, including Ewen of Europa Music of Stirling, I had left a few worthy shops out. As I pointed out at that time this was born out of nothing more than ignorance of the existence of these fine establishments (1); so with this stand alone addition I aim to redress at least some of the shops that I missed last time.
I think it only fair to point out that logistical considerations have meant that a few that were suggested to me last time I have also missed out this time. I apologise for this but my time was somewhat limited and I needed the shops to be a relatively easy walk from the city centres of those towns or cities I visited and those I have not included this time were just too far for me to walk to.
I missed out on visiting quite a number of record shops during my last visit to this fine city but before we look at them I think I should mention the state of play among those I visited last time.
Well Fopp is still trading (thankfully) and the quality and diversity of stock is still very good and pretty much unchanged from my last visit but the dreaded technology zone, that the owners of Fopp HMV, believe will save their shops, was still there but had not expanded within the Glasgow store; in fact it had shrunk slightly. However one area that had also, sadly, shrunk slightly was their vinyl department but at least it was still there; though barely.
One shop mentioned last time was now an empty shell, HMV on Sauchiehall Street. Sad for those who lost their jobs but no big loss otherwise as two other HMV stores still trade on not too far away. The HMV opposite Buchanan Galleries was an even poorer/paler version of itself over my last visit, with virtually no vinyl now compared to my last visit. How the mighty have fallen.
I must apologise to Volcanic Tongue and Mixed Up who I was unable to visit this time but I will, next time I am in Glasgow.
34 Dundas Street, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, tel 0141 332 2099
Love Music, previously Avalanche records, sits just above the Queens Street Railway station behind Buchanan Galleries on Dundas Street. The shop has very much the same visual presentation as the original Cockburn Street Avalanche in Edinburgh, slightly dark and moody. However to offset that, the staff were very friendly and helpful and the stock was well laid out and displayed.
Love Music’s stock is a mixture of new and second hand with a fairly comprehensive back catalogue in most genres bar Classical music. They had CDs, DVDs and a fair amount of vinyl both new and second hand and I managed to find three albums to buy there one by Canadian band Zon and two by Jazz/fushion progsters, Brand X.
One nice touch, that many shops don’t do was having a ‘just in stock’ section for new vinyl.
I recommend that you visit this record shop if you are in Glasgow.
247 Argyle Street, Glasgow, Lanarkshire,G2 8DL, tel 0141 248 1661
Missing Records on Argyle Street sits directly under the bridge that leads out of the central railway station and the approach to it is somewhat dark and gloomy. However the narrow entranceway leads to a long, thin and somewhat Tardis like interior which is to my mind is the best way to describe this shop.
Missing Records occupies two floors one of which is a deep, almost dungeon like basement. The shop staff, were fairly friendly and helpful but frankly you will need to allow plenty of browsing time as this shop has a fairly massive selection of stock.
Missing Records has stock to cover all genres of music from classical to Jazz and everything in between on CD and vinyl. The basement is where the vinyl was displayed and like Love Music they too also had a nice touch in the shape of a ‘Just in’ section, displaying the latest vinyl stock.
All of the stock appeared to be second hand and as I didn’t have a lot of time to examine any of it I can’t comment on the type of condition it was in.
Missing Records is well worth a visit especially if you have just been to visit Fopp but you must allow yourself plenty of time for a good browse as the amount of stock this compact shop has is fairly large.
12 Kings Court, King Street, Glasgow G1 5RB 0141 582 9458
After walking along Howard Street and finding King Street, I eventually found the complex of units that the Mono cafe sits among. Well I had been given very strong suggestions that this shop was something special and frankly the entrance through a coffee shop/restaurant did not initially hold out a lot of promise. Well my advice is walk on through the coffee shop and don’t be put off by it as once you enter the record shop proper you are in for a real treat.
The moment I stepped through the actual entrance to Monorail I knew I was in the presence of something special, my eyes must have lit up as I gazed in wonder. The attention to detail in the shop layout and the way the stock was displayed and categorised was breathtaking and showed a very anal attention to detail, something store owner Dep confessed later on to me, he is afflicted by. In his professional and private life, he is very particular about the important details regarding the collecting of records and the shop itself reflects this attention to detail in how the stock is displayed and the empty sleeves are protected from being damaged; by having cardboard inserts inside.
The stock was mostly new, with different genres separated in to sections for time periods (50’s, 60’s music etc) , there was also a section for second hand CD and vinyl. Once I started browsing after asking Russell if I could take some photos I began to realise that Monorails stock was quite unusual as it seemed that all the music with in the beautifully made display racks had been selected for artistic merit rather than just commercial popularity. In fact I would go so far as to say that this was a bit like looking through a very cultured and musically knowledgeable guys record collection. I say this just to point out that a lot of the current chart material was absent from this shop and I feel deliberately so.
There were sections for electronic and avant-garde music, jazz, contemporary music, exotica, soundtracks and more than half of the stock was vinyl and professionally displayed with cardboard inner blanks and pvc sleeves to protect the covers, plus the prices were very reasonable.
After browsing I took a vinyl copy of Wild Beasts album Two dancers to the counter and engaged Dep in conversation, while Russell went about his work. We discussed the current state of the music industry re CDs decline and the growing interest in vinyl and various other topics and I found him to be a highly motivated, knowledgeable, passionate and interesting, just as Monorail Music is.
While talking I spotted some 180 gr albums by Focus, I enquired about them and was told they had just come into stock, well they didn’t hit the shelves as I bought them on the spot.
Monorail is something else all together and I have to say that I can’t recall being in a shop quite like it anywhere before. So if you want something different and a cut above many others then you must visit this shop. If you think I am gushing a bit too much about this shop then my reply to you would be that I give praise where praise is due and in the case of Monorail Music the praise I give only reflects how special this shop is.
Well done Dep and Russell.
Monorail is highly recommended.
13-15 Chisholm St, Glasgow G1 5HA, tel 0141 552 5696
After leaving Monorail I headed towards Trongate and on the way along Chisholm Street I found a shop not on my list, Record Fayre.
Like many other shops in this article is a long thin shop which manages to pack a great deal into two similarly sized rooms. The first room comprises of CDs, vinyl, cassette tapes, 7 and 12 inch singles and DVDs covering all types of genres, including classical music (I spied a small pile of classical vinyl on the floor under a storage rack). Room two was devoted entirely to T shirts and other types of music related clothing items.
The shop was fairly well laid out and the stock was varied and interesting and the staff were friendly.
Record Fayre is certainly worth a visit on your way back, or to Monorail.
No change in Stirling both of its shops were still trading and while Ewan’s shop Europa Music was unchanged the HMV store in The Thistle shopping centre had lost almost a third of its floor space to the Technology zone.
No new shops but Grouchos was still open for business and unchanged and the HMV like the one in Stirling had lost about a third of its floor space to technology products that a Curry’s store was selling, a few doors down from the HMV and perhaps for a better price too.
I think it fair to say, like in my first State of Independence article that my coverage of the Scottish capitols record shops was somewhat inadequate and like the missing ones in my section on Glasgow this was due to ignorance; I simply didn’t know they existed. For part two I was well aware that the large number of existing shops and a few new ones presented me with a large logistical problem; I would simply not be able to visit them all as I was on foot and only had a limited amount of time.
So right from the off I must apologise to Elvis Shakespeare and Vox Bop as I have missed you guys out this time too. I walked the feet off me to near stumps covering the shops I did and I both ran out of time and energy to do more than I did this time round; so I promise to cover you next time.
5 Grassmarket, Edinburgh,EH1 2HY, tel: 0131 659 7708
Having now moved to its new premises in Grassmarket from its long term original pitch in Cockburn street Avalanche records is still very much in the ‘work in progress’ mode as they expand to fill the former Seven Oaks HiFi shop. While I am sad to see the loss of Seven Oaks from Edinburgh I am delighted to see that Avalanche are expanding their original brief to include a cafe as part of their business model (closed during my visit) as I for one like the idea of mixing cafe culture with music culture.
The stock profile is much as it was before including a mix of new and second hand music covering most genres of music, bar classical, and as well as CDs there was also lots of vinyl still filling the racks, so no change there then, thankfully.
I am very excited for Avalanche and I wish them all the best in their new premises and I recommend you give them a visit.
110 Canongate ,Edinburgh, EH8 8DD, Tel: 0131 652 3537
Walking from Grassmarket and then halfway down the Royal Mile brought me to a totally new shop to me and one that had been brought to my attention by a friend and emails sent to AIHFA, after the original article was published.
Unknown Pleasures is a nicely laid out shop with vinyl at the front of the shop and CDs at the back. The stock leaned more to classic rock and pop with jazz, blues and folk and was well laid. Despite the compact and bijou nature of the shop, access to all the stock was easy and the owner was a pleasure to chat with, all-be-it our chat was fairly short and sweet.
Unknown Pleasures is very much worth a visit.
The hike from Unknown Pleasures to the next shop, on my list of record shops to visit, Music Shack, was or so it seemed very long and despite the fairly gentle incline of the Street my leg muscles were starting to complain a bit but persevere I did to find a long thin shop with a slightly tired appearance however don’t allow that to put you of as this was one of those treasure chests of a shop that browsing through the racks of records soon revealed.
The Music Shack has a mixture of new and second hand CDs and vinyl and has the resale agency for ECM records, whose wonderfully recorded jazz will both entertain and challenge the listener and as such is in my opinion well worth a try. It was once easy to see ECM’s records in the racks of main stream shops i.e HMV but these days you will be doing well to see any at all. If you ask Dave, the shop’s owner, I am sure he will delight in letting you hear anything you want from ECM’s catalogue or indeed any of his other stock.
I took a few minutes to chat with him and while photographically shy I found him to be a very warm, friendly, passionate and knowledgeable about the music he was selling.
I bought an ECM release by Rainer Bruninghause – Freigewent that he happened to be playing while I was wondering around the shop and then chatting with Dave. This is one of the things I love about real shops and independent ones at that, as you will more often than not, hear music you would not otherwise hear.
Music Shack I recommend.
62 South Clerk Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9PS, tel 0131 667 5274
A few minutes on up the road is Hogshead an interesting shop stocking CDs and DVDs, no vinyl here. However the shop is large well laid out and the staff were very friendly.
Sadly with the clock very much against me I only had a very brief look around but on the basis of this brief visit I think Hogshead is very much worth a visit.
9 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1BP, tel 0131 226 2242
After walking all the way back to Cockburn Street I visited a dance music specialist Underground Solu’shn who I sadly left out of the last article, omission now corrected.
I did not have a great deal of time to scan their stock or indeed to chat with the staff but I did listen in on an exchange between one member of staff and his customers. The quality of this conversation was very high indeed.
Looking around this relatively small shop I was impressed by the way in which every square inch of floor and wall space had been utilised to display the varied stock of CDs, vinyl records and hardware in the form of turntables, cartridges, products from Project and various types of mixers that any DJ might use.
The emphasise on this shop’s stock is very much Dance music orientated with sections for Electronica, Nu-Jazz, House and other styles of Dance, however there was also some Rock and Pop music to be found as well both new and Second Hand.
My biggest regret of this part of the day was I had run out of time and I could only briefly browse the very interesting varied stock this shop had to offer. However based on my brief visit I would still strongly recommend a visit if your taste in music leans in the direction of Dance.
I was delighted to find that all the shops I visited last time and that were included in the first article were still trading a year on and even more pleased to find that there were a fair number of quality shops I had not been to last year, that were all in their own way very much worth the effort of visiting.
However I have to say that among the shops, Monorail in Glasgow set a very high standard for layout, decor, stimulating and challenging stock and as such was the stand out experience among the shops I visited this trip. I don’t want to come across as belittling the other shops or their owners or staffs efforts indeed I want to make it clear that I enjoyed each and everyone but Monorail for me just edged ahead of the others. So if I were to be giving out an award it would have to go to them; with Underground Solu’shn, Record Shak and Love Music coming in as joint seconds.
I have no doubt I still have a few more shops to visit that I still don’t know about, so as with last time I welcome any suggestions; which you can forward to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. if they are as good as these shops then I look forward to visiting them in the future.
(1) Due to a lack of internet connection in the Holiday Cottage I was staying at the last time I was unable to expand my personal knowledge (the shops I visited last time were derived solely based on this) with a quick internet search which would have revealed a larger list of shops to visit and include in the original article.
© Text and Photos Copyright 2011 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio.
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