Thousands of excited British teenagers will be getting up early next Saturday morning to wait in line for David Bowie’s brand new 7-inch single on vinyl. No, you haven’t entered a time warp to 1975, and yes, Britain does have CDs and MP3s like the rest of the world.
In Britain as elsewhere, Saturday April 20 is Record Store Day, when hundreds of eagerly awaited limited-edition vinyl singles, EPs and LPs (plus a few tapes and CDs) become available for just one day — and only from independent, locally-owned record stores.
The idea for Record Store Day (or RSD) started in the US in 2007, but British music fans have gone wild for it. This year, more than 450 records will hit the shelves. The list of releases showcases a who’s who of British and international talent as well as a to-do list for anyone wanting to visit the best of Britain's music stores on April 20 or any other time.
Some of the day's releases are hot new singles from stars like Bowie, Paul Weller and Garbage, while others are re-releases designed to appeal to collectors. A few are off the wall – like a rabbit-shaped picture disc of Cockney rockers Chas and Dave’s 1980 ditty “Rabbit,” released by Demon Music Group.
“Record Store Day is a celebration of bricks-and-mortar retail and the role of the store as a cultural hub,” says Paul Briggs, international head of production at British independent record label Domino. While some of the releases will be available by mail or digital download after April 20 (and yes, many stores will ship to the U.S.), others will be gone for good when vinyl supplies run out at shops.
Whatever you’re planning to buy, Briggs recommends you arrive early and expect a long queue. Popular stores like London’s Rough Trade had lines of up to 800 people last year. Retailers will keep those in line entertained with DJs, live music and special appearances, while Spillers in Cardiff, Wales (the oldest record shop in the world, since 1894) will even be producing a RSD fanzine to keep spirits up.
At Rough Trade, expect sets from rock wunderkinds The Strypes and trip-hoppers King Midas Sound. On London’s outskirts, Banquet Records in Kingston upon Thames will have the its longtime friend Frank Turner in the store to launch his new album “Tape Deck Heart.”
Early birds in the West Country of England should head over to the unmissable Rise Bristol for a full day of fun, starting with British-style bacon sarnies (sandwiches) at 6 a.m. and culminating in a live performance by the stunning Portico Quartet at 9 p.m. Completists might want to shop by the sea in Brighton, where Resident Records promises to stock “pretty much” every RSD release and will also be handing out goody bags of posters, samplers and pins.
To the north, Piccadilly Records in Manchester will host DJs and live music as well as tea, beer and burgers to keep guests glued to its aisles all day. Up in Edinburgh, Scotland, VoxBox will have a performance by Incredible String Band founder Mike Heron and the wonderfully named Frog Pocket.
But the biggest Record Store Day event will be on London’s Berwick Street in Soho, home to several fantastic independent record stores including Sister Ray and Phonica. On top of in-store parties, seven hot acts will perform live from a stage in the street all day, while a pop-up cinema screens the official RSD film.
There are dozens more events around the country for RSD, which has fast become the most important day of the year for small record stores. “Pressing plants are barely able to meet demand,” says Briggs. “It’s a heartening reminder that fans still cherish the large-format artwork, luxury packaging and unmistakable sound of vinyl.”
Although RSD limited editions can’t be counted as part of the official music charts, this year’s releases are expected to outsell the entire British top 10 – in physical singles, at least. So if you want that Bowie single, best start queuing soon.
by Mark Harris