Two weeks ago I took my 12-year-old son into town for Record Store Day. We took rather a long time to leave the house. If we had been more organized we might have seen some live music at Rough Trade, or Rough Trade West as it’s now called, near Portobello Road. That’s where he saw his first gig, in 2010: the Magic Numbers and a few other acts I can’t remember. The following year we saw Pete and the Pirates at the same venue. This year Gilbert O’Sullivan was playing there from 2.30pm but we didn’t leave the house till after 4 o’clock. We headed straight to Berwick Street in Soho. If there were any live acts playing that afternoon we missed them. Our trip was more symbolic than purposeful. We browsed through the vinyl at Reckless and Sister Ray and picked up a copy of Howard Devoto’s 1983 “Jerky versions of the dream” for £9.99, 34 years after it was originally released.
Earlier today we made a similar journey, but with a clearer purpose: to buy a copy of Blondie’s latest album, “Pollinator”. Yesterday, its official release date, we tried a couple of local places without success. First of all we enquired at Rhythm and Brews, a very pleasant coffee shop and record store combined. They sell vinyl, but not new vinyl. Then we tried Sainsbury’s, which sells the Top 40 CDs. They didn’t have it either. So, retracing my steps from over 30 years ago, I took my son to HMV on Oxford Street. It was there, or at Tower Records on Piccadilly Circus, that I would buy the latest Smiths or Tom Waits albums in the 1980s. Our local record shops had already gone by then. Chiswick Music Salon had become a video rental shop, West 4 Tapes and Records was a stationer’s and Tune into 296, which might have been the last to go, had become a branch of Culpeper the Herbalist. It’s now the Bread Shop. The site of the video rental store was until recently a branch of Fat Face. It closed earlier this year and is now empty. The stationers are still in business.
I recall taking my son to the record shop on Piccadilly Circus in his pushchair, when he was a few months old, but can’t recall if it was still called Tower Records at the time. We went to collect tickets for a Willie Nelson gig at the Shepherds Bush Empire in the spring of 2005 and probably bought a few cheap CDs as well. HMV on Oxford Street was, for many years, a shoe-shop called Foot Locker but now HMV is back, at the same site it occupied throughout the 1980s. I contemplated buying “Pollinator” on vinyl, and using the download codes to make a CD for the car but went instead for the easier and cheaper option: £9.99 for the CD rather than £18.99 for the LP. We listened to it in the car earlier this evening but it was only a 25-minute journey, and the album is over 45 minutes long. We gave each track 30 seconds or so before listening, in full, to the two recent singles which prompted me to buy the album in the first place. Just like the old days.