Anger Is An Energy! The Decline And Rise Of The Independent Record Store In Edinburgh

John Lydon was spot on when he uttered those immortal words on “Rise”, the second track on that magnificent 1986 PiL LP, “Album”.

“Album” is still astonishing in its power, aggression, originality and sheer musicality after almost 30 years, with John McGeogh’s incredible guitar playing underpinning PiL at their peak.

John, you are still sorely missed…one of the finest guitarists Scotland has ever produced.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vq7JSic1DtM

So what are the normally laid-back, placid staffers here at Radical Independent Music angry about pop-pickers?

HMV, Amazon, Virgin and all of those other big corporate music retail chains who have single-handedly tried to destroy the independent record stores in this country, in collusion with the big corporate record companies.

Yes, folks, the record company majors who you would think would want to foster and help develop independent record stores, really don’t give a damn about them as they simply don’t shift enough “units” to be of any real interest.  Not unless you are Rough Trade of course, who had the wisdom to be both an indie label and an independent record store.

This includes Auld Reekie, the Athens of the North…..or just plain Edinburgh if you’re no fae here, like?

Our buddy Kevin Buckle, he of Avalanche Records fame, is just one such independent record store owner.

Avalanche at its peak had two stores in Edinburgh (or was it three? We may have been in an altered state of consciousness at the time) and one in Glasgow, on Dundas Street, now the wonderful Love Music, owned by Sandy.

Kevin was driven out of his store in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket by Edinburgh City Council who kept bumping up his rates and by the record company majors who would only sell to him on a non-returnable basis, whilst they happily allowed HMV, Amazon, Virgin, et.al., to buy on a “sale or return” basis.  How can you compete with that when you are an indie, hoping to generate enough record sales that month to cover the cost of your lease, business rates and put food on the table?  You can’t and Kevin was literally homeless for well over a year until he moved in to the indoor market at The Tron, where we are pleased to report his second hand vinyl sales are on the up…..you can never have enough vinyl.

Back in the Seventies there were a plethora of excellent independent record stores in Edinburgh which the staffers at Radical Independent Music used to frequent on a weekly basis…in our pushchairs we hasten to add!…to hang out, shoot the breeze and above all, be amongst kindred spirits who had a passion for music and staff who actually knew what they were selling, staff who would happily recommend the latest esoteric kraut rock release by Can to a bewildered fourteen year old who had been saving up his pocket money all month for the big trip to the city lights.

Here are just a few who have fallen by the wayside and are sadly no longer with us:

  • Phoenix Records on the High Street, now a whisky shop.  A store crammed to the gunnels with vinyl, second hand and new.
  • Bruce’s Records in Shandwick Place and Rose Street, owned by the legendary Bruce Findlay.  Wanted to check out Johnny & The Self Abusers before they morphed in to Simple Minds?  Just hang out in Bruce’s as of course Mr Findlay signed them to his own Zoom Records label and the rest is history.
  • The Other Record Shop on St Mary’s Street, tucked around the corner from The World’s End pub.

HMV and Amazon only care about shifting “units”, turnover and maximising profits.  Can you get advice on whether or not the latest Fall album is worth a punt – after all it is Mark E Smith’s 36th album!!! – from HMV or Amazon?  Nope.  Can you hang out online in an HMV or Amazon online store and talk to your budding musician mates about the next stadium-filling band you are just about to form, and oh by the way, does anyone have a van or car big enough to transport the gear to gigs and will anyone’s mum let the band practice in her front room?  Not a chance!

Yes you can buy CDs online for ridiculously low prices that your local independent record store will never be able to compete with – but interestingly enough, not new vinyl – but don’t you want something more satisfying than point and click?

We think you do pop-pickers and we here at Radical Independent Music are going to help to satisfy that craving you have to be able to go in to an independent record store, ask if they stock a particular record only to be told by the Jack Black lookalike (High Fidelity anyone?) that it is so s**t and your taste in music so unhip he can’t possibly sell it to you.

Which brings us to the Rise Of The Independent Record Store In Edinburgh…

This Autumn, Radical Independent Music will be opening a new independent…and of course, radical…record store in the city centre of Edinburgh.  Exciting, daft, or just plain silly?!?!  Well, only time will tell.

We are just back from a three week visit to California to see our old friends in the San Francisco Bay Area at the incredible Amoeba Music in Berkeley and San Francisco – which claims to be the world’s largest independent record store – Streetlight Records in San Jose and Rasputin in Mountain View.

http://www.amoeba.com

http://www.streetlightrecords.com

http://www.rasputinmusic.com

The purpose of the trip – apart from escaping the Scottish weather and catching some surf and rays – was to figure-out why the independent record stores in the San Francisco Bay Area are thriving, whilst their counterparts in Edinburgh are living from hand to mouth.

Stores like Vov Box in Stockbridge (never been the same since George Robertson left), Vinyl Villains and Elvis Shakespeare on Leith Walk, and Unknown Pleasures at the bottom of the High Street are still flying the flag for indie record stores, but visit them on any day of the week and they are not exactly thriving hives of record-buying activity.

So why is that?

Well, we think we have figured it out and the new store in Edinburgh is like nothing Auld Reekie will have seen before pop-pickers!

We don’t want to give away too much at this stage, but the Radical Independent Music store will ONLY stock vinyl, at least that’s the current thinking from our marketing guru.  Not much different about that? we can hear you say, but there are a few exciting and innovative (for Edinburgh at least) twists that will be unveiled when we open.

All we can tell you at this stage is THINK MULTIFUNCTIONAL people.  Catch our drift???

And on that note, have a great weekend pop-pickers, and remember….you can never have enough vinyl.

As for us, we’re off to Aberdeen for the BrewDog AGM…wall-to-wall microbrewery beers, punk ethos and live bands from 11am to 11pm…fit like loon and quine?!?!  You’ll have had your rowies?!?!

Next Tuesday it’s Patti Smith at GRCH, which will be reviewed in typical spectacular fashion by our old mucker, Gus Ironside, for Louder Than War.  No pressure there then Gus!

http://louderthanwar.com

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