‘On The Record’: Celebrating National Album Day at London’s Record Stores

We would like to introduce ourselves. We are Londoners. We are music enthusiasts. We are Digsy’s Corner.

With the arrival of the first ever National Album Day, it seemed like the perfect time to bring you our first post. We would like to think we have something interesting to say but we will leave that decision up to you.

For National Album Day, we took a trip across London to visit some of the record shops that the city has to offer and London did not disappoint. Starting in the heart of vibrant Soho (we would recommend this to anyone planning their own tour as the quiet streets allowed us to stop and take in all the musical heritage we pass everyday). Our sights were set on Berwick Street but we very quickly de-toured to Denmark Street to pay homage to “Tin Pan Alley” and the musical mile that sits nestled next to busy Tottenham Court Road. Shop windows filled with gleaming electric guitars and neon signs (which if you are like us, never miss your attention) it becomes extremely difficult to resist giving up the day job to try and make it as a musician; that is, before remembering the lack of skill or necessary ‘aesthetic’ to even attempt it- but we can dream, right? unspecified Eventually, we found our way to Berwick Street, the home of two record stores: Sister Ray and Reckless Records. This is not the only reason we were drawn to this location, the Oasis fans amongst you will also know that this is the location of the famous album cover ‘What’s the Story, Morning Glory?’. Someone over at Reckless Records is also a huge fan given that hanging front and centre in their window is this very album cover and the words ‘you are here’ to let you know exactly where in this cover you can say you visited (a very big deal when you are huge, bordering obsessive Oasis fans- and yes, we know the band is over).  After purchasing David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ at a great price, we asked the team over at Reckless what their favourite album of all time was- which as you can imagine, proved a difficult if not impossible question. After much deliberating, one album couldn’t be picked and the list that began with Bob Dylan and Bob Marley soon reached the answer “all the Bobs, to be honest”.

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“All the Bobs, to be honest!”

Next, we moved to Sister Ray whose window was filled with a range of CD albums which continues as you step inside. For those of you who believe CDs should be well and truly left in the past (however recent) do not despair, for as you travel further into Sister Ray you will find a huge green sign with the words ‘vinyl’ painted above it. As you descend the steps following brightly coloured cassettes painted on the walls it soon becomes clear that Sister Ray contains a vinyl lover’s dream collection in the basement. It was here we experienced ‘a great find’ that every vinyl collector hopes to come across. For us, this great find was ‘The Dreams We Have As Children’ by Noel Gallagher recorded live for Teenage Cancer Trust (we do not only collect Oasis records, we promise).

After briefly losing track of time, we made our purchase and pitched the same difficult question: ‘what’s your favourite album of all time?’. We loved all record stores we visited but the response to this question definitely edged Sister Ray into the top spot with ‘The Stone Roses’ by The Stone Roses. unspecifiedunspecified

“It has to be The Stone Roses by The Stone Roses, doesn’t it?”

After a short walk, we made a stop at Fopp- we are still not overly sure if this was a HMV or not. You won’t be able to discover a rare find here but you will find great discounts and an eclectic mix of books too.

Fopp was our last Record Store stop in Soho, and so we jumped back on the tube and travelled to Waterloo Station. From there we headed, not to a Record Store, but a pop-up National Album Day exhibition. The exhibition focused on iconic record covers of the past seventy years, so if you have a fetish for album artwork then this exhibition is well worth a visit. Alongside each album cover was a short paragraph explaining why it is considered an iconic album cover from a pop-culture point of view. Some of the album covers displayed included Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ (1979) album artwork, Primal Scream’s playful cover for ‘Screamadelica’ (1991), and the rather saucy album cover for ‘Is this It’ (2001) from Indie rockers The Strokes.   unspecified From Waterloo, we journeyed South to Brixton, the birthplace of Ziggy himself. We briefly visited the David Bowie mural opposite the station, which has now become a pilgrimage site for Bowie fans across the world to pay their respects to the late, great Starman. The impact and sense of personal loss after David Bowie passed away can still be felt as fresh flowers are still found at the mural. After our quick detour, we found ourselves at Pop Brixton where we knew we could find our next record store stop. Pop Brixton is essentially a market built in and around shipping containers. In other words, Pop Brixton is a Hipster-Millennial paradise. After navigating through a maze of shipping containers, we (eventually) found Container Records – which you guessed it, is a record store inside a shipping container. There was a surprising variety of vinyl in Container Records despite its small size. We again couldn’t resist asking the supervisor what their favourite album of all time is. After much mental deliberation, he answered with Bob Dylan’s ‘Blood on the Tracks’. If we have learnt anything today, it’s that Bobs prove particularly popular in the record store circles!

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“Wow. On the spot? Well it aged so well so Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks”

unspecified Because we were feeling rather knackered by this point (and as we also have no self-control), we decided we deserved a couple of ciders in the rooftop chill out space in Pop Brixton. Like most hipster hangout spots, it is very instagrammable (but we have to say, the wooden crate seating area was not the most practical or comfortable!).

After our (absolutely vital) beverage pit stop, we hopped back on the tube at Brixton and ventured North to Angel which is home to Brill Records. Brill Records was novel in that, as well as selling a variety of records, it also functioned as a café serving fresh bagels and coffee! Although it was absolutely fabulous (no really, one of us does work in PR after all) to dine on bagels and coffee inside a record store, we were kicking ourselves that someone else had come up with the idea of a Café/record-store before us! If you aren’t completely distracted by the café inside Brill, do make sure to rifle through their crates of vinyl where you can find a brilliant selection of classic records. Do also take the chance to venture downstairs, where you can find a mural of magazine cut-outs of musical icons from Morrissey to The Beatles. unspecifiedunspecified Brill Records was our last Record Store stop of the day. Although we had many more record stores on our to-do list, we simply ran out of time, and rather conveniently, our camera’s memory had reached full capacity.  Alas, we will continue our journey, and hope you will stick around to read more about it!

Happy National Album Day from Digsy’s Corner!

*All photos were taken by Digsy’s Corner, this post was written independently with no affiliation to any store visited. We would like to thank all stores we visited for taking the time out to speak to us.

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