Record stores are the last standing bastion of early modern music culture. The faithfully and strenuously defended castles of a society born and bred in both introverted and extroverted social interaction. Whether you’re a quiet crate digger or a talkative purveyor of your favorite bands and DJs, walking through the doors of a record store is like crossing a polyvinyl chloride drawbridge into a kingdom ruled by community, love, and music.
For many, record stores are a place to meet and find music with fellow heads, to talk shop with the musical sherpas behind the counter. Lasting musical friendships, partnerships, and collaborations are formed within their walls. You get lost while dancing your fingers along the 12-inch plastic and cardboard works of art; hours feel like minutes. In fact, many of your favorite DJs and producers spent much of their formative years perusing through the 7s and 12s.
To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Record Store Day (April 22nd), a holiday created in honor of these great musical commonwealths, we’ve asked some of our favorite artists to share their fondest record store memories. We’ve also asked them to include a few records they think everybody should own on vinyl. I even talked to my dad about his time working in a record store in Coral Gables, Florida at the age of 14.
We hope you enjoy the stories and selections below. Whether you’re a DJ, an avid music fan, or simply inspired by the incredible album artwork, we urge you to cross that moat into your neighborhood shoppe this weekend. Even if just to peruse.
Be sure to also visit the official Record Store Day website to find your local participating shoppe to explore some amazing RSD deals including rare reprints, one-off releases, and special events.
Above: Grateful Dead’s Europe ’72 is my favorite record of all time. I own about five copies. The artwork is amazing, and the music is simply next level.
Berlin has great record stores first of all, but to be honest, to get into it when I started DJing was always a bit overwhelming. The people working there really had to know your name, so of course as a new DJ I was mainly treated very badly at first and always felt like I had to learn more so I could get better.
After constantly visiting the stores at every opportunity and trying my hardest to get to know the records as well as possible, I’m endlessly thankful to all the sellers who helped me to find the right music for myself. The first contact when someone gave me a UR record was unforgettable and probably built my career. During these times, I was even able to come in on a Wednesday when the new records arrived and had my own case where the seller put the best records in there for me, so that no one else could buy or hear them before I did. But of course that took some years.
I must admit that sometimes I miss these old days where we’d share the experience of selecting music together with everyone in one room – it was quite social. Going through thousands of promos by yourself on your laptop doesn’t quite have the same magic to it.
I’ve worked in a House/Techno record store for many years. I’m deeply in love with the culture around this place. In Berlin, I found a very good record store, called OYE Records. They carry everything from Techno to Disco to Industrial and lots of rares. I love spending hours digging for records I don’t know.
– For record store day I’ve prepared a special vinyl release of “Euphoria” (Skream Remix) & (Amato Remix) + my 303 Overdub of “Overthrow” and Tensnake’s remix of “Starchild” cut on a ltd. orange vinyl.
I remember when I had my first record pressed and it got played on Radio 1. I went into my local record store and I got congratulated on the record being out and the radio play, then he said to me, “Make the most of it, it’ll probably be the only time it’ll happen.” Ironic.
Tempest Records in Birmingham. You would spend hours in there, there were ash trays so you could smoke and the lads who worked in there were always spot on. I would go just to hang out even if I wasn’t buying records.
I’ve so many fond memories of record palaces and their dedicated courts / staff selling the latest, lost, and recommended. Aron’s records (Los Angeles) was a particularly devastating loss when it left. I remember those used bins like they were long ago lovers…I don’t believe I ever bought any new releases there, maybe I’m part of the reason it had to move on?
– Jazz – all Jazz – Every label
Vinyl is a medium of subtly, worthy of audiophile level obsessions, and to hear music as it was intended, but even more so in the deep end of depth that seems to elude digital. Go forth and Coltrane or Mile, Mingus or Tjader, thank me later.
– Folkways Catalogue
They sought to document sound as a label for over 40 years. It’s not like finding a newspaper from bygone eras, but rather like discovering a time machine you can listen through.
– Old Techno / House / Rave
Don’t try to spin them out at a club, they’ll sound small compared to smashed .wav the DJ before you was cranking, but do listen to their raw majesty at home in long plays from dirty intro to ending.
I used to spend at least 3 to 5 hours a week just hanging around in Big Apple records when I worked in Croydon growing up. It was a hub for local DJ’s to hang out, meet and talk. Through my afternoons spent in there I met Skream, Benga, Mala, N Type, Walsh, Artwork and a whole host of people involved in the early beginnings of Dubstep as we were all from Croydon. Hatcha worked in the shop and I went to school with him, too… That meant he looked after us all with the exclusive test pressings and secret bits that were kept under the counter for their regular customers. This didn’t give us immunity from Hatcha trying to sell us all the bad records, too though 😂
– Musical Mob – Pulse X
This was a big record because it really kicked the doors off for young bedroom producers. Was one of the first records I bought that made me feel like there was a way for me to be able to produce and release my own tracks and I know I was not the only one who started trying to make 8-bar grime when this dropped around 2001.
– Plastician – Plasticman Remixed III
This was the most recent of my own vinyl releases. I only pressed 300 and it includes remixes from Wen, Kahn & Neek, and Mak & Pasteman. There were only 300 pressed and these were hand written on white labels by me. The release sold out in 6 hours, which was unexpected and meant I spent the next 3 days constantly writing on records. If you have one of these, you’re in possession of a rarity!
– Aphex Twin – Analord Series & Binder
I was lucky enough to be releasing on Rephlex when this series and leather style binder was released and the lads there hooked me up with it. It’s definitely the coolest looking section of my own collection.
My favorite record store is Record Surplus in West LA. The first time I went there I was 19 years old and overwhelmed by the amount of bins of jazz titles. Had all the jazz greats and some obscure stuff as well. They also had dollar bins upstairs with things you find in dollar bins everywhere but would have some gems up there as well. This was perfect for producers on a budget looking for samples.
– Miles Davis – Live / Evil
The artwork alone makes this album a must have. I felt like this is one of his most experimental albums and showed me there’s no boundaries in jazz music.
– Pharoah Sanders – Thembi
The melodies and tones on this album are some of the most lush sounding and literally paints pictures in my head.
– Gil Scott Heron with Brian Jackson – The First Minute of a New Day
This album spoke to me socially like no other record has and Brian Jackson on the flute has lines on there that I’ll never forget.
Every time my friends and I hit a record store–whether it be Mount Analog, Gimme Gimme, or Poobah–someone always channels what we call “goldfingers.” Whoever has goldfingers that day pulls the best of the best–a $3 Chick Corea live album with dazzling samples, a Tomita recording of Debussy, or some unknown vinyl with the best drums you’ve ever heard. Goldfingers pulls the records none of us would naturally, he’s like our record store god, or a spirit who only shows himself through the gems scattered in crates.
– Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
– Amon Tobin – Supermodified
– Francis Bebey – African Electronic Music 1975 – 1982
JAXX DA FISHWORKS
CISCO was the first record store I visit after my return to Tokyo from Australia. There wasn’t a “Breaks” genre then, so I spent an hour finding the right music lol. But people called Breaks “Heads” or “Headz” around that time, so I asked the shop manager to keep all “Heads” records for me lol. Kinda stupid story, but there was a huge cultural difference from Australia and Japan, so I kept going back to the guy and now we are good friends.
I also used to go to Central Station Records on Oxford St in Australia a lot because I’m sure that was the biggest in Sydney. But I started checking out a small record store called Savage Records later because many people go to Central Station Records and everyone in city had the same records, which I didn’t like. Savage Records has a record section and cafe/bar section on the same floor/room, so I could have coffee or beer while I was checking new records. Their selection was a bit different from others because they were small and probably didn’t have to market to commercial music.
– DJ Shadow – Endtroducing [Mo Wax, 1996]
My favorite vinyl. This one brought me into dance music scene and made me start DJing.
– Massive Attack – Mezzanine [Virgin Records, 1998]
I still remember the deep impact when I heard this for the first time.
– A. Skillz & Krafty Kuts – Tricka Technology [Finger Lickin’ Records, 2003]
Massive hit tune from one of my favorite labels, Finger Lickin’.
Jonny Dub (LEVELZ Crew)
I don’t really have any stand out record shop memories as to be honest most record shops are filled with super nerdy people like me spending far too much money on shit that most people download for free. These same people spend way too long in the record shops, especially on sunny days because finding sounds that you never heard before in the hope of sharing them with people on dance floors, on radio, with friends, or just listening to them on your own at home is one of the most enjoyable experiences and will never get old.
I think this drive to do this comes from a love of music and a respect for the craft, something that just gets lost in many modern day listening/buying experiences. Also, because being in a shop with like-minded people who share these same interests and who can help guide you on your quest to find the coolest shit is way more fun than flicking through YouTube videos or SoundCloud links on your own at home sat in your room in your underpants like a fucking loser.
I learned more about music from the guys and girls behind a record counter than I ever did from an algorithm that tries to steer me towards buying popular shit that big labels tell me I should like so that I make them money to send their lazy ass kids to algorithm school so they can make more money to make more algorithms to sell me more shit that I don’t want. Fuck that.
I decided it’s too hard to just say 3 records, so heres 3 types of records everyone should own:
Soundtracks never get the shine they deserve amongst the main stream music buyers, yet amongst collectors & diggers they can often be some of our most prized possessions. You gotta own at least one soundtrack in your collection; that’s just how it must be, whether it’s some nostalgic thing that reminds you of your younger and better times, or some obscure Italian horror movie that you had to get because you needed to sample the drum break coz it bangs harder then everything else out there, soundtracks must appear in your collection.
– Library records
Like soundtracks, you have to a few library records in your collection. These are the staples of sample culture. From hard-as-fuck drum breaks to weird synth sounds and prog riffs, library records have it all and then more. To give you an idea about how cool library records are, you know most of your favourite music that you like—I mean literally all the coolest shit that you love to dance about to when getting hyped for a night out—is sampled from library records. FACT.
– Weird shit
Obscure albums that you have no idea what the fuck its about or who the dude in the dinosaur outfit on the front cover is and why the hell he’s holding a two-headed cat, but you buy it anyway because the sleeve is cool as fuck. This can be hit and miss & you could end up with the shittest record ever made but generally speaking if the person on the front cover dressed as a wizard and he’s got a shit load of synths surrounding him, buy that shit coz it’s gonna be flames! The weirder the better, so buy that shit and stick it in your collection.
In 2007, my first sober job out of rehab was working at (now defunct) record store Turntable Lab LA. Gina Turner got me a job there, and the cast of characters that ended up coming out of the Turntable Lab family is legendary (including but not limited to: Gaslamp Killer, Lloydski, and BluJemz in addition to previously mentioned Gina Turner). It was a really extraordinary experience to be around people that loved music so much, to be able to play records all day every day. Though I don’t play records out anymore, there was a few years where I was playing all vinyl sets. It really helped me refine my taste and make decisions about buying music that was non-disposable, timeless, important. I now run a label (RAAR) that presses each release to vinyl, as part of this tradition, investing in the sacred noise object.
– Levon Vincent – Double Jointed Sex Freak
This song sounds like it’s coming from the pits of hell, it is dark and massive and really meaningful on vinyl. It does actually make a difference.
– Soulwax – Night Versions
Tremendously important record in my formative years, this holds up over a decade later. The cover art designed by Trevor Jackson makes this a perfect iconic thing.
– Louisahhh & Maelstrom – HURRY/LISTEN (RAAR004)
Incredibly proud of this one, especially because Maelstrom HAND-PAINTED every single record sleeve. So delighted to get to make and release weird punk techno storms like this on our label RAAR.
Its hard to say just one moment in a shop, for me though nothing beats the feeling of really get stuck in at shop, that feeling when you come across something you’ve never heard of by a favourite artist or label. Even when you read a label and realise a favourite artist is involved, its a kind of excitement you just don’t really get the same when with shopping for music online’
– Dance Mania – Ghetto Madness
13 cuts from various Dance Mania releases that aren’t the easiest to get hold of over 2×12″ that are killer including DJ Deeon, Paul Johnson, Parris Mitchell & Jammin Gerald. Serious stuff
– The Way It Was – Classic Garage cuts from 1993 – 1996
8 tracks over 2×12″ basically showcasing some of the best early UK garage from the early days when it wasn’t really far removed from house, serious anthems and they sound killer. Stuff from Nu Birth, Todd Edwards, and Tuff Jam. 24 HR Experience that’s worth a run in any club.
– Tricky Disco – Tricky Disco [Warp]
Early Warp action that you can pick up quite easily and cheap still. Always been a favourite since I found it a long time ago. It’s just fully that early warp sound that’s synonymous with Yorkshire, the whole bleeps and bass vibe. Killer.
I started DJing right before the digital revolution of Serato, controllers, and (good) CDJs. So there were a few solid years of spending my entire paycheck on new records…but more importantly on old ones, too. I loved getting dusty in the dollar bins at Kim’s (RIP) on St. Marks, it was an actual trash pile but the feeling of rescuing something magical from that is unmatched. To me, this is the core of the record store experience: surprise.
I disagree with the idea that there are certain records EVERYONE should own on vinyl – the key to a good record collection is personality, things that define and represent you alone. So I’ll list some of my favorites and hopefully these might encourage some digging of your own.
– The Killer Kuts was a bootleg series for hip-hop club DJs. When certain official promo 12”s from Def Jam or Roc-A-Fella or whomever were too rare to come by, these cheapo comps would collect the day’s biggest hits (with instrumentals and acapellas if you’re lucky) so you could play them out. The best part was that they couldn’t sell them next to real records, because the labels weren’t getting paid — you had to ask the clerk for a list binder, note which copies you wanted, and they’d bring them out from under the counter like porno. For the most part these are literally worthless now, which just makes me love them more. My favorite has a Bounty Killer Jay-Z freestyle and a “crunk mix” of Britney Spears “Toxic,” because I am old.
– Recently, I junked most of the records I only owned for club play purposes (sorry Jagged Edge), but kept the records that had some kind of personal, intrinsic value — a cool story, a beat my friends made, or sleeves that felt like a work of art. Trevor Jackson is one of my favorite designers in that department. He’s well known as a producer in his own right, but also did groundbreaking work for major and indie labels in the 80s and 90s. His sleeves for Todd Terry projects like Royal House are incredible rave artifacts that still feel fresh.
– I don’t even keep many Fool’s Gold pieces in the house… when you spend your days and nights literally making these records happen, an IRL artifact is almost unnecessary. They’re already burned in my brain forever. But we have a couple releases I’m extra proud of and like to show off, particularly the Danny Brown picture discs. For “Smokin And Drinkin” (with remixes by Boys Noize, TroyBoi, Jack Beats and DJ Sliink—woah!) I hired Mark Dancey, a legendary Detroit underground comics illustrator who created the Motorbooty zine (a print of which hangs over my studio computer) and did sleeves for Soundgarden and tons of other bands in the ’90s. It was a crazy pairing for Danny that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. The OD EP is also special; after seeing my first die-cut pic disc on tour in Australia (the Bart Simpson-shaped vinyl for “Deep Deep Trouble”) I borrowed the idea for a 10” Danny release shaped like Dust La Rock’s pill illustration for the XXX album.
Lemuel (Alesia, Point Point, Record Record)
No lies, I’m not a guy from the vinyl; Spotify is my bible right now. But maybe cause I’m not seeing vinyl as a way to listen the music but more as a piece of art. The artwork is as much important as the music when I buy one. I used to frame some at home.
My fondest memory of a record store is probably the day I bought my turntables. I went by Satellite Records, on Bowery in Manhattan, to see if someone might be able to help me assemble the headshells for my needles. I vaguely knew one of the owners, Scott Richmond, from the rave scene and since he’d always been kind to me and I didn’t really know anyone else, I thought, “Fuck it. Let’s see if he might help.” He was there, he looked super pleased to see a potential female DJ on the scene and asked one of the boys hanging there to assist me.
I was in awe, this had been my dream for a couple of years since I’d been saving my money, and since I lived in the suburbs there weren’t even ravers in my town, much less any potential mentors. So this guy Carlos was helping me, he asked what kind of music I was gonna play. I said “jungle” (obviously!!!) and he got this gleam in his eye and said I should come hang out with his crew of junglists and maybe if I didn’t suck they might let me join. His name was Darkstar and he gave me my DJ name. He never actually let me join his crew, he kind of just hazed me, but that moment changed my life and it was one that could have only happened in the beautiful culture that was the Record Store Experience.
There is no comparable feeling to walking into a store to check out all the fresh tunes, run into other DJs, rap about who was playing what event, and pick up or drop off flyers & mixtapes. Stuff that happens on the Internet now used to take place slowly in real life but connections ran deep. Record stores were the hubs of a tight-knit community, one I am so grateful I was able to experience and work in before everything changed…
T.R. Beer (my dad)
My first job was when I was 14 working at a record store called Sounds of Music in Coral Gables, Florida. I had some some very interesting, fun, and unique experiences. The one that stands out the most in my mind was the guy who used to occasionally come into the store and spend time meandering through the bins, flipping through the albums. As he would go through them, he would periodically stop, say the name of the artist out loud and begin laughing hysterically. He would stop, start flipping through more of them and again stop, say the name out loud and again begin laughing hysterically. This would go on for what seemed to be an hour or so.
While we knew something was clearly not right with him, we simply could not contain our laughter in reaction to his lengthy and loud guffaws. They were truly contagious. After a while, he would walk out of the store and continue on his way down the street. He never bought anything, but that was okay. Experiences like that, and the fact that I loved music so much, made the job more fun than work. It really was a win-win situation. I got to listen to music all day and made money to spend on records that I was able to buy at cost. I bought quite a few and actually still have them.
The albums I think everyone should own on vinyl and play through a great pair of speakers:
– Led Zeppelin’s In Through the Out Door, not necessarily for the entire album, but because of how it starts with “In the Evening.” It’s just killer.
– Trilogy by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. I just sit in awe when “Trilogy” moves into the synthesizers after the quiet and melodic piano solo introduction.
– Crime of the Century by Supertramp. Opening with “School” is also killer. Now, I’m not saying those are necessarily my favorite albums overall, but because of how those songs come through on vinyl.
– Billy Joel’s Turnstiles is also a favorite as is Dreamboat Annie by Heart mainly because of “Crazy On You.”
– Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy a Thrill, mainly because I’m pretty sure it’s the first album I bought (I still have it). So that’s more of a personal thing, not necessarily one everyone must own.