Slip Sliding Away: Sound Shopping in Scotland

Avalanche Records, Edinburgh

Avalanche Records, Edinburgh

Whenever I travel to other cities in Ireland and around the world I love to check out the local record emporiums, secondhand shops and charity stores. Over the last few years I’ve picked up loads of books, CDs and DVDs on these excursions. Recently, however, I’ve tended to spend most of my time browsing in the likes of Oxfam and Barnardos and less in “proper” secondhand stores. This is due to the increased proliferation of charity shops, the range and quality of the titles on offer and, significantly, the extremely low prices of the goods on sale. But, that all changed on my recent trip to Edinburgh where I spent most of my browsing time in bona fide record stores. In fact, the only charity store that I visited this time was the Oxfam Music Shop which is actually a secondhand record store cunningly disguised as a charity outlet

My first “proper” job was as a sales assistant in the record department of the Limerick branch of an Irish bookseller. I loved it. Usually, I was about as busy as a pickpocket at a nudist camp and, like Robinson Crusoe, I got all my work done by Friday. I spent most of my day checking out new music, listening to old favourites and chewing the fat with customers. Whenever I got a week or two off I’d go on a busman’s holiday: I’d take day trips to Galway or Cork or Dublin and spend my day traipsing from record store to bookstore and back again. You must remember that this was the early 90s and, therefore, in the days before the internet, mp3s and iPods. The compact disc was just taking over from the cassette and the LP as music fans’ primary means of listening to their favourite tunes. On my bus journeys I used to bring my discman, a half dozen CDs and spare batteries. It was a lot more cumbersome than carrying around an mp3 player, but at least I could listen to my newly-purchased albums on my journey home

I was quite slow to embrace music on the internet and the only digital technology I used was the compact disc. I continued to discover new acts by reading music magazines and listening to the radio. I kept buying CDs from secondhand shops and whenever the other record shops had sales. Over the last decade, loads of charity stores sprung up and I picked up loads of albums and all for for a mere fraction of what they would have cost originally. Mostly, the condition of the discs and the packaging was quite good and sometimes they were brand new. I got to add albums from my favourite artists, as well as many classic albums, to my collection. Best of all, I was able to take a gamble on music that looked interesting or that I’d read about, but had never heard previously. Sometimes, I came away with a right dud but, more often than not, I discovered some wonderful music. And all for less than the price of a pint

I’ve also spent a few hours browsing the shelves of charity stores in Edinburgh and other British cities during my trips abroad. Most likely, I’ve bought a few items and my bag is a lot heavier coming back than it had been going over. I’m always a few kilos over the 10kg limit that Ryanair sets but, fortunately for me and my pocket, my bag doesn’t get weighed as I just Check ‘n’ Go. This time I came home with 40 CDs and 20 DVDs, but my bag only weighed 11kg as I disposed of all the jewel cases and DVD boxes in Edinburgh. In addition, the majority of these titles cost me less than three quid each and I got a good few of them for around a quid, despite the fact that I avoided charity stores

Most of my purchases were made in two fine secondhand record shops, Avalanche Records and Hogs Head Music. Both of these places had a wide range of titles in good condition and at reasonable prices. Everything was laid out really well and the staff were quite knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the music they were selling. I also got a few good deals at Fopp Records, the Lidl of record shops. Everything at Fopp is new and unused except for the prices which are often less than in a used store. Generally, they stock large quantities of recent releases as well as classic titles at low prices. By the time I had visited these and a few more shops I decided to give the charity stores a bit of a miss as I knew I’d have no space left in my bag (even without the cases). Anyway, I made it through security and back in one piece. I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere for a while, though, as I have quite a few albums to listen to and one or two films to watch. So, for those of you with a one-track mind, I’d like to present a song each from around half the albums that I picked up this time

Sweet Sounds from Scotland

01 Sweet Soul Music – Arthur Conley
from The Atlantic Story

02 I Get The Sweetest Feeling – Jackie Wilson from Originals 2

03 Sir Duke – Stevie Wonder from Songs in the Key of Life

04 Let the Good Times Roll – Shirley & Lee from A Rage in Harlem OST

05 The Man Who Sold the World (David Bowie) – Lulu from The Best Glam Rock Album in the World Ever

06 Simon Smith & The Amazing Dancing Bear (Randy Newman) – Nilsson from The Best of Nilsson

07 Trains and Boats and Planes (Bacharach/David) – Billy J Kramer from The Definitive Burt Bacharach Collection

08 It Ain’t the Meat (It’s the Motion) – The Swallows
from Vintage Sex Songs

09 Life’s What You Make It – Talk Talk from The Colour of Spring

10 It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference – Todd Rundgren from Rockin’ Poppin’ Favourites

11 I Got You – Split Enz from The Best of Split Enz

12 Bring on the Dancing Horses – Echo & the Bunnymen from The Very Best of Echo & the Bunnymen

13 There Goes the Fear – Doves from The Last Broadcast

14 Shotgun Blues – Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan from Sunday at Devil Dirt

15 You Do Something to Me – Paul Weller from Modern Classics: Greatest Hits

16 Charlie Darwin – The Low Anthem from Beyond the Surface Vol 4 (Bella Union free sampler)

17 Chicken Wire – The Felice Bros from Yonder is the Clock

18 All My Friends – LCD Soundsystem from Sound of Silver

19 Girl from the North Country (Bob Dylan cover) – Eels from With Strings: Live at Town Hall

20 Starálfur – Sigur Rós from Ágætis Byrjun