Legend goes that Record Store Day was sparked by a comment that something could be done along the lines of Free Comic Book Day, and following a brainstorming session during a record store owner’s meeting in Baltimore, Record Store Day (RSD) was officially founded in 2007 with the first event the following year. That year there were just ten special RSD releases from the likes of R.E.M, Stephen Malkmus and Vampire Weekend, while Billy Bragg kicked off RSD in the UK with a live appearance.
This all happened in the nick of time as 2006 represented the nadir for vinyl sales. Only an estimated $36m was generated worldwide, a derisory amount, with many records not even getting a vinyl release. By 2014, that figure had jumped to $416m, and continues to rise fast. Vinyl has now enjoyed nine consecutive years of growth since facing near extinction. In fact, vinyl sales topped three million in the UK alone last year, a rise of 53% on the previous year. David Bowie’s Blackstar was the most popular, selling more than double the number of copies of 2015’s biggest seller, Adele’s 25. The last time vinyl fared so well in the UK back in 1991 when Simply Red's Stars was the year's biggest-selling record.
Why the revival? Some fans prefer the "warmth" of the sound compared with digital files, while others buy LPs as souvenirs and as works of art (In that respect, CDs have rarely been loved in the way a vinyl record has been). And then there's been the marketing efforts of RSD which have helped to propel vinyl back into the forefront of the music buying public, buoyed by a general zeitgeist in all things 'retro', and helping to keep many independent stores alive. Moreover, the inexorable rise of streaming has, according to a BBC/ICM poll, seen increasing numbers purchasing vinyl on the back of what they have heard via streaming. Sometimes as a goodwill gesture, but also simply because they want to properly own the recording as a physical product, rather than simply as a virtual entity. But, despite all this good news, vinyl still only accounts for less than 3% of the overall music market, so it still has a long way to go to come even close to its 60s-80s heyday, when vinyl (and to a lesser extent cassettes and a myriad of other, long defunct, formats) was the only way to 'own' music. Moreover, that same survey found that almost half of those questioned said they did not play the vinyl they bought, while 7% said they did not even own a turntable!
Nevertheless, vinyl is here to stay, and will probably only strengthen its hold, particularly if and when they solve the problem of a lack of manufacturing facilities which is hampering its growth, and in turn frustrating record companies and artists, who often have to book a pressing of their creations many months in advance due to demand.
Held on one Saturday in April every year (this year it’s on the 22nd April), to “celebrate the culture of the independently owned record store”, RSD brings together fans, artists, and thousands of independent record stores across the world. With just ten releases in 2008, this year is its tenth and will see over 500 releases, all pressed specifically for RSD, with well over half coming from independent labels. The full list of releases (which can be found via http://www.recordstoreday.com/SpecialReleases) can be divided into three types; RSD exclusive releases, only available via participating stores; RSD limited run/regional focus releases (again only available via participating stores but in very limited quantities, often only in certain geographical regions); and ‘RSD first release', whereby after a period of a month or so these releases will be available at other retailers. Furthermore, releases are only available in the shop, on the day, on a first-come-first-serve basis. There can be no reservations, no pre-orders, and no online sales. Hence why you'll see queues forming in the very early hours at some retailers, as customers attempt to get their hands on something they covet. Although you can buy as much as you want (wallet withstanding), every customer is limited to just one individual item (ie, they cannot buy two of the same record). All thses rules and regulations are necessary in the cause of fairness, but also to limit the impact 'flippers' are having on the second-hand/collectable market.
Official ambassadors for Record Store Day over the years have included Ozzy Osbourne, Josh Homme, Iggy Pop, Jack White, Chuck D, Dave Grohl, Metallica and Kate Tempest. St. Vincent is this year’s ambassador (although weirdly, she doesn't have a record to promote) and as well as ambassadors, RSD now has ‘champions’, from artists who unequivocally love vinyl, and believe in the importance in keeping record stores in business. Not just in the business of selling, but also as places where, as Kate Tempest (whose recent Let Them Eat Chaos album is being re-released on RSD as a double black and white LP, with the beats on one record, and her spoken word on the other) puts it: “There’s a space where you can go and immerse yourself and all these other potential universes that exist. It's like a place of education and opportunity. I think it's so exciting especially in this day and age. All this vinyl. It’s real. It’s in the grooves! There all these springboards that can happen in a record store. It's just not quite the same when you’re flipping through some digital catalogue of music. You can’t access the coincidences, talk to people, being around other people.” Indie starlet Kate Nash is also a ‘champion’ and says about vinyl: “It feels like a piece of art. I love the experience of buying vinyl. It’s something really special to keep, to commemorate your favourite artists, or your favourite piece of music.”
Meanwhile Sir Elton John has been commemorated as Record Store Day’s 10th anniversary legend! A massive music and vinyl enthusiast, his 17.11.70 live album is being re-released on RSD. Originally recorded for broadcast on radio, with just 125 in the audience, it was bootlegged so much that his record label at the time decided to release it officially. This release is an extended version with six extra tracks. Elton John even goes so far to say as it’s one of the best live albums of all time. "I’m never one to say good things about myself, but it is pretty fabulous," he says.
Another eagerly awaited high profile release is that of The Beatles' double A sided 7” inch ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’/‘Penny Lane’. In the opinion of many, the original was the greatest single ever released, by a band at the height of their powers. Then there’s previously unreleased versions of The Smiths ‘The Boy with the Thorn in His Side’ and ‘Rubber Ring’ on 7”, a re-issue of Elastica’s classic self-titled debut album complete with fanzine and flex-disc (limited to just 1000 copies), The Cure’s Greatest Hits compilation from 2001, released on vinyl for the very first time, Cracked Actor by David Bowie (a previously unreleased 1974 live recording) available as a triple album, with the sixth side featuring an etching of Bowie himself.
Amongst the other 500+ releases there will also be strictly limited pieces of vinyl by the likes of Sex Pistols, Cocteau Twins, The The, Madonna, Super Furry Animals, Neil Young, Goat, Spacemen 3, Flaming Lips, Anna Calvi, Laura Marling, Bruce Springsteen, The Comet Is Coming, The Fall, Johnny Cash, and Fleetwood Mac, all in a crazy array of formats and designs.
Here in Brighton, Resident Records have been involved since year one and local involvement in the Sussex area has now expanded to include Cult Hero (Brighton), Rarekind Records (Brighton), Union Music Store (Lewes), The Vinyl Frontier (Eastbourne), and Pebble Records (Eastbourne).
Resident Records will be laying on some free entertainment including a live performance from Bella Union signed country-noir artist Holly Macve (at 8am!), followed by Robb Johnson, then British Sea Power (who themselves have made available on the day the coloured 7" Bad Bohemian/Keep on Trying) will perform an acoustic set at 6.30pm. Resident will also be offering free Fred Perry tote bags to the first 20 people in the queue. Jolliffes coffee shop, just few doors along Kensington Gardens, will open its doors at 5.30am.
Meanwhile over at the very fine Union Music Store in Lewes, they will be opening their doors at 8am, with Iive performances throughout the afternoon from Jason McNiff, RPMs, Noble Jacks, Worry Dolls and Emily Barker.
We asked various Brightonsfinest contributors for their respective pick of RSD.
Adam Kidd – 12 Stone Toddler – Does it Scared You?/Scheming
Remember when rock was anti-fashion, didn’t stay in neat little categories and represented a deviation from the norm? 12 Stone Toddler were always one of those greats: a band that represented a marriage of opposites. Heady esoteric eclecticism combined with a love for perfect three minute wonders. Jagged riffs like huge menacing monoliths ushering in magical melodies that were sweet like candy and dangerously infectious. We thought we had seen that last of rock’s beloved fat baby, but we were wrong: Toddler are back and it’s time to celebrate both of their LP’s availible back-to-back on vinyl for the fist time and as picture discs to boot.
Paul Hill – Soulwax – Belgica OST:
After a decade of solitude, Soulwax have been very busy these past couple of years. As well as the very recent album From Deewee, everyone's favourite Belgian electro-rock duo have also created the entire soundtrack to a 2016 Belgian film about two brothers who run a hedonistic nightclub in Ghent. Directed by Oscar nominated director Felix Van Groeningen, the sixteen-track album involves fifteen fictional personas, each with its own sound, aesthetic, and backstory that draw from different decades of club culture. The soundtrack will finally be making its way to vinyl for Record Store Day.
Sian Blewitt – London Grammar – Rooting For You:
I've been working on the 7" Picture Disk release for London Grammar for the last few weeks and it is immense the amount of hard work that has gone into this project. The picture disk is flawlessly elegant and beautiful and definitely one that would become a centre piece of anyone's vinyl collection if they manage to get hold of it!
James Macmillan – David Bowie – BOWPROMO
Hunky Dory by Bowie is one of those albums that I always return to and, despite countless listens, I can still find something new each and every time. I can't wait for the special RSD release of BOWPROMO, a series of alternate mixes from that album, which promises a glimpse behind the curtain of a seminal piece of work.
Tom Churchill – The Black Angels – Death Song
The Black Angels have stuck out to me over the past 6 years as a band that not only exceed in their live show but also on record – they somehow manage to propel that rich psychedelic atmosphere into something that works fantastically in both scenarios. Unashamed in how they toy with sound and colour, their fifth album Death Song is sure to sound as proud and great as their previous four records.
Nick Roseblade – Sun Ra – Hello Mr. Schimmel
This is a must for every jazz head out there on RSD as it’s a previously unreleased improvised number Sun Ra recorded for Jazz FM in 1990. DJ Jez Nelson asked Ra “If he would play something for us on the beautiful Schimmel piano in the studio next door. He walked next door, sat down at the piano, said 'Hello Mr Schimmel' and played”. The B-Side is part of that interview. If you see this on the day make sure you buy it as it’ll never be that cheap again.
Jeff Hemmings – The Comet Is Coming – Death To The Planet
Comet Fire orange vinyl with download code. Brand new 4-track EP, the follow-up to the Mercury Prize nominated Channel The Spirits. Darkness and light. The party to end all parties. The ghosts of 70s Harlem, via the warehouses of Chicago and Manchester, presided over by Sun Ra. The sound of total planetary destruction, produced with laser-guided accuracy and aimed directly at the dancefloor.
So, if this has whetted your appetite have a look at what's available in advance at each participating store. And if there is something you really must have then be prepared to queue up early! Otherwise, just turn up on the day and buy whatever takes your fancy. Or, you can wait the following week to see what's left, when all unsold stock will be placed on general sale. Good hunting!
You can hear Brightonsfinest on Juice 107.2 FM, Mon-Thur 9-11pm. Look out for interviews with Natasha from Resident Records and plenty of RSD news and band interviews.
Resident Music – 28 Kensington Gardens, Brighton, West Sussex, BN1 4AL
Union Music Store – 1 Lansdown Place, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 2JT
Cult Hero – 25 North Street, Brighton, West Sussex, BN1 1EB
Rarekind Records – 104 Trafalgar Street, Brighton, BN1 4ER
The Vinyl Frontier – 35 Grove Road, Little Chelsea, Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN21 4TT
Pebble Records – The Basement, 14 Gildredge Road, Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN21 4RL