A vibrant city with a legendary music scene, Glasgow’s record shops are full to the gills with vinyl, as Mark Elliott finds out…
Scotland’s biggest city has music coursing through its veins. Like many ports, the influence of imported soul and American country shaped the direction of artists that have broken through from here across the years. The Glasgow boom of the early 1980s, when acts such as Altered Images and Orange Juice became regulars on Top Of The Pops, is of particular interest to me and, as my favourite decade moved on, Deacon Blue, Texas and Hue & Cry kept the Saltire flying high over the charts. Towering above them all, of course, were local band Simple Minds, who were the decade’s most successful Scottish act and remain relevant and highly collectable today.
Glasgow is the UK’s third largest city, with more than 600,000 inhabitants in the central districts (swelled considerably during term-time by students – a handy audience for the record retailer). More than a million people live across the wider area, which always bodes well for the second-hand stock. The River Clyde, offering the entry point for those influential musical imports, snakes through the metropolitan centre but, even though the city centre has a decent handful of shops, many that I visited were in the north-west, beyond Kelvingrove Park.
With a lot of great music venues, including the legendary King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, where Alan McGee discovered Oasis, it’s no wonder UNESCO named Glasgow one of its Cities Of Music in 2008. I found the vinyl here plentiful and good value. Like everywhere else, the city has lost some record stores in recent times, for example the basement-based Cornucopia appears to have shut up shop early in 2018.
Like any new destination, navigating a route round the venues is always a challenge, but the cluster in the city centre seemed a good place to start, with a decent number worth the cab ride up to the West End (close to the Botanic Gardens and Kelvingrove). A couple that I concluded the day with are situated down in the south by Queen’s Park. I also tried visiting LP Records, in Park Road, a couple of times, but couldn’t catch it open. It’s an indie favourite with the students based around the nearby university and stages a lot of gigs, so I’ll try to get back.
That aside, my quest to source the weird and wonderful (and try to plug some gaps in the ever-expanding collection) proved extremely fruitful. Glasgow is a friendly city and I came across, perhaps, the most decent record shop owner I have ever encountered. Compared to some of the grumpy souls one deals with, this chap proved charming and generous. If they could bottle his warmth, it might have made up for the weather. No, this isn’t a city you come to for clear skies and sunshine; the cratedigging, on the other hand, is a very different matter…
247 Argyle Street, G2 8DL
Opening hours: 10.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Sunday
This is likely the first independent music store you’ll come across if you arrive by train at Glasgow Central. It’s in a pretty uninviting subway running under the tracks and the ground floor entrance suggests little other than CDs and DVDs. You’d be mistaken if you left it there. The basement is what it’s all about and this narrow space is packed with vinyl of all genres. Filing is good, so you can be certain to find what you need fairly easily. The stock is all second-hand and covers every sector (with an especially strong country offering). Inevitably, I raid the 7″ singles and come across the first Parlophone Shane Fenton (later Alvin Stardust) release, I’m A Moody Guy, for £1.
A couple of flexis catch my eye, and it makes me wonder if this is a format collected by people generally or just me. I love them, so bag Tom Robinson’s On Stage In Hamburg and a Cliff Richard issue from 1992, featuring the singer in conversation with DJ Mike Read. Vintage finds are plentiful, but I do pick up some more modern releases among my big haul, including the Edsel 1989 reissue of The Everly Brothers’ Two Yanks In England in near-mint condition and a Boney M boxset to mark their recent Diamonds compilation. The latter is spotted as I’m in the process of paying by credit card upstairs, and there are a few records and boxsets behind the desk there, so don’t forget to check them out.
35 Howard Street, G1 4BA
Opening hours: 10am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday; 1pm to 5pm, Sunday
This dance specialist claims to offer music for heads and feet. My head doesn’t really talk to my feet – as anyone who has witnessed my dad dancing will testify. No matter, I gamely move beyond the techno, house and the like for the old-school reissues. Simona Buja’s 1982 Italian synth classic Passing Masks is in the sale section and complements the better-known Love Come Down by Evelyn King (a record even I’m surprised I don’t yet own on 12″). I’m offered the chance to spin them on the decks, but I’ve a lot of ground to cover and pass on the invitation. See what I said about the friendliness? I’m likely about as removed from their regular clientele as you can imagine. Perhaps I’m just the day’s novelty turn…
Kings Court, 95 King Street, G1 5RB
Opening hours: 11am to 7pm, Monday to Saturday; noon to 7pm, Sunday
Tucked under a railway arch, this indie store has one of the city’s strongest reputations for vinyl and, alongside vegan café neighbour Mono, makes an excellent pit-stop for lunch or a coffee. Surprisingly, alongside lots of acts like Belle & Sebastian, you’ll also find plenty of metal. There’s not a lot of second-hand records here – and certainly no abundance of battered Phil Collins – but the stock of new releases is comprehensive, albeit with a curated edge. Stephen McRobbie, Dep Downie and John Williamson, who launched the shop, were ahead of the vinyl revival curve and appear to be reaping the dividends: the place is packed! I pick up a couple of Banshees 7″s (some more gaps filled) and head next door to Mono for a salad.
19 Union Street, G1 3RB
Opening hours: 9.30am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday; 11am to 5.30pm, Sunday
You can’t come to Glasgow without making time to visit this city-centre branch. The chain, owned by HMV since 2007, started life in the city as a humble market stall way back in 1981 and peaked in the early 2000s with dozens of locations nationwide. However, declining sales and format shifts pushed the business into the red, but the bail-out has seen the brand survive. With its distinctive ethos carefully curated by the new owners, this branch is packed with mainly the same stuff you’ll find elsewhere, but there is lots of it at good prices. The Cocteau Twins playlist makes a welcome break from Little Mix, which I was bombarded with at the nearby HMV. I pick up the new vinyl box from Christine & The Queens and go on my way.
34 Dundas Street, G1 2AQ
Opening hours: 10am to 5.45pm, Monday to Wednesday; 10am to 6pm, Thursday
to Saturday; noon to 5.30pm, Sunday
Record Store Day is the time to visit Love Music. Owner Sandy McLean was an early supporter and a quick check online is testament to the effort he puts into the event. Keeping the momentum going across the year, the shop regularly stages gigs. Love Music stocks a good mix of new and second-hand vinyl, buys collections and prides itself on an especially strong Scottish selection. I find a number of Simple Minds singles that I still need to get.
171 Byres Road, G12 8TS
Opening hours: 10.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Saturday; noon to 5pm, Sunday
Another chain, but this branch of the charity high-street stalwart is really worth a mention, as the vinyl in this music-only store is plentiful and especially interesting. Parking the stack of fabulous concert programmes, including a fascinating David Soul one from 1980, complete with sticky-note captions such as ‘Ain’t I Pretty’ stuck in by an obviously adoring fan, the singles and LPs are really good value. Albums from the 1990s are often scarcer to find and there are a lot here, albeit largely of the MOR variety that I appreciate has limited appeal beyond generalist fanatics like me. Richard Marx’s Paid Vacation from 1993 can cost anything from £15 online in OK condition, but my near-mint copy is less than a fiver here. The scarce Uncle Sam picturedisc from Madness has been on my wants list for a while and is decently priced, while Gabe Kaplan (from US 1970s TV hit Welcome Back, Kotter) is strangely billed Gabriel on his 1976 Up Your Nose. The US-issued picture sleeve single is in the bargain bin, alongside more predictable local fare such as Lena Martell’s A Scottish Trilogy (which I have to buy, of course, considering where I am). Just to salvage what is left of my credibility, The Stranglers’ Don’t Bring Harry live EP is just £2. This is one of the best Oxfams I have ever been to and is really worth a look.
MIXED UP RECORDS
18 Otago Lane, G12 8PB
Opening hours: 10am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday
A stone’s throw from the university (and next to a second-hand bookshop so densely packed you need mountain gear to successfully navigate) lies the much-more ordered Mixed Up Records. It’s a treasure trove of second-hand vinyl with almost-endless boxes of bargain discs running around the floor at £1 per item that keeps me busier far longer than I had planned. Among the finds here are The Motors’ fabulous new-wave hit Airport on 12″ (on blue vinyl and in a vintage Virgin Records sleeve), Holly Johnson’s more recent Legendary Children on 12″ and a US promo 12″ for Elton John’s Wrap Her Up in a unique picture-cover. Lots of 7″s: Marillion, Talk Talk, Cameo, sit alongside more collectable acts such as Queen (and I pick up a nice copy of We Are The Champions). I’d be hard pressed to identify any particular speciality, everything is covered, but the store is a big supporter of Record Store Day and usually uses the event to offer discounts on its extensive used stock.
47 Ruthven Lane, G12 9BG
Opening hours: 2pm to 6.45pm, Monday to Saturday
Jumping in a cab to get the other side of the Clyde saves me a lot of time with the day drawing to a close, and this small shop in Southside keeps the stock tight but interesting. Its second-hand racks throw up some choice finds, including The B52s’ Planet Claire picturedisc and the US 12″ of INXS’ New Sensation, which is my favourite of the band’s many hits.
PLAY IT AGAIN
724 Pollokshaws Rd, G41 2AD
Opening hours: Noon to 6pm, Tuesday and Wednesday; 11am to 6pm, Thursday to Saturday
Don’t bother getting here in the morning. I turn up at about 11am on a Saturday, confident the store will be open, but a nearby retailer says to come back after lunch when I’ll be more likely to strike lucky. He’s right. It’s a daunting start, as initial inspection suggests little order to what is here, but that proves to be only partly true and I find my way through a lot of records fairly easily. Chris, the owner, is super-helpful and when he spots me picking out a copy of Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, he volunteers that there is an original pressing, with its six-panel gatefold in great nick, for about £5 cheaper in the singer-songwriter pile. How often does that level of honesty happen? The soundtrack selection is great, with the Just A Gigolo LP on Jambo Records £5 and the Rich Man, Poor Man music from the TV mini-series also good value. Pet Shop Boys protégé Cicero had stopped having hits by 1997, but his Summertime single is worth a few quid to complete my run. As I pop out to find the nearest cash machine (no cards are accepted here), Chris goes through what I’ve bought. He points out some damage to the sleeve of Tina Turner’s Simply The Best compilation and decides to knock even more off what is already a good price for this hard-to-find set on vinyl. I come away thinking I have secured quite a bargain without even asking. That’s increasingly rare on shopping days like these. I like this man!
SOME GREAT REWARD
520 Victoria Road, G42 8BG
Opening hours: 10am to 5pm, Wednesday to Sunday
Opening early in 2018, this has been a big hit with the locals these past few months. The few discs displayed on the walls out front in the coffee shop are just the start; there’s a much wider retail range out back. Alongside the venue’s big online store, this is a great spot to flick through new releases (there is no second-hand vinyl here). Owner Olly McFadden named the business after his favourite Depeche Mode record. I’m more of a Speak & Spell man, myself, but the cake and coffee I buy ahead of my long journey home is reward enough for a successful day.