The intrepid Mark Elliott jets off to the southwest of France in search of 7″ picture sleeves…
Wine is what Bordeaux is really all about, but as France’s sixth-biggest city, there’s a reasonable amount of crate digging to be done here, provided you get the opening hours right. Some of the shops here still formally shut for lunch. Who honestly takes a regular lunch in the 21st Century? Or is that the voice of the painfully pompous metropolitan elite you can hear? Whatever your views on the values of an hour away from the grindstone, this is definitely an afternoon venue, with the majority of the shops here only getting into their stride in the second half of the day.
Most of the venues are situated in the Saint-Paul district and you can reach them all within about 20 minutes’ walk of each other. Tucked away down charming shopping streets, this can feel as though you’re walking through a guidebook, with an amazing array of churches and fine buildings around every corner of this UNESCO World Heritage site (although the ugly corporate hub on the edge of the historic quarter is a 1960s eyesore).
There’s not an over-abundance of shops, meaning you can get round the list in a day quite easily, with time for a long leisurely lunch (if you can’t beat them, join them) and an evening of sampling the local speciality!
There are all manner of vintage shops springing up here and I found some records in a handful, suggesting there’s a steady amount of welcome gentrification underway and, with luck, more attics getting cleared of long-lost used vinyl.
I wasn’t able to be there on a Friday or Saturday, so missed the well-regarded but lightly opening Bam Balam Records (29 Cours Pasteur; bambalam.com) but visited everywhere else I could find. A couple of stores appeared to have closed recently, which is part of the sad inevitability of this type of expedition, despite vinyl’s recent revival.
Still, with a buoyant music scene, this city is the home of electronic duo Kap Bambino, and a selection of great bars makes this an excellent weekend away. If you’re staying for longer, a drive around the region after my day here offered up loads of dépÔt-ventes (those French institutions selling second-hand goods on commission) and there were some interesting finds here, too.
Germany is the best country on the continent to go record shopping, but French picture sleeves and pretty good prices on the whole make France a very close contender.
Bordeaux isn’t Paris, but is definitely worth spending some time in. But Bordeaux isn’t Bourdeau either – just make sure you go to the right place. I’d headed off to the airport and got an anxious text from a friend, suggesting I was wasting my time. She thought I was headed for ‘Bourdeau’ in south-eastern France and knew there were unlikely to be record shops there. How smug I felt – until I found out the hotel I had booked hurriedly for that evening had fallen through…
50 Rue Sainte-Catherine
Opening hours: 10am to 7.30pm Monday to Saturday; 11am to 7pm Sunday
This French chain is always worth a mention, and has some great deals. The megastore on Rue Sainte-Catherine, the city’s main shopping street, is following the international direction of multimedia retail – rows of CDs and DVDs being replaced by racks of records – and vinyl is priced keenly, so there are bargains to be had for Brit travellers. Cast’s 2015 reissue of their 1995 All Change – the highest-selling debut in the history of the Polydor label – costs me less than a tenner, and I pick up Suede’s Coming Up reissue for €15, too.
LE BOUDOIR SONORE
58 Rue Saint-Rémi le comptoir saint-rémi
Opening hours: 3.30pm to 8pm Monday; 10am to 8pm Tuesday to Friday; 10am to 7pm Saturday
Less a record shop, more a bright little stall inside a craft-centre/concierge service (no, me neither), this has a tight selection of mainly used vinyl and a couple of decks to try it on. A friend later translates for me that this is actually a social-enterprise scheme, where small traders club together to set up business in a property otherwise beyond their means. It is right in the heart of the upmarket shopping district and prices are on the high side – €10 for a Sade single from 1988 (admittedly the non-charting and therefore less plentiful Turn My Back On You), but the prices for a good range of soul and disco are spot-on. A nice touch is the various graphic pieces dotted around the space, including a neat poster illustrating the best way to remove a record from its sleeve. I’m sure we’ve all winced when watching less-informed fellow shoppers clumsily man-handle a nice pressing of The White Album… imagine what it feels like if it is your own stock!
6 Rue de Candale
Opening hours: 2pm to 9pm Monday; 11am to 7.30pm Tuesday to Saturday
Now, the perennial frustration for all crate diggers is the sometimes freestyle approach to stated opening hours employed by some record shops. Case in point, Total Heaven, which on my visit isn’t open. A return trip after lunch makes the extra effort worthwhile, as this is just the sort of store we all can make time for. The stock is mainly new and I find a lot of Record Store Day releases from this year (and previous events) that have long since sold out in the UK. It does reinforce my personal opinion that supply appears largely more plentiful than demand for all but the most limited of issues these days. Whether or not this is a good thing will depend on how up you are for queuing on the big day, of course. There’s a decent range of everything at Total Heaven – the modern dance is balanced by good stock of 60s and 70s. I spend a bit in the sale section and pick up a couple of used 12″s by The Style Council that were gaps in my collection.
153 Rue Sainte-Catherine
Opening hours: 10.30am to 7.30pm Monday to Saturday
This national chain of new and used CDs and DVDs has a small vinyl area that’s smaller here than some I have visited. You’re unlikely to find much at OCD of any rarity, but it’s always worth a look if you are passing. There is a lot of used Gary Numan in the racks outside for a few Euros apiece, but finding it means wading through acres of anonymous French pop from the 1970s, a genre beyond even my broad boundaries. The nearby Cash Converters (approach these shops with caution, as sleeves here often carry different discs in my experience) and second-hand bookshop (Bouquinerie) don’t carry anything of interest, just battered, poor-condition copies of MOR and Easy Listening.
30 Rue de Cheverus
Opening hours: 2pm to 7pm Tuesday to Saturday
This must be my favourite of all the stores in Bordeaux. It’s a proper crate digger’s paradise, but comes with the added advantage of being pretty well organised with some very interesting finds. Again, being a pop collector, it always gets me excited when I see decent sections for The Jacksons and Madonna. Case in point here. But despite needing an excuse to celebrate the Queen Of Pop’s recent 60th birthday, the bootlegs are the only items I don’t already own and they are on the pricey side. I do have more luck on the Duran Duran shelf (see how seriously they take their pop). I find a near-mint copy of the Strange Behaviour Italian 12″ picture disc from 1987 and the price is excellent. There are other Europop treasures – a rare 12″ for Modern Talking’s later comeback smash, You Are Not Alone, and the Spanish 7″ of Michael Jackson’s In The Closet. Rock and, particularly, pop is well served here, but there are big sections of lounge, soul and even classical. This place has been going since 1996 and I can see why it’s so successful. The memorabilia is drawing me in as well, but as ever on these trips courtesy of the budget airlines, I’m mindful about the Draconian luggage allowances…
DEEP END RECORDS
16 Rue de la Porte Basse
Opening hours: 2.30pm to 6.30pm Tuesday to Saturday
This cramped but stylish record shop is one that keeps you guessing. Few of the records are individually priced, despite being neatly categorised. It could be a crafty sales technique (drawing you in before the folly of your interest is cruelly exposed) or it could just be poor planning. Anyway, my beautiful €60 copy of The Supremes’ Stop! In The Name Of Love French EP has to stay behind (I am trying to moderate my spending), but I do pick up a more affordable copy of the Giorgio Moroder soundtrack to Metropolis and a mint edition of the score to Derek Jarman’s The Last Of England. My obsession with French 7″ picture sleeves gets a welcome indulgence when I’m directed to a very healthy stack under the counter – he does a deal on those, but I guess there’s not as much call for these PWL and the like beauties. Clearly, that later Hit Factory is not quite as collectable as the first…
61 Rue des Ayres
Opening hours: 2.30pm to 6.30pm Tuesday to Friday; 2.30pm to 6pm Saturday
The shopping trolley loaded with French MOR gently warping in the sun outside this shop doesn’t bode well. I think even those records need some love and attention, so I’m not happy, but this proves a surprising stop on my trip. The filing is a bit all over the place, but there are some good finds, especially for soul and funk collectors. A lot of decent Sound Of Philadelphia singles, which made a big impact in France, are a couple of Euros apiece and I even pick up some synth pop, including the first issue of Tears For Fears’ Pale Shelter – billed Pale Shelter (You Don’t Give Me Love) for its first 1982 12″ release, which is a much better title. The chap behind the counter takes a Gallic disinterest in everything I’m doing, but perks up a bit when I bring a couple of piles of records to his desk to settle up. I’m likely his first customer in what has obviously been a very long day already. He hasn’t even closed for lunch…
7 Place de la Ferme Richemont
Opening hours: 11am to 1pm, 2.30pm to 7pm Tuesday to Saturday
With equal space given to records as to books, this doesn’t look especially promising, but is actually a close runner-up to Diabolo Menthe for interesting stuff. All the vinyl is in excellent condition (although the pricing isn’t very clear, so it’s easy to rack up a lot of cost without realising). A copy of, say, Def Leppard’s Hysteria in near-mint condition is €10, which is pretty good (despite that appalling exchange rate us Brits face against the Euro currently). The 7″ singles, again some interesting, less commonly seen stuff, are even in alphabetical order (a man after my own heart) and I pick up some clean Lennon singles in those collectable French picture sleeves. This is a cramped shop and I sense there is plenty buried under the shelves and precarious piles of books I’m navigating. Were I blessed with more time, I’d stay, but my day is drawing to a close and the couple of decent bags full of records I have with me are already likely to raise eyebrows with Ryanair. It’s time to call it a day and try to find a hotel in the right city…