Thursday, March 10, 2011
Great record stores: Australia & New Zealand!
When the opportunity arose to work in six cities in New Zealand/ Australia, not only was I delighted to visit a land I had always wished to see, but also to hit some of the countries record stores.
OZ & NZ had a very fertile beat music scene in the sixties, and while a small handful of releases made their way onto US and UK release, there is a depth of records that were only released in the homeland and are of solid quality. The possibilities of finding these records was very exciting, to say the least!
Our first stop was Auckland, NZ- a delightful city with a relaxed charm. Luckily, right around the corner from our hotel was a store called REAL GROOVY, and the name certainly conveys how great this store is. At first I was a bit dismayed that the racks of 45's were all $12 each (translates to around $8US); no bargains to be found. There were maybe a few thousand 45's in the racks and I began digging; saw some great NZ labels on common releases that if they were half the price I would have snagged but passed on. Luckily, a few rows in and the homegrown treasures started appearing, as well as an original UK edition of Ben E. King's "Cry No More" (practically worth what I paid for the dozen or so 45's I bought alone!). Their LP selection was also staggering, and I picked up a very nice original NZ copy of the first Kinks LP. Not cheap but HIGH QUALITY.
Next up was the Gold Coast, but this resort-like region had no record stores within walking distance that I could find. Off to Sydney; our tour book was written that listed points of interest in each city, including record stores. Lucky for me, as it saved a bit of time not searching local directories and the web. Unfortunately, the two stores I visited in the city itself were either not what I was after, or in the case of Mojo Records, run by someone who was so incredibly rude I decided not to buy what I had selected. Their loss! Normally, I never slag a store but in this day and age of record store success slipping, it is necessary for a record store to step it up to survive. In all my travels, this was the first store whose snobbery turned me away and the main reason why I write about stores around the world is to send business their way.
Luckily, the next day I took the train to the Erskineville district and found two great stores; first off was the small but friendly and well stocked Egg Records. Not a whole lot in the way of 45's, but lots of great LP's and a very friendly environment. GREAT store! 10 minutes on foot from Egg will take you to REVOLVE Records; a FANTASTIC store jam packed with records, vintage clothing/ ephemera and a very friendly vibe. World class, indeed! The super friendly chap behind the counter even called the store owner to try to help me get a copy of my highly desired "Come On" by the Atlantics. Just missed one by four weeks, arghhhh!
From here, Melbourne was next. Ahhh, Melbourne- amazing city and I have to say I would rate it in the "top ten" of record buying cities (Paris, London, Chicago, New York, Stockholm, San Francisco, Brussels, Boston, Los Angeles and Melbourne). There is a plethora of record stores, and during the four days I was there I hit as many as I could but didn't hit all of them (had to do some other things in this incredible city other than dig records, right?). Closest to my hotel was my first stop, the legendary Missing Link Records. AMAZING, indie rock based store but without attitude. Daniel (who is also in the band The UV Race) showed me some new arrivals (VERY good stuff) and also told me about my next stop, Off The Hip Records which is literally hidden in a basement on a small alleyway. YES; this is my kinda place! Mick, the owner is a great chap who is very enthusiastic about music, and what I gathered is that he is a pillar in the local music scene. It's no surprise that the music scene is fertile in Melbourne with solid dudes like this behind the scenes! Found some FANTASTIC OZ beat singles, and he was kind enough to let me listen to anything I wanted.
My next hits were just outside the city, and I found one great place that wasn't on my list by accident! I missed a tram stop and ended up outside of the area I mapped out; as I was figuring out where I was, I walked past a store called Dixsons Recycled. Popped in, and was surprised at how by the store is, as the facade makes it seem much smaller. Racks and racks of vinyl, both LP's and singles. Found a nice handful of singles and one LP; GREAT prices, too! The next stop was a great place called "The Last Record Store, run by the very friendly Alex. Lucky for me, he was just pricing up some 45's and he let me pick through them. GREAT Aussie beat and two amazingly cool Hendrix EP's with picture covers. Made me a very nice deal, as well. Highly recommended. Unfortunately, I did not get to visit the legendary "Vicious Sloth"; I couldn't figure out the logistics with public transportation.
Next up was Adelaide; a seemingly sleepy city that isn't visited by many tourists (as my American accent was a source of amusement to many locals). I would have initially thought that there was no chance of finding a good record store in this city but thankfully our tour book listed one that was rated as a hidden gem favorite...Porthole Records. What an incredible shop! Unfortunately, I only had about an hour to dig and I was able to go through all of their singles. This was the only place in OZ with 50c bargains, and I found some great stuff. Porthole also had a wall of picture sleeve EP's that I decimated. The prices were better than anywhere else I had seen so I grabbed a stack and figured why not. I don't regret it!