Well, it’s finally happened. This week I discovered that Birmingham City centre will soon lose its last remaining independent record store (NB: I don’t count The Diskery on Bristol Road as they only seemed to sell old vinyl the last time I was in there...and that was in 1983). Both Tempest and now Swordfish Records are to close in the coming months leaving just HMV as the sole purveyors of music in the country’s second city. I only rarely visited Tempest back in the day, but they had a good indie section and knowledgeable team manning the counters. Swordfish on the other hand was a bit of a second home for me. Saturdays would often be spent thumbing through the racks and, in later years, chatting to the owners Gaz and Mike about all kinds of obscure but wonderful stuff.
The shop began 31 years ago in Hurst Street before moving to Needless Alley in the 80’s then on to its final resting place in Temple Street 14 years ago. Recent years have seen the place get quieter and quieter. Add rising rents and you don’t have to be a business genius to see the eventual outcome. How many fans and bands have had their musical tastes shaped by this place? How many of us have gone home clutching some precious album or single in one of their Grateful Dead inspired carrier bags? And now how many of us will mourn the passing of a nothing less than a Midlands musical institution?
The shop will remain open for a while (they have some time left on their lease and unless they can sublet it they may be open for a bit longer), so if you want to experience a proper record shop before it’s too late pop in now and show them some love.