Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Gone Swordfishing...

For a moment a few years ago record shops seemed to be going the same way as eight track, laser discs and video tapes. Hundreds...thousands perhaps...closed down leaving a huge vinyl shaped hole in High Streets and lives across the world. In Birmingham alone we lost (deep breath): Plastic Factory, Frank’s Wild Records, Second City Sounds, Tempest, Highway 61, Reddingtons Rare Records plus two Virgin/Zavvi stores, a Music Zone and Borders (which had a pretty decent music section for a while). There may even have been more, lost in the memory somewhere. There were record fairs too, at least one a month, with queues to get in and rooms jam packed with unsavoury smelling men all vying for that rare copy of some obscure album from an equally obscure 70s rock band. That was then but this is now and, with HMV grimly hanging on by its claws, Birmingham was left with just independent record shops – The Diskery and Swordfish (plus Music and Video Exchange...but that’s more of a pawn shop...steady now...PAWN). I’ve not been into The Diskery since about 1988, but I imagine it’s not changed much. They tend to deal purely in old/second hand/collectable stuff as opposed to anything released this millennium. So Swordfish, to borrow the title of Graham Jones’ fine book on the decline of the record retailing was, ‘The Last Shop Standing’.  Faced first with high rents and then the end of their lease it seemed doomed. Incredibly though last Saturday, March 9th, they opened up a new store in Dalton Street, just a stumble away from Birmingham Magistrates Courts (perfect for those with a...ahem...'criminal record'...oh dear).  

As with their last incarnation it’s mainly a mix of second hand and collectable stuff at the moment but they’ve just stocked – and sold out of (more copies coming I believe) – the new Bowie album and have a decent range of vinyl reissues on offer. 

If you want something the chances are they’ll know where to get it too. The owners, Gaz and Mike, have been running the place since 1979...first in Hurst Street, then Needless Alley, then Temple Street and now their new home and the walls are liberally adorned with cool mementos from over 30 years in the biz. 

I spent three happy hours in there myself on Saturday and emerged with a handful of vinyl and a couple of bargain CD’s. Pleasingly there was a steady stream of punters during that time and that’s pretty much the reason for this piece. If we want a physical record shop in Birmingham then we...all of us...yes...even you...have to support it. 

So spread the word, pop in once in a while, order something, have a chat, soak up the atmosphere, experience it...trust me...that’s something you can’t just download.  

Swordfish Records is at 66 Dalton Street, Birmingham, B4 7LX Opening hours 10am – 5.30pm Monday to Saturday.

Tel: 07563 567473

Twitter: @SwordfishBham

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