Rejoice ye old-time record lovers: Nirvana is at hand. So are The Beatles, Seasick Steve, Deep Purple, David Bowie, Iggy and the Stooges, Eric Burdon, Eels, Uncle Acid, Cathedral, Frank Turner, Fain, Phosphorescent, Iron and Wine, The Computers and The Phoenix Foundation. And that’s just the new releases. If you’ve left the vinyl fold, slipped the sleeve, blunt the stylus, it’s time to come back… Come back to that fresh-off-the-press aroma mingling with the faded cinnamon hints of well-lived and well-loved vintage obscurities. Meditate as your eyes flick through record covers at breakneck pace, making split-second quality judgments, waiting for that elusive vinyl find with no idea of what it might be, knowing only that – Albums find you, not the other way round.
Not so long ago, old-fashioned record shops were thought to be a thing of the past; computers, innit? But, as it ever was, the more things change, the more they stay the same. We’re flocking to the good-old format in greater numbers than ever – just ask Nick and Dawn Wells. They opened Replayed Records in the newish Daisy May’s Arcade in Swanage sometime way back. “After just over a year of trading, vinyl was outselling CDs at around two to one. There’s evidence of a nationwide resurgence of interest in both new and old vinyl, seven-inch singles too.” That was Nick. He and Dawn rocked up to town two years earlier when one of those oddly-fortuitous combinations of events and chance remarks that seems to happen regularly in Purbeck meant that, the next thing they knew, Nick’s record collection was receiving a much-needed ‘down-sizing’.
There’s no single demographic leading the way. “Many older music fans have continued to play vinyl, many more have fallen in love with it again, but large numbers of younger fans are buying vinyl for the first time. They all, almost without exception, consider vinyl the very best way to listen to their music. They appreciate the warmer, deeper, more complete sound of vinyl. They also enjoy the whole experience of physically owning the record, eschewing the throw-away, two-key-click mp3 download with its hideous compressed files.” And, while we’re at it, who among us of certain generations did not bemoan the advent of the tiny CD insert? Where was the thrill of opening up a double album to a photo-spread of the band in concert, taking a break backstage, recording in the studio, joshing around, looking serious, the handwritten acknowledgements, the philosophical ranting? Where the sheer bliss of finding the entire album’s lyrics printed on the sleeve? Among the covers reproduced here is the centre-spread of an exceptionally rare bit of kit. “The 1971 album by Clear Blue Sky was their only release and is rare in itself; but, added to that, is the fact it was released on the Vertigo swirl label – collectable in its own right.” In fact, the very album was sold during the making of this special report to someone “happy to pay £180 to replace the poor copy in his collection”… and who knew the lead guitarist and songwriter, apparently. It was then traded over the internet though, which is not quite as tactile as searching through a rack. But that’s progress. Still, happy days are here again – a real, living, record shop… Groovy, baby!