When finding themselves in a different city, any vinyl hunter-gatherer worth their turntable will attempt to visit as many music shops as possible in the available time. Art Galleries? Phooey. Historic Buildings? Only if they contain Record Shops. What we want are records. Lots of them.
Vinyl Connection was in Adelaide last week, and had done research. A list was created and a map perused. A quiver of excitement was experienced, along with some minor twitching of index fingers. (For those of a digital disposition, that’s the digit for flipping albums).
In fact the only dampener on the mission was the choice to fly with cabin luggage only, meaning a weight allowance of a mere 10 kg. As the bag weighed 9 kg on the outbound flight, this was worrying. But maybe I wouldn’t find more than a kilo of vinyl; after all, there were only eight shops on the list.
The final haul totalled 4.6 kg. On the way thru Adelaide airport and right up until boarding I felt like a nervous courier smuggling illicit drugs, complete with rapid eye-movements and upper-lip perspiration. Fortunately sniffer dogs are not trained for vinyl.
First stop was Rocktherapy in suburban Daw Park. This is a well laid out shop: narrow but long. Not much of interest and far from enticing prices. Down the end near the counter were three bins proudly labelled “US Imports”. Above them were pinned photos of the owners road-trip through the record stores of the United States. Well, a few of them anyway. He obviously had a great time, and good on him. The records looked to me like albums US locals regularly post on Facebook vinyl groups as dollar charity store finds, yet here they were marked between $20 and $30. Clearly Mr Rocktherapy was trying to pay for his trip – or fund the next one. I didn’t contribute.
Into the city centre next. Although you get more stores within walking distance in the downtown area, the convenience is offset by higher prices. Guess it’s those premium rents.
I stuck my head into Rerun Records & Photography in one of Adelaide’s arcades. It hadn’t changed since I’d last checked. Lots of stock, mostly well-thumbed, with anything of any interest priced to attract absolutely no-one of sane disposition. I suspect it’s the eBay syndrome: find out what some desperate idiot has paid at an auction and price accordingly. Jeez it annoys me, but that’s the thing, isn’t it? For the retailer it probably doesn’t matter if an album sits around for three years if eventually he makes a 2000% profit.
Two stores down and I haven’t spent a penny yet.
Clarity Records is a home for Adelaide’s punk/metal/alternate scene. It sells the usual plus t-shirts, a few books, and limited run cassettes self-produced by local bands. But the genres are broad and the jazz section not bad at all. As well as lots of new vinyl there is also a small but carefully chosen second-hand LP section and I’m tempted by a couple of things.
I make a mental note and trot off to the other city store on my list. It’s just changed its name from Title to Streetlight. Another pleasant store with an interesting array of books on art, music and popular culture, plus lots of new vinyl. I browse, but my heart is not really in it. Sure, I’d love that Porcupine Tree double-vinyl, but fifty bucks? Phew! It is, however, a very nice shop with a friendly and knowledgeable chap behind the counter, so I’m glad I stopped by even if I leave empty-handed.
Resolve hardening, I trek back to Clarity and collect the two items I’d logged earlier.
Big Star Records – named after the wonderful 70s power-pop band – is something of an institution in Adelaide. At one point they had four shops and promoted tours and gigs as well as selling new and used music. Now the dominion has shrunk to one modest store in Norwood, just north-east of the city centre. Every time I am in Adelaide I make a pilgrimage to Big Star and once again I’m relieved to find it still open for business. This is a shop that deserves attention and so I roll up my sleeves and dig in. An hour or so later I escape with 8 LPs and a CD. Thanks once again, Big Star! My delight is tempered by the weight of the bag. It feels like more than a kilo of music here but do I care? Well, a bit. They’ll be bloody expensive records if I have to pay a penalty for excess baggage.
Perhaps the most notorious record store in town is Porthole Records in the industrial waterfront district of Port Adelaide. An on-line search reveals more than a few disgruntled comments from folk who made the trek but found the porthole shut. As one of the other traders observed to me earlier, “He only seems to be there about three months of the year”. Well, Porthole Records is open today (and yesterday and tomorrow according to the sign) so I wander in. There certainly is a lot of stock but it’s the eBay syndrome again; too rich for me. In the Prog section I find an LP with the tell-tale JB felt-pen $1 scrawl on the cover (see this post for more). The Porthole sticker says $20. Amused, I take it to the counter and try to engage the cadaverous gentleman in conversation.
‘Guess you’ve seen a few of these indelibly marked $1LPs. Do you know the story behind them?’
‘Well, funnily enough I just wrote about it on my blog. Here’s a card’.
His response to this shameless bit of self-promotion was less than overwhelming.
Pause. He grunts. ‘Reduces the price, that graffiti.’
‘I guess so.’ I refrain from offering the original price and make one last attempt at communication.
‘Interesting band, though, Collegium Musicum.’
I return the record to its allotted bin and slope out of the shop.
The story goes that one of the original partners in Big Star went solo. His store is Mr V Music in nearby Semaphore (and isn’t that a great name for a seaside suburb?). Another attractively presented store with a strong focus on local talent and Aussie artists generally. I trawl the vinyl and come away with three LPs. None has me panting with anticipation but all are interesting enough. The Penguin Café Orchestra is most welcome, it being the only one of the original releases I don’t have on vinyl and the band having been in my thoughts since the last post.
From the coast to the hills. Final destination is Wolfie’s Records in Stirling, a 20 minute drive up into the Adelaide Hills. It’s a freezing morning and I wish Wolfie (pron. Vol-fee, judging from his accent and the small selection of krautrock CDs in the rack) would close the front door or provide gloves. The shop has an interesting configuration: crates of $5 LPs out the front (mostly of little interest or value), racks of $10 LPs inside, plus sections for decades and genres. Despite being close to browsed out and regardless of sobering prices, I flick through the racks until my fingers become numb.
One album that catches my eye is The Adverts LP recently featured at 1537. Nice to see but at $25, a glance is enough. In the end, two records at $10 each is enough to satisfy/justify the journey and round out the Vinyl Connection tour of duty in Adelaide, South Australia.
Unless, of course, I return to Streetlight for the Porcupine Tree album…