Record Store Day can be a little like Christmas. Lots of build-up and anticipation as you get excited about what you might ‘get’ and then a slight anti-climatic feeling when it’s all over, mixed with a small dose of resentment about how everyone else ended up with better ‘presents’ than you.
This year was a more satisfying experience for us than 2012. Back then, the shop we were in didn’t have any Kate Bush Lake Tahoe 10-inch picture discs at all, the David Bowie Starman picture disc was also not available, and Paul McCartney’s Another Day / Oh Woman Oh Why – the RAM promoting seven-inch – was US only.
This year our record shop of choice, Flashback in North London, had all this year’s releases from the above artists. They also abandoned the the rule of allowing only five items to be purchased before going to the back of the queue, probably as a result of more stock than ever being available. Good news, if not great for the wallet. You were still not allowed to buy duplicates though, which is as it should be. The other thing about Flashback is that they don’t open until 10am on Record Store Day. On the face of it an annoyingly late start, but actually rather sensible because it doesn’t force you to get there too early be in with a chance of getting hold of what you want. The person at the head of the queue arrived a 6am, and we were there around 7.45am – still a respectable seventh in line.
The late start also allows you to savour the ‘buzz’ from around the UK as everyone takes to social media uploading pictures of the mayhem and crowds outside Rough Trade, or giving you a feel for what is selling out fastest, or proving tough to get hold of.
After some complimentary biscuits were brought out to the growing queue at around 9.30am, we eventually filed in at 10am. All the stock was kept behind the counter and you just asked for what you wanted from the lists that had been handed out. It was a fairly slick operation with a large amount of staff communicating well – shouts along the lines of “any McCartney left?” and “No more Kate Bush” could be heard regularly.
With the exception of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood shaped picture disc we picked up most of what we wanted. It’s interesting to compare the quality of the product and the effort some labels go to with their Record Store Day releases. EMI’s Duran Duran seven-inch didn’t have an inner sleeve, Sony’s David Bowie white vinyl did. The Marianne Faithfull Broken English original mix LP was both coloured vinyl and numbered. The Factory Records 10-inch from Rhino was neither. A special mention should go to Fire Records. Not content with producing only 1000 copies of the Giant Giant Sand Return To Tucson vinyl, they created an even more limited edition of only 100 copies that boasted a hand screen-printed hessian sleeve, with hand-numbered download card. These were randomly scattered – golden ticket style – around Europe.
Some of the prices were ridiculous. We bought two out of the three Bowie issues but refused to spent £13.99 on the seven-inch picture disc of Drive-in Saturday. The US /UK cost differential is even more annoying. A peruse of a few music discussion boards earlier this week enlightened us to the fact that McCartney’s Maybe I’m Amazed 12-inch was $6.99 in many shops in the US – that’s about £4.60. In the UK it cost £12.99 (almost $20).
Finally, good though Record Store Day is, it would be great to see more major labels in particular release vinyl singles and limited editions in support of album releases as par for the course. It’s all very well Kate Bush releasing great picture discs for two years in a row for RSD, but where was the physical release for Deeper Understanding when Director’s Cut came out in 2011? Why wasn’t Wild Man released on vinyl or CD single in November of that same year for 50 Words For Snow? Maybe a physical CD and vinyl of Bowie’s The Stars (Are Out Tonight), when the single was released in February, could have helped it perform better in the UK charts (it flopped badly).
In short, record collectors and enthusiasts like buying records. Let’s enjoy the novelty of Record Store Day – and accept its limitations – but hope that it encourages labels to release more physical product (particularly around singles) as a matter of course.