Vinyl Is Dead, Long Live Vinyl – Record Store Day 2013

As I lay in bed, squinting at the clock and trying to ignore the obnoxiously chipper sound of my alarm, I became painfully aware that something was not right. It was 5am on a Saturday, and I was awake. What’s wrong with this picture? On any other day of the year I would gladly trade limbs and vital organs to go back to sleep until a more sensible time, or midday, whichever comes first, but Saturday the 20th of April was no normal day – it was Record Store Day.

Started 6 years ago in the US, Record Store Day sees hundreds of artists release rare and exclusive releases on CD, vinyl and even cassette (yep, they’re still a thing), sold exclusively through independent record shops around the world. Many of the releases are limited to a few hundred units, meaning each record store will only get a few of them in. British people love music, but there’s one thing we love even more, and that’s a queue. Every Record Store Day hundreds of music fans, vinyl collectors and the occasional opportunistic eBay seller queue for hours outside their local record shop in the hopes of getting their grubby little hands on their favourite releases.

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I arrived in Leeds city centre at 6.15am on Saturday, only to discover a line of at least 60 people already outside Crash Records on the Headrow, and a smaller queue of about 30 people outside the St John’s Centre, waiting to get into Jumbo Records. For the third year in a row, national treasure and all around amazing human Kate Bush was releasing a Record Store Day exclusive in the form of a 10 inch single featuring the 2012 remix of ‘Running Up That Hill’ featured at the Closing Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, and for the third year in a row, I was trying to get hold of the Kate Bush Record Store Day release. I’d missed out in 2011, and I’d missed out in 2012, but by God, 2013 was going to be my year. I joined the queue for Jumbo Records and hunkered down, knowing full well I wouldn’t even get into the shop until at least 9.30am. It’s not for the faint of heart, and anyone who sacrifices the incomparable snuggly paradise that is their bed to queue outside in the cold for at least 3 hours is bound to be pretty passionate about music and about the artists whose records they’re there for.

There have been some absolutely fantastic (and occasionally completely bonkers) Record Store Day releases over the last few years, including rare releases by R.E.M. and David Bowie, a rainbow of coloured vinyls and picture discs, and some weird and wonderful shaped vinyls, including this rabbit-shaped 12” single of Chas ‘n’ Dave’s rockney classic, ‘Rabbit’. There was a great atmosphere in the queue in the build-up to the shop opening, even though some people were already feeling nauseous at the thought that they might have woken up at stupid o’clock in the morning on a Saturday only to have the objects of their desire sell out before they reach the counter.

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A lot of people turn up with friends to chat to and keep each other company, but I was as lonely as a sober person at the end of a wedding. Before long, however, I had got chatting to people around me in the queue as we waited for Jumbo to open. There were quite a few older people there, but what was nicest to see was the sheer volume of young music fans who had really embraced buying physical versions of the music they loved. Alec, a Leeds Met Student, had a huge list of records he was really keen to get – and by the time we reached the counter, he’d spent over £130 on his Record Store Day haul! Jon and Anna, also students, were there mostly for the 12” red vinyl EP by psychedelic rockers Tame Impala, and the double-vinyl re-release of Elephant by White Stripes.

I got to the counter, having gone through the psychological torment of watching 30 other people get their Record Store Day goodies before me, and in a tiny, weary voice, asked if they still had any of the Kate Bush vinyls. Well, dear reader, I pretty much punched the air in sheer fucking joy, as after three years of trying I finally got my mitts on the Kate Bush RSD record. I also got my hands on a blue 7” single of Kirsty Maccoll’s cover of Billy Bragg’s ‘A New England‘, limited to only 500 copies worldwide.

I never thought I’d say it, but waking up at 5am and queuing in the cold for 3 hours to buy some records all added up to a really really lovely day. iTunes may have taken over the musical world for all intents and purposes, but for one day a year at least, vinyl rules.

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