The Trip – Cardiff’s Best Record Shops
In the final episode of The Trip, our intrepid vinyl hunter Mark Elliott makes his way to the Welsh capital via Newport, hungry for new records.
This is one of those shops that I wish I hadn’t come to first on my visit. I could spend a day here, especially as I have turned up during one of the veteran store’s regular sale periods, with everything half-price. This is certainly the Cardiff venue with the widest range of 7″ singles, and there are plenty of collectables up on the walls that catch my eye, including the five-disc 7″ picturedisc set of Spandau Ballet’s I’ll Fly For You. It’s interesting that their big rivals Duran Duran were employing the same chart-friendly tactic at the same time with a multi-member set for The Wild Boys, which I have already picked up over the years. This set had passed me by. There are also some really nice early Cliff Richard EPs in pristine sleeves that are a real bargain, and I spend some time wading through the crates of singles, picking up quite a selection. With equal space devoted to CD and DVD, this is a shop that I sense could keep you busy for some time, and you will need some serious stamina to wade through everything, with piles of discs proving a physical challenge, even though the sections are pretty well sorted when you can get to them. I could easily blow my entire budget here, so it’s with reluctance I force myself out of the door after about 90 minutes. I’m definitely coming back.
THE RECORD SHOP
Another shop that you could get lost in, The Record Shop can’t quite match its neighbour D’Vinyl for sheer acreage of discs, but does a pretty good job of keeping you occupied with boxes and boxes of bargain discs (lots of 80s pop, soul and MOR) alongside some decent racks of more collectable material. One of the joys of this commission has been the number of releases I find that surprise me (Cliff again, this time with some nice 12″ poster-sleeves that had completely passed me by until now). The shop is near a number of decent music venues, including The Globe, which has seen a number of touring bands pop by over the years. With lots of students in the area, I’m told the mix of customers continues to diversify (which means it’s not all older blokes like me – and that’s a good thing). I’m especially pleased with a near-mint copy of Dusty Springfield’s It Begins Again from 1978. It didn’t really in her case, and it was to be another nine years until her big chart revival, but this is a lovely album, as yet not reissued on vinyl.
This institution has a simple proposition at its heart: fantastic range, specialist understanding and a commitment to serving a dedicated clientele that rightly sees its survival as a test of decency and common sense. More a community centre than a straightforward retail experience, enthusiasm seeps from every corner of this two-storey store (electronic, reggae, world, jazz and blues are upstairs). As you’d expect, vinyl predominates, although the CD is hanging on. Everything is nicely catalogued and there are lots of deals to be found, including some solid discounts on Sparks’ back catalogue. Last year’s Record Store Day (with Lauren Laverne broadcasting her 6 Music show from the store) will be hard to beat, but preparations are underway for this year’s event. The vinyl’s all new, but you’ll be certain to find something interesting here.
OXFAM BOOKS & MUSIC
Not the widest range of vinyl I have come across in this chain (Glasgow wins that award), but this is worth a look, although, as many of you have said, there aren’t bargains to be found often at Oxfam anymore. That’s probably a good thing, given that it is a charity, but I have had a few choice finds in this branch over the years. Best of all was the Sigue Sigue Sputnik Love Missile F1-11 sheet music (can you honestly imagine anyone needing sheet music for that 1986 single? Neither can I, but I was thrilled to find someone had bothered to publish it). No such oddities, this time, although I do find the score for Jason Donovan’s last chart-topper Any Dream Will Do. Now that makes much more sense…
On the mezzanine level of the city’s famous indoor market, Kellys is another must-visit destination for any vinyl enthusiast coming to Cardiff. The long racks outside are the rock and pop LPs, with a good range of the obvious and some rarer finds. One of the shop units houses a good number of new discs, while another carries a lot of used 12″ singles and general collectables. This is certainly an easier experience to manage, as the stock is clean and tidy, no precarious piles of records here. I find the best mix of soul in the city, including a prized release in the Street Sounds compilation series – the 19th edition (from late 1986) sporting a less-than-practical advent sleeve (two of the windows have gone missing from this copy). I come across a decent copy of Landscape’s Manhattan Boogie-Woogie (lacking a hit comparable to the classic Einstein A Go-Go, sadly). Maintaining my love of the random, a Julie Andrews/Henry Mancini collaboration for the Darling Lili soundtrack completes a really diverse mix of purchases, including loads of 12″ singles I have rarely seen before (Modern Romance’s Tonight and Regina’s disco-pop gem Beat Of Love). This is another really strong stop for second-hand collectors.
Diving onto a train from Cardiff Central, the quick journey to Newport is a doddle and I’m rewarded for braving the monsoon-like downpour by a warm welcome from the team at Diverse Vinyl. This being Welsh Language Music Day, I’m determined to do my bit and their second-hand racks yield The Alarm’s Change from 1989, re-recorded in Welsh for a parallel release called Newid. I’m pleased to buy it and Diverse Vinyl are happy, too – they even take my picture for their social media channels, which is a first for me, even though I usually do introduce myself. This is a great store for new vinyl and there are some bargains to be found here. It’s rare that I see new discs much cheaper from place to place, but this is a genuine exception. The annual Record Store Day is a big deal for Diverse, but Saturdays are always a draw as the store hosts a lengthy 80s playback session each week. Now that sounds like my sort of Record Store Day!
Just inside to the left of Newport’s covered indoor market entrance, you’ll find Kriminal Records – a big unit devoted to vinyl that’s outgrown its owner’s punk and rock interests (although there is a lot of that here still). The stock is largely used (although there are some new soundtracks, generously discounted). I find a nice copy of Del Shannon’s Runaway EP (it’s actually one of my favourite songs) alongside eclectic picks such as Tenpole Tudor, a 12″ import of Bill Wyman’s (Si Si) Je Suis Un Rock Star (pressed in Holland, exported to the USA – so says the sticker – and now, somehow, on sale here) and Kym Sims’ Too Blind To See It album from 1992 in excellent condition. It’s soon time to head back. I’m very conscious that this is my last stop on an epic marathon of shopping I have been privileged to share with you these past two years. It’s a bit of a moment, but fear not. I’ll still be cratedigging (I’m still looking for that Big Fun Handful Of Promises 12″ picturedisc… anyone… anyone?) so do say hello when I’m out and about.