The Trip: Vienna’s Best Record Stores
Globetrotting record collector Mark Elliott goes baroque ’n’ roll, record shopping in Vienna – and it’s a deep dig through the crates of Austria’s timelessly beautiful City Of Music
For pop collectors like me, this region of Europe always gets the heart beating a bit faster. Those glorious 7″ picture sleeves that supported decades of hit songs while the US and UK markets were still settling for generic label sleeves; variant labels and multiple oddities that continue to surprise me and, for someone with a passion for all things 1980s, the lure of continental classics from ubiquitous hit-makers of the time, such as Michael Cretu and Dieter Bohlen.
Vienna is an easy city to navigate, with most of the attractions close to each other. However, I made the mistake of getting one of those hop-on, hop-off tourist buses and realised quite quickly it was taking me round the inner ring road, with everything I needed to see located in the city centre that I was circling merrily like a lemon for the best part of an hour. Still, in truth, sightseeing was – as ever – secondary in my thoughts, as I knew there were some decent shops here that needed my attention.
A word of warning: timing is everything in this part of the world. Sundays here will transport you back to the ghost-town high streets of your youth. Don’t expect anything much to be open here then – let alone one of these shops – but Saturday’s fleamarket is a must, so work your itinerary around that. Credit cards aren’t widely accepted in Austria outside of the big stores and hotels (many restaurants don’t even take them), so make sure you’ve stocked up on Euros.
Prices here were very favourable, with many of my prized picture-sleeve singles going for little over a Euro. Decent albums from all genres cost roughly the same as you might find in other European cities (I increasingly feel pricing is becoming uniform across territories). As in neighbouring Germany, I found the condition of the discs to be good and the management of the stock efficient, so diving through the racks was speedy and effective. Germany and Austria are big markets for music and there’s a lot of vinyl to sift through, so a couple of days here in Vienna will see you break the back of it (particularly if you’re interested in singles – there are thousands of them for sale, at very good prices). Most of the city’s record shops are about 20 minutes’ walk from the city centre, situated around the Neubau district. With more time, I would have included Rave Up, Teuchtler Schallplattenhandlung and Record Shack, but this is what I found on my recent visit…
30 Kärntner Street, 1010
Opening hours 10am to 7pm Monday to Friday; 10am to 6pm Saturday
Now this bodes well: a slick CD and record retailer still trading in the centre of a shopping district. Given its marketing pitch to general tourists, the CDs still act as the magnet on the ground floor, but the first-floor vinyl section is surprisingly strong, with new stock. Prices are perhaps slightly on the higher side, but I guess city-centre rents don’t pay themselves and this is, in truth, the only major music retailer in the heart of Vienna, so I can forgive that. The releases are bang up to date and there’s a satisfying range of vinyl boxsets and special editions.
One thing that catches my eye is a German-issued soundtrack to Peggy Sue Hat Geheiratet. Released on the Colosseum label in 1987, this John Barry score – with additional songs from Buddy Holly and Dion & The Belmonts – is in the sale section and appears to have sat there, still sealed, for 30 years. Well, I’m pleased to report it will now be rehomed in the UK and the entire resettlement has set me back less than €10. It’s an auspicious start!
19 Neustiftgasse, 1070
Opening hours 10am to 6.30pm Monday to Friday; 10am to 5pm Saturday
As with all of the stores I visit, everything at Sing Sing is exceptionally well organised, with boxes of 45s segmenting tidy racks of all manner of genres. I’m interested to see what Schlager prices are like. This brand of European pop, of the type we all enjoy each Eurovision, is highly prized by some collectors and remains a big market in the central and northern regions of the continent. Although these 45s are slightly pricier than regular 70s and 80s pop and rock, there’s a good range here. There are some interesting imports – the Fab Four’s first Stateside album, Introducing The Beatles, on Vee-Jay – is a reasonable price, and closer to home, the Austrian pop hero Falco is also well represented. Austrian and German pop is a defined genre in all of the stores I visit; it’s a bewildering labyrinth.
Instead, I grab some prize 45s in variant picture sleeves, including something I hadn’t heard of: The Lunatix’s There’s A Ghost In My House, which proves to be spiky new wave… widely available from Discogs, but not at this price! A collection for Der Formal Eins (the West German state’s Top Of The Pops) catches my eye – not least for the inclusion of Limahl’s German-only 45 Tar Beach.
Opening hours 12 pm to 8pm Monday to Friday; 12pm to 7pm Saturday
For a 45 collector, this is the Promised Land. In just over an hour here, I’m only able to get through about a third of the racks of singles, all nicely cleaned and housed in smart PVC sleeves. At a single Euro each, with a small box on the counter for a stack of higher-priced items, this would likely blast a hole in my Wants List very easily if I had the time to go through it all properly. There is some new vinyl for sale here, but it’s the used catalogue that makes this exciting. The box on the counter yields a couple of Frida-from-ABBA 45s I need – To Turn The Stone from 1982 and the following year’s Here We’ll Stay. When Chicago’s Peter Cetera decided to work with the Bucks Fizz songwriter Andy Hill in the early 1990s, radio had abandoned their brand of melodic pop and the album tanked. Man In Me was extracted as a single and I’m thrilled to finally get my hands on this 1992 7″ – it was something that two previous trips to neighbouring Germany had failed to throw up.
The vinyl now completely dominates this long-standing and respected retailer and I’m only sorry to miss the upcoming tour of the store’s Vinyl And CD Bus. This psychedelic-inspired campervan brings its magic to the regular record fairs that take place in the city and its distinctive branding has made it something of an iconic sight for the city’s cratediggers. The feedback I got was that Moses is typical of the city’s long-standing retailers, who continue to see steady interest in vinyl and this, coupled with Vienna’s strong tourist economy showing no sign of slowing, means the outlook looks bright. I could go on about the 70s picture sleeves I source, but I appreciate my enthusiasm for Gloria Gaynor, Pilot and Peter Schilling probably isn’t matched by yours. My haul here totals nearly three figures…
27/III Kirchengasse, 1070
Opening hours 2pm to 9pm Monday to Friday; 2pm to 6pm Saturday
Electronic specialist Tongues has a great reputation in this city and, although there’s a bit of synth and some broader dance here, it’s certainly aimed at the specialist. This great space is the sort of place for hanging out and being seen in as much as it is for picking up a new white label. I’m not surprised to see a number of clearly overseas visitors to the city in Tongues, as Vienna’s developing a strong reputation for its club scene. With alcohol prices steep, it’s unlikely to slide into the dubious ‘stag do’ market some cities in this region of Europe are known for, which will keep the clubbers cool and shops like this in business. Prices here are good (perhaps consistent for this type of vinyl across the continent).
13 Westbahnstrasse, 1070
Opening hours 10am to 7pm Monday to Friday; 10am to 5pm Saturday
This is Vienna’s newest record store. Sharing its space with a haul of well-curated hi-fi equipment, this clean and airy 18-month-old doubles up for the odd gig (notably at this year’s Record Store Day) and I find a nice mix of material, including that inevitable German cliché – the David Hasselhoff album. Not one either, but two: 1990’s big hit Crazy For You and 1991’s David.
Now, everyone would be disappointed if these hadn’t found their way into my collection, and I duly oblige. At €6 apiece and in near-mint condition (I’m ignoring the perhaps obvious gag that a previous owner likely couldn’t bear to play them), I can report that the melodic Jack White-produced fare isn’t a million miles away from marginally more collectable artists such as Cliff Richard. Mark my words: these will appreciate in value someday! I think that Schallter’s owner was surprised when I made my purchase. He had directed me at first to the Led Zeppelin and wider rock section, so I’m guessing he hasn’t come across this feature before.
40 Zieglergasse, 1070
Opening hours 3pm to 8pm Tuesday; 1pm to 8pm Wednesday and Thursday; 12pm to 8pm Friday; 12pm to 6pm Saturday
Round the corner from Schallter’s, this 2008-established competitor to Tongues probably wins the social-media war, judging by later research, but I find it hard to tell which is stronger, in truth. Both seem to be serving up some beefy beats that are entirely appropriate for the clientele and both carry a similar amount of stock. There’s definitely no Hasselhoff to be had here…
32-34 Siebensterngasse, 1070
Opening hours 2pm to 7pm Monday to Friday; 10am to 1pm Saturday
This small store is worth a quick mention and has a nice range of mainly used records. I’m pressed for time and can’t do it justice, but everything is nicely presented and mood lighting does a decent job of making even the sale items – a lot of Chris Rea – look inviting. Yes, I know that jibe’s a bit rich coming from a man who has just bought The Hoff (a third and final mention for him)…
Vienna’s weekly flea market is definitely one to get out of bed for. The hardcore get here early (around 5 or 6am, I am told) but I manage a respectable 8am and I still find many of the vinyl stalls are already besieged
Between Karlsplatz and Kettenbrückengasse
Opening hours Varies, but get here before 10am!
These can be hit-and-miss affairs back home, but Vienna’s weekly flea market is definitely one to get out of bed for. The hardcore get here early (around 5 or 6am, I am told) but I manage a respectable 8am and I still find many of the vinyl stalls are already besieged. Again, as I’ve found throughout this trip, the vinyl is generally in good condition, although a few stalls do stock some scratched and damaged stock. I even find one disc neatly snapped in two, so exercise some caution here, at least. The prices are no less attractive than I found in the regular stores, but an excellent first pressing of Kraftwerk’s Die Mensch-Maschine is mine for €20 and makes for an obvious memento from my trip.
Less collectable fare is equally reasonable – Vanilla Ice’s To The Extreme LP sets me back €3, while a distinctive picture sleeve of Lulu’s The Man With The Golden Gun is just €10 and in excellent condition, too. Despite my worse-than-useless German, I’m able to haggle and I sense the traders are well used to being made a silly offer. I don’t disappoint, but even I wonder if €5 for the mint soundtrack to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II is pushing it. Still, what price Cathy Dennis, Dan Hartman and David Morales? There are probably over 100 stalls to visit here and I’d estimate about 20% carry some vinyl, so to do this properly, you’ll need a couple of hours at least.
32 Esterhazygasse, 1060
Opening hours 11am to 7pm Monday to Friday; 11am to 6pm Saturday
Another dance specialist that’s worth a mention, with a broad range of electronica for sale, too. You may need to knock next door at the vintage-clothing shop to gain entry, but it’s worth a visit if this is your thing.
4 Kollergerngasse, 1060
Opening hours 10am to 7pm Monday to Friday; 10am to 6pm Saturday
This handsome Viennese institution carries the best range of new stock I encounter in the city. Record Store Day releases from the past few years still pack the shelves and there’s a strong range of US imports, too. Again, there’s little here you won’t find anywhere else for around the same price, but I thought it better stocked than most of the new stores I see around the world. Again, there’s clear evidence Record Store Day offers a strong draw for the newer converts to record collecting and the hardcore buyer, but I am struck by just how much of the limited-edition material is now easy to source this year, months after the event.
42-48 Mariahilfer Street, 1070
Opening hours 9.30am to 8pm Monday to Wednesday; 9.30am to 8pm Thursday and Friday; 9.30am to 6pm Saturday
This chain deserves a mention, as it’s a predictable but reliable retailer of new vinyl. Most of the stores are situated outside the expensive shopping streets in cities across Germany, Austria and Poland (with a handful of branches in Russia and Luxembourg). The most central one in Vienna is in Mariahilfer Strasse, at the top of a shopping centre and close to Recordbag and Scout.
3 Capistrangasse, 1060
Opening hours 2pm to 7pm Monday to Friday; 10am to 5pm Saturday
This crammed store has some of the chaotic charm of its English and American cousins but, in truth, stock here is ordered as carefully as elsewhere, it’s just the cardboard boxes don’t look quite so slick as the wooden crates I come across elsewhere in the city. Prices are very good – I make quick work of the bargain section, seizing a copy of Martha And The Muffins’ The World Is A Ball LP, a nice copy of Cock Robin’s debut for a friend who is still seemingly to be persuaded of their Roxy Music Avalon-era charm and The Boomtown Rats’ In The Long Grass LP.
There are loads more 45s to sift and even the better half buys a 7″ dedicated to the memory of President Kennedy. It seems a suitable point to call time on this trip, with a train scheduled to Salzburg later in the afternoon. I don’t know about the hills yet, but Vienna’s certainly alive to the sound of music…
1 ROCK ME, AMADEUS
The Austrian music scene peaked early with 18th and 19th Century draws Haydn, Beethoven, Strauss and, of course, Mozart making Vienna their base. Mozart’s story inspired Austria’s biggest international property of recent decades, Falco, who scored No. 1s worldwide with Rock Me Amadeus in 1986, but died just 12 years later.
2 MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
You’ll need a stack of notes for the flea market (and you’ll need to be prepared to haggle), but cash was also king in about half the shops I visited, too. A couple of stores would accept credit cards, but also offered a discount if I was prepared to use my currency instead.
3 LOOK SHARP!
Draconian weekend trading laws meant that, sadly, my second day of cratedigging was curtailed. Annoyingly, one of the two stores I missed out on was Teuchtler, used in the movie Before Sunrise for a scene where the chemistry between Jesse and Celine was starting to heat up. Make sure you don’t make the mistake I made – head there first! It’s open from 1pm to 6pm Monday to Friday and just three hours from 10am on a Saturday.
4 THRIFT SHOP
Neubau, where Moses is situated, has a number of charming junk shops. A handful I visited had a decent stash of vinyl, but nothing you won’t pick up in one of the specialist stores.
5 THE HILLS WEREN’T ALIVE…
Austria’s second-biggest tourist destination, Salzburg, is light on record shopping. Good job, too, as following in the footsteps of Maria is the main focus here. The only option I did find – Minerva Records at 6 Schallmooser Haupstrasse – served a great coffee and had a decent selection of new and second-hand vinyl.
Flights to Vienna are pretty good value, with a range of carriers serving the city. The best way to get into the centre from the airport is via express train, which takes just 16 minutes and costs €11. Once you’re in the centre, don’t worry about the sightseeing tour to orientate. It’s very compact and most of the key sights are within a mile of each other. The record shops are largely clustered to the south west of the city centre and will take you roughly 20 minutes to walk to, from anywhere near the cathedral.