Hunting High And Low - Queuing up for my first Record Store Day
Updated: Apr 24, 2022
Despite my obsession with collecting records, I have never queued up to go to Record Store Day (RSD). Surprising, isn't it?
I have inspected the release announcements each year, squealed with excitement at some limited edition albums, and worked out my fantasy shopping list. But I have never got up and headed there for opening.
And by all accounts, you have to be there early. Limited releases are issued to give record stores a lift and bolster the purchase of music rather than streaming it. Overall it's a good thing, though flippers, as they are known, are predators, buying up these records before the fans get them, and then inflating the price on resale sites like eBay...arseholes can corrupt the loveliest of ideas...
I know many people queue up all night and I have never made it to join them as:
a. I could never be bothered
b. What if you did bother and then you didn’t get what you wanted? I am not sure the spoilt only child in me would cope well with that disappointment...
Don’t get me wrong, I have bought some RSD releases over the years. I have wandered into shops later in the day and picked up some interesting things. When I was in Melbourne in 2017, I walked into a shop and picked up The Boy With The Thorn In His Side by The Smiths with ease. The same year, some lovely friends, Brendan and Susanna, saw a message I posted on FB asking if anyone was going, could they pick me up a copy of Elbow’s cover of August & September by The The. They very kindly walked into a record store they were passing and found a copy for me (which I still love and am still very grateful – thank you!).
Days later you can usually pick up most things - I even managed to acquire a copy of We Can't Stop What's Coming by The The, and though I was mightily tempted to keep it for myself, I gave it to my friend Rich, a lifelong The The fan (Rich - I still have a copy of 2020's I WANT 2 B U on 7 inch - promise I will post it to New Zealand eventually!). But some things go and that’s that and this year there is one thing I really want – 5X5 Live - a live album by Simple Minds from their 2012 tour.
I have loved Simple Minds since I was 15. Having bought Don’t You (Forget About Me) on 7 inch single, then Once Upon A Time, the subsequent album, I was smitten. They were the first band I went back and bought all their earlier albums. I was baffled by some of them, they sounded so different, so rough so….not very good!
But others, like New Gold Dream (81+82+83+84) and Sons & Fascination / Sister Feelings Call, are amongst my favourite albums of all time. (You can read more about my love for these albums - Simple Minds – Sons and Fascination / Sister Feelings Call and Decades – 1982). And those rougher albums, Life In A Day, the oppressive Reel To Real Cacophony and the electronica of Empires & Dance are now much loved as well.
By the time I finally saw Simple Minds live though in 1989, songs from these albums had disappeared from the setlist. They were in their mullets, waist coats, scissor kicks and pomp phase, rather than their cool, synth, krautrock phase. I had, as I have many times, missed the boat.
But in the 2000s, these songs started to reappear more and more in the set. Seeing them play Seeing Out The Angel, Factory and New Gold Dream in 2006 was fabulous. I was beyond excited when they announced their 2012 5X5 tour – where they would play five songs from each of their first five albums.
I headed to The Roundhouse in 2012, dragging a woman I was in the early stages of dating – “are you making me go and see more old man music?” she bemoaned at the time, but Time Out magazine assured her this was THE show of the week and of course, she loved the gig. These old songs had aged beautifully and the show was stunning. A real “pinch yourself” gig.
So when I saw that the live album from this tour was amongst the RSD 2022 vinyl releases, I decided that this was the year to drag my backside out of bed and head down. I did my research – my beloved Casbah Records in Greenwich had ordered a copy, and were ordering more, so they should have it. I ask Graham what sort of time people get there and he advised some are there from midnight, but many get there around 4.00 am.
My friend Rob hears I am going and asks me to pick up the 7 inch single of The Lakes by Taylor Swift, another RSD exclusive. My resolve is established – I am going to my first record store day. I aim for 4.00 am, but the night before I decided 4.30 am will do, so set the alarm for 3.45. Despite the ungodly hour for a Saturday morning, I am excited. And just after 4.30 I am outside Casbah Records in Greenwich.
There is already a small queue – 8 people. More soon arrive and we start to chat. Ollie and Gavin are regulars, there every year. Ollie was there at midnight in 2020, and Gavin was second in the queue, arriving 4 hours later. Ollie got there today around 3.00 am, a little more restrained, plus he is recovering from his leaving do from work. Fair play for getting up at all. Gavin arrived an hour later, restraining himself as he has to work later that day.
We are soon joined by Lola, who is also another RSD veteran – Ollie and Gavin know her from previous years and we are all soon chatting. We discuss why we love going, the challenges with getting records these days due to the lack of vinyl pressing facilities, the merits of coloured over good old black vinyl records. And apparently any “neon” vinyl is atrocious in terms of sound quality – good to know!
There is a lovely camaraderie, as we discuss our lists. Ollie wants the Stones and Art Blakely, Gavin wants the Pixies live album and Bowie, Lola wants T-Rex, Foo Fighters, Phil Lynott and Rory Gallagher. As the night goes on, her list grows and we laugh as she adds a Motorhead live album. I just want Simple Minds and Taylor Swift, but add Blur, The Go! Team and Bowie as we chat and the RSD release list is studied again. Gavin also wants the Simple Minds album, though it's on his second choices list...
By now Paul and Helen arrive, along with another Paul. We are all talking now and the queue grows and grows. Helen tells us last year she and Paul queued up for hours outside a record shop in Chelmsford for RSD – then having queued politely, the record shop had, unbeknownst to those queuing, allowed others to book slots so they could bypass the queue and arrive early and have their pick. These overly entitled usurpers were accompanied to the front of the queue and bought the one thing she really wanted (Foo Fighters covering the Bee Gees), leaving her without. I am outraged and vow never to shop in this record store if I am ever in Chelmsford. This would never happen at Casbah.
We marvel at the length of the queue and laugh at the way everyone (including me) caveats they are buying Taylor Swift’s single “for a friend”. People clearly have a LOT of friends. Mine really is for Rob – don’t get me wrong, I love her later solo stuff, and The Lakes (this single release) is a cracking song. But I am not that bothered about owning it and Rob is – plus he has offered me his original 12 inch copy of What Difference Does It Make? by The Smiths – not the one with Terence Stamp on the cover, but the cover they recreated with Morrissey replacing Stamp, when the actor objected to the use of his image. Stamp subsequently withdrew his objection, when his kids berated him for snubbing the best band around at that time. It will be a pleasing oddity to add to my collection.
Around 7.00am, two of the women who work at Casbah arrive – they are selling raffle tickets to raise money for a Women’s Refuge and for Guide Dogs For The Blind. Great causes – I have already bought tickets, but buy ten more. It feels important and it’s all part of the day. And well done Casbah for making sure charity gets a look in as well.
By 7.45, Graham and Tony, the owners arrive – we all look and stare at them excitedly. It’s like rock stars arriving before a gig (though Mick Jagger doesn’t have to pop out after arriving to take down the shutters from the windows of whatever venue he is playing).
I am cold now – I haven’t worn enough layers and although it’s 11 degrees, I hadn’t factored in being cold from not moving much for 4 hours….so it’s not just excitement of finally getting to the beloved records when the store opens at 8.00 that lifts my spirits, it’s also that I will be warm!
We have huddled around talking, but everyone quickly returns to their place in the queue, respectfully ensuring that we all have the right place, based on when we arrived.
And then we are off. The lovely chap at the front of the queue has been there since before midnight to get the Blur remix album. He is rewarded with what he wants and I clap as he leaves – I am delighted for him. Then we all shuffle in in an orderly manner – the Casbah team have the RSD records all boxed up and on the counter. Rather than the usual rooting through piles of records, you tell them what you want and they get it for you.
More organised people than me have lists written down to hand over, but I have mine in my phone. I pick up the new Fontaines DC album from the new releases pile, while we wait to present our wishlist for the RSD releases. We chat and swap notes on what else is on our wishlists, when Gavin, number 8 in the queue is called forward – I AM NEXT!!!!
Gavin rattles through his list – Pixies, a Trojan Records Soul Power album, Belinda Carlisle, Bowie and more. He asks for Simple Minds 5X5 Live – he is the first to ask, so I am sure it’s all ok. They were ordering more. As Graham pulls the album out, Gavin asks how many copies they have. My heart sinks and Graham replies “one”…
One of the women who works there (I don’t know her name, I really should given how often we have chatted – bad JO’B!) says no, there are two copies, but she has misheard which album. There is definitely only one Simple Minds. Gavin turns to me and says sorry.
I am gutted, a little speechless. Graham turns and asks me what I want – I run through the rest of my list and they are all there. But the one thing I really wanted, the “glittering prize” for my first RSD queue is gone.
It’s ridiculous, it’s just a record, but I am genuinely bereft. I want to cry. But I realise with everything that’s going on in the world, I am privileged and lucky and should get over myself, so I do. It’s just a record.
I take my purchases, gratefully receive the free RSD can of beer I am given, and turn to shuffle out, wishing the team all the best for the day. But I forget my manners and don’t say goodbye to the lovely people I have been chatting to. Helen calls to me and says goodbye, and I turn and say goodbye back. It really was lovely to meet Ollie, Gavin, Lola, Helen, Paul and Paul - I hope to see them all when we return next time around.
I head across the road and take a picture of the growing queue – it’s LONG! 60 people easily, all queuing for music, all in love with vinyl and the diverse artists that are on sale today. All different, but all with a shared passion.
I look to see if Gavin is still there to say well done, but he’s gone. He got there first, it’s fair enough – and clearly, all’s fair in love, war and Record Store Day. But I am really gutted – and the inner only child, which I have tried so hard to beat down over the last few decades is very blue….
I wander back through the park and crack. I look at eBay and see 5X5 Live is already on sale, inflated by £20. I decide that although I hate the people who buy these things just sell them immediately for a quick buck, I really want this. It’s an album that reminds me of a wonderful show so I hit “buy it now” and am rewarded with the certainty it will arrive in a few days.
As I head up the hill, through Greenwich Park, I feel relieved but a little dirty, a little bad. I know I will see it in a few days in a legitimate shop, rather than sold by some rip-off merchant. But it’s all part of the experience, it’s all part of the day. I know now if I REALLY want something to make sure the shop has got a few copies, and if it only has one copy, then I am definitely going to be there earlier.
I reach home, and put on The Go! Team – the music is riotous, joyous, and puts a smile on my face. It’s all good and I am definitely doing RSD again (though June clashes with me working at a conference in Liverpool, so there is little chance I will be there then – oh no!).
If you are out and about today, do pop into your local record store – they have had a tough time during lockdown and need our support. And they are a treasure trove of knowledge and wonderful music that will enrich your life. And there are bands playing at Casbah later today. It will be great fun. And as my bag says, "Records are for life, not just for Record Store Day".
Stay safe, x