Whether you’re looking for jungle twelve-inches, classical music on CD, rock LPs or jazz seventy-eights, London has the record shops to scratch your music-buying itch. The vinyl revival doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, and events like Record Store Day have helped bricks-and-mortar record stores not only recover but flourish over the last few years. Here are some of the best to be found in London, from new openings to old stalwarts and survivors. If we’ve missed your favourite, let us know in the comment box at the bottom of the page.
London’s best record stores
As one of the best known punk and hardcore record stores in London, All Ages attracts a very specific kind of customer. But they’ve got a fairly wide range of things dark and heavy, from the ’70s to the present day, so unless you hate guitars you’ll probably find something you’re into.
This little record shop punches well above its weight. As well as selling new releases on CDs and vinyl, Banquet (an offshoot from the old Beggars Banquet franchise) is at the centre of the Kingston music scene: their packed acoustic in-store shows and regular gig nights bring big artists to this corner of the London suburbs.
The awning reads: ‘Music. Coffee. Bagels.’ That lays out the essentials succinctly. Brill began life as a music shop, and music is still ‘an integral part of what we do’. There’s always something good playing, and CDs and a few vinyl oddments, with the emphasis on jazz, blues, folk and rock, are for sale inside the small interior.
After 20 years of trading through a stall at Greenwich Market, Casbah Records upgraded its breezy surroundings to the more permanent confines of quirky retro shop The Beehive on Greenwich Church Street. Here the emphasis is placed on edgy girl groups, garage, psych and '60s soul, but the store also stocks a variety of classic rock, indie and electronica, along with books, DVDs, prints and vintage comics.
Container is an event space and record store in Pop Brixton, specialising in new and used electronic music. Situated in a former shipping container, this independent shop is the brainchild of London promoters keen to provide punters with a friendly, knowledgable and accessible space to explore independent music.
At the top of Brick Lane, the newest branch of Flashback (after Flashback Islington and Flashback Crouch End) stocks two floors of new and second-hand vinyl, CDs and DVDs – some of it rare, most of it at a pretty decent price. There are listening points to give potential purchases a spin.
Here’s what happens when Dreambagsjaguarshoes grows up, packs its bags and moves to Dalston. The Victoria is now owned by the same people as the perennially cool and grungy Shoreditch hangout, and probably represents a mellowing out with age – it’s a pub, it’s more relaxed, it stages live music, and it’s on a backstreet off Dalston Lane instead of the illuminated strip down the road. As a pub, it’s decent – an artily thrown-together look, a few local beers (although not many), and a ‘residency’ from peripatetic grillers Psychic Burger. It’s a misleading name – I sat thinking about what I wanted to eat for half an hour before having to go up and order at the bar in the old-fashioned way. But as US diner food in plastic trays goes, it’s a fine example of its type. Through the back of the pub is the stage, where assorted bands assemble to perform. The Victoria has been a scuzzily democratic live music venue for decades, so it’s great that the new owners kept that going and didn’t turn the room into a dining room/yoga space/Tesco Metro.