Independent: A Celebration Of Soho’s Record Shops

Photography by Spencer Murphy

Life moves pretty fast, as a better man once said. As writers we’re used to the ravages of passing time rendering our work irrelevant, but seldom have my words been so swiftly outdated as when I wrote the record shops section of the last Time Out shopping guide. Reckless Records and Mister CD closed down while I was researching it; Disque announced its demise as the editor was revising it; and Deal Real called last orders as the books were being stacked on shelves.

All of which made me rather sceptical about putting pen to paper to celebrate those still holding the fort in Soho. My own favourite vinyl haunt, once a bustling bazaar of lunch-breaking soul warriors flipping through the decades in their suits and ties, is these days deserted. More dance-orientated record shops are dead in the weeks and teeming with DJs panic-buying promos on weekends. So what, I wondered, was worth celebrating?

Then I saw Spencer Murphy’s photographs, and realised that the answer had been staring at me all along. It’s the acquired personality of the places themselves; the cumulative weight of so much vinyl dust and cheerful banter and afternoons gleefully wasted between the sleeves. It’s written into the faces of the men and women behind the counter: cheeky bassline-peddler Nicky Blackmarket of BM Soho; the impossibly suave Jean-Claude Thompson of If Music; Zorra, an embodiment of Zen-like calm amid the urban storm of Wyld Pytch.

Customers may be staying home and ordering music in a torrent of soulless zeros and ones, but as long as the subjects of Spencer’s photographs are opening up shop each morning, the independent record store is growing old gracefully. It’s up to those of us who still care to show our love as well as our custom, and to remember the good old days while they’re still here.