The Secret List – London, a guide book/travelogue to London’s independent record shops, is available to buy again online, I recently found fifty copies in storage and at the shops listed below. The book is £10 including free postage to the UK, 96pp, 190mm x 190mm, high quality printing on heavy paper and in full colour. Each shop is anonymously reviewed at least twice and assessed for its stock, ‘finds’ and staff.
The Secret List will celebrate London’s record shops and music culture ahead of Record Store Day (15th April, USA; 22nd April, UK) with ‘London Calling’ 5.30pm-midnight 6th April at Brilliant Corners, 470 Kingsland Road, E8 4AE and 8pm-midnight, 16th April in the lobby at The Ace Hotel, 20 W 29th Street, New York.
DJs at Brilliant Corners and set times are:
7-8pm: Rob Whitlock, Ben Newton, Brother Sanjiv
8-8.45pm: Ben Newton
8.45-9.30pm: Alan McK
9.30-10.15pm: Rob Whitlock
10.15-11pm: Brother Sanjiv
11-12am:The Secret List DJs
Music on the night will be from from London, the UK and beyond including: jazz, ambient, electronica, Latin, Brazilian, rock, pop etc reflecting London’s diverse music culture.
You can listen to more music from Alan, Ben and Rob here.
More info and some unreleased photos from the London book here.
Hope to see you there.
The Secret List – London launch party between 5.30pm-12am Thursday 24 November at Brilliant Corners, 470 Kingsland Road, E8 4AE
7pm Alan McK
8pm Brother Sanjiv with Ben Verghese
9pm Ben Newton
10pm Brother Sanjiv with Ben Verghese
11pm Bergs and Kishan Ramsamy
Music on the night will include records I have bought from around the world. Unfortunately Weegee can now not make the party. The equally brilliant Alan McK and Ben Newton, two heavyweight selectors and I will play a mix including: jazz, ambient, electronica, reggae, Latin, Brazilian rock, pop etc. Ben V, Bergs and Kishan will play a freestyle mix including house, electronic and jazzy hip hop (and whatever else). More information and music from Alan McK, Ben Newton, Ben Verghese, Kishan Ramsamy and Bergs. You can buy a signed copy of the book on the night. Bring a friend!
In the morning of the book launch I will be interviewed by Gilles Peterson, between 10am-12pm for Worldwide FM
Follow The Secret List blog for posts on the day of the interview.
Credits: photos 1-4 Graham Bergdahl Photography
poster designed by Andrew Sidford, Made In Earnest
BACK TO LA; THE REBIRTH OF VINYL
Think of a Cole Porter classic and add Terry Hall’s slightly off-key vocals and delicate African pop rhythms. “Summertime, summertime…and the living is easy” sung with an English eccentricity. The Fun Boy Three’s version of the erstwhile classic is the soundtrack to my late 2015 visit to Los Angeles.”
I was now in La-La land and I was thinking about the ‘what next’ for The Secret List series. One thing was obvious: I needed to do an update for the Los Angeles edition
My journey started at the Standard Hotel, West Hollywood. Cole Porter used to live nearby. It’s a bright sunny day, though what day isn’t bright and sunny in Los Angeles? I started singing, “summertime, summertime….
I walked down to Melrose Avenue in Fairfax, both of which feature heavily in the original Secret List – LA edition. A lot has changed; the grungey edgy feel has gone, as is the trend in so many cities. And sadly a number of record shops, including Fat Beats and Turntable Lab, featured in the book from in and around the Fairfax area are now closed. Thankfully though some remain, and my first stop was the infamous Record Collector. The experience was awful. After ten minutes I am marched out of the shop with expletives thrown my way. The cause of offence? I asked the price of a record and because a price tag “spoils the cover and I – the owner – know the price anyway..” Secondly, I was “a time waster” after I asked to listen to a record. Yes I could listen to the record but only if I agreed to buy it. Suffice to say despite years of negative feedback, the owner of The Record Collector has not changed his ways.
My next stop, the pleasant environs of Headline Records, was an altogether different experience. Headline is the punk-rock shop in Los Angeles. There was an abundance of old and new punk 45s and LPs, tapes, DVDs, posters, t-shirts and pins. The owner, Jean-Luc, opened the shop in 1995 and it is still the go-to place in California for punk. I had an enjoyable chat with Jean-Luc as he busily organised his shop’s 20th anniversary party. Originally from Paris, he eagerly thumbed through The Secret List – Paris….”I know the owner…I was in that shop last year….that shop has good stock.” He laughed at my Record Collector story: “You went to The Record Collector? Why?!”
Headline is decked in black and crimson, an alternative to the ‘sunny’ LA I describe above. Resembling a seventies punk club with its stickered walls and hard flooring, it eschews any punk menace though through the amenable Jean-Luc.
ECHOES IN THE PARK
The next day I took a pleasant 45 minute trip on the no.2 bus from West Hollywood to Silverlake and Echo Park. It is a nice trip, especially outside of the rush hour, presenting a different side of LA and Angelinos. You pass through the hustle ’n’ bustle of West Hollywood into the quieter, funkier Los Feliz and Silverlake areas.
Since my first visit to Los Angeles in 2009, the number of shops on the small strip on the Sunset Boulevard part of Silverlake has gradually increased, changing from a working class area to one with a pocketful of cool indie stores, restaurants and cafes. I really like it, though reading online comments local sentiment on this change is mixed.
My first stop was at UNDFTD, the trainer shop, where I picked up some limited edition trainers. My second stop was to see if I could find something for my wife at Matruksha, an independent boutique where the owner makes all the clothes. Now suitably well-heeled and with husband duties covered, I went to my third stop, Vacation Records.
Vacation Records sits at the top end of this part of Sunset strip. The store has been here for over 10 years, and with new owners taking over three years ago, in my opinion the shop is now much better. The first difference at Vacation between now and before, is the friendliness of the staff. The staff assistant was warm and friendly and gave me some excellent tips on some local bands to check out – The Pharoahs, Atmosphere etc. He also mentioned that the new owners have brought in a wider range of music than was previously stocked. Fifty percent of the music is what I term ‘hardcore’: punk rock, death metal and ‘unholy’ rock, genres which Vacation made its name on. The other half is made up of funk, soul, hip hop, jazz, rock and new arrivals; eclectic in anyone’s book. I like the layout of the shop, the atmosphere, the records, keen prices and above all the staff – who incidentally also gave me tips on other record shops in the area.
From Vacation I took a leisurely walk to the Echo Park part of Silverlake. My first stop enroute was Sick City Records. An anonymous black facade masked a long, narrow interior resembling a biker bar! The two owners – tattooed, bearded and leather clad – warmly welcomed me. The shop covers heavy rock, punk, metal, alternative and surprisingly, some very good eighties pop and nineties club sounds. Adjacent to the main shop, which also stocks rock posters and t-shirts, is a small barber space. The back wall has a photo mural of The Clash’s Joe Strummer playing the barber, brandishing hair clippers. I also really liked the owners of the shop. One, wearing an Echo and the Bunnymen t-shirt, readily flipped through the LA edition of the book, and recommended I listen to The Savages, his current favourite band.
My last two stops were Blue Bag Records and Origami records, both of which were excellent. Blue Bag Records is a large shop with masses of records covering several genres. Jazz and rock are particularly good here, keenly priced between $5-10 for second-hand albums and there is an abundance of ‘dollar bins’.
Origami has ridden the crest of a wave over the last few years, though it has now been taken over and trades under the name, Permanent Records. Origami had a healthy rota of live performances and was often featured in record shop articles. The shop had a good stock of new material, and was especially good for left-of-centre electronic and indie records. The shop was brilliantly designed. It was long and narrow, and the murals, exposed brickwork and hanging art pieces give it lots of atmosphere. Hopefully Permanent Records will carry on Origami’s excellent legacy.
The next day was a rest day from researching record shops. But as is ever the way of a record digger you can never quite switch off, so after a lazy morning I headed for a late lunch at the famed In ’n’ Out Burger joint which has influenced many a UK burger chain. After a good if not brilliant burger, I went to As The Record Turns, in record circles almost as well known as In ’n’ Out Burger. As The Record Turns’ fame and popularity is for two reasons: the huge amount of vinyl, around a million and half records, both in the shop and in a separate warehouse; and for the owner Kevin Donan, who tells many great stories about his time feeding the entertainment industry with vinyl.
First the records, covering mainly soul, jazz and soundtracks are amazing. The shop’s collection goes deep into an artist’s catalogue and conjures up long forgotten foreign and independent pressings. Second, Kevin is a wonderful host and tells a good yarn on his many dealings with the entertainment industry. He literally sat on a rocking chair at the back of the shop, appropriately resembling a living room, and recounted stories of sourcing music for film producers, finding samples for hip hop artists and searching for original copies of albums for artists who had lost their original copies. This is a brilliant store for the serious, or potentially, not so serious collector. And Kevin is a lovely guy who tells a wonderful tale.
And my final port of call on my ‘rest day’ was Amoeba. Amoeba is well-documented and rightly so. It’s a huge but manageable shop with a healthy amount of vinyl and an incredible new and back catalogue. CDs can be heavily discounted, sometimes costing $4 for a new CD. Amoeba’s outside sign is a neon hue of Americana splendour and one of a record digger’s ‘must see’ sights.
TOUCHING VINYL: SUNDAY MORNING BLISS IN SANTA MONICA
The highlight of my visit to Los Angeles was visiting Touch Vinyl, about five kilometres from the main beach drag in Santa Monica. It was a Sunday morning, perfect for a trip to the beach. For once though in LA, it wasn’t a sunny day. It was overcast with an outbreak of rain, causing much consternation for Angelinos. But for me the weather mattered little. I found a piece of record shop heaven in Santa Monica as good as some of the best shops covered in The Secret List. And as with all record shops which blow me way, very often their exterior gives little away of what lies inside. Touch Vinyl has an abundance of delights to offer. An acoustically treated in-store system; a listening post with super-clear sound; an abundance of records both in racks and the ‘must-haves’ on the wall; and a spacious room complete with sofa and coffee to complete the home-listening vibe.
But above all it was the assistant who made this trip. He was warm, friendly and chatty which typifies Angelinos. And his music knowledge was excellent; recommending records both old and new and across different genres including some local artists I hadn’t come across. And all this excellent service, was before I told the assistant I wrote The Secret List. Exemplary.
All records are US pressings unless otherwise stated.
Headline Records: 7706 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036. Mon-Sun:12pm-8pm. Tel.:+1 323-655-2125; headlinerecords.com
Vacation: 3815 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026. Mon-Sat:11am-9pm; Sun: 12pm-7pm. Tel.:+1 323-666-2111; vactionvinyl.com
Kickin’ It Samba Style LP – compiled by DJ Toshio, various artists $14 (excellent, Ubiquity)
Take That Train 12”- Interference $4 (very good, Ubiquity)
Rinse Dream 12”- Pharaohs $12 (near mint, VW Records)
Permanent Records previously Origami: 1816 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026. Mon-Sun: 12pm-8pm. Tel.: +1 213-413-3030; permanentrecordsla.com
Premiers Symptomes LP – Air $25 (sealed, re-issue, Parlophone France)
Optimo LP- Liquid Liquid $16 (sealed re-issue, Superior Viaduct)
Double Exposure LP – Matt Kivel free with purchase of any record
As The Record Turns: 6727 Hollywood Boulevard, CA 90028. Mon-Sun:12pm-6pm; Tel.:+1 323-251-4895; astherecordturns.com
Star Wars/Close Encounters LP – Richard ‘Groove’ Holmes priced at $15 but given free as a gift (excellent, Versatile)
Reality LP – Monk Montgomery $25 (excellent, Philadelphia International)
Candido In Indigo LP – Candido $25 (very good-excellent, ABC/Paramount)
The Gigolo LP – Lee Morgan $20 (very good, Blue Note)
Blue Bag Records: 2149 Sunset Boulevard, CA 90026. Mon-Sun:12pm-8pm; Tel.: +1 213-413-0690;bluebagrecords.com
Moses – Jerry Hahn $6 (very good, Fantasy)
The In Sound From Way Out – The Beastie Boys $40 (mint, Grand Royal, French pressing)
Sick City Records: 3323 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026. Opening hours not listed; Tel.:+1 323-668-2088; sickcityrecords.com
Love & Pride 12”- King $12 (mint-excellent, Epic US)
City Song 12” – Luscious Jackson $10 (mint-excellent, Grand Royal)
Duran Duran 12″ unreleased mixes $1 (very good, EMI Germany)
Touch Vinyl: 1646 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025; Sun-Wed:12pm-9pm;Thu-Sat:12pm-12am;Tel.:+1 310-933-5540; touchvinyl.com
Slippery People 12” – The Staple Singers $7 (very good, CBS)
One Good Point LP – Mark Colby $6 (very good, Tappan Zee Records)
Xlo LP – Dzang $15 (sealed, Dzang Records)
Amoeba: 6400 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mon-Sat:11.30am-11pm Sun:11am-10pm;Tel.:+1 323-245-6400; amoeba.com
As The Record Turns
Blue Bag Records
THE SECRET LIST – BRIGHTON
I am pleased to announce the publication of The Secret List – Brighton, the next book in the series on record shops and places that sell records. The book is written by Stephen Ellis – DJ, radio presenter, and serious music lover – and designed as ever by Andrew Sidford. Pre-order the book for £8 plus postage and packing at The Secret List – Brighton Facebook page.
This is the first book in the series, where someone else has written and led, and I am in equal parts proud and nervous! The book came about in part from a chance encounter I had with a barber…in Wellington. The question was put to me on what would be the legacy from the series of books when I leave? Good question, after some thought I decided to hand the series over to Stephen and Andrew and… the result is the Brighton book.
Below are some unpublished photographs from my archive, and not featured in the book, from when I visited Brighton in 2011. I hope you enjoy the book.
Worldwide Festival, Sete, July 2015 – A personal journey
There is a set of restaurants beside the quay in Sete, a small fishing village just west of the old Roman city, Montpellier. Each year my friends, led by Dan, and I meet at one of the restaurants for a reunion before the music starts at the Worldwide Festival. The festival is headed by radio and DJ stalwart, Gilles Peterson, and expertly organised by Freshly Cut, a team of DJs from Montpellier.
Quite simply the festival is brilliant. The music is an eclectic mix from Afro to Thai, from disco to house, to club classics to stuff you’ve never heard of. More than the music, the festival, without wishing to resort to a cliché, is unique. A friendly vibe prevails and long after the last beat is dropped, a sense of the festival continues. There is even a Facebook group for the many festival goers suffering from withdrawal symptoms once the party is over. This year at the reunion we dine on freshly caught sea bass, oysters and drink volumes of Picpoul. Suffice to say the food is good and very cheap in Sete, reflected in the quality of its quayside restaurants.
Bistrot du Port though is maybe a mark better than its competitors, more than likely as it holds good memories as the venue where we go to every year. I arrive early the next evening and order a bottle of Picpoul, I know I am on safe ground with the wine selection. The same waiter, who has served me for four of the last five years, approaches. His initial French cool breaks after two seconds, “Ah I remember you, welcome back.” Dan and the crew arrive a few minutes later and we have a wonderful dinner. The same waiter, in his late forties of North African origin, his relaxed posture typical of a laidback fishing village, greets Dan “Ah I remember you, welcome back.”
Where is Dan?
Laetitia Sadier’s soft, melancholic sound hangs in the big Languedoc-Roussillon sky.The music is beautiful. My heart skips a beat, and for a brief moment I’m transported from the cliff top amphitheatre, the sea as a backdrop, to somewhere else, all the while being serenaded by Sadier’s trio. I look at my phone. Dan – and part of The Secret List team – should be here. “Just finishing dinner…is it all running to time?”
Sadier holds court, very much giving off rock star cool to the hundred odd members of the audience who have made the 7.30pm start. By the 8.15pm end of the set, there are several hundred people moving their heads and their feet. This is the start of what will be a truly memorable evening.
If Sadier’s set reflects the excellence of the music at the Worldwide Festival, the crowd is an example of another stand out point of the event. The atmosphere is friendly people smile at each other, friends joke and laugh loudly and it is easy to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Copies of The Secret List Paris are passed around a trio of Britain’s finest music ambassadors – Thris Tian (Boiler Room), Alex Patchwork (Ninja Tune) and Earl Zinger aka Rob Gallagher. Alex champions the book and contact details are shared. As new friends are made, old acquaintances are reignited. “I remember you, we had a conversation about the Great West Road two years ago.” Rob Gallagher then passes me a poster for his new project. The poster miraculously makes its way intact from the festival to London before onwards to Hanoi. Still no Dan.
Ed Motta, looking like a funky professor, strolls on stage to a packed amphitheatre, the Sete skyline by now has a curious purple tinge. School’s in. And right on time Dan appears. Motta eclipses Sadier’s brilliant opening set, with smooth sweet soul and sparks of bossa, jazz and funk. Ed Motta can shake a groove. He’s a brilliant entertainer – a raconteur, comedian – and two seemingly impromptu duets with Cuban singer Daymé Arocena and vibes veteran Roy Ayers highlight his versatility as a performer. It turns out the guest slots are not quite as spontaneous as we first thought; at least one was organised beforehand, but it is a genuinely touching moment when Daymé confesses a teenage crush on Motta. Ayers’ guest slot is especially good, his wonderful performance is even better than his Monday headline gig (the lesser known ‘Evolution’ was a highlight at the Monday gig).
Giving the audience no time to catch its breath, Thailand’s famed Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band causes a crowd surge. The enchanting eastern guitar intro moves to a funky groove, and the packed auditorium rises to its feet. The band are excellent and within a few minutes, there is a stage invasion of sorts as the crowd dance a few centimetres from the band. This is Sete, and the security guards do not stop the crowd, they join in the dance.
Japan Night – Didn’t I Used To Know You?
It’s just gone past midnight, and there are over a thousand up-for-it ravers ready to throw their hands in the air. The venue’s lasers cast a sci-fi like backdrop against the nocturnal sea. I’m standing behind Daisuke Tanabe and Yosi Harikawa, and their calm silhouettes perfectly frame the backdrop. I’ve followed Daisuke since he started out ten years ago when he was living in London. Many of the crowd are expecting Daisuke to begin with a big dance tune to start the mayhem. Instead Daisuke and Yosi give the crowd a field recording, produced earlier in the day, of the Sete sounds of seagulls, jousting along the canal and the fisherman’s market. The crowd are confused. Intertwined with the sounds are ambient washes, sharp digital beats and other technology trickery. It takes DJs of some experience to lose and then win back their crowd with their first tune, yet Daisuke and Yosi are barely in their twenties. For the next hour and a half, I and most others, are dazzled by Yosi’s ambient, digital set punctuated by Daisuke’s drum ‘n’ bass excursion. The crowd roars for more.
Similarly when DJ dons Toshio Matsuura and Shuya Okino take to the stage, dressed in traditional Japanese silk gowns, there is an expectation that a disco classic or the like will be dropped. Instead the ever-confident duo play Fumio Itabashi’s ‘Watarase’, a leftfield jazz stormer. Again the crowd is initially confused and then starts dancing. Matsuura, who I first saw as part of the legendary Japanese group United Future Organisation at the Subterrania, London in 1991, and Okino do not disappoint. The duo are magnificent in their selection, from killer jazz to disco edits to heavy electro.
I Found Her Red Coat, I Found Her
Colin, Reema and Mohsen are sitting at the top right hand corner of the amphitheatre. Every year it’s the same, in the thousand+ capacity venue I can find the trio within minutes. Each year they sit in more or less the same place. The ‘right hand crew’ are my second group of friends at the festival. Colin’s a school friend, who used to live on the next road to me, but we lost touch after school. Two decades later we met at Notting Hill Carnival, and the following year at Sete. Reema his wife, was born a few miles from us in west London. Mohsen is a university friend of Reema’s, massive in muscle and a very funny guy. Despite me living an international life, it’s great to travel to faraway places- I live in Hanoi – and meet people from your locale. It takes five seconds from when we all meet for the west London accent to permeate. It’s also a good example of how sometimes Sete feels like London by the sea. But overall the town warmly welcomes and accommodates all festival goers and French vocab not used since school is welcomed and understood. Paris it ain’t.
James Blake is the biggest electronic artist in the world and his early evening set on the Tuesday is brilliant. His haunting, eerie vocals delicately emanate both strength and fragility, warmth and coldness.’The Wilhelm Screm’ perfectly encapsulates this, blanketed by acoustic drums and stark keyboards. Crowd favourite, ‘CMYK’, is especially good and the audience quickly rises to its feet after the opening bars. Colin, Reema, Mohsen and I scream the chorus “I found her, her red coat, I found her’. It seems about a thousand other people join us.
There are numerous other highlights during the week: the sun-drenched beach crowd with their hands in the air when Benji B drops Jamie Principle’s ‘Your Love’; the disco and Brazilian set from Floating Points; discovering Callis in Wonderland; Loefah’s heavy dub/dubstep set; and the incredibly clear sound system at the amphitheatre.
Harvey Runs the Voodoo Down – The Myth and Legend of DJ Harvey
DJ Harvey is a legend. A legend built mainly on an immense talent as a DJ and producer. When Harvey performs, a musical earthquake occurs. And the days before Harvey performs, the Internet is fuelled by rumours, gossip and speculation. What will Harvey play? Will he go cosmic disco or soft rock?
The rest of the legend surrounding Harvey is based on myth. The intense world surrounding Mr Harvey Bassett was built on a well-documented ten year exodus to the US, where amongst the Los Angeles skate community he built a cult following. But before his move to the US, Harvey was already an established name in the UK. When stories began to emerge from California of all night shebangs and sun-kissed sets mixing yacht rock and celestial disco, it added to his reputation. After twelve years when his visa issue was sorted and he was able to travel back to the UK, his legend – talent and myth – was cemented.
Like any good mythical fable, I start the evening with a trip to the hills. We – Colin, Reema, Mohsen and I – travel the winding roads in a hatchback with Mohsen navigating the narrow roads to a blasting soundtrack of eighties hip hop. I ask for Run DMC, we get KRS One. As we shout “That’s the sound of da police”, we arrive at a villa. Dan has gone all Goldfinger. The Bond-like pad boasts an outdoor swimming plan overlooking Sete. We sip cold rosé and meet some newly arrived visitors – a photographer, a location film manager etc. At around midnight we head back to town to St.Christ lighthouse. Lil’ Louis Vega is on, and though playing some choice latin house numbers, he is a little underwhelming. The wait until 3am for Harvey will be a long one.
At just after three, the DJ emerges. There is an impressive laser display and a Languedoc-Roussillon flag waves proudly above. Gilles Peterson introduces Harvey and then…silence. Harvey looks nervous and slightly agitated. And then after a few seconds…boom! What follows is an immense musical experience. There is an intense percussive sound, a hint of Africa coupled with the house sounds of Chicago and Berlin. I and the few thousand ravers around me are immediately ‘in the mix’. The tribal beat dominates Harvey’s playing, with some melodic respite with some deep keys. I am standing near the front but within a few minutes it gets too busy. I find a sweet spot at the back, centre stage. Again the festival’s sound set up, designed and supplied by Funktion One, comes through. The music is loud, clear, heavy and subtle. After three tracks though I drop the hi-fi geek and as cliché would allow I throw my hands in the air.
After ninety brilliant minutes, I walk back to my hotel a few minutes before 5am, along the quayside past the Bistrot du Port, with Harvey’s set playing in the background. I am on a massive high and am grateful for the reason I am here. Every year I get an e-mail from Gilles Peterson offering me a free ticket. Each year I leave the festival on a high. I first got into Gilles Peterson in 1986 when my mate Andrew Dixon played me a tape of Peterson’s ‘Mad on Jazz’ radio show on Radio London. I’ve followed Peterson through Jazz FM, Kiss FM and when he did a low key, Sunday evening trial run on Radio 1 in 1998. When I wrote for Blues and Soul magazine I wrote a review for the Ghost Dog soundtrack and sent him a cryptic message. He answered the call and we were a musical family united, the professor and the student, the mentor and the mentee, Miles Davis to Wayne Shorter.
I bump into Gilles earlier in the week at the famed Wednesday session. Each year however busy he is, he always finds the time for a proper catch up. “What a festival! Maybe the best ever.”
I remember you. Welcome back
110 ACRE LANE
LONDON SW2 5RA
OPENING TIMES: MONDAY-SATURDAY 10.30AM-8PM; SUNDAY 12PM-7PM
(+44) (0) 207 737 7761
Chancing upon a brilliant record shop is a wonderful thing, and one that is slightly off the beaten path, giving the feeling of a nomadic explorer discovering the new, even better. Supertone Records had both of these qualities plus the opportunity to see the back office, stocked full of thousands of records, some not yet available to the public. Alice had found Wonderland.
One quiet summer weekday morning I found Supertone Records, which is a fair walk away from the hustle and bustle of Brixton High Street. The shop had a relaxed atmosphere and I quickly bonded with the friendly owner, Wallace, a veritable font of all knowledge on reggae music.
The shop is well stocked with the full remit of reggae – dub, rocksteady, ska, conscious etc. Vinyl obviously dominates given this is a reggae shop and the prices are keen. But it is Wallace, his knowledge and laidback charm, which really makes Supertone Records a wonderful experience.
For the purposes of compiling The Secret List I have ‘test’ records or artists that I use to gauge how good a shop is. For jazz it is the trumpeter Donald Byrd’s back catalogue and for reggae it is the many versions of ‘Kunte Kinte’. Wallace didn’t have any copies of the latter in stock but this opened up a whole new conversation on other reggae classics.
Wallace took me to the shop’s backroom where a vast collection of thousands of records sit. And to note Wallace was totally unaware I was writing this book.
The white plywood shelves nearest to me had two rows’ worth of Studio One classics – interestingly early releases had the 1studio moniker – which I happily ploughed through. Multiple copies were tightly bound together by elastic bands, and as with many records from Jamaica from that era there were no picture covers. This meant pulling out every release but I was in no hurry and Wallace was busy carrying out a few administrative tasks. For a good few minutes I was left alone with this treasure trove, which shows the warmth of Wallace’s hospitality.
Wallace auditioned the tracks on the two turntables located behind the counter, no doubt to prevent records being scratched – which could prove testing at busier times.
Supertone has been trading since 1983 and is supplemented with an online site, mailing list, Discogs page and an e-bay shop. You can guess the rest: it comes highly recommended, and is one of the best shops I have visited whilst compiling this book.
Paul Nagle aka Snoopy is a walking encyclopaedia on music, reggae being a speciality. Snoopy is an acclaimed journalist and whilst working at Black Echoes magazine in the seventies was instrumental in promoting reggae to a UK audience. Here’s his Dub Flow Mix part 1 by Snoopy for you to get a flavour of the man’s musical taste.
Mad Mike Mongos to give him his full moniker is a musical authority not least for his vast reggae knowledge. Enjoy the first volume in a series of 3 reggae mixes, this one focussing on dub.
DJ WeeGee has been turning London and beyond onto his eclectic tastes for over thirty years. Known for playing soundtracks, jazz, lounge and the weird and wonderful it is reggae though which is one of Weeg’s main loves, creating a unique WeeGee sound. Here WeeGee selects his ten favourite desert island discs – come selector!
1. Black Man Get Up Pon Foot – Welton Irie (South East Music 7″)
Heavy, heavy deep vibes, with scorching dub side complete with a rewind built in! This is one of my all-time favourite reggae tunes.
2. Heart and Soul – Junior Byles (Errol T. 7″)
More deepness from the sweet vocals of Junior Byles, this is a killer version side with the amazing Errol T. at the controls.
3. Walk On By – Motion (Blue Inc. 12″)
Sublime Brit jazz reggae stylings from George Oban, the original bassist with Aswad and featuring his wife on vocals. My favourite version of ‘Walk On By’ fullstop!
4. Run Run – Delroy Wilson (Coxsone 7”)
Incredibly solid rock steady cut – Delroy’s finest moment on vinyl I reckon.
5. Melting Pot – Dillinger (Wind 7″)
Classic talkover business from Dillinger on the much used but awesome ‘Stalag’ rhythm – everything in this tune is spot on from the lyrics to the mix.
6. Isn’t It Time To See – Tetrack (Rockers 7″)
A Silver Camel Sound System power play from the late seventies.A fantastic roots cut from the Augustus Pablo stable – check the way the dub effects seep their way into the vocal side from the dub side.
7. Sunburst – Tribesman (Direct Records 12″)
More gorgeous Brit jazz/reggae, this time from a band that was formed at my school, with hints and influences from the Finsbury Park Greek/Cypriot community that they lived amongst.
8. Send Another Moses – Lopez Walker (Phase One 7″)
Killer vocal and an even better dub side – Phase 1 in full effect.
9. Bloodsuckers – Pablo Gad (Burning Sounds 12″)
A proper Brit reggae steppers tune if ever there was one, with the dub section, almost seven minutes of it, going off into uncharted territory.
10. Blood of Africa – King Tubby (Fay Music Lp)
Classic King Tubby dub with strong modal overtones – check the horns in particular – awesome.