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.