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Get your record-raiding fix at Sheffield’s Record Collector

I remember the first time my Dad took me up to Record Collector. I was about 13. I didn’t have much money and I didn’t have any taste, but I still fell in love with the shop.

Sheffield Unchained contributor and passionate music lover Jordan Lee Smith reminisces about the landmark independent music shop, Record Collector, first opened in 1978 and influencing a “brilliant taste in music” nearly four decades later.

Sheffield’s best independent music shop hasn’t changed much in all the years I’ve been visiting. I remember skipping Friday afternoons at college with my two best friends, catching the bus into town and then walking up Glossop road to Fulwood road in Broomhill, to raid the racks and find our next musical obsession.

I don’t think any of us even owned a record player back then, but in that period between vinyl being the standard format and its trendy revival over the last few years, you could get hold of second hand gems from as little as 50p.

There’s more focus on new releases in ‘the vinyl side’ now, but album artwork is made to be admired, and who can deny the beauty of sleeves like Tame Impala’s ‘Lonerism’ or ‘Chasing After Ghosts’ by Sheffield’s very own Crookes when blown up to full LP size? I don’t think I’ve even once walked past the ever-changing window display without stopping to appreciate it… and probably ending up inside!

HMV is undeniably a more efficient way to shop for music, but Record Collector ’s system of organisation (by first letter only) always excites me so much more. I’m looking for Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – do I look under N, C or B? Best to just dive in and go through every shelf in the shop! I’ve discovered so many albums I would have otherwise never even known existed. I think there’s something very rewarding about discovering a new favourite through simply lifting out an album because its artwork or title intrigues you and taking a chance on it; my life would be so much emptier without ‘I Am Kurious Oranj’!

Photo Courtesy of Jordan Lee Smith

Although the majority of indie record shops now trade in vinyl and CD releases, unlike many others, Record Collector offers customers the choice – buy new, in pristine cellophaned condition, or shop thrifty for a second hand bargain. There’s also a trade-in option, so that regretful purchases of yore can be swapped for a credit note to grab something a bit more desirable on a future visit. I admit to having used this to erase past mistakes a few times before now. It never feels like you’re being conned or sneered at either, something I’ve definitely experienced using similar services elsewhere.

Of course Record Collector is essentially still a business and physical music is a difficult market, but I think it’s central to the shop’s success that manager Barry Everard and his staff are no short-tempered elitists or faceless cashiers. I’ve held extensive conversations, absorbed countless recommendations and even made a few suggestions of my own – thanks to staff both past and present, it’s great to speak to people as passionate about music as I am.

I was so jealous when I went in one day to find a girl I remembered from college living out my dream job behind the counter. I’d like to say a quick ‘Thank you’ to anyone who’s ever worked at Record Collector and may be reading this; my  taste in music has flourished through purchases made in your little shop!

When I first started work I used to eat my dinner on the run, as I headed up Broomhill to sweep through the racks and blow wages that had barely even landed in my account. Now I’m a proper grown-up (of sorts) I have to exercise a bit more restraint, but it’s still hard to resist the lure. I remember going in to buy my girlfriend a Crystal Castles album as a present one Friday evening after work, and spending twice as much on stuff for myself. Thankfully I know I’m not the only one, as many a time I’ve seen punters struggling towards the counter with more CD’s than they can carry.

Record Store Day truly sees the shop thriving. The annual international event on the 18th April is designed to promote independent music shops through a catalogue of strictly limited edition releases from all manner of artists and demonstrates an awareness of and dedication to Record Collector which I never dreamed existed.

Back in 2013, waiting in the queue that snaked around the corner and past the York (brilliant pub!) from 6:30am, to try to get my hands on Pulp’s twelve inch single ‘After You’, I felt quite emotional – like I was part of a community. That has to be the sign of a true indie record shop doesn’t it?

Photo courtesy of Jordan Lee Smith

I recommend Record Collector to anyone who loves music. While I’m not cultured enough to give a detailed rundown of the contents of their World Music section, I’m sure fans of that genre will also find much to marvel over.

As online giants such as Amazon and Rakuten move to dominate both the digital and physical music industries, it’s more important than ever that people support local independent record shops.

I found it devastating learning a few years ago about other Sheffield indie record shops, Jacks and Forever Changes, going under and I don’t think I could take Record Collector’s demise. So if you love music, whether you’re a student, visitor or permanent resident, please set aside an afternoon to visit Record Collector, it’s the most rewarding shopping trip you’ll ever make (although please learn from my recurrent mistake and don’t go on a Wednesday – it doesn’t open and it’s soul-destroying to have to walk away without getting your record-raiding fix).

You can also find Record Collector on SU Listings