In the last couple of years the music shops have deserted Camden. Virgin… Zavvi… Tower Records… even great independents like Know How Records and Bug Bear records — all gone. Even Woolworths with its bargain bin chart selection is missed.
But all is not lost — if you still want to buy music that comes in a shopping bag with a receipt there are still lots of places in Camden you can get vinyl or CDs. What you’re looking for may take a bit of hunting down and you may spend longer browsing, but isn’t that the whole joy of it? Going out to buy that Belle and Sebastian album, and coming home with Buzzcocks bootleg and a Boney M picture disc.
Out On The Floor
Nestled away on Inverness St, this Camden stalwart may be hidden behind tourist T-shirt sellers, depending on when you visit, but there’s an eclectic selection of vinyl and CDs and an excellent collection of reggae. Downstairs are two even smaller shops that also sell posters, books, 60s and 70s classics and assorted rarities. If you’re looking for that rare Who gatefold or Lee Scratch Perry compilation, you’re in the right place. It can get busy in the small premises at weekends, but during the week you won't have to worry about elbows in the face while you peruse the delights on offer.
Sounds That Swing
Recently moved from the top of Inverness St to just near the Dublin Castle on Parkway, Sounds That Swing has an unparalleled mix of rockabilly, girl groups, soundtracks and surf music. Depending on your tastes, you might want to fill bags full of classic sounds or spend ages struggling to find something you’ve heard of, but either way, the staff are friendly and helpful. If you can’t get down to Camden, you can also buy via their website www.nohitrecords.co.uk
All Ages Records
London’s only independent punk and hardcore record shop started off as a stall in Camden Market. Then a few years ago they set up their shop on Pratt St, (turn off the high st at The Camden Head and walk for two minutes). As well as a comprehensive collection of punk CDs and vinyl, you’ll find a great mix of fanzines, T-shirts, gig tickets and a whole wall full of notices for people trying to recruit band members. This shop is an absolute gem, there are very few good specialists left like this anywhere, so please, whether you’re after that Ramones compilation or Rancid’s latest album, head down to All Ages.
If you look hard enough, there are a few stalls selling old vinyl and the odd CD as well as few small music specialists. It’s best to visit Friday-Sunday, to guarantee they will be open, but if you’re in a rush two of the best two are in the row of shops parallel to Chalk Farm Road, just near the entrance to Proud. Also check out the new underground stalls in the new development for new sellers.
On Camden High Street, just a couple of sunglasses stalls up the road from the Elephant’s Head, Resurrection Records is a small basement shop selling Goth, Industrial, Punk and Metal. Walk downstairs and you'll come across this alternative music specialist. It’s mostly CDs down there but there is a good selection, and there
is a comprehensive list of upcoming releases on the wall, should you want to order anything. Great for Goths, and not just because of the basement location away from any natural light.
The Electric Ballroom has monthly record fairs where you’ll find serious-looking men with copies of Record Collector under their arms. There’s an amazing array of vinyl, and you can spend hours browsing. If there’s a rare Jam single you need to complete your collection, you will probably find it here.
Camden’s charity shops get lots of visitors, so any real bargains are likely to have gone by the time you arrive. But one man’s Little Richard is another’s Cliff Richard, so you might find just what you’re looking for. The main collection of charity shops are on Camden High Street and with so many visitors, those valuable Northern Soul rarities will have long gone by the time you get there. However, the retro charity shop opposite the Spread Eagle on Parkway (Sue Ryder Care) does have a decent selection of kitsch vinyl.
Music and Video Exchange
This branch of the second-hand chain is crammed to the rafters. From 60s soul to recent releases, stacks and stacks of vinyl and CDs fill every nook and cranny. If you’re in a hurry, it’s worth checking out the display cases for some of the highlights. For those with time to spare, rummaging through the bargain one pound CDs on the ground floor can unearth hidden treasures, (Pet Shop Boys Greatest Hits/Best of the Waterboys) and it’s worth browsing in the basement for cheap reggae and hip hop… just mind the stairs!
The megastores may be history, but Camden lives on.