THE busiest day of the year is beckoning for the owner of Reading Road
THE busiest day of the year is beckoning for the owner of Reading Road record shop In The Groove tomorrow (Saturday).
Andrew Tucker, who has run the shop formerly known as Henley Records for the past eight years, is a big fan of Record Store Day, which started life in 2007.
Billed as a nationwide celebration of the culture of independent record shops, this year’s event will be supported by a slew of new releases from artists including Guy Garvey, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Florence + The Machine and Chase & Status.
Each shop will choose which releases to stock — or not — with queues of music fans having been known to form outside prior to opening time.
Mr Tucker, 55, says: “It’s always a busy day and I’m sure it will be this year as well. There’s 500-plus releases — some of them by very obscure artists that I’ve never heard of.
“And, you know, quite possibly no one else in Henley has ever heard of them. There’s always new artists and I couldn’t afford to stock all of them anyway, so I have to be kind of selective and pick the ones that I think people might be interested in.”
As its logo suggests, Record Store Day is a mainly vinyl affair, but not exclusively so by any means.
“It is mainly vinyl,” says Mr Tucker. “Well, actually, I think there is a CD-only release this year. Last year there was a cassette-only release, but yes it is vinyl, really.”
Are there any releases that he is particularly looking forward to this year?
“Only really obscure stuff. There’s an Australian jazz soundtrack to a surf film from 1960 that I’m looking forward to myself. That’s probably not going to appeal to that many people. And there are lots of obscure bits and pieces.”
In a way, not knowing what you’ll find is part of the appeal of record shops like In The Groove, isn’t it?
“Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if I go to a record shop, which I do, I’m not looking for anything in particular. In fact, I’m looking to find something I didn’t even know I wanted before I went in.”
That’s a totally different experience to buying music online or via downloads, isn’t it? Where you have to key in the name of what you’re looking for.
“Completely, yeah. And most people come in looking for that experience. I mean, I do get people coming in saying ‘Have you got X?’ I say ‘No, sorry’ and they leave. Which just baffles me. What, you know, there’s nothing else you could possibly want except one thing?”
Presumably people are able to lodge requests if they’re really keen to track something down?
“Yeah, I get lots of people saying ‘I’m looking for this, can you let me know if it comes in?’ ”
While the success of Record Store Day itself is pretty well documented — see story below — does it help get customers into the shop in the days and weeks following the main event?
“Yeah, a little bit. There are a limited number of shops that are taking part, so if there are records that you specifically want, on the day, you’re only going to be able to get to two or three shops, and so you might not get what you want.
“But shops will have stock left over and so people travel around to other shops that they missed on the day to see if they can pick up stuff that they want.”
In The Groove mainly deals in secondhand records, but Mr Tucker says he has “probably a couple of hundred” new albums in stock.
“In terms of other new vinyl, all of the kind of classic albums by the Rolling Stones, David Bowie and the Doors, they’re all available on vinyl now and secondhand copies of them don’t turn up very often, so it makes sense to have the kind of stuff that people are going to want in stock.”
When Mr Tucker moved the shop to its current premises at 14 Reading Road back in 2013 — heralding its change of name — one of his key reasons for doing so was to have more room for his inventory. So has he got space for everything now?
“It’s all here, or thereabouts. I’ve probably got about ten thousand albums, about ten thousand singles and about five or six thousand CDs.
So, you know, if somebody comes in looking for something, as long as they’re not looking for one specific thing, then there’s a good chance that they’ll find something. There is something for everyone here.”
With that in mind, does the music he stocks reflect his own tastes to some extent or does he have to be a generalist about it?
“There’s loads of stuff here that I wouldn’t like at all but, you know, I do try and stock something of everything — so there’s jazz and blues and soul and folk as well as kind of rock and pop.
“Going back to Fifties rock’n’roll, I’ve got 78s — which is a bit of a specialised market but I’m amazed at how delighted people look when they come in and go ‘Have you got any 78s?’ Their eyes light up when I tell them I do have 78s because they struggle to find any.”
Most if not all of the songs on the 78s would long since have been made available in CD format, but Mr Tucker says that isn’t what the collectors want.
“They want the authentic thing, as it was when it first came out. Because there’s that connection with the history of the music and the artist... and the artefact. It’s a very nice thing.”
Record Store Day at In The Groove is set to get under way when the doors open at 10am tomorrow.
Writing on his Record Store Day blog — which can be accessed via the shop’s website www.inthegrooverecords.co.uk — Mr Tucker said the event is “great fun” to be part of.
He added: “I’ll have a string of regular customers doing DJ sets through the day. They’ll play some great records, they’ll have a great time, so will I and luckily so will my customers.”