London…is a little bit of all right
In a few hours, I will be getting on a flight to London UK for a week’s vacation. This is one of my favorite places to go, as an audiophile I can hear live music at the concert halls there, shop for records (especially Decca’s) and just drink in the atmosphere where the music of my early teens was produced.
I have two must-shop record stores there. The first is the Classical Music exchange on Notting Hill Gate. This is a quiet, somewhat studious place with a deep stock of records. There are unsorted bargain records for 1 pound or less downstairs (in varying condition) and more expensive stock sorted in Composer order upstairs. There is also a section of “collectables” priced as such and usually a couple of rows of new arrivals. One interesting feature is that non-collectable stock that doesn’t sell at its original price will eventually be marked down until it does sell, sometimes you can find a bargain this way. Of course, a lot of these records are old hat to the British collector, but from across the pond these look most alluring! Down the street are affiliated stores for Rock, Soundtracks and the like if you are so inclined.
The other is sometimes less productive, but always more fun! That’s Gramex, near Waterloo Station on Lower Marsh. Roger, the owner, is a great guy. An eccentric, but knowledgable guy in his 80’s, who seems more interested in talking to you about whatever comes up than selling product. I have been to his store about 6 times and he always seems genuinely happy to see you. These days, the store leans more to used CD’s but there is usually a nice stock of records in the basement area. Classical, Opera and Jazz can be found here. As I type this, I am thinking how cool it will be to see Roger again…
There is Harold Moores on Great Marlborough Street, but I usually don’t waste my time. At least when I have been there, high prices on even common LP’s. Maybe a bit better on CD’s.
On Portobello road there are a few Rock shops for vinyl and you might also want to check out Oxfam’s. This is sort of like a Salvation Army type of used goods store with outlets all over the city, but only some of them have records so you will have to do some research. In past years, I found some stuff here, but recently its been a bit fallow.
I have three concerts on tap this time, so that’s exciting, two at the Barbican and one at Cadogan Hall. Other times of the year find a busier concerts schedule, if you go to London, you might want to time it for the “Proms” which is a month or so of non-stop concert activity in August (it coincided with the Olympics this year, so not for me). The Southbank Center has concert halls (including the Royal Festival Hall and the Queen Elizabeth Hall) and is also a cool place to hang out with stores and small restaurants right on the banks of the Thames. I went to the Meltdown Festival there one year (that particular year featured groups picked by Ray Davies) and saw a great concert featuring The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and the Legendary Pink Dots, one of the best concerts I have attended, so there is lots of action here. Check out http://meltdown.southbankcentre.co.uk/archives/ And don’t forget the Royal Albert Hall (of which we now know how many holes it takes to fill), Wigmore Hall etc. Lots of musical fun to be had in London.
This year, I will be in town the week of the National Audio Show, sponsored by the Chester Group, which I will be covering for http://www.avshowrooms.com/ . Looks like 40 plus room featuring UK manufacturers, distributors and retailers, so it should be fun.
But what I really like is to walk around in the evening listening to early Genesis, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and the like on my mp3 player on the streets that were the cradle of this music. Evocative of another era and my youth…