Rockbrat Remembers: Second Hand Record Stores – Gone But Not Forgotten

price tags from 2nd hand record stores

It’s 2011 – and it’s appropriate to say that the majority of second hand record stores have gone by the way of the Tasmanian Tiger or Dodo – that’s right, died out, vanished, extinct. Cowboy Col and Mr. Rockbrat spent a good deal of time throughout the 1980’s and 90s exploring second hand record and book stores all over Australia and indeed the rest of the world (if we happened to be there), but certainly all over Sydney. I loved being in these stores, digging through the racks – never knowing what you’d find. A lot of these stores also had $1 racks out the front – the magic price – and you’d often find something decent for a buck (like an old Sherbet album with poster or something). Before we were old enough to drive, we’d tear out the list of second hand book and record stores from the yellow pages and jump on a bus, heading to distant suburbs, trying to find these stores with scant directions. It was always a lot of fun, but in 2011 and the digital age, these days are locked away in the memory bank.  Nowadays, eBay will locate an item for you – no matter how elusive it is, and it will arrive in your mail box a couple of weeks later without you ever having left your house. I’m from a different era kids – and as easy as eBay is – those old days were much more fun and indeed satisfying. I used to go to stores on Sydney’s northern beaches called ‘Half Back’, the idea being that if you bought a book, they’d give you half your cash back upon its return. We spent many hours in those stores in Dee Why, Cremorne and Manly. I remember we’d stare at all the cassettes that were on display in the shop fronts. This was all part of our rock n roll education folks. Not ITunes, not even MTV. I do remember the old guy who used to ‘manage’ the Manly store for years and years. He’d have to be pushing up daisies by now – but back then he’d occupy himself by checking out porno mags whilst waiting for a sale – the dirty old bastard. It never occurred to me to wash my hands after he’d sold me something.  There were plenty of good second hand stores in the city of Sydney – particularly around the bottom end of Pitt Street and Goulburn Street. Man I used to live in Ashwood’s.  Ashwood’s used to have a big revolving cassette wheel that you’d revolve by turning the handle. Pretty neat – then you could get a good view at the tapes you wanted to buy. Lawson’s, Martins. Other names I forget.  Accessing second hand stores in the suburbs was much easier when I got a car.  There were some good stores out in Parramatta on Church Street, or Passion Records at Liverpool.  Hornsby also had a good store I remember, as did North Sydney and Crows Nest, and Chatswood had a ‘half back’ store that both Rockbrat and I frequented often. As record collectors, we found second hand stores across the country – from the western suburbs of Melbourne (Dixons were everywhere) to Wollongong (Illawarra Book & Records on Crown Street and The Record King) to Canberra’s excellent Impact Records. Other names and places I forget – but I do remember if I was in some little country town – invariably there would be a second hand book store with a bunch of records as well. Internationally? We searched for second hand records all across  the US, Frisco I remember had some great stores out in the Bay area around Telegraph Ave, Rasputin’s I think was one. France, Germany, Japan, Greece, Spain, sheesh I even bought records in Poland. London, as you’d expect, had some great second hand record stores – particularly out of the city, though there were stacks of second hand record stores around Soho and Shepherds Bush and Camden. Reckless Records and The Music & Video Exhange at Notting Hill Gate.  How can I forget Beanos in Croydon? Beanos was once the largest second hand record store in Europe, and after thirty years of trading, due to a big decline in sales (thanks eBay) the shop finally closed in 2009. There was a place in South London that I remember, where the owner was selling used 45’s for 3 pence each! He’d also offer to make you a cup of tea whilst you were looking for records. Around 93, when vinyl suffered its major demise at the hands of the CD, there was a store in South London that was selling ‘new’ records as surplus stock (called not surprisingly ‘Surplus Records’) – anywhere from 25 p to 3 quid. I bought way too much crap in this store. Mr. Rockbrat did finally manage to hunt down that first KI$$ LP, the Treasure LP, and the second Birtha LP (amongst a plethora of all girl band stuff he bought over the years). I scored some good finds over the years. I remember buying a red vinyl copy of Sgt Peppers for $6, which I’ve since sold, and also an autographed Suzi Quatro LP for $1 (which I still have), and even though I’ve sold off about 70% of my LP vinyl record collection in recent years – I still have a bunch of price stickers and record bags from some of these stores. Why ? Well, I dunno why exactly. Nostalgia perhaps, memories of a time when rock n roll wasn’t all about IPods and iTunes  and torrents and free downloading and owning 5 million albums on your portable hard drive. Looking for second hand records was a fun thing to do – and I wish it was 1986 and I could go back to Half Back at Dee Why!

Read an article about Beanos having to close it’s doors from 2006 here.

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