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Record Store Day: TLOBF meets Manchester's Piccadilly Records

Record Store Day: TLOBF meets Manchester's Piccadilly Records

13 April 2011, 14:05
Words by Matthew Britton

Speak to anyone in Manchester about pretty much anywhere music related and you’re bound to get mixed reactions. The Deaf Institute has popped up over the past few years and was promptly hailed by some as the saviour of the city’s live scene, whilst others have argued that it’s ‘too cool’ and some deriding it for recent shows from the likes of Toploader (*tumbleweed*). The same kind of debate can generally be found about any establishment – Johnny Roadhouse, the Academy, even the Manchester Evening News Arena has its fair share of supporters. One place that you’re unlikely to hear a bad word about, however, is Piccadilly Records.

It’s easy to be unappreciative of something that you’ve grown up with, as anyone in the region even remotely interested in music is likely to have done. The in-stores and signings that drew in over enthusiastic teenagers a decade or so ago might not happen quite with the same frequency any more – there’s still some excellent footage around of Tokyo Police Club stripping back their songs amongst the record racks – but all the other elements still remain.

Paul Allen has been working at the store since 2005, “HMV before that, and before that Virgin, which I started at 2001” and has become somewhat of a fixture at the store – as well as locally renowned for his prolific tweeting. “If you are a record shop and are still going in this climate you must be doing something right” he argues, perhaps correctly given the marked decline of his previous employers, “A combination of paying attention to detail, hard work, dedication and good customer service goes a long way.”

It’s perhaps that attention to detail that is most important in the ongoing popularity amongst locals. Record shops are stereotypically exclusive, elitist places, the High Fidelity of Nick Hornby, laughing away anyone who dares to know less about music than those at the store. You’re still unlikely to see a Leona Lewis CD for sale on sale in store – “Supermarkets cater for the X-Factor generation” says Allen, “We cater for the real music fan” – but this is an institution happy to help those interested to find new sounds. Most of the 12” releases have a hand-written introduction card attached, infinitely more informed than most blog posts and invariably more precise, too.

There are some – especially those in employment at the NME, judging by a recent blog on their website – that see the physical release as irrelevant, a relic of a bygone age that no longer has a reason to be. Why is a record shop still relevant in this day and age, then? Allen again: “The physical format will always be important to people who enjoy the comfort of a record taking over their life, the art inspiring emotion and the unmistakable quality of a good vinyl pressing.”

But Piccadilly Records has always had a sense that it’s about more than just shifting copies of the latest 4AD release – “We also support local events be it with ticket sales for gigs, clubs & festivals. Or just by putting a poster up in the shop.” Even more than that the front of the store has a dedicated area just for the local free press to distribute their wares, meaning you can nip in and get the latest issue of Pull Yourself Together, Loud and Quiet Magazine or just the new Don’t Panic, adding to that sense of community.

Last year’s Record Store Day down at the shop was quite something – even when viewed only through the medium of twitter, it’s easy to see the enthusiasm of everyone involved, with queues stretching around the block well before opening time. “This year’s record store day will be our best yet”, says Allen. Of course, the limited runs of 7”s more than help things, but, as ever, the Piccadilly lot are adding their own flair to proceedings, “We have DJ’s and an art stall amongst other things going on in the shop from 9am. Starting at 12pm we have bands on across the road at Night ‘n’ Day café, which is free. Then from 6pm onwards around the corner at Common bar there are DJ’s until close.”

That bill at Night ‘n’ Day would be worth turning up to on the worst of days – Dutch Uncles, The Answering Machine, Brown Brogues, Patterns and The Louche F.C. making up an excellent mix of the city’s more recent breakthrough acts and those just set to do the same. And when they do, Piccadilly Records will still be there, pushing things forward.

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