Wish you’d kept your record collection?

Image above: Bookcase on Chiswick High Road; Underground Vinyl is in the basement

“If I had a pound for everyone who tells me they regret getting rid of their records”

Every day Underground Vinyl has people come in who regret getting rid of their record collection. The record shop which opened in the basement of Bookcase on Chiswick High Road 18 months ago is home to both new and second-hand albums across the whole range of music tastes – rock, psychedelia, jazz and blues, pop and classical.

Jazz and Blues is the most sought after, but the people who come in to buy records go right across the board, says Dan Coombes, who runs the shop along with colleague David Szunyog – musicians, a lot of DJs, young people who realise analogue sound is cool, and yes, older people looking to recreate the collections they so thoughtlessly gave away.

Dan Coombes talked to The Chiswick Calendar about the success of Underground Vinyl, now a rare find in west London in a high street that once upon a time boasted at least four record shops.

Images above: (L) Dan Coombes; (R) David Szunyog 

Jazz and Blues most popular

“Jazz and Blues records disappear really quickly” says Dan. “Any artist that everyone’s heard of – BB King, Muddy Waters, Fats Domino.

“People come in and buy records for different reasons. Some people love the sound of vinyl. Others just want to build a collection of beautiful objects. It’s a combination of people wanting good music and it being cool to collect vinyl.”

The beauty of an album cover is lost if it is stored conventionally (and efficiently), stacked in a line, but there are special pop-out picture frames that enable collectors to show off their albums and swap them over to ring the changes.

Image above: Underground Vinyl, downstairs at Bookcase on Chiswick High Road

“People are nostalgic for the sound”

The sound quality really is different apparently, it’s not just marketing hype. CDs are ‘better’ in one way because there is sound less interference, but vinyl is considered to produce a warmer, more life-like sound.

“You can tell the difference immediately” says Dan. “Sound on vinyl is richer and more enjoyable. People are nostalgic for that sound.”

Surely second hand records are likely to be scratched and crackly?

“Ah but that adds to the listening experience” says Dan.

If you’ve just bought a new record player the last thing you want is to ruin the needle on someone else’s dodgy old records, no?

“It’s a balance, you don’t want to play records that are too damaged, and it depends also how expensive your record player is”.

You can pay £100 for one, or you can pay over £1,000.

Images above: Album covers The Beatles – Abbey Road; The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers; The Doors

“Not a man cave”

Dan and David work in the bookshop and have taken over the record shop from Giulia Tonci Russo, who opened it in April 2022.

Dan’s music taste is rooted in the 1980s (he’s 43), so Michael Jackson is a staple, but he also likes ’80s pop (Ricky Martin, The Sugar Babes, Girls Aloud) as well as the classics from his parents’ collection (The Beatles, Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones, The Doors). His personal favourites would be “bluesy rock”.

Daivd (a bit younger) is more into psychadelic rock – his favourite bands are King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (rock) and Khruangbin (known for blending global music influences, such as classic soul, dub, rock and psychedelia’. Thank you Wikipedia).

Images above: Album covers King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard Live at Levitation; King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard Live in Milwaukee; Khruangbin – Hasta El Cielo

Dan is at pains to point out that their own music taste in no way influences the record store’s vibe.

“It’s not a man cave. I hate those places with black walls where everyone is covered in tattoos from head to foot. It’s not like that at all.”

On the shelves you can find soul and reggae, folk and opera in amongst the rock and pop. It’s ok to ask for anything. No judgement will be made on your musical taste.

Images above: New arrivals at Underground Vinyl; the listening booth

If you still have a record collection, look carefully to see how Abbey Road is spelled

How much do records fetch?

“It depends on their condition and their rarity”.

Underground Vinyl tend to buy and sell for the average price (Discogs gives you a rough idea how much you might expect to sell your records for) and they stick to ‘second hand’ mostly rather than ‘vintage’ by way of description.

Discs which are widely available and not rare tend to sell for between £2 and £10 while rarities such as a mis-printed Beatles record (there were some printed as ‘Abby Road’ not ‘Abbey Road’) or a Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers album with the actual zip on the cover are worth a lot more. (Unofficial pressing from Iran anyone?)

Images above: Fats Domino Collected; Muddy Waters at Newport 1960; BB King Signature Collection

Business is brisk, and yes they are glad they took the plunge and converted the basement into a record shop.

“People are complimentary and very positive about it. We have regular customers, quite a lot that work here and live elsewhere and people have come from far and wide and sought us out specially.”

Best of all, the vinyl trend appears not to be a flash in the pan but a continuing trend. (In January this year the Digital Entertainment and Retail Association released data showing that vinyl had overtaken CD in terms of sales for the first time since 1987).

Plans for the future? To introduce board games and vintage comics to their offer (those are ‘vintage’, definitely not ‘second hand’. Go figure.)

Bookcase, including Underground Vinyl in the basement , is a member of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme. For their current offer to Club Card holders see here:

Bookcase Club Card offer 

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