(This edition came from a visit in March 2015)
As unpopular as this may sound, I don’t like London.
It’s too crowded, too expensive, and continuously grey no matter what season you’re in. The only reason I’ve visited in the past 7 years is for the record shops in Soho. But since moving to Nottingham, I’ve only managed one jaunt to the capital’s vinyl centre. It used to be my favourite place to crate dig. Until this week. Having just come back from a holiday on the Côte d’Azur, the epicentre of my record love has shifted to the city of Nice and one shop in particular.
Sonic Import lies a few minutes walk from the main shopping road that runs through the centre of the city, away from the hustle and bustle of the tourists. The floor space is minimal but the diverse selection in the crates nullifies this completely. The store’s owner, Frederic, is, without doubt, the nicest man you could ever meet. He’s a reserved man with a fine taste in music both on sale and playing from the shop speakers.
Prices are more than reasonable and genres range from hard rock to soul-funk and a plethora of electronic/indie artists I’d never even heard of. But arguably the highlight of my visit was meeting Frederic’s beautiful Petit Brabançon named Pilou. When I wasn’t digging through the crates, I was playing with our new canine friend and it rounded off a thoroughly enjoyable visit.
The second store I visited was a few streets away. Crazy Rhythm lived up to its name with vinyl crammed everywhere. I’d never recommend swinging a cat but you certainly couldn’t in there. But that was fine by me. The prices were moderate and bargains could be claimed if you knew where to look. All genres were covered, as expected from the breadth of their collection. No friendly dog here but that’s not really what you go crate digging for, is it?
Another store of note for vinyl is Fnac. The French equivalent of HMV but a million times better, Fnac boasts a modest but interesting selection of records. I managed to pick up a special edition reissue of Kind Of Blue for €7 but be aware as Fnac isn’t a specialist vinyl store, the prices are a lot steeper, ranging from €7-€35 due to mainly newer releases being on offer. Still, if you need Knopfler’s latest LP, fill your boots. Not ideal for crate diggers but worth a look anyway.
It’s not everyday you meet a wonderful shop owner or pick up a jazz classic. But Nice offered me this and so much more. In total, I spent around £100 on vinyl in three different trips. It didn’t quite beat the record set in Chicago but it came incredibly close. Often, vinyl stores get a bad rep for their surly assistants and stale ambience. I’ve never had a conversation with anyone in a UK record store and I’ve seen people try and fail. Needless to say, it gives a hollow experience to any newbie crate diggers.
After my visit to Sonic Import, I left a good review and received a hand shake and many thanks upon my return. That’s not why I did it but it helped to create a rapport that I will never forget. Perhaps the ongoing demise of second hand record shops in contrast to the continuous rise of new vinyl sales is leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of UK shop owners but a positive vibe goes a mighty long way and should be considered the next time a new customer walks through the door. A cute dog mascot couldn’t hurt either. And I don’t mean one next to a gramophone.