It would be very weird if a city of Manchester’s towering musical stature didn’t have good independent music shops, wouldn’t it? Fortunately, we’ve got plenty to brag about.
Your friendly neighbourhood record shop has been in for quite a battering these past few years. First the click-and-buy likes of Amazon came along, then file-sharing, and now streaming sites like Spotify are chipping away further at their market share. But we reckon there’s just nothing that compares to holding the actual vinyl or plastic in your hot little hands. There’s also no beating a chat with an expert music shop employee, whose recommendations can pleasantly surprise you. Yet Manchester’s Northern Quarter, a kind of Valhalla for musos, has been quietly shedding music shops in recent years as they increasingly move online. Farewell, Fat City. We miss you, Vox Pop. Sayonara, Big Pink. Here are five of our favourites, and if you don’t want them to vanish too, go buy something.
Remember High Fidelity? Piccadilly Records is the real deal, a record shop so good that it probably deserves some credit for the regeneration of its surrounding neighbourhood. Open since 1978, it’s a gem, with expertly curated stock spanning CD and vinyl from practically every esoteric genre going, and intensely clued-up staff whose annual year-in-review booklet has all the authority of The Bible. Check out our audio tour of Piccadilly Records here. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can’t find something; they’re friendly, and will probably even be polite if you ask for Justin Bieber. Probably. 53 Oldham Street, M1 1JR. 0161 839 8008.
Let us now praise Vinyl Exchange, because they sell secondhand music (and movies), which makes this the city’s capital of serendipitous finds. Expect anything from rare EPs to that great old album you used to have on cassette but whose absence has been making a painful hole in your collection for years. You can also sell your unwanted vinyl, CDs and DVDs here but they’re very choosy, as a bazillion skint students can attest. 18 Oldham Street, M1 1JN; 0161 228 1122.
The only one of our top five outside the Northern Quarter, archetypical funky record shop Kingbee reigns in the artsy southern suburb of Chorlton, where it has been holding court since 1985, and it probably hasn’t changed much since then. This is a great place to go for secondhand vinyl from every musical category at wallet-friendly prices (though they definitely know their stuff, so don’t expect any church sale £1 amazing bargains.) 519 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, M21 0UF; 0161 860 4762.
White-label-loving denizens of the dance floor have made pilgrimages to EB for years. It opened over the road Afflecks in 1985 and was heavily involved in the Madchester mayhem (808 State’s Martin Price used to run it.) Now it’s on Stevenson Square, and it’s the place to go for specialist Deep House, Techno, Electro and Drum n’Bass. Impressively, you can also get a cup of Union Hand Roasted and a slice of cake to enjoy while you’re giving the cans a workout. 5A Stevenson Square, M1 1DN; 0161 228 6555.
If you’re a fan of Northern Soul, you’ll probably already know about Beatin’ Rhythm. It’s a temple to powder-shuffling soul power, staffed by people who eat, sleep and breathe music. There’s a stunning selection of rare soul 45s but they also do nice lines in Doo Wop, 50s Rock, Rockabilly and Country. Soul survivors can never go back to Wigan Casino, but an afternoon of crate-digging here may be something of a consolation. 108 Tib Street, M4 1LR; 0161 834 7783.