Published: 19 April, 2012
by ANDREW JOHNSON
Someone, somewhere, is such a big fan of the English folk singer Shirley Collins that they’ll happily shell out £800 for a pristine copy of her 1959 album Sweet England on vinyl – or so believes Mark Burgess, the owner of Flashback Records in Essex Road.
That’s the most expensive record in the shop, and quite possibly the most expensive album they’ve ever had.
But vinyl lovers of all stripes are equally well-served at Flashback.
Those looking to hear the latest Adele or Paul Weller on the analogue clarity that vinyl provides mingle with the music geeks hoping to dig out rare groove bargains, or the collectors happy to part with a couple of hundred quid for a copy of a Carl Perkins album signed by his Sun Records labelmate Johnny Cash in 1968.
Flashback is gearing up for international Record Store Day on Saturday. The day started in America in 2007 with just a handful of shops taking part. Now
the event has become a global celebration of the music-lovers’ favoured format, with more than 700 shops taking part worldwide.
Bands release limited edition singles and albums for the day containing new or unreleased material, says Matt Estal, Flashback’s resident Blue Note
One of this year’s biggest hitters will be a Coldplay single.
Flashback was established 15 years ago.
Mark, 46, was then the manager of nearby Reckless Records and says he wanted to start a shop that had “the ethic of doing all the things that Reckless got right but not the things they did wrong”.
The good thing, he explains, is having a knowledgeable staff who between them can help collectors harvest a good crop from their favourite genre – be it reggae, Blue Note, or African funk.
“I wanted a record shop that was welcoming and friendly to everybody, so whatever music customers wanted we’ll try to find it and have someone in the shop who has knowledge about that,” he says.
He is more circumspect about the bad things.
But it’s clear that one thing he didn’t want to create was the kind of shop made infamous by Nick Hornby’s book High Fidelity – and the film of the book – which portrayed independent record shops as a place where those without the encyclopedic knowledge of obscure pressings were mocked and scorned.
The death of vinyl has been variously reported in newspapers for at least 20 years, but the format is gaining in strength and popularity, Mark says.
And not just in the demographic of the ageing, fairly wealthy music fan looking for prog rock LPs.
Vinyl, he says, is popular among all ages, with younger people becoming more and more interested in the traditional seven-inch single.
“The record companies tried to kill vinyl in the 1990s but it was stubborn and the people who liked it were stubborn,” he says.
“They kept the faith with vinyl because it was better than CDs and MP3s. The ordinary LP has become increasingly popular in the past five years. Virtually every new album released now is also released in vinyl.”
His bestsellers include new acts such as Adele and Lana Del Rey.
Last year there was an enormous queue for Record Store Day outside Flashback, with eager music fans lining up from 5am.
This year fans will be able to get their hands on a single by Mark’s band Red Horses of the Snow, which is put out on the shop’s own label, as well as enjoy live music and DJ sets.
Whether they’ll want to buy the Shirley Collins album is a different matter.
Mark explains that its rarity is down to the fact that the folksinger didn’t really become noted until the 1970s: “So then people started looking through her back catalogue to see what else she had done. This record had been released in relatively small numbers a decade or so earlier and didn’t sell well. So there aren’t that many copies and hardly any in good condition. Somebody will buy it, I’m sure.”
• Flashback Records, 50 Essex Road, N1, 020 7354 9356, http://flashback.co.uk
• Record Store Day is on Saturday. Search participating shops at www.recordstoreday.co.uk