Thirty Thousand Streets

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Rat Records and Retail

They say you're never further than ten metres away from a rat in London, though in Camberwell it's probably closer to five. This doen't really matter though, as in rats' favour there is Camberwell's very own music vendor, Rat Records on Camberwell road.

Not many Saturdays are complete for the Eyechild without a nose through the racks of this place, similar to when when I used to live on Kingsleigh road in Stockport and was contractually obliged to stride down to Mr Sifter's place in Burnage for a shufti at the wares there of a weekend (Sifter's incidentally getting a mention in Oasis's 'Shakermaker' by the way).

Being a second hand shop, it's stock does fluctuate in quality quite wildly, so as ever when it comes to digging, the key is frequent browsing, because when you do hit a seam of vinyl gold, it's usually very fairly priced.

Yesterday while doing some auditory browsing through a stack of twelve inches I came across a tune I'd been searching for for ages, which featured on a pre-hyphy DJ Shadow mix he did for Kiss Manchester in 1996. My mum had since thrown out my shoebox of mixtapes and I'd devoted many fruitless minutes googling half remembered snippets of lyrics to try and get a fix on what it was. I can now report the record in question is the the 'Dedicated EP' by EDO.G, and the particular tune being 'Acting' off the B side, which I think Shadow then blended into 'Brownsville' by MOP (Damn that was a good mix). Anyway. Fiver. Result!

I do wonder how the owners of Rat Records manage to make a living out of it though, as by all accounts, trading in Camberwell isn't easy, unless your'e a fried chicken vendor or sell rotgut cider – the demise of Wordsworth Books alone is testament to this. (In fact, for a fascinating insight into the pressures which beset the Inn Trade round here, you should get yourself to Camberwell Online and read Mark Dodd's comments in this post. You might have to dig down a bit, mind.

The problems which beset specialist music retail are not specific to Camberwell of course. Looking at the amount of record shops which have closed in recent years in Soho surely gives some impression as to how tough the market is. My old mate DJ Phase once got talking to Nicky Blackmarket in erm, Blackmarket records, who was lamenting the impact online shops had had on trade. The counter argument to this I suppose, might run that buying online saves you the hassle of circumnavigating the bloated egos of people who quite often work in record shops; but we will all miss them when they're gone. Anally retentative vinyl enthusiasts will anyway.

The advantages of shopping online are obvious though, just in terms of it's convenience – and it always great getting a package in the post. Depending on an item's obscurity you are also far more likely to find it on the net – recently I tramped round all of Soho's specialist music stores searching for a copy of K-Def's rather wonderful instrumental album "Willie Boo Boo – The Fool" only to be met with blank looks. I eventually got a copy online from Fat City in Manchester, but someone in London lost a sale there, by missing a trick.

Speaking of retail there was a spot on London Tonight the other day reporting how Westminster council might use compulsory purchase orders to hound out the traders who perpetually hawk naff logo shirts and discount jeans round the Tottenham Court Road end. The main thrust of their proposal seemed to be that these kind of shops cheapen the tone of Oxford Street and their ousting would pave the way for a more gentrified shopping experience. There were a few gormless voxpops with the man on the street, mostly along the lines of "Better brands down the other end innit".

Now as I'm not in the market for nylon Union Jack knickers or a t-shirt with the legend "Nobody knows I'm a lesbian" embazoned across it, I'm probably the last person to actually frequent these places, but I have to admit, they do have their place in London, and do, in their own way, add local colour. The fact that Oxford street at times resembles an obscure plane of Dante's inferno is such a cliche it hardly bears recanting, but the spectacle of shops in perpetual liquidation and 'golf sale man' are merely props in this scene rather than their causal origins.

Frankly, I find the notion of discussing regeneration purely in terms of retail unimaginative in the extreme. Sure, the Tottenham Court Road end of Oxford Street does look as rough as dreads on white guys, but the kind of development I'd advocate would be things along the same lines as the proposed redevelopment around the base of Centre Point, which in it's current incarnation is to civic planning what daisycutter bombs are to human life.

Moreover, I find the prospect of simply copying and pasting the same mile of bland brands that populate the other end of Oxford Street immensely depressing. One of the things that does get me down about London is the flavourless corporate facade of high street chains that wallpaper practically every stretch of road, such as yes, you guessed it, Starbucks (a handy whipping boy in these kind of rants if ever there was one). Why anyone would want to allow these coporporations to gain more of a chokehold over London is beyond my ken (see diagram attached).*

So back off Westminster, You don't know jack.

*Photo by Cpl. Benjamin M. George. Apparently.


Lord Bunty Chunk said...

Yes that's right t'child, the corporate menace is disgusting. Business schools have everything, and i mean everything, to be punsihed for. Year after year they knock out gormless troglydytes whose only concept of value is shareholder dividends, a blandness of being that allows them to appreciate a ugly scar on humanities skin like planet hollywood whilst trampling anything that actually gives value to life like parks, historical beuildings, small cafs, specialist retailers and indeed anything that does not yield maximum return by depressing as many peoples wages as possible. It's all for the good of course as the more money the shareholdrs make the more they can invest and that means more jobs for everyone and employers will pay as much as they can afford to get their mits on you and everyone lives happily ever after. Which is funny because I've spent a lot of my life working and broke and I suspect that I and a lot of other people might benefit more if we had a larger chunk of the shareholders profits.But then I'm stupid and didn't go to business school and I just don't get it and am clearly a laughable, envy-ridden 'loser', as provincial Americans say. However in my defence I would say that I am more on the ball than the corporate drones and bribed councillors of Camden who as far as I'm aware are still considering levelling the bit of the market next to the tube to build yet another hi-jinx, starbucks, virgin, oasis, carbunkle. They also apparently desire to throw out those filthy fuckin hippies who inhabit the main part of the market as well so they too can be replaced with yet another fucking chain shop like in every fucking town in England, yah-fucking hoo, don't they realise the only fucking reason people go to fucking camden is the fucking market!? They actually have laws against this kind of shit in France and they've been in place since the 70's, the Irish are thinking bout them too, the phenomenon barely needs to be guarded against in Italy. Cunts. I remember reading some kind of business-community mag for the city which indignantly complained about all the b-list famous people who supported the save-spitalfields campaign and who apparently 'ambushed' an attempt to give desperately needed office space necessary to keep the city's competitive edge! Fucking bastards don't they realise that it's things like Spitalfields that make London worth living in - imagine the place without them. This is why we have things like protected buildings lists to prevent people whose appreciation of life is like a narrow slit of light produced by an experience of life confined to the shit shovelled down their throat by corporate tv, advertising, and magazines e.g. what is served up to them, since they were kids and don't understand the value of anything other than money, from getting any say in anything. FUCK YOUUUUUUUUUUU.

Lord Bunty Chunk said...

Oh yeah also you should see if Rat Rekords fancy adopting your new design for their shop front init.

The Eyechild said...

Dude, I think your comment's actually longer than my post, and ironically, Rat have just redecorated, though I suspect they haven't got a design budget par-se.

Lord Bunty Chunk said...

Donate! Donate to Rat!