Why I’m no longer bothered about the record store day list

I love record store day. I truly do. For those that love music, collecting and listening to tunes from wax, it’s a wonderful opportunity to get some real gems.

From unheard mixes of classics, one off pressings of new songs, to coloured vinyl and limited edition re-presses, there’s something for everyone so long as you’re prepared to queue from an early hour and usually in the freezing cold. For those who prefer a lie-in, there’s still a chance to visit your local store and grab from what’s left in the RSD stock and enjoy in-store live music, competitions and partake in festivities in the surrounding area. Above all else this is a way to celebrate what independent stores give to the music fan with the sales from this one day helping tide over months when takings are low.

But as this year’s list is unveiled I have to say, I’m not that fussed. In fact there’s going to be one hell of a release on the list released next week to get me even interested in queuing.

Yes. I’m getting older. Starts at stupid o’clock are becoming less appealing even with a camping chair and a thermos. Adding to that is a period of ill health that’s knocked me sideways. But that’s not why my enthusiasm is waning. The truth is I’ve seen many of the exclusive releases from last year appear in stores (independent and otherwise) up and down the country as regularly stocked items at cheaper prices. Limited editions or “first pressing” is appealing less and less when my main concern is what’s on the disc. After all, the main reason I’m buying is that I’m going to play it.

Most notably this applies to Springsteen’s “Live at the Hammersmith Odeon” set from last year. I was determined to grab this title. Alongside the re-press of “Elastica” (which actually did remain a very limited edition) it was my most coveted want on the list.

Fed up with the craziness of RSD in Soho where the queues are insanely long before the previous night is over, the last few years I’ve opted to travel to smaller indies around the country. Everyone operates the day differently and every store and their staff have characters of their own. Last year I headed to Cambridge to Relevant Records. The area looked relatively safe to camp out in and, in theory, there’d be fewer people ahead of me from the same time and effort spent queuing. Of course, smaller store, less stock, but rough numbers were published so I took the risk.

Arriving at 3am with a flask of coffee and a bag of additional layers to add to keep me progressively warm, I unfurled my chair until the store opened an hour before the records went on sale. Not to break the rules. But for the final reason I chose this store. The street level is a lovely cafe! With a queue number (7th) handed to me I soon headed in for a pot of tea and a pile of steaming hot toast. Bang on 8am the first few of us heading to the record store downstairs. I lucked out. For the first time I got everything on my list including Bruce. I was overjoyed especially as with only 6 copies in stock I could’ve easily missed out.

But a month or so later I was in a HMV at the other end of the country when I noticed the same live at Hammersmith vinyl up on a new release rack. The artwork and packaging identical, bar a number on the back.

When the thing that matters is what’s within and what you’ll get out of it, why does a limited edition or a special barcode or label number mean? Unless of course what pleases you is money, then by all means queue to flip on eBay.

What I took last year from record store day is the joy in sharing a nicer, friendlier, shorter queue than that of London’s typical. Of enjoying a nice cuppa in a cafe of strangers who were all connected by the joy of music and dropping the needle on a round disc. Based on that anything I do this year is not going to be based solely on the infamous list.

If I can pick up something I like, then great. I now realise it’s the celebration element that matters, so that’s what I’ll seek. Whatever it is about record store day that interests you the most, I hope you find it. For me? Suggest a store with quirks, with live bands, good people, and somewhere that I can make memories and I’ll be there.