The Last Shop Standing

I was just pondering sitting down to write this when I found out that Avalanche is likely to close. So I have sat down and started typing.

The Cameo is showing the documentary Last Shop Standing on 10th December in a one-off screening. It is based on the book of the same name by Graham Jones, about record shops. The book is a tour of England’s 50 best record shops. In turn asking what has gone wrong with the music industry and what is going right for the record shops that have survived. Something is happening here and Mr Jones knows what it is. He is asking which one of these shops will be the last one. Luckily most seem fairly resilient. He concludes that the ones we have left will be greatest of shops (and/or own their premises).

It is a crowd funded film. It is more remarkable for that. I found out about it late on from a nice chap on twitter who enquired if we were in it. A record shop opening is good news to report. We need to be in it! They were still in the process of filming and I emailed Mr Jones and found out that we were only a few hours late! (That very day, they had been filming in Glasgow, intending to come to Edinburgh. The Edinburgh trip was cancelled due to ill health of the Edinburgh shop owner they’d planned to interview).

Ah well!

So after some back and forth with the filmakers we are now helping with the Q&A after the Cameo screening next month. Dougie from Coda Music will be up there I think with the film’s director and a VoxBox representative. (George)

Some history of the VoxBox record shop:

It was The Gramophone Emporium and there were 10,000 records on the shelves. The shop is small. There were 1 foot wide corridors to walk through. Cracked and crisp broken records on the floor. A few years ago, if you were lucky enough to find out about it you could tip toe your way through this to the Backroom to buy some vinyl. George had been selling vinyl records out of the Backroom of The Gramophone Emporium on Saturdays. The best quality preowned records in Edinburgh were there. Boxes of bargain vinyl and minty Dylan and Neil Young originals for £10. Wow! That’s where I met George.

I kept seeing him after that at markets and fairs, each time with tip-top records in tow. “You should open a shop!”
George’s wife, gives him a wee nudge. “Hmmm” I think.
Later, I ask him if he’d like a partner in opening a shop.
Later again, “I’m serious about the shop…”

So we looked to open a shop. In that time, Bill who owns The Gramophone Emporium, found out we wanted to rent a place and offered us his. He was planning on moving his shellac shop elsewhere. So we refurbished and moved into the Gramophone Emporium, 21 St Stephen Street and essentially expanded Backroom Vinyl into VoxBox Music.

The wonderful Gramophone Emporium before it overflowed and they had to move. It's hard to imagine now that it became us*.

10,000 records were removed -one at a time! “hey look at this one!” by Bill’s loyal and regular customers who he’d managed to rope into helping with the move. When it was finally empty, we changed it a bit.

On VoxBox's 1st Record Store Day, April 2012

We made a point of opening in Stockbridge. It is such a beautiful place to live in, work or visit. It is the greatest shopping destination in Edinburgh (if you’d like something a bit different).
We also didn’t want to tread on the toes of any other record shops in Edinburgh although George has been involved in record fairs since before even Avalanche opened and the shop we moved into already had a long history as record shop. During Summer 2010 with a Dansette blaring some early Elvis across St. Stephen Street, there was never any doubt about location. It really felt right.

We’ve been open for 18 months now and honestly, we have a lot of fun working together. Meeting Edinburgh’s existing record people and the recent converts to vinyl continues to brighten up my days in the shop. Even the odd quiet day in the rain can be a lot of fun for me. I might stick on Billie Holliday on 78rpm shellac. Hush now, Don’t Explain. What is it with the sad songs and Autumn weather?

We are selling more and more new records. Dipping our toe in with classic album reissues at first and only when we can match or better Amazon on the price. My liver can’t really keep up with all the local independent band’s gigs and releases. But we will try to expand the shelf space available to local bands and label better what we have.

Read the film blurb:
Graham Jones takes you behind the counter to discover why nearly 2000 record shops have already disappeared across the UK. The film charts the rapid rise of record shops in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the influence of the chart, the underhand deals, the demise of vinyl and rise of the CD as well as new technologies.

Where did it all go wrong? Why were 3 shops a week closing? Will we be left with no record shops with the continuing rise of downloading? Hear from over 20 record shop owners and music industry leaders as well as musicians including Paul Weller, Johnny Marr, Norman Cook, Billy Bragg, Nerina Pallot, Richard Hawley and Clint Boon as they all tell us how the shops became and still are a part of their own musical education, a place to cherish and discover new bands and new music.

Watch the trailer:

So will VoxBox be the Last Shop Standing?

Who knows! While there are still records being made, there will be record shops. There is great comfort in the fact that 60 years after shellac 78rpm records were last made, there is still one shop still going in the UK which sells only 78s and the machines to play them on. That shop is The Gramophone Emporium. For old records they literally, already are, The Last Shop Standing.

You see, Bill had moved The Gramophone Emporium to larger premises at 12 St Stephen Street. VoxBox moved into his old place at 21 St Stephen Street. They are our great friends and we have the pleasure of looking into their window every day, directly across the road from where George and I have had the pleasure of making a brand new record shop stand up.

Please come along to the screening at The Cameo (a fine independent itself) on 10th December at 1900. It’s a must see for record people. Those Edinburgh record shoppers who have a fond memory of Bruce’s Record Shop on Rose Street or were even forever barred by Bert from Hot Wax in Tollcross will appreciate this film. It’s not just nostalgia though! It’s a canny reminder of what makes record shops an ongoing relevant and special place. It’s a really great documentary.

If you can’t make it on the day you can pick up a copy of the book and DVD from us at the shop. We have plenty in.

*Photo by kind permission courtesy of great friend of the Gramophone Emporium, Rachel.

  • Eloquently put,I’ll be at the Cameo on the 10th.

  • Nice post. Have the DVD  – purchased in Perth at Concorde; great wee film. Was in at yours on RSD this year and popped over to the pub to see Martin John Henry. Will be back soon…all the best!

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VoxBox Music became the newest record shop in the world on May 21st 2011. We buy and sell vinyl and other formats of music. We are independent and sell mostly pre-owned records although we are slowly branching into new vinyl too.

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