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Talking Shop: Harold Heath

Talking Shop is a new series where our authors choose their five favourite book shops and/or record stores past and present. Up first it’s Harold Heath author of Long Relationships: My Incredible Journey from Unknown DJ to Small-time DJ and it’s no surprise that’s his selection is all record shops.

Cruisin Records, Welling
Still trading today, Cruisin was a regular haunt for me in the early /mid-90s, Back then I was buying plenty of Italian productions, UK progressive house and also lots of US house too. Cruisin only had one deck behind the counter so you had to get them to play the tunes for you – old record shop aficionados will remember the whole “Can you move it on a bit please mate” dialogue. As recounted in my book, Friday evenings at Cruisin when the distributor turned up in his van with a bunch of fresh new tunes was a ritual that was repeated in record shops all over the country. A clutch of thirsty DJs trying to play it cool but so eager to hand their sheets over to get the fresh vinyl, “I had this on promo last month mate”, the geezer from the distributor brings out a bunch of white labels – great times.

Black Market Records, London
Soho’s Black Market records was legendary in its day, not just for its comprehensive house and jungle/drum & bass selection, but also for the slightly intimidating atmosphere. Many record shops over the years have had a not exactly bad vibe, but certainly a you’d-better-know-what-you’re-talking-about kind of a vibe and Black Market definitely had that. But it was also a brilliantly exciting shop, with the volume always way too loud and on a Saturday afternoon, it seemed more buzzing than some clubs were a few hours later.

Rarekind, Brighton
One of Brighton’s last remaining record shops, Rarekind has the vibe and indeed the beguiling odour of a traditional second-hand record shop, the unmistakable slight aroma of old vinyl and ancient record sleeves. A smell forever associated with excitement and potential because you never know what you might find in a shop that sells second-hand records. Rarekind specialise in hip hop, soul, funk, house, disco, techno, afrobeat, reggae and jazz, always have a cool new or old record in the window and you can usually find something pretty cool in there.

Swag Records, Croydon
Croydon’s finest, Swag was an essential creative hub in the birth of tech house in the early/mid-90s and home to numerous 90s tech house labels. Swag records was a classic example of a proper record shop. Nothing but vinyl, mixtapes, record bags and a dedicated crew of knowledgeable staff including the much-missed Liz Edwards, who together created and served a music community.

Tag Records, London
Tag Records was another of the classic London record shops – along with Black Market, Chocci’s Chewns, Flying, Reckless, Fat Cat and all the rest – that was located in the golden vinyl patch in Soho. Tag employee Simon Slater was responsible for Gat Decor’s (‘Tag Record’s backwards) early 90s anthem ‘Passion’, and Tag was home in the 90s to Marc Collins, one of London’s finest record shop assistants, who could spot what you wanted at 30 paces and have a neat pile of quality vinyl cuts ready for you by the time you got to the counter.