Page last updated at 09:46 GMT, Wednesday, 7 April 2010 10:46 UK
Record stores and the other side of the tracks

By Andy Roberts
BBC South East Wales

Vinyl records at Diverse Music, Newport
Vinyl records are making a comeback in popularity among music fans

Maybe it's my age, but even though I can now get most of the music I want via the internet, nothing beats the pleasure of rifling through the racks of a bricks-and-mortar record store.

From Paris to Prague, San Francisco to Sydney, Toronto to Tunis, my travelling partners over the years have had to tolerate or join my pilgrimages to these palaces of vinyl, cassette and compact disc in search of an elusive New Order 12" or Rolling Stones rarities that probably don't exist.

But you don't have to leave the country to experience the pleasure of crate-digging and rack-rifling - there are still havens of rare musical delights to be found in south east Wales.

As music fans and shops mark Record Store Day on 17 April, here are my picks of the bunch - you're welcome to share your views on these or others, past or present.

Nick Todd - photo by Dan Green
Nick Todd has kept Spillers open in response to public demand

Cardiff's Spillers Records is the great-granddaddy of them all - famously known as the oldest record store in the world, founded in 1894 when sheet music was the prevailing format. It's the place where many famous Welsh bands have sold their first singles - in fact some may well have been formed as a result of "musicians wanted" notices posted on the board.

Still hanging on in there despite competition from the internet and the pressures of city centre redevelopment, you'll find well-stocked specialist sections devoted to jazz, blues, reggae, rockabilly and more as well as rock and pop, including the latest local bands.

In Newport, Diverse Music is a similarly eclectic and credible store which also promotes local bands and bills itself as the city's only physical ticket outlet.

It's also notable as one of the UK's leading retailers and distributors of vinyl records, making a comeback among indie kids and audiophiles alike.

Diverse Music in Newport
Diverse Music survives by offering gig tickets and vinyl as well as CDs

Co-owner Paul Hawkins and colleague Matt Jarrett are also active on the live music scene in Newport, as promoters of a regular Americana and country night called Hot Burrito.

Diverse has survived despite the reputation of Hawkins' co-owner Mark Southall, once known as "The Jinx" because six different record shops closed within six months of him joining the staff.

Dance music specialist Catapult has been a fixture in Cardiff's High Street arcade since 1993, stocking DJ equipment along with vinyl and CDs.

Meanwhile while Jamesy offers an extensive range of rockabilly compilations at his Dynamite T-shirt emporium in Cathays, Cardiff.

Looking outside the cities, Abergavenny Music in the Monmouthshire market town is primarily an outlet for classical releases, but fans of folk, jazz and blues will also find something of interest.

Honourable mention must also be given to sellers of second-hand or collectable records such as D'Vinyl in Roath, Cardiff, Kelly's in Cardiff Market and Troutmark and Rockaway in Newport Market where you'll often find a surprise or two.

Woolworths Bangor
Woolworths was once one the UK's biggest record retailer before it closed

Graham Jones, a record retailer and author of Last Shop Standing: Whatever Happened to the Record Shop? says independent stores in Wales have fared better in the digital age than those in other parts of the UK.

"They still stock Welsh-speaking bands, Welsh customers are maybe more loyal, and there's a better community spirit amongst the people of Wales," he told BBC Radio 1.

"Shops like Spillers, Diverse, Derricks (in Swansea) and Cob (in Bangor) were the biggest accounts for me in Wales seven or eight years ago and they still are today.

Despite the economic downturn, Jones says independent stores are enjoying a revival due to the resurging popularity of vinyl and the collapse of chains like Woolworths and Zavvi which has removed much of the competition.

But he says the key to long-term survival will be in keeping their musical ears close to the ground.

"Record shops are like talent scouts - they're the ones who support the up and coming artists," says Jones.

"People like Spillers will tell you that their best selling things are compilations of local bands, or from local musicians.

"That's why I'm a great fan because they support the local community and support the local music scene."

Tell us about your favourite record shop in south east Wales - past or present - and what makes it special. Do you have any memories or stories to share? Send an email to

Nicky Howells, Tonypandy
I'm still relatively young (27) so my memories of buying music start around the time of the grunge explosion of the early 90's. After discovering there was a world that operated outside of the HMV/Virgin Megastore/Our Price mould some of my regular haunts included Spillers in Cardiff, Jungle and Hitman in Bridgend (now both sadly gone), and Rainbow Records in Pontypridd. I guess what sets small independent record shops apart from their high street counterparts is their passion towards music and their sense of community. What I love with stores like Damaged Records in Cardiff and Second Time Around in Rhondda is that you can go in, hang out and chat with the owner, put a record on to try it out, maybe come in with a list of artists you like and they will happily hunt out other stuff they think you might also like. This is sadly sometimes missing from the high street superstores.

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