Rounder Records – The Sad Demise of a Brighton Landmark

I have had a couple of blog posts on my mind. After a frankly terrifying journey on the South-East’s motorways on Sunday during which our whole family came within 6 inches of death under a lorry because some stupid idiot woman was too busy smoking to check her blind spot, and some dickless wonder in a Porshe did 100 in a 40 before cutting up 3 lanes of traffic to turn off, I was going to rant about what crappy drivers the British are and how unsafe for families our road system is. But I’ll hold it in for now.

For something else has happened that has made me very sad and I’m afraid all 10 of you now need to put up with a post that is once again neither funny nor about parenting. Good form for a supposedly amusing parent blog n’est pas?

For longer than I have been alive there has been an independent record shop in the Lanes in Brighton called Rounder Records. After 29 July there won’t be. It’s been known that they were moving premises for a while, which is bad enough but this morning they emailed their members, 2 of whom reposted the message on the Brighton and Hove Albion forum North Stand Chat. Essentially it said this:

“It is with huge regret and sadness that we have to announce that we are closing down. We will shut our doors at 6pm on Sunday 29th July after 46 years of being a record shop in Brighton Square.

What we have always strived to do is to stock the best range of music at the best prices for our customers – sadly that is not enough for us to stay open.

We are closing because we can’t make it add up any more. We are a business that has been decimated by downloads (both legal and illegal), VAT avoidance by the big online retailers, a double dip recession, & the decline of the high street. Our lease has ended and we have nowhere to go.”

Rounder Records has been part of my life, on and off, since my teens. They sold vinyl, CDs and, importantly, gig, rave and festival tickets before any of these things could be bought on line. It is where I got my tickets for Flowered Up at the Zap Club and Primal Scream at The Event and all the Universe raves I went to in the 90s. It’s where I bought my first Andy Weatherall remix. Where I got in to Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. Purchased Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides and my first Carl Craig record.

Then we moved abroad and I no longer had a vinyl player. We took our favourite CDs with us (in carriers rather then their original cases) and I got my first mini disc and iPod and I got an iTunes account and got a hell of a lot of downloaded music (95% of it legally – I believe in paying for good content whether it’s music or film or writing). I thought, because I was living in Taipei and did not want to listen to Taiwanese Pop that I was doing the right thing. That I was an exception. That back home people were still going to Rounder for their music and tickets. But apparently the rot was setting in.

We came home when Boy was born and we moved to the outskirts of town so he could grow up in a house with a garden but, whenever I was in town and had cash, I would try to engineer an excuse to go to Rounder. I bought Elbow’s Seldom Seen Kid, Crystal Castles, Boys Outside by Steve Mason, This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem, the eponymous debut by Django Django and Andy Weatherall’s Masterpiece there, the Steve Mason and LCD Soundsystem purely on their say so. When I do my Sunday Man Cooking for the Meal That We Must Eat Together and when I clean up after I do it to one of these 6 albums, without fail.

In the 90s I worked round the corner and most weeks and any Friday pay day we would pay Rounder a visit. I was not particularly chatty – certainly no one will remember me – but I mention it because I tweeted about my sadness and follower/followee Gavin (@capon_uk) turns out to have worked there at this time and to remember Mike Pantelli who I do remember serving me. It demonstrated what a small world it is but I felt an additional twinge of sadness announcing this sort of news to an ex-employee by tweet.

Rounder isn’t just a record shop. It’s a PLACE. It’s “I’ll meet you by Rounder at 7 o’clock”. It’s “that’s a cool tune” – “Yeah I got it at Rounder”. WHATEVER goes up in it’s place – even if it’s a combined record, book, organic butchery and football shop with extra cheap single malt in the back – it won’t be as good.

It also makes me fear for Brighton town centre. Brighton does not do homogeneous. The Lanes and the North Laines (yes they are spelled differently) are a delight precisely because they are chock full of interesting, independent shops. If Rounder gets replaced with a Sainsbury’s Local or Tesco Metro or HM-fucking-V or a bastard 99p shop I will resign my Brighton-ness and go and live in Bedford or Crawley or Welwyn Garden City. Probably. Or I’ll write an angry letter. Or make a placard. Or something –  SOMETHING – will be done. Rounder cannot be the thin end of the wedge. Brighton might have it’s weirdos and whackos, it may, sometimes, think a bit too freely, but walk through it any weekend and you could only be in Brighton. Unless you’re in Churchill Square in which case you could be anywhere BUT Brighton.

My favourite record I ever got on vinyl from Rounder was ‘I Walk The Earth’ by the aforementioned Steve Mason but under the King Biscuit Time name. I bought it on a whim. The next night it was played at a friend’s party by the very cool DJ they’d hired and the day after that on Soccer AM in the days when it played good music in the goal montages and people actually watched it. I leave you with it. Yes I know it’s an internet link but it’ll not matter now. It’s too late. I’m off for a great big sulky fucking man-cry.

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  1. #1 by jbmumofone on July 9, 2012 - 7:12 pm

    Ah man I am sorry. There are not enough of these shops left now. Such a shame.

    • #2 by slightlysuburbandad on July 9, 2012 - 7:21 pm

      Definitely. It was one of those places I could go in with Baby in the buggy and not care if I got blocked in because it would just lead me to peruse another interesting section!

  2. #3 by Gavin Williams (@capon_uk) on July 9, 2012 - 8:39 pm

    I loved working there. I got to meet interesting people. Serve folks like Carl Cox and Norman Cook. Get on the guest list for gigs (like Black Grape at the event). Get given promo copies by the reps (like the first ‘Presidents of the United States of America’… on yellow vinyl!). Buy more music than I could possibly justify….. and have a fucking good time.
    I remember the warmth and camaraderie of local traders. The happiness of punters discovering something new, or half remembered. The sense of belonging.
    Sadly, at the time I was living with a joyless harridan of a woman, who convinced me to take employment elsewhere, as Rounder paid me peanuts…. Terrible decision.

    Goodbye Rounder… you’ll be missed

    • #4 by slightlysuburbandad on July 9, 2012 - 8:43 pm

      Cheers for that and the chat on twitter earlier. Sounds like good times!

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