When I'm in the UK I always try and make an effort to make my way up to the north of the country and in particular to Manchester, it is usually raining, it is usually cold but it's history of music (maybe because of these facts) is probably second to none. The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Joy Division, Happy Mondays and Oasis among many others originated from the city and taking it further back it delivered the world The Hollies and Herman's Hermits. It was also home to the influential Factory Records label and legendary Hacienda club. It should come as no surprise really that it is today one of the strongest cities to discover record stores anywhere in the world.
Stepping off the train, it's not actually raining but the clouds are gathering so it's not too far away. Almost immediately a block or two from the station is Clampdown Records, a shop I've scored some pretty good records in on past visits to the city. While mainly stocking second hand records there are some new releases and reissues among the racks. The 7" section is strong although a little hard to navigate, lots of great punk singles can be found and there are some really good rare finds covering the walls of the shop. Clampdown is a true old school record store, it is a small space that jams records into every little bit of space it can find. If you are prepared to look through the many boxes on the floor of records for a pound or two you'll be able to find some really great stuff in there as well.
Just a block or two away is the Empire Exchange. Not just a record store, it is basically a second hand pop culture store where along with a large range of records you can also find books, comics, cds, dvds, tapes, toys and who knows what else. You need to spend some time here though, while the records are categorised to a degree, they are done so very loosely, some of the best finds may be where you don't expect to find them, I pulled a cheap Echo & The Bunnymen record out of the country section. The prices here are generally cheap but check condition as records are basically put on the shelves as is by the look of it.
Heading up towards Oldham street and the fairly legendary Piccadilly Records is the next stop. This place is the total opposite to the above two shops as everything is in it's place, there is plenty of space and it is extremely well set out both practically and aesthetically. It is said to be the oldest record shop in Manchester but it isn't somewhere to go for bargains or rare finds, they stock no second hand vinyl but if you want to grab a new release or a reissue in this city, this place is your go to, they have basically everything across all genres.
Close by to Piccadilly is the Record Exchange, while on entry it may look a little underwhelming with just a lot of CD's and a small new vinyl rack, when you discover the stairs to the basement, then you discover where all the gold is. A combination of new and used vinyl fills the space, split in to well stocked genre sections. Pricing in all the Manchester record stores is generally pretty good and the Record Exchange is no exception, once again if you can spend some time here you'll pull out some good scores. Another very short walk away is Vinyl Revival, another shop that stock both new and second hand records alongside a strong selection of shirts and CD's. They have a solid Manchester bands section which really highlights how strong the cities music scene has been and continues to be. Their 2, 3 and 4 pound racks have some really nice records sitting among them.
I'm leaving my favourite Manchester record shop til last, it is called Vinyl Resting Place and is housed in the Afflecks building. Firstly to explain the building it is a multi story former department store that now houses something like 70 independent creative businesses. As I make my way to the third floor where Vinyl Resting Place is located you pass all sorts of creative outlets that thrive being among each other. Last time I was here Vinyl Resting Place was sitting in a small corner of the floor, but they have obviously outgrown the space and now reside in a much larger space which feels way more actual record store than market stall. The shop has a solid range of really great second hand records, split across genres, it is really worth setting aside a few hours to look through everything here as it continually surprises me with what you can find in this place. In my few visits to Vinyl Resting Place I have found so many records (both LP's and singles) that I'd either forgotten about or never seen before, and every time the prices have been great.
There are some more record stores around the greater Manchester region but I've covered the main ones in walking distance for my visit this time so it's time to grab some food and drinks. After a few really refreshing summer ales (summer here being raining and 16 degrees, but still refreshing nonetheless) at Common bar/cafe I make my way over to a great little cafe/venue called the Soup Kitchen for dinner and drinks to complete a great day in Manchester.