“The real reason we decided to have a shop in the first place was built first and foremost from a sincere and devoted love of not just a format of music….but something that reached into nostalgia, friendship, love - and of course a desire to do something cool in your home town.” – Alex Fox, Co-owner Of Attic Records 2009-2014
As this year’s Record Store Day approaches, it’s worth remembering that the very first record store in York to be involved in this event was a hip little shop two floors up, above a hairdressers, on Patrick Poole – the recently and sadly departed Attic Records, co-owned by friends Alex Fox & Gareth Hesketh. Attic Record’s contribution to vinyl in York was significant, and deserves to be recognized as such.
It is fair to say in April 2014 that vinyl records have firmly re-arrived in the mainstream. More vinyl records have been sold in the last 12 months than at any time since 1997. LPs are back on the shelves of HMV. It seems on Twitter like I read about a new record shop opening somewhere in the UK every month. Record Store Day has exploded into an event which has the public profile of an official national holiday. Vinyl is everywhere. In all respects, the record store scene today could barely less resemble the wasteland into which Attic Records launched in 2009. Back then, I described the decision to open a record shop in York as a leap of faith that took “massive titanium balls.” Vinyl sales were marginally clawing their way back from mid-Noughties rock-bottom, but broadly speaking the market remained niche, and record stores were still closing across the UK at an alarming rate. In York alone, Arc, Cassidys & Track had recently disappeared. A vinyl-only shop opening in 2009 was big news – indeed, in the midst of the worst financial crisis for 70 years, any small business getting off the ground was noteworthy.
Not that Attic Records was just any small business. It was a place with a heart full of soul. An extension, as all record shops should be, of its owners’ own passions and personalities. Imagine if your mate with the great record collection opened his bedroom to the public, put price tags on all his stuff, and invited you in for a cup of tea - that was Attic Records. The after-hours all-back-to-mine parties at Attic have attained legendary status. Local cowboy guitar-slinger Dan Lucas memorably described Attic as ‘the best late-night disco in town’. Attic Records wasn’t slick. It didn’t think of itself as a brand. It didn’t have its logo on a bunch of merch, or promote itself aggressively. Attic felt like a place with an honest attitude, and when it opened, I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. Everybody talks about opening a record shop. These guys had actually done it - and at a time when it was probably harder to do it than at any other time in vinyl’s history. The greatest lesson Attic Records teaches us that if you want something to happen in your home-town, its up to you to do it.
So when I made my own decision to open the Inkwell in 2011, pretty much the first thing I did was contact Gaz & Foxy. We were friendly acquaintances, far from close buddies – but I respected what they had done, and thought it only right to give them plenty of heads up that The Inkwell would be selling vinyl. Their response was generous, supportive and kind. (I should note Rebound were similarly enthusiastic, particularly gracious given our proximity to them.) Simply by existing, Attic made it easier for The Inkwell to exist. They had laid the ground work locally. They kept vinyl on the map in York through its leanest times. They showed it could be done. Young people with a passion for records Could Do This. In many ways The Inkwell and Attic were very different enterprises, largely due to a deliberate attempt on our part not to step unnecessarily on their toes. But the fact that they had kept the idea of The Record Shop alive in York was enough to make life that little bit easier for me, and for anybody who wants to open a record shop here. I will always remember that.