Essential Music

Greenwich Market SE10

Not quite Championship Vinyl (to be honest there’s not an LP in sight) there is something nonetheless, rather High Fidelity about this tiny, intense music store. Clearly run by people who care, it hurts therefore, even more than any other store to see them having a sort-of closing-down sale.

It has that late-80s/early 90s feel that I used to wallow in (and still would if I had the space) where your spine tingles with the anticipation that at any time you could find a gem that’s been missed by everyone else. It’s not second-hand, but has a deliciously hap-hazard feel to it which sets my mouth watering. There are latest releases here, but also examples of some really eclectic stuff – fifties doo-wop – East-Coast Jazz – seventies mod revival – 80s new romantic – all this nestling with Greenday and the Fratinellis. There’s an equally curious selection of DVDs along one wall.

What I love about shops like this is the organic way they evolve. Little hand-written pieces of paper urging you to buy a Beatles record or suggesting sundry musical gaps you might have in your collection jostle on the walls and central column with the usual industry stickers and label press-releases.

If I’m honest, I can’t really remember a time when there weren’t signs all over the windows of this tiny store urging us to buy cheap CDs and DVDs – but the signs have been getting more and more emphatic, and it does look as though the evil landlords of Greenwich Market may at last be getting their sinister way. Sky-high rents and the uncertainty hovering over the whole market complex seems to be taking its toll.

I suspect the glory days of this shop have gone. But all hope is not lost. As I was having my purchases processed (aw – c’mon – you wouldn’t expect me to go into a shop like this and not buy something would you…) I read the little explanation of what happens next sellotaped to the counter. Apparently they’ll try to stay if they can either persuade the landlords to give them a decent rent or find the exorbitant new rate. Neither seems too likely.

The guy (himself a splendidly eccentric-record-shop-owner styleee character in pinstripe jacket and jeans with silver arched-birds brooch and groovy wavy hair; a cross between a cameo character in an early 90s Brit-flick and Ford Prefect) told me that he intends to start up another store – but with a few differences. He likes the name Galore (so do I) and won’t be bothering too much with CDs (“people just don’t buy them any more”) preferring DVDs and – HOORAY – a decent card shop. “People are always complaining that there isn’t a good card shop in Greenwich.” Since this was the very reason I’d come into town, to try to buy an Easter card for my Mum and a couple of other friends, and I was failing miserably (I know there’s that horrid Clintons-style shop but I really didn’t want to go there) that’s something I wholeheartedly welcome.

I really hope he follows through with it. In the meanwhile, do go into Essential Music – there are lots of bargains to be had, and the knowledgeable, friendly staff will do their best to make you find your own particular gem.

On the card front, I ended up spending stupid amounts of cash on a hand-made card from Red Door for Mum, and climbing the hill to the Blackheath Standard and Pegga Stores for the rest.

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