Flashback - Vinyl records
Flashback are THE Vinyl Records
With shops in Crouch End and
Islington as well as a prominent web presence, Flashback offer
a huge selection of musical genres, decades and artists on
vinyl as well as a wealth of experience and expertise. If you
can't make it to the shops, searching their website
for titles from one's past is, believe me, quite addictive.
Here Digger talks to Mark at
Flashback who, by all appearances, is the epitome of the man
who has created his dream job. Mark has a passion for music,
dedication to service and a sense of fun and enthusiasm which
is not lost on his customers...
Digger: Can you please
tell us a little bit about your background and the background
to Flashback Mark?
Mark: I grew up in the
north of England and was destined for a career in mathematics
before being hijacked by my passion for music. After college, I
came straight to London to become a Rock Star, and I started
working for Music And Video Exchange in Notting Hill to earn
some money. Before long I moved on to Reckless Records,
ending up as manager of the Islington Branch, but getting no
nearer to being a Rock Star! By this time, I'd gained
sufficient experience to set up my own shop, so in 1997, the
first Flashback Store opened in Islington, with the Crouch End
shop following in 2006. I still enjoy playing music with my
band, Red Horses of the Snow, but now it's the music I love
and I definitely don't want to be a Rock Star any more...
Digger: That’s a very
impressive and comprehensive portfolio of genres, styles and
artists. Can you tell us more about what you offer?
Mark: What we try to do
is stock the best available material across all genres of
music, and to that end I employ specialists in all the major
styles of music. We try to keep the quality control high on
both condition and desirability. The emphasis is shifting
slowly to vinyl, but good CDs and DVDs still sell well.
Digger: Who are your
‘typical’ customers, where are they coming from and what sort
of feedback and comments are you getting from clients?
Mark: There are several
types of customer. There's the tourist looking for something
special, there's the local customer looking for some music to
play and a DVD to watch at the weekend, there's £50 man who
buys his music fix every week,. Then there's the dealer who spends
all weekend digging in crates at boot fairs and brings us
their spoils in exchange for goodies they think they can sell
on for more than we charge them. There's also the increasing number
of mail order customers who found their desired item trawling
the net in Tokyo or New York at 3am. And there's the young couple
out shopping on a Saturday afternoon and there's the DJ
looking for tunes to play at the weekend. And, inevitably,
there's the care in the community aspect…
Digger: You have
two well-established London shops. In these days of virtual
shopping, how important is it for you to continue to also have
a physical presence?
Mark: It's absolutely
vital. All our stock walks in the door and we would really
struggle to find good stuff with our bricks and mortar
presence. For me, part of the reputation of the shop is based
on my fantastic staff who interact with customers in a way
that makes them feel comfortable - none of this "High
Fidelity" cooler than thou nonsense. Record Shops can be
intimidating places and I wanted to reduce that feeling as
much as possible. 85% of our trade is over the counter, so
there's no danger of us just going online…
Digger: Please tell us
about your awards and your reputation. And also about your
‘famous’ window displays.
Mark: We were once voted
in Time Out as the 17th best shop in London, but Record Shops
seldom get awards. I think our reward is to still be thriving
after 15 years of turmoil in the music industry, which has
seen 4 out of 5 Record shops close their doors for good. Our
window displays were the brainchild of our resident artist,
who has recently emigrated to Argentina, but don't fret, his
good work is being continued by a talented young lady who is
responsible for our current Andy Warhol themed displays.
Digger: The demise of
vinyl was predicted and, of course, this proved to be totally
wrong. What would you say are the main differences between the
quality of analogue/vinyl compared to digital?
Mark: There are two main
things going for vinyl - the artefact itself and the quality
of the sound reproduction. The artefact can be a beautifully
designed and produced piece of art, both decorative and
informative, which enhances the impact of the album in a way
impossible to replicate on a computer screen - It's similar to
the difference between a quality print of an artwork and a
picture on a computer screen. The quality of digital
reproduction is improving all the time, but Audiophiles still
claim that Vinyl sounds better - warmer and more detailed than
a comparable quality digital reproduction. This is certainly
true when compared to 16 bit CDs, but is more difficult to
argue against 24 bit formats. Also if a recording has been
made digitally in the first place, then vinyl will do no
better in reproducing the sound quality than a digital format.
One other thing that makes vinyl attractive is the 20 minute
playing time per side which is the ideal length for listening
- a CD at 70 minutes + can often not carry the listener
through and encourages bands to fill it up with substandard
Digger: What should
people expect from your service – for example, do you do
sourcing of rarities or buying of collections? What makes you
stand out at Flashback?
Mark: Our customer
service is really important to us. We actively help people to
look for what they want, but aren't able to source directly
for them. We buy collections of any size, but we have to be a
bit selective to keep the quality of the stock in the shops at
a high level. We have a no-quibbles money-back guarantee if
our product is faulty in any way, we have listening booths to
help you choose the right music, but what really makes us
stand out is the quality of the staff I employ. They must have
the right mixture of enthusiasm, knowledge and people skills
to work at Flashback.
Digger: Why is Retro and
Nostalgia in all its forms, and back-catalogue music in
particular, so popular with so many people these days?
Mark: I think Retro and
Nostalgia are not new fads, but are interests that have been
around for many decades if not centuries. There is often a
desire to re-experience the glory days of your youth, and
listening to music from that era, collecting trinkets, trivia
and clothing which remind you of when you were young and free
are a good way to do just that. The other thing is that music
from forty years ago still has some relevance now, far more so
than it did when I was growing up. Its not unusual to go out
and see a bunch of people dancing in a trendy club to music
that was recorded before they were born - and there's no irony
involved, they really love the music.
Digger: What are your
particular retro and music passions Mark? And what is your
Holy Grail from a vinyl collecting point of view?
Mark: I particularly like
virtuoso performances - people who can really play their
instruments well - the lyrics are of far less interest to me.
So in a rock context, my favourites would be the Progressive
bands of the early 70s, such as Yes, ELP and Genesis - once a
dirty word, Prog has been reclaimed and a well known DJ said
on 6music a few days ago :"Who wouldn't want to listen to Tank
by ELP on a Sunday Evening?" A sentiment I have to agree with.
I'm a bit spoilt running a record shop, and there are few
real gems left for me to collect. I'd love to get the fabled
UK release of Van Der Graaf Generator's "Aerosol Grey
Machine". A proof sleeve turned up a few years ago, but a
proper copy has yet to surface.
Digger: What do you most
enjoy about running Flashback?
Mark: I've been running
Flashback for 15 years now and I don't think I've ever not
wanted to come in to work. There's always some new surprise
around the corner - records you never knew existed, records
you knew of but had never heard until someone on the staff
plays them in the shop, chatting to the staff and customers
about their passions - I feel very lucky to be doing something
I enjoy so much with a great bunch of people around me.
Digger: What plans have
you got and where do you see the future for Flashback?
Mark: Recently we started
selling new vinyl, and that has really taken off. We also set
up a record label and are looking for more artists to be
involved with that. The future may involve more expansion in
those areas, the possibility of more shops in London or
further afield, but who knows - at the moment I can't see us
moving too far away from providing our customers with the
music they want in the best format...
Flashback - Vinyl Records
Flashback has two shops
in North London. We specialise in vinyl records, from the
latest releases fresh off the press to rarities and
classics going back sixty years. Our dedicated team of
buyers aim to keep our shops stocked with the widest and
best selection of Rock, Reggae, Soul, Jazz, Rap,
Soundtracks and on and on. We also have a large range of
second hand CDs and DVDs at great prices. We've even
started a record label of our own.
The website is specifically designed to be easily used by
music collectors looking for rare or deleted items on CD
or Vinyl. Loads of quality Vinyl & CDs (Over 4,000 titles
currently). You can search our database by Artist, Title,
Type of Music, Label or anything else you feel moved to.
Alternatively, please visit our shops where you can browse
'the old-fashioned' way at:
50 Essex Road
London N1 8LR, United Kingdom
Tel: 020 7354 9356
144 Crouch Hill
Crouch End, London N8 9DX, United Kingdom
Tel: 020 8342 9633
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