To mark Record Store Day, the annual global celebration of independent music retailers, Alan Corr looks back at his own journey through the vinyl, CD and cassette racks  

It all began for me in Dolphin Discs in Dundrum Shopping Centre in the Dublin of the late 1970s. In this suburban Aladdin’s cave I discovered a whole new world of 45s, strange album covers that only hinted at the wonders within, and that there was far more to The Beatles than the Red and Blue Albums.

However, for the record, as it were, the first single I ever bought was You Don’t Bring Me Flowers by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond in 1978. I was ten years old and it was a present for my mother, ok? Cred was restored soon after with my first LP purchase - Ry Cooder’s 1979 album Bop Til you Drop.   

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By the time I was in my mid-teens, I had graduated to Freebird Record, which was then located in a dingy basement on Dublin’s ironically named Eden Quay. It was here that I began to encounter that beast of the vinyl and cassette racks - the hardened record store bloke (and it was always a bloke), those somewhat supercilious gatekeepers of cool who would later come to be embodied in Barry, the contemptuous music snob and slob in Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity.

Thanks to many "Barrys" down the years, I have left record shops clutching many still prized albums, including Guns N’ Roses 1987 debut, the complete works of Hüsker Dü, and, well, everything by The Beatles.

Then again, in several record shops of the 1980s my requests for Steely Dan were often met with an eyes-to-heaven reproof of, "Nooo, you mean Steeleye Span" and then there was the well-meaning bloke who pointed me to the REO Speedwagon section, when I asked for R.E.M. in a Dublin’s Ilac Centre sometime in the mid-eighties. Incidentally, R.E.M.’s guitarist Peter Buck used to work in a record shop.

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Back then, it was a rarefied world of picture discs, gate-fold sleeves and orange vinyl. Now we live in the Spotify generation, a world of clickable instant gratification where the triumph of streaming has endangered the physical artifact and given record shops existential chills. It's worth noting that ten years ago Ireland had more record shops per capita than anywhere else in the world.

With the arrival of illegal streaming sites at the dawn of the new millennium, actual bricks and mortar music shops - in many ways the canary in the coalmine of the digital revolution - began to really feel the freeze. If the record industry warned us back in the seventies, complete with skull and crossbones imagery, that "home taping was killing music", the likes of streaming, piracy and YouTube began to leave record shops on their knees.

Now we live in the Spotify generation, a world of clickable instant gratification where the triumph of streaming has endangered the physical artifact and given record shops existential chills. 

In the music business, analogue dollars have long become digital dimes. As David Bowie predicted in 2002, music has become like running water or electricity. Bowie? Oh yeah, he also used to work in a record shop too.

However, the fight back has been staunch and has been paying off these past few years. There is a whole weekend dedicated to the joy of vinyl in Dublin’s Royal Hospital in May, new Irish pressing plant Dublin Vinyl has been in operation since December, music shops are popping up all over Ireland, and, of course, today is Record Store Day, the annual global celebration of independent music retailers. It’s now in its 11th year and  46 Irish music shops are taking part.  

The digital revolution has sucked some of the mystery out of buying music and made it a sterile environment of frazzled attention spans and sensory overload.

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However, it has also made the humble record shop even more of a sacred site and a place of pilgrimage for crate diggers and obsessives - a communal hub to network and hear about gigs and upcoming albums and not just pick up an album or three.

Record Store Day is Christmas for music lovers so let’s join forces today and flip that record over again. Now, where did I put that REO Speedwagon album...?

Alan Corr @corralan

Go here for the full list of Irish music shops taking part in Record Store Day