Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The search for vinyl in Memphis: Shangri-La Records

It would be hard for me to visit a city like Memphis, so rich in musical history, and not go on the hunt for a few soul 45s and a couple of southern garage records. It would be like being in Pontedera, Italy and not stopping by the Piaggio factory.

Things have changed slightly since I first started seeking out record stores while on vacation in various American cities. Now that I have a considerable amount of the "classics" in my collection, I gradually eased over to the more collectable and rare stuff. You never saw me pay over 30$ for a 7" before. Now, if the track is, as my mate Eric Colin would say a "Monster", I’m ready to part with my hard earned cash. One important criteria remains, it has to be a tune you'll dance to. Moving feet and sweat are part of the equation.

So I did my usual homework and surfed the web to find the best record shops Memphis had to offer. I also asked the kind Memphians, every chance I got, if they had any recommendations. One name kept popping up: Shangri-La Records. Situated midtown, we took the historic wooden tramway from downtown to the last stop. From there, it's a brisk 20-minute walk to the store at 1916 Madison Avenue.
As soon as you walk through the door of this converted house, you are faced with a few shelves of desirable soul and rock 45s. There's a sizeable amount of rare tracks up for grabs. How do I know they are rare? It says so on the box!
In the adjacent room, you'll find all your favorite northern soul artists and labels well categorized in different sections. If you are heavy into Stax, you will be well served. Chances are you'll find what you are looking for. Make sure you have a look at their smaller but well garnished 60s garage section on the nearby wall. A turntable is also at your disposal.

I didn't leave with a boatload of records but I'm very satisfied with the quality of the merchandise. Andrew was also very kind and helpful. Always make sure you ask him to see the pricey items he has behind the counter. Starting at around 30$ a 45, you'll find a few dozen mint copies of the really cool stuff. Ask nicely and he'll play a few for you.

I had a quick look at the LP section and was very pleased to find a nice copy of The Young Holt Trio's album Wack Wack. The title song being one of my favorite soul instrumental tracks, along with Green Onions of course, I didn't hesitate to add it to my half a dozen singles. It was only once I got home that I realized that I had actually bought a never opened, sealed copy of the album. The plastic being ripped in the top corner led me to believe that the album wasn't sealed and I hadn't even bothered looking at the condition of the record before purchasing it.

My only complaint is about having price tags being partly put on the label of the 45s. When I carefully peeled off the 30$ price tag off a mint copy of a Sunny & the Sunliners 7", the label was slightly damaged. The only consolation is that it's on the B-side.

These are some of the treasures I left with.

Hip Huggin Mini - Sunny & the Sunliners - RPR Records

Love Power - The Sandpebbles - Calla Records

The Volumes - You got It Baby - Inferno Records

Look What You've Done To My Heart - Shirley & The Shirelles - Bell Records

With My Love And What You've Got - Jean Wells - Calla Records