Eight of the Greatest - Melbourne Vinyl Fixes
Here at Instant Classic, as you'd rightly expect, we have a number of vinyl fanatics. Individually, we got into the hobby in a myriad of different ways. Some of us inherited a small collection from our parents, a few received LPs as birthday gifts at some point in our teenage years and stumbled into the hobby.
My collection started after an impulse purchase from the merch stand at a Nine Inch Nails concert back in 2008.
And, of course, the musical tastes of our staffers stretch far and wide. We have a couple of pop fiends, a few indieheads, one diehard metalhound who scowls at the rest of us a lot, one trap fanatic, two whose collections are composed almost exclusively of film scores and classical, and those of us who dabble in almost every pond, as long as that pond doesn't contain any American heartland country.
Given the eclecticism of these tastes, you could reasonably assume that if you extrapolated the data out onto the Australian music-loving populace, you'd want a few different sources from which to get your vinyl fix. So we've put together a list for ya'll.
Keep in mind that we're Melbourne-based; that's where the research was done and the knowledge is. This list isn't definitive, but since many of you are using this platform as the vehicle for the beginnings of your vinyl voyage, we thought it'd be some help having a starter's compass.
All of these navigation terms lead nicely into the other feature of this blog. There's a friendly little map just below that plots out the locations of the stores we're profiling. We've embedded it into the blog so you can take a look at what's in your area. We've tried to offer a good spread of genre specialties across as big a geographical area as possible, though it's a fact that a lot of the best stores in Melbourne are in and around the inner north, so there's some bias that way. Take a peek, classiques.
313A Smith Street, Fitzroy
This has to be one of the most obscure stores on our list in terms of rarity of product. At this Smith Street vinyl mecca you'll find a disparate blend of jazz, funk, punk, dub, hip hop, and soul. Aside from being an excellent place to dig the crates, it's also terrific for music conversation with the staff or the locals. At any one time the store will have 10,000 or so records to flick through, evenly split between 33s and 45s. Impressive.
Owner Ari Roze is an all round good bloke and super knowledgeable on just about everything in the store. And if there's anything he's not sure on, his cadre of staff are all fanatical about finding you something you probably won't find anywhere else. Plug Seven is a treasure trove of the world's deep cuts, and a testament to why vinyl trumps streaming services every day of the week.
152 Greville Street, Prahran
If you're already in the process of building a collection, then you probably know about Greville Records. It's truly a Melbourne institution. If I lived closer it'd be my local, but it's over the river and.... let's not make this political. The store itself has the feel of a music fanatic's lounge room, there's memorabilia from all number of classic releases and Australian tours.
An impressive roster of bands has played shows at the shop since it opened back in the 70s, and aside from the enormous collection of 33s and 45s that adorn their shelves, there's also a ton of books, DVDs, T-shirts and other music-related knick knacks. And owner Warwick Brown is a deeply knowledgeable and friendly guy, so if you need advice or just want to chat about your favourite bands, there's plenty here for beginners and lifelong collectors alike.
236 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
If it's got soul, then there's a strong chance you'll find it here. Northside Records owner Chris Gill keeps a seriously busy schedule, running a local record label that specialises in local funk and soul artists, as well as holding a regular guest spot on RRR, a local independent radio station. He's also been playing live DJ sets from the store to keep us dancing during lockdown.
Gill is a lover of all things hip hop, funk, Afrobeat and reggae, and has a solid offering of DJ gear strewn about the store too. There's often in store performances from bands on his label as well as touring artists, and the store marks the southernmost point of the Smith & Johnston golden vinyl mile so there's loads of other stores to check out while you're in the area. And if all that digging has left your gut empty and your tongue parched, there's a slew of excellent pubs including the Builders Arms Hotel and The Union nearby too.
Round and Round Records
556 Sydney Road, Brunswick
Round and Round is a bit of an Instant Classic staff favourite. We'd never advise against a good chat with a record store owner or staffer, but sometimes we just want to throw our headphones on, cruise down Sydney Road, and do some solipsistic song searching. Round and Round is the perfect store for this, because they have terrific little labels adhered to every record sleeve in the store that give a concise read on what is contained within the sleeve.
It's quite a small space, but an inviting one too, and whilst we wouldn't say it has a particular specialty it pulls off eclecticism with considerable success. We'd strongly suggest checking out their Krautrock and Italian prog sections, we've made quite a few treasured discoveries thumbing through over the years.
269 Johnston Street, Abbotsford
The guys at Dutch Vinyl work from a bit of a different record store playbook. The store has a very clean, very tasteful aesthetic. There's no memorabilia, no posters, no denim jackets. Just a very carefully and considerately curated batch of new and second hand records, which are in unfailingly immaculate condition. It's a bountiful space, in both dimensions and LPs, and the north-facing glass doors allow for a really beautiful sun soaked dig in the Melbourne midwinter.
They also have an absolutely killer turntable setup, so if you're ever feeling curious about how your prospective purchase is going to sound on a system you'll probably never own, here's your store. Seriously though, it's a lovely space to sit and people watch for a couple of hours of an afternoon with some stunning sounding tunes soundtracking your day.
8/660A Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn
The vibe at Alley Tunes is decidedly crustier than most other record stores in Melbourne, and we mean in that in the most endearing way possible. Tucked underneath the platforms of Glenferrie train station and housed right next to the Swinburne University of Technology, Alley Tunes is something of a surprise. The wealthy, upmarket locality might have you expecting a Mercedes-driving, caviar-eating clientele but instead the store is usually packed with uni students digging through the well stocked crates of hip hop, jazz, and house.
There’s some terrific Euro-centric LPs and electronic 45s here and the staff are always keen to guide you. They also run a cafe from the front of the store, so you can enjoy an espresso whilst you dig. One piece of advice though, if you’re planning to frequent Alley Tunes, invest in some sort of vinyl cleaner. The records here can be a little crusty straight off the shelves, but the rewards of Italo disco and Balearic house that are ready to be reaped are well worth the effort.
Shop 2 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street
If you’ve ever been to Tokyo and spent time travelling on its mind-bending underground network of trains, Wax Museum might invoke a tickle of nostalgia. The first time I visited I was reminded of the many hole-in-the-wall ramen bars that populate the city’s underground. It’s nestled underneath the platforms of Flinders Street Station, like a vinyl nirvana carved out of the tiled walls of some magical underground cavern.
The music contained within the vinyl selection at Wax Museum seems to mirror its surrounds. Much of it has an ‘underground’ feel; shelves are stocked with jazz, techno, dubstep (the South London variety, not wobbly frat boy brostep), funk, footwork… the list goes on. The next time you’ve got fifteen minutes to kill while you wait for your train, we advise you head below deck and spend your time flipping through their bounty. It’s time well spent.
2A / 2B Milne Road, Mont Albert North
What makes Discrepancy Records unique? Their library is MASSIVE with over 100,000(!) titles from which to buy online, and they are true box set / special edition / hard to find pros. Hidden amongst leafy surrounds in Mont Albert in Melbourne’s north west, they’re also the key wax providers for a massive swathe of the eastern suburbs that would otherwise go vinyl hungry.
Slip into the store and you’ll often be greeted by store Spaniel Louis, who adds a nice homely touch to an otherwise functional space. Most of Discrepancy’s trade happens online, but the store is still well worth a visit, not just for the LP selection but also for their ‘Discrepancy Gallery’ which houses a fine selection of vintage cinema posters and pop culture-centric artworks.
Of course, there's tons of other outstanding stores that haven't made this particular list which are well worth seeking out, but these present you with a powerful vantage from which to begin. Good digging friends.