Discovering the hidden treasures within Brunswick’s record stores

Discovering the
hidden treasures within
Brunswick’s record stores

Record Store Day finds three of the suburb’s shops carving their own niches

Words and pictures: Mark Phillips
Wednesday, April 20, 2022

IN an era when tens of thousands of songs can be carried on a device that fits in your pocket and streaming music services offer access to literally millions more, it would be no surprise if record stores suffered the same fate as video libraries, milk bars and bank tellers.

Fifteen years ago, it seemed only a matter of time before record stores went down the same path towards extinction before a revival in popularity of expensively packaged vinyl, often in the form of reissued classics like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours or Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, offered a glimmer of hope.

Against this backdrop, Record Store Day was founded in 2007 in Baltimore, Maryland, to celebrate the role that independent record stores play in their community, spreading within a couple of years to other parts of the world, including Australia.

The 15th annual Record Store Day will be held this Saturday, April 23, and if Brunswick is anything to judge by, the industry has a healthy future.

To celebrate Record Store Day, Brunswick Voice visited three of the suburb’s longest operating record stores to find out who runs them, what kinds of sounds they stock, and what makes them special.

Marsden Williams inside his Lygon Street record shop, Muscle Shoals.

A slice of Americana in Lygon Street

NAMED after a small town in Alabama responsible for some of the most famous recordings of the 20th century, Muscle Shoals Records has been operating at the top end of Lygon Street in Brunswick East for almost two decades.

Marsden Williams opened the store in 2003, combining his passion for roots music with experience gained from having watched his parents run their own antique shop. Now many of the original vinyl records he sells are antiques of their own type.

Muscle Shoals Records

Where: 504 Lygon Street
Hours: 11am-6pm, Wednesday to Sunday
Web: muscle-shoals-records.business.site
Specialising in: Country, roots, Americana

“I just always figured that I would be an antique dealer like my parents were, and this is, I guess, a modern extension,” he says. “And also, I was a musician, and I don’t really know about a lot of stuff but I do know about music. So I put one and two together really on what I should try and do with my life.

“I think you’ll find a lot of record store owners do it for the lifestyle. It’s not a way to print money or anything.”

A musician himself (he writes, records under his own name and plays the Hammond organ for several bands), Williams named the shop in honour of both the “Muscle Shoals sound”, which backed famous recordings by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge and others, and the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, whose alumni include the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Cher, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, George Michael and Black Keys.

Muscle Shoals Records has an eclectic range of used vinyl and CDs, including vintage 45s, of which those on display are only a fraction of the full collection. All genres are represented, although the stock is weighted heavily in favour of Williams’ own preference for classic Americana, including Country & Western and Folk, and roots music can usually be heard blaring from the in-house turntables. He claims to have the largest collection of country music in the southern hemisphere.

Muscle Shoals has an online presence that was invaluable during the periods when the shop was closed during COVID lockdowns, but the physical store is Williams’ main outlet.

“Before I had a store, if I had loose time on my hands, I would go to a record store or a bookstore or an op shop,” he says.

“For me, it’s always been about a quest for knowledge. Learning about that next thing  or finding that record you’ve always been looking for.”

There are very few CDs for sale among the thousands of records within the walls of Muscle Shoals. Williams owns CDs himself, but prefers the sound of vinyl. And don’t get him started on digital formats.

“I don’t like streaming. I don’t like YouTube. I don’t like mp3s. I don’t like bit reduced formats. And if someone sends me something on my phone, I can’t stand listening to things like that.”

NAMED after a small town in Alabama responsible for some of the most famous recordings of the 20th century, Muscle Shoals Records has been operating at the top end of Lygon Street in Brunswick East for almost two decades.

Marsden Williams opened the store in 2003, combining his passion for roots music with experience gained from having watched his parents run their own antique shop. Now many of the original vinyl records he sells are antiques of their own type.

“I just always figured that I would be an antique dealer like my parents were, and this is, I guess, a modern extension,” he says. “And also, I was a musician, and I don’t really know about a lot of stuff but I do know about music. So I put one and two together really on what I should try and do with my life.

“I think you’ll find a lot of record store owners do it for the lifestyle. It’s not a way to print money or anything.”

A musician himself (he writes, records under his own name and plays the Hammond organ for several bands), Williams named the shop in honour of both the “Muscle Shoals sound”, which backed famous recordings by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge and others, and the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, whose alumni include the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Cher, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, George Michael and Black Keys.

Muscle Shoals Records has an eclectic range of used vinyl and CDs, including vintage 45s, of which those on display are only a fraction of the full collection. All genres are represented, although the stock is weighted heavily in favour of Williams’ own preference for classic Americana, including Country & Western and Folk, and roots music can usually be heard blaring from the in-house turntables. He claims to have the largest collection of country music in the southern hemisphere.

Muscle Shoals has an online presence that was invaluable during the periods when the shop was closed during COVID lockdowns, but the physical store is Williams’ main outlet.

“Before I had a store, if I had loose time on my hands, I would go to a record store or a bookstore or an op shop,” he says.

“For me, it’s always been about a quest for knowledge. Learning about that next thing  or finding that record you’ve always been looking for.”

There are very few CDs for sale among the thousands of records within the walls of Muscle Shoals. Williams owns CDs himself, but prefers the sound of vinyl. And don’t get him started on digital formats.

“I don’t like streaming. I don’t like YouTube. I don’t like mp3s. I don’t like bit reduced formats. And if someone sends me something on my phone, I can’t stand listening to things like that.”

Muscle Shoals Records

Where: 504 Lygon Street
Hours: 11am-6pm, Wednesday to Sunday
Website: muscle-shoals-records.business.site
Specialising in: Country, roots, Americana

Renae Maxwell owns Record Paradise with her partner, Paul Allan.

Backing the local indie scene

RECORD Paradise in Sydney Road is quite likely the only place in Melbourne, if not Australia, where you can get a haircut and buy some vinyl under the same roof.

Originally from the Gold Coast, Renae Maxwell and Paul Allan bonded as teenagers over a shared love of independent and post-punk music and moved to Melbourne in the early-1990s.

They have been partners in business as well since buying a second-hand record shop called Warren’s Record Paradise in St Kilda in 2008.

Record Paradise

Where: 159 Sydney Road
Hours: 11am-5pm Tuesday to Sunday; 11am-7pm Friday and Saturday
Phone: 9388 9056
Web: recordparadise.com.au
Specialising in: Australian independent, punk and post-punk  

Dropping ‘Warren’s’ from the name, they moved the store to a warehouse in Union Street, Brunswick in 2013. With the end of their lease approaching and the warehouse earmarked for redevelopment as apartments, they relocated again at the end of 2019 to a large shop in Sydney Road with the record store run by Maxwell in the front and Paradise Cutters hairdressing salon run by Allan in the back.

“St Kilda was really changing while we were there and the demographics were changing a lot and bands were being pushed out,” says Maxwell.

“We were travelling to this side of town all the time to see gigs at places like the Tote and we began looking around Collingwood and Brunswick, but because I knew this area quite well, we ended up here.”

Both Maxwell and Allan have strong ties to Melbourne’s community radio and music scenes – you may have heard them on Triple R from time to time – and they make a point of stocking and supporting independent local pressings.

Riding the wave of the revival in vinyl at the start of last decade, they were among the first stores to stock vinyl LPs by Eddy Current Suppression Ring and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. Courtney Barnett, Amyl and the Sniffers and Cable Ties all launched their early records through in-store performances at Record Paradise.

“A lot of our customers are people who want to support local bands, good quality local music and the local scene,” says Maxwell.

“I’m so proud to have so many Australian records in the shop. There are many people who come in and don’t know half of the artists we stock, but they remember the name so that when they see them performing in a pub they can join the dots.”

Unlike many record shops, Record Paradise stocks more new records than second-hand, has only a small online presence, and avoids selling rarities.

But along with new releases and pristine reissues, it does still have plenty of shelves of used 45s and LPs.

Maxwell knows many of her customers by their faces, if not their names, and has sought to build an inclusive culture that is reflected in a diverse customer base.

“I think that what makes record stores special is that digging [for records] is such a meditative thing,” she says.

“When you’re flicking through records and looking at every cover and almost imagining what it will sound like, just coming in and digging through 5000 records for a few hours is such a good escape from whatever else is going on in life.”

RECORD Paradise in Sydney Road is quite likely the only place in Melbourne, if not Australia, where you can get a haircut and buy some vinyl under the same roof.

Originally from the Gold Coast, Renae Maxwell and Paul Allan bonded as teenagers over a shared love of independent and post-punk music and moved to Melbourne in the early-1990s.

They have been partners in business as well since buying a second-hand record shop called Warren’s Record Paradise in St Kilda in 2008.

Dropping ‘Warren’s’ from the name, they moved the store to a warehouse in Union Street, Brunswick in 2013. With the end of their lease approaching and the warehouse earmarked for redevelopment as apartments, they relocated again at the end of 2019 to a large shop in Sydney Road with the record store run by Maxwell in the front and Paradise Cutters hairdressing salon run by Allan in the back.

“St Kilda was really changing while we were there and the demographics were changing a lot and bands were being pushed out,” says Maxwell.

“We were travelling to this side of town all the time to see gigs at places like the Tote and we began looking around Collingwood and Brunswick, but because I knew this area quite well, we ended up here.”

Both Maxwell and Allan have strong ties to Melbourne’s community radio and music scenes – you may have heard them on Triple R from time to time – and they make a point of stocking and supporting independent local pressings.

Riding the wave of the revival in vinyl at the start of last decade, they were among the first stores to stock vinyl LPs by Eddy Current Suppression Ring and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. Courtney Barnett, Amyl and the Sniffers and Cable Ties all launched their early records through in-store performances at Record Paradise.

“A lot of our customers are people who want to support local bands, good quality local music and the local scene,” says Maxwell.

“I’m so proud to have so many Australian records in the shop. There are many people who come in and don’t know half of the artists we stock, but they remember the name so that when they see them performing in a pub they can join the dots.”

Unlike many record shops, Record Paradise stocks more new records than second-hand, has only a small online presence, and avoids selling rarities.

But along with new releases and pristine reissues, it does still have plenty of shelves of used 45s and LPs.

Maxwell knows many of her customers by their faces, if not their names, and has sought to build an inclusive culture that is reflected in a diverse customer base.

“I think that what makes record stores special is that digging [for records] is such a meditative thing,” she says.

“When you’re flicking through records and looking at every cover and almost imagining what it will sound like, just coming in and digging through 5000 records for a few hours is such a good escape from whatever else is going on in life.”

Record Paradise

Where: 159 Sydney Road
Hours: 11am-5pm Tuesday to Sunday; 11am-7pm Friday and Saturday
Phone: 9388 9056
Website: recordparadise.com.au
Specialising in: Australian independent, punk and post-punk

Round and Round co-owner Dave Lang.

A source for rare grooves and much-loved favourites

VENTURE behind the colourful cartoon mural painted on the front windows of Round and Round in Sydney Road, and you will soon be lost in a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of obscure and rare records, where the small space is crammed with wooden crates spilling over with vinyl creating narrow aisles barely wide enough for a person to pass through.

Jeff Wybrow opened the store in the block between Blyth and Stewart streets in 2009, initially on the western side of the road before moving to other side in the middle of last decade. Over the years, he has been joined by current co-owners Joe Cowan and David Lang.

Round and Round

Where: 556 Sydney Road
Hours: 11am-5pm, Sunday to Wednesday; 11am-6pm Thursday and Friday; 10am-6pm Saturday.
Phone: 9380 5095
Web: roundandroundrecords.com
Specialising in: Prog rock, Krautrock, experimental music

Lang, who works behind the counter midweek and is responsible for store’s entertaining and informative Facebook page, came on board in 2013 leaving behind a high stress job at a record company. 

“It was one of the smartest things I’ve done. The store makes a good living,” he says. “It’s a good life, I’m doing what I love.” And of course, he gets to listen to whatever he wants, which depending on his mood may be jazz, blues, prog or punk.

The Round and Round team take pride that they sell second-hand records in genres that are extremely difficult to get elsewhere, with stocks of prog rock, Krautrock an experimental music in particular that are second to none.

“We do second hand and new, and we’re both a general and a specialist store,” says Lang. “We will sell the most obtuse stuff, but also the perennials like Rumours and Dark Side of the Moon are always going to be in stock.

“We always try to get new interesting things all the time, but there’s also the second hand element. That’s kind of the kind of the point of difference, like any store can just order new releases. Like you just get an account with the distributors and buy new releases.

“But actually securing interesting second hand stuff is the trick. It’s not easy, but you’ve got to do it.”

Lang has no doubt that record shops will continue to thrive even while streaming grows and grows. He streams music himself, using it as a sort of buying tool to sample new sounds before seeking out the real thing on vinyl or CD. But he says the solitary activity of streaming music is no match for visiting a record store.

“It’s just got personality, you know: it’s the conversations, it’s the flicking through the shelves,” he says. “We do have regular customers who come in, we have a great chat and they almost apologise for not buying something that visit. And I go, ‘that’s okay, you’re not obligated. I’m just happy to see you and have a good talk’.”

VENTURE behind the colourful cartoon mural painted on the front windows of Round and Round in Sydney Road, and you will soon be lost in a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of obscure and rare records, where the small space is crammed with wooden crates spilling over with vinyl creating narrow aisles barely wide enough for a person to pass through.

Jeff Wybrow opened the store in the block between Blyth and Stewart streets in 2009, initially on the western side of the road before moving to other side in the middle of last decade. Over the years, he has been joined by current co-owners Joe Cowan and David Lang.

Lang, who works behind the counter midweek and is responsible for store’s entertaining and informative Facebook page, came on board in 2013 leaving behind a high stress job at a record company. 

“It was one of the smartest things I’ve done. The store makes a good living,” he says. “It’s a good life, I’m doing what I love.” And of course, he gets to listen to whatever he wants, which depending on his mood may be jazz, blues, prog or punk.

The Round and Round team take pride that they sell second-hand records in genres that are extremely difficult to get elsewhere, with stocks of prog rock, Krautrock an experimental music in particular that are second to none.

“We do second hand and new, and we’re both a general and a specialist store,” says Lang. “We will sell the most obtuse stuff, but also the perennials like Rumours and Dark Side of the Moon are always going to be in stock.

“We always try to get new interesting things all the time, but there’s also the second hand element. That’s kind of the kind of the point of difference, like any store can just order new releases. Like you just get an account with the distributors and buy new releases.

“But actually securing interesting second hand stuff is the trick. It’s not easy, but you’ve got to do it.”

Lang has no doubt that record shops will continue to thrive even while streaming grows and grows. He streams music himself, using it as a sort of buying tool to sample new sounds before seeking out the real thing on vinyl or CD. But he says the solitary activity of streaming music is no match for visiting a record store.

“It’s just got personality, you know: it’s the conversations, it’s the flicking through the shelves,” he says. “We do have regular customers who come in, we have a great chat and they almost apologise for not buying something that visit. And I go, ‘that’s okay, you’re not obligated. I’m just happy to see you and have a good talk’.”

Round and Round

Where: 556 Sydney Road
Hours: 11am-5pm, Sunday to Wednesday; 11am-6pm Thursday and Friday; 10am-6pm Saturday.
Phone: 9380 5095
Website: roundandroundrecords.com
Specialising in: Prog rock, Krautrock, experimental music

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