In my travels throughout the UK, Spain, Italy, and those few US states I’ve ventured into, I’m usually drawn to backstreet, classy recorded music stores. Malaga, Almeria, Rennes or Pamploma, they’re there, hidden, racked sounds and tracks tacked to the walls. Album covers, prices unsurprisingly high, bootlegs and rare groove, second hand bargain basements. This pandemic left me fearful there’d be a vinyl murder and live music slaughter. With hard copies, off-line sounds, readily available, Google, search, scan, scroll, click, and 24hrs later, London’s Called and is on your turntable or in the CD draw.
I feared for the independents, in my own home town the SEVEN, or EIGHT stores available 15 years ago, was down to THREE and Half, Windows was more instruments, with a CD vinyl side line. My heart soared as each re-opened, the same faces, the same filing systems - Jethro Tull in “T”, and Mahvishnu Orchestra, in Rock, all part of a searcher’s delight. There’s no “people who bought - - also bought…” that in it’s own way reduces music’s soul.
In the local stores, there’s a chance to sample something new, allow an artist to earn more than 1/40 of a penny for a track played… You get the idea. I thought these echoes of my youth, independent stores, were slowly dying, as their Toon traveller aged customers, people like me, moved from houses to care homes, and their collections ended up in charity shops, or ebay pages for the good stuff, and homemade glass coasters for the crap.
Surprise and delight soared a few days ago after a reflective winter sun basking on the Costa del Tyne , that’s Whitley Bay, Newcastle’s own beached playground, a revelation, Mama Roux Records. At first I wondered, ‘part of film set?’ Seen that before. But no lights, no cameras and very little action on a late winter Thursday. Peered in, pushed in and entered a familiar world, racks of new and old Vinyl, and CDs, T shirts, and odd posters, some for sale, some certainly not.
Mama Roux’s records are sorted and arranged in a err umm eclectic way, with some strange choices, lot’s of early Elton John, and a great range of 80s hairy rock and 90’s post punk, The Vaccines next to Van Morrison, you get the idea. Thrown at first, this is no HMV, sadly the only choice for many towns, and worse, out of towns, but a real mix mash of new and old sounds, what an independent music store has to be.
Ewan and Steve run Mama Roux Records, young and passionate about all music, open hearted, with an unhassled welcome, long beards and hair, and the “T” shirts give a hint as to their passions and loves. But don’t be fooled, this pair know a lot, in that effusive, enthusiastic way, that makes you want to take your time, finger the covers and cases. One wall had Massive Attack and the Mad Professor, Vinyl; and a true classic, Malcolm X - No Sell Out, memories, memories up on wall, a whole wall of barely remembered people, and ‘til now, forgotten delights.
I picked up a Lowell Fulson compilation, it was wonderful.
Great thing is, Mama Roux has found their niche in the area’s music shops, with the more heads down rock, and post punk sounds. But don’t let that put you off, they are brilliantly informed, and will order stuff for you. But it’s the mixed up sections that I love, the way that artists, and styles are mashed up - not totally random, but not regimented either, and it’s in these crevices, these idiosyncrasies that charm and discovery lie. Think a jazz band playing around with My Favourite Things, there’s the familiar, unexpected, and unknown, and therein lies the shop’s beauty and charm.
Mama Roux Records in Whitley Bay may seem a long way away, but it’s only 300 miles and 31/2 hours train and metro from London. But if you’re UK staycationing, then follow a host tour guide websites, hip travel pages, and blogs to one of the premier UK holiday hot spots. Northumberland and Tyneside. Walk the promenade, surf the Tynemouth Longsands, dine at the Spanish City, get your sounds at Mama Roux, and evening pints with live music at the Fat Ox, or open mike at the intimate Metro Ticket Office bar. Take an adventure and ride 30 minutes into Newcastle’s live music venues slowly reviving after lockdown.
Shops like Mama Roux need our support. Local bands can build following, and word of mouth spread, these shops matter, and like bands taking a musical leap, this young duo are taking a big risk, so if you’re up at the Tyne or it’s coast, get your feet shuffling and cards flexing and snap up some “hard copies” – the campaign to “Keep Music Hard copied, and Live” needs to start now, and Mama Roux Records are in the vanguard of these initiatives.
Mama Roux Record Shop
293 Whitley Rd, Whitley Bay NE26 2SN, UK.