I know I’m not alone in saying that I was a little sceptical about Record Store Day (RSD) when it first emerged. My friend and former colleague Jon Hillcock was excited about it and while I did mention it on the show I didn’t go to a shop that first year.
As someone who goes record shopping every week it seemed a little silly to single out one day as extra special. I had other quibbles - it’s ‘shop’ not ‘store’ and too much of what was on offer seemed like a ‘cash in’ or exploitation of an already dedicated dying breed. But the lure of those exciting exclusives proved too hard to resist and I happily joined the queues the following year.
Banquet Records in Kingston was my chosen destination and it was there that I really saw the light about how valuable Record Store Day could be. Speaking to co-owner of the shop Jon Tolley on the day, he explained that this was their old fashioned Christmas sales spike in one go, that RSD helped the shop survive for the rest of the year. Beyond the sense of fun and camaraderie that I felt around me, the survival of record shops really resonated with me. The demise and disappearance of the record shop from the high street has been a saddening and chastening development. Particularly as someone who knows, through working in radio, that there is no end of amazing new music being created. I, along with many others, had taken record shops for granted for too many years. By supporting them on Record Store Day I felt I could help the fight back.
I mention all this as I know some people still feel cynical about Record Store Day. I saw responses and comments in the press and on Twitter, following the announcement of the Bowie RSD releases a few weeks back, and also conversations I’ve had with other DJs who, like me, still go record shopping regularly. Anything that generates income, interest and involvement in our record shops has to be a good thing. They are centres of learning, entertainment and community or at least they can be, and Record Store Day highlights this. And let’s not forget you can pick up some amazing music. I still cherish and play the Zomby rave album from a couple of years back, as well as the fantastic Mystery Jets live album released last year. It’s important to buck the trend in de-valuing music that has developed since the world went digital.
This is why I’m delighted to be involved in Record Store Day this year not just as a punter, but as someone who has helped put together an actual release. I am lucky enough to have been able to compile an album of session highlights from my XFM radio show, X-Posure. The ‘XFM X-Posure Sessions On Vinyl’ album is a selection of 12 of my favourite session tracks from the last couple of years. It’s an all British cast of new and new-ish bands and artists such as Savages, Toy, Anna Calvi and Daughter, to name a few. I had to come up with some criteria to narrow the selection process just a little bit. X-Posure has hosted sessions from Adele to Wire over the years, so keeping it recent and upcoming seemed the sensible thing to do. I like to think that it flows well, a bit like my radio show (!), and that there are a few surprises on there like Glitches, Landshapes and Wrongtom & Deemas J that people might be hearing for the first time.
But really the most important aspect of the release is that it is being put out to support the charity War Child. The album is yours for a donation to War Child. A minimum of £10 seems like a bargain to me (although £20 would be even more helpful). For me, this album is a bit special. A vital document of the diversity and excellence of new British talent that has walked into the XFM session studio, all recorded by our extraordinarily adaptable engineer and producer Chris Denman. This is a piece of vinyl treasure. It won’t be digitally available. Up until now you’ve only been able to hear these versions on the airwaves. Now they have been turned into a physical object, a tactile thing of beauty that rewards all the senses. An ideal Record Store Day release and worthy of being the one reason to join the queues on the 19th April!
John Kennedy, XFM
X-Posure Mon-Thu 10pm–1am