Why Lancashire is falling back in love with vinyl records

Vinyl Groove Cafe photo 2am, Lancashire

Vinyl Groove Cafe photo 2am, Lancashire - Credit: Archant

Popular demand has turned the tables so much that old-fashioned vinyl is now growing in popularity at a phenominal rate. Roger Borrell reports

Vinyl Groove Cafe photo 2am, Lancashire

Vinyl Groove Cafe photo 2am, Lancashire - Credit: Archant

They say what comes around, goes around and that’s particularly true of the music industry and in the most literal way.

Suddenly, people are buying vinyl records again. Recent statistics show sales rising by almost 70 per cent and a niche trade previously worth £3 million a year has suddenly mushroomed to something well in excess of £20 million.

And it’s not just old timers who grew up with the crackle of a well-loved LP being ruined by a worn needle. Young people, who have known nothing but CDs and digital music – much of it free – are falling in love with good old-fashioned records.

Gordon Gibson, who runs Action Records in Preston, said: ‘There’s no doubt there is a big revival going on. Young people are picking up a piece of vinyl, admiring the artwork and enjoying the feel of it.

Vinyl Groove Cafe photo 2am, Lancashire

Vinyl Groove Cafe photo 2am, Lancashire - Credit: Archant

‘We had a kid in the shop who was so inspired by vinyl he spent £800 on equipment to play his records. Older people are getting back into it, too, and record companies are pressing discs again.’

Not far away in Friargate, Audio T sells turntables ranging in price from just over £120 to well over £5,000. ‘There is a definite upturn in sales of turntables,’ said salesman and vinyl fan Andy Greenhalgh. ‘I’ve been collecting records since I was seven and I’m now 44 so it’s a subject close to my heart. I can tell you vinyl has always been the best for sound quality. Even the highest resolution digital files lack that personal touch. They just don’t have the soul of a record.’

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All revivalists need somewhere to worship and that’s one of the reasons Vinyl Groove was opened in Lytham by Ian Barnett, who confesses to having 500 records a home. The café’s unique selling point is that it also has racks selling new vinyl releases. Between the rows of record sleeves is a record turntable which plays vinyl through a highly sophisticated Sonos system, which Ian also sells from a customised flat above the shop. It gives customers the best of both worlds.

There is no mistaking the exterior of the café, which is on the corner of Queen Street. With the help of a chap called ‘Brian the Brush’, Ian has had a huge record painted on the side wall alongside some of the lyrics from Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones.

Inside, a little psychodelia is mixed with a lot of upmarket fixtures and fittings and, in between the Farrow & Ball colours, are striking works of art featuring portraits of pop gods like John Lennon, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix made by acclaimed modern artist Ben Riley from recycled vinyl singles.

Ian, who lives in Clayton-le-Woods, started his career as a chef, working in some Michelin-star kitchens before going to work for American hi-fi giants Sonos. He was in charge of sales across Scandinavia.

‘After 20 years in audio I decided to follow a dream of mine and open a record shop,’ said Ian, 48. ‘I couldn’t find the right location and then saw this place was on the market.’

After running it for several months in its old incarnation, he made major changes to incorporate his passions – records, high quality food and drink, great service and cool interior design. ‘People joked that yet another coffee shop was just what Lytham needed,’ laughed Ian. ‘I had to create something that was going to stand out from the crowd, something that would make people walk that extra few minutes to find something different.’

Vinyl Groove, based in what was Lytham’s first pub back in the 1860s, has certainly created a stir, attracting an interesting mix of clientele. ‘Certainly, when I first came here, the demographic of the trade was older but we are getting younger people in now and we’ve just had our 50th review on TripAdvisor.

‘But people shouldn’t get the idea that we are a rowdy place playing loud music. That’s definitely not the case.’

Ian has a ten-strong team making and serving delicious cakes and excellent breakfasts and lunches with quality drinks all served in specially designed crockery bearing a special coffee cup and record motif.

In the background, you’ll hear great music and, I’m told, if you are lucky enough to be the last in before closing time at around 5pm there’s a chance you might get to choose the last song of the day.