Record shops, Reggae and Norway, a guide for the vinyl lover.
Holidays, holidays, precious time spent with your family visiting exciting and interesting foreign lands! But we all have that itch, well I do. I can’t go to a foreign country without trying to visit as many record shops as possible, maybe with the hope of picking up some gem that is not appreciated by the locals. What’s the harm in taking some time out from the sightseeing and going on a bit of a vinyl safari?
Recently I was on holiday in Norway, four days in Oslo and three in Bergen, joined together by the most glorious seven hour train journey through the snow-capped mountains and wilds of rural Norway. If you get the chance do the ride, the scenery is absolutely stunning. In fact if you get the chance to travel to Norway do, it’s a great country, with friendly people and things just work so well there. It’s organised and logical but without the health and safety handholding you get in the UK. Just take some cash, lot’s of cash, it is expensive, £2.50 for a can of coke anyone?
I identified three main records shops in Oslo which looked worth a visit, each one with a different style and feel. First up was Råkk og rålls a very traditional second-hand shop, with loads and loads and piles of vinyl. The sort of place that you could shop for hours in. But as I discovered and was probably not that surprised about, Reggae is not well represented in Norway. A very slim section downstairs offered little more than the obvious bigger selling artists like Bob Marley and Eddy Grant. This was going to become a theme of the trip, although they did have a row of ska 7″ upstairs but again not much to temp me. The shop is worth visiting for the depth of stock of other genres, unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to do it justice. I was nearly tempted by some Big Audio Dynamite 12″s but that was not quite what I was looking for this trip. The staff were not very chatty, which is something that does bug me in small record stores, good customer service is the lifeblood of specialist shops, you have got to build up some customer loyalty. I always cite the lovely Pure Vinyl as a top example of how to create a real community record shop.
Verdict – Give them a visit, prices are reasonable but as there is so much dig through allow yourself a few hours!
Big Dipper, Oslo cool record shop #1
Big Dipper was the busiest shop by far and mainly stocked new and reissue vinyl. The reggae section again was small but had some good quality stuff, it was certainly well-selected. At the back of the shop was a rack of second-hand vinyl and not wanting to come away from Oslo empty-handed, I picked up the Randy’s Dub compilation for about £8. This LP had already done some travelling as it had a Berlin record shop price sticker on the inside of the sleeve!
You probably know the feeling of ‘nearly records’, those that look good but are not quite good enough to make you part with your cash. A Peter Broggs album and an interesting looking dub poet nearly made the trip back with me.
Most interesting though was the rack of old Record Store Day stock that was worth a rummage and I so wanted a cool ‘It Takes a Million’ box set, but at 1000NOK (£85) it was a bit too steep. They also had a good range of turntables and accessories which did make it the most complete record shop of my trip.
Verdict – Extremely cool shop, they even have a John Peel quote on their carrier bags. The guy serving seemed a nice bloke, he let me leave some flyers despite their no flyer policy. I perhaps should have spent more time chatting but it was bizarrely 28 degrees in Oslo that day and I couldn’t leave my family to fry outside for too long!
My last Oslo record shop was The Garden. A very nice looking stylish shop and again a vinyl specialist. It’s very organised, new and reissue on the ground floor while the basement has thousands of second-hand records. Norway is an expensive country to shop in and vinyl prices follow that trend. There was a small but decent selection of new reggae including some Trojan and King Tubby, like Big Dipper it was well-selected. Most releases were around the 250NOK mark which is about £21, so a little over UK prices.
The second-hand stock downstairs had loads of dance, soul and hip-hop but again very little reggae, mostly compilations if my memory serves me right.
Verdict – Worth a visit if dance or hip-hop is your thing, I am kicking myself for not buying Manchester band Age of Chance’s cover of Kiss on 12″. The guy on the till was friendly but not overly chatty although again he did let me put some promotional flyers on the counter for the blog. The Garden is a modern-day second-hand store, well stocked and again a must visit on your vinyl trail.
City two on my trip was Bergen, a beautiful port city on the west coast. It is more lively and rowdy than Oslo and seems to have a much higher tourist population. The main record store in Bergen is Apollon which has the look and feel of a small Rough Trade shop. In fact it wouldn’t have looked out-of-place on Brick Lane amongst the beardy hipsters.
It had a good stock of vinyl although the main attraction seemed to be the bar, they also have a side area for live bands and there was one playing when I visited. The reggae section was small, see the header picture, again well curated but nothing that I didn’t have already.
Like Big Dipper the most interesting stuff was the ex Record Store Day stock. The double vinyl re-issue of C86 (indie fans should know that one) was tempting but at 499NOK (£42) was way too steep.
Verdict – I would have liked the chance to have a chat with the staff about the shop, but with it being Saturday afternoon and a live gig going on it wasn’t the best time for questions. Definitely worth a visit particularly if you want to try some home-grown Norsk music, they had a good range of t-shirts as well.
Reggae free zone
I hope this short guide helps if you are planning a trip to Norway. I love the way vinyl is still an important format over there. Unsurprisingly with Norway not being very multicultural, reggae has not made the inroads as in the UK and mainland Europe. That is not to say it isn’t appreciated and I am sure if you dig deep beneath the surface, the reggae culture is there. There can’t be a single country in Europe without some kind of sound system culture.
But in the land of salmon, snow, ice and beautiful blonde people, rock, metal and plinky plonky electronica is king. That’s fine though, different strokes for different folks……
Bless, Paper Lion
Please share this if you can on social media and please get in touch if you are part of the Norwegian reggae scene, I would love to hear from you.