His shop is famous for its jumbled layout and vast collection. But it all started with a handful of records and a simple love of music for a Nottingham record shop owner celebrating four decades in vinyl in 2017. Alice Watkins found Rob Smith beneath the banana boxes and asked him why his industry is so culturally invincible.
The tables have turned twice on Vinyl in the 40 years Rob Smith has been buying and selling LPs.
Now that vinyl’s breaking records again Rob says his love for the format will never get old.
We live in a digital age, yet for many the desire for a tangible, physical object persists.
Whether you’re a seasoned vinyl fanatic, or you’re only just building up your collection, Rob’s Record Mart, tucked away in Hurts Yard, is a firm fixture on Nottingham’s road map of backstreet gems.
Containing an estimated 200,000 records, in a shop floor area no bigger than your average living room, if you’re willing to look beyond the chaos you’re bound to find a forgotten favourite.
Rob says he always wanted to own a record shop and decided to seize the opportunity when it arose back in 1980.
Rob, 63, says: “It was a very modest collection back in the day. I had about four crates of Northern Soul and about six of the pop golden oldies. But it quickly grew and we soon filled the place up with LPs.”
Every customer that comes into the shop is faced with the task of searching through endless boxes and records piled up high to the ceiling.
Rob says: “People definitely enjoy the rummage factor although I often worry I’ve taken it too far the other way.”
However he admits he is somewhat embarrassed by the lack of organisation in the store: “The place is definitely over stocked, which is probably my fault. I’m just such a hoarder. I just find it hard to say no. If someone brings a collection in you’ve got to buy it.”
A regular DJ on the Northern Soul Scene, Rob agrees with the cliches that the format provides the best representation of the music and offers unmatchable audio quality.
He says: “I never liked CD’s and I never got into MP3. I think it means you often cherry pick the songs and a lot of good stuff can end up being missed.”
“Sometimes its nice just to physically hold the sleeve in your hand and enjoy the cover art.”
“Even the worst track on an album can start to grow on me after it’s played for the tenth time,” he adds.
Rob was initially sceptical about the recent ‘Vinyl Revival’ but has ended up enjoying its resurgence in popularity.
He says:”I didn’t believe it when people first started saying that vinyl was going to be big again, I mean we’ve always sold to the die hard collectors here.
“But actually it’s not been bad at all for us, we’ve noticed over the past year more teenagers coming in, who have maybe got a player for Christmas.
“I think it’s nice to see the younger generation getting excited about vinyl again.”