Travel Report: Rock ‘n’ Roll Rescue, London.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Rescue, Camden Town, London.
One of my favourite things about Camden Town is browsing the various record shops. Back in my pre-digital nomad days I was quite the record collector. I had over a thousand albums, shelves of music books and a precious collection of programs, tickets and memorabilia from concerts over the years. Letting go of my beloved record collection was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, but sometimes it’s a case of needs must.
Despite no longer having my own personal music empire, I’m unable to pass up the opportunity of diving into a record store. In Camden Town one of my favourites is Rock ‘n’ Roll Rescue, a music charity shop on Parkway.
Initially, it was the basket of Q Magazines outside the front door that caught my attention. I used to religiously subscribe to Q. In fact, I bought my first copy in the mid 1990s and hardly missed an issue right through to 2017. Q was an amazing publication that informed much of my record collecting and got me interested in the art of reviewing.
Those issues on sale outside Rock ‘n’ Roll Rescue were going for just 50p each! Unfortunately, the magazine folded in the summer of 2020 following a 24 year run as one of Britain’s leading music magazines.
Their demise was due to a gradual decline in sales during the digital age, in addition to the loss of advertising revenue brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Today I have a handful of landmark Q issues safely boxed up in storage. Not sure what they’re worth, but definitely more than 50p!
Rock ‘n’ Roll Rescue, Camden Town.
This is certainly not your average record store. Rather, it’s a lovingly assembled, dimly lit cave of CDs, vinyl, limited edition boxsets, gig posters, flags, stickers and retro collectibles. Kind of like the basement music den I imagined I might have one day in my dream house.
Moreover, they have quite the range of second hand guitars. And according to a sign on one of the walls, they’re always looking to buy more. They’ll take your old keyboards too. And amplifiers, speakers, effect boxes and microphone stands. Drums, leads, connectors and just about anything else you can think of.
Moreover, the entire place is wallpapered with iconic photos, newspaper clippings and magazine cut outs. Exploring, I spied an impossibly young Kate Bush, a strung-out Sid Vicious and a soloing Hendrix. A beaming Memphis era Dusty Springfield and a group shot of Kiss horsing around in front of Big Ben. Whoever your heroes are, you’ll find them here somewhere, in between all the treasures.
As cool as all this is, what makes the store really special is its dedication to local charities. Actually all the staff are volunteers, while proceeds go exclusively to all manner of London based groups.
They donate to Crossroads Women Refuge in Kentish Town and The Mayhew Animal Home in Kensal Green. They also work with Food For All, a food van company with the ability to provide 1.000 meals a day to Camden Town’s needy.
What to See and Do, Camden Town.
Make your way into the store’s back room and this is where Rock ‘n’ Roll Rescue descends into proper car boot sale chaos. In here you could quite literally stumble upon anything. That day I spotted an old NICAM Proline Video Player and a 300 watt RAMSA Power amp.
On the shelves I unearthed several Harry Potter books and a DVD boxset of Peep Show. On the floor (I nearly tripped over it) sat a box of “Really ugly, out of fashion” second hand clothes. These are the store’s words, not mine.
The most expensive thing I saw in the whole place was this signed and framed Manuel Almunia Arsenal shirt at a hot £100. He wasn’t the world’s greatest goalkeeper, but hey, I’m sure every piece has its buyer. I wonder if it’s still there.
I would wholeheartedly recommend popping your head into Rock ‘n’ Roll Rescue. Especially if you’re into rock, indie, punk and alternative music. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s well worth it just to experience the abandoned museum atmosphere.
And, if you do make a purchase, it’s reassuring to know that your money is going to a worthy cause. For more on the store, pay a visit to their website. To meet the shop’s musician owner, Knox, have a read of this cool article from Tales From the Brazier’s Grotto.
For more on my home city, why not delve through my many pieces from across London.
Or maybe search further afield with my articles from all around England.
I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.
Yeah, this kind of place is a slice of pure happiness for me. Good on them, and long may they survive.
I love browsing record shops, too. My mom had a record player and an impressive record collection. I still remember how she used to listen to the German band Modern Talking on repeat, and I still think that vinyl records actually sound better. Aiva 🙂
Yeah, when it comes to quality, authentic home listening vinyl is where it’s at. I’m going to have a listen to Modern Talking now, as the name rings a bell. Cheers Aiva!
Rock-n-roll Rescue looks like the kind of store it is easy to lose track of time in. I bet there are great finds and bargains for those willing to explore. And the proceeds support good causes. Thanks for the look, Leighton.
Thanks John, I was worried for them during the pandemic. What with the astronomical cost of rental space in London. But I’m delighted to see they’ve soldiered through.
It’s great that unique shops like this survive and vinyl records are gaining popularity once again. We used to buy loads of CD’s especially at Christmas but it’s a thing of the past now as well. An excellent post as usual Leighton. Take care and have a great weekend in your new home. Marion
Thanks for stopping by Camden Town Marion. I hope the recent fine weather hangs on one last weekend for you.
A definite treasure trove from a bygone era. I missed the vinyl stage, but went through the gamut of cassette to CD to MP3. Ahhhh, Columbia Record Club, where are you now? Cheers Leighton. Allan
Thanks for visiting Allan, I’m familiar with Columbia Records of course, but not the club. Have been doing some Googling. Have a great weekend!
I have to admit the name made me think of Animal Rescue places but for down on their luck rock ‘n rollers. Looks like a fascinating spot that’d consume the better part of your day. Love used instrument stores. Old guitars have a different feel to them – softer in your hands. When you finished looking at the vinyl, you’d know where to find me.
I like the idea of a charity rescue centre where people come to hand out free soup to the likes of Keith Richards, Liam Gallagher and Ray Davies.
Thanks for reading!
When my first marriage broke up (I’m not Henry VIII, I’ve only had two), downsizing meant ditching so much that was precious. Including my giant football programme collection, dumped into a skip while I looked the other way. Not my vinyl records though, no way were they going down the chute. I still have it all…AND have also rebuilt the entire collection digitally. Just too precious. Love the sound of this quirky store, will defInitely have to visit next time we’re in Camden.
Glad you got to retain your collection Phil. Currently working on a London article that I feel is going to be right up your street.
I look forward to it!
Love the name, I also love browsing through eclectic shops like this, you never know what you’ll find!
Thanks for dropping by Lyssy!
I have the feeling that this nostalgia only concerns the generation that lived through this period. Once the generation concerned is gone, what will be left of it?
I’m not sure that’s true. Unlike other music genres, classic rock ‘n’ roll seems to reach newer generations who seem just as committed as those who were around when everything was unfolding in real time. There are teens now who are crazy about The Stones, The Beatles etc, which is something you don’t really get with say mainstream pop of the 80s and 90s. Or even so much with the soul of the 60s, except for a few select iconic artists. I think it is something to do with how rock ‘n’ roll shaped all cultural matters of its era. It informed politics, fashion and all manner of societal issues, many of which still feel relevant today. That’s pretty hard to kill off.
This is an interesting debate. I hope that this temporal diversity will continue to exist. As we still refer to the fine furniture of the 18th century, perhaps we will continue to listen to the music of the 1960s.
Hope so, it would be a tragedy if this music and the stories of the people who made it were lost.
I was born way after records were still in fashion, so I never grew up listening to music that way. However, with the retro trend picking up speed within this past decade or two, I’m finding a lot of my peers (ages 30 and under) getting into listening to music via records. I’m sure many of them will find joy browsing through Rock ‘n’ Roll Rescue for its hidden treasures!
I was never a vinyl collector either. By the time I figured out that vinyl was the best format I already had three hundred albums on CD. So I just kinda soldiered on. Maybe one day I’ll get a classic record player and get say a dozen or so of my very favourite albums on vinyl.
Yes..now records are coming back again. I bought a record player for my hubby for his birthday and some old vinyl records… he loves them. This would be a great place to see in London. Cheers Anita
Ah that’s a great birthday present for your husband. One day, I might ask for a similar gift ha ha!
Wow this is so cool Leighton love the shop. There are nit enough of these any more. When I lived in Brighton I used to go to Rounder Records a lot just to look through the vinyls there. I’ll be marking this spot in Camden for a visit
Love the name Rounder Records. Just did a quick Google and see that it closed down in 2012. Ho hum, thanks for reading.
Did it close down no way. Thats such a shame I would of left 2009 and loved going there.
A fading treasure. One of the great things about looking through the older vinyl records are the covers, the photos and artwork. I imagine going down the rabbit hole on this one.
Absolutely! As a teen and early twenty something I used to spend hours poring over the artwork and inner sleeves. I really miss it. Glad you identify.
Wow-this is by far the coolest place I’ve ever seen! They just don’t make spots like this anymore so this is a real treasure. I loved the note about the ugly, out of fashion clothes and the Johnny ‘Cash Only’ sign. To the point and clever at the same time. And how great that they provide to charities in such a way.
Aw, delighted this ticked all the boxes Meg. The owner is a real character too and has lived quite a life.
Thanks for reading!