Located just minutes from trendy Chapel St, Greville Records have been in their Prahran location for more than 30 years, and in that time they’ve seen pretty much all there is to see in the record collecting world. Given a lifeline by the recent upwards swing in vinyl sales, shops like Greville now have a whole new age group to sell to, with young people becoming an important part of their shop. We sat down with co-owner Bruce Milne amongst thousands of records for a chat.
“It’s fun because it’s not just old buggers talking endlessly about Bob Dylan and Neil Young anymore,” he says. “We’re getting lots of young people coming in. Last week I had a nine-year-old girl asking for Justin Bieber on vinyl, and it’s like ‘whoa, this is really different.’ I’ve also got lots of young people, music fans, who’ve probably got 60,000 tracks on their phone, but they’ve decided that they want to track down particular records and buy them. It still amazes me when a 16-year-old buys a free jazz record.”
This new interest from young people in vinyl has complemented the continued patronage of said ‘old buggers’ to create a community which, whilst not quite reaching the heights of the record community in years gone by, is having a profound impact on the vinyl experience. “Record stores aren’t the community they once were. Once upon a time if you wanted to know what gigs were going on around town, what records [to buy], you had to go into a record store, but then the internet came along, although it’s built up again recently... We’re all music fanatics, and everyone who comes in here, if I say ‘can I help you’, they’ll jump on you [for that help],” Milne says. “It’s completely different, if I go into a petrol station, all I want to do is fill the car up and get out of there as quickly as possible, whereas people in record shops do enjoy interaction. I think if you can offer that, if you’re always trying to help people, and selling the right things, or even sometimes telling them about other shops where they’ll be able to find what they’re after, I think that’s the edge that a shop like this has.”
Opening its doors in 1978, Greville is one of Melbourne’s oldest record stores, a title that it wears with pride. However, they certainly don’t rest on their laurels. They are constantly sourcing rare, used and new records and stocking new genres of music. “One of the great things with records, is there’s just so many different pressings of things, and we’re always coming across unusual things... I source my records anywhere I can overseas, I like going to Japan because they have very high quality pressings and they treat them well too.”
Japan can be a goldmine for rare records, and on a recent trip they unearthed some serious gold. “Rodriguez, who is very popular at the moment, one of his albums was released in Japan and I found a copy of it and bought it. I rang the guy who put out the reissues and he’d never heard of it; Rodriguez had never heard of this pressing. Word spread around and someone overseas offered me a ridiculous amount of money before I even pulled it out of the box, so that was exciting.”
One of the rarest records in the shop is an Australian radio version of one of Elvis Presley’s very first singles, but dealing with rare records isn’t necessarily what the people at Greville Records prefer to do, “It can be fun having [rare records], but I’d much rather be selling 75 $10 records.”
With a whole new audience coming to vinyl, either for the first time or returning to it after a while, selling turntables is something that a lot of record stores now also do. “We stock the Audio-Technica turntables because they’re good quality... and at a great price obviously. [It is] very easy to get needles for them, very easy to get the turntables... I think having a range of turntables at different prices is really important, because a lot of our young customers can only afford to buy one album a month, so presumably they can only afford to buy a turntable at a certain price. Other customers are middle age people getting back into vinyl, who can afford something a bit more expensive, so it’s good to have a range of different ones,” says Milne.
In turntable range and in records, there’s probably something for everyone at Greville Records, but if there isn’t then they’ll be more than happy to point you towards a store that does, and there are certainly no shortages of stores in Melbourne, as Milne says, “I love the fact that Melbourne has so many record shops, and such a range of record shops, and, in the vast number of cases, all run by really fantastic people. I like going record shopping myself around Melbourne.” Melbournians really are lucky when it comes to record stores, in sheer quantity and quality, and Greville Records is no doubt somewhere near the top of them for most enthusiasts.
Greville Records is located at 152 Greville St, Prahran VIC. For more details, head to grevillerecords.com.au.