As someone who bought his first 45-rpm record in a suburban Nashville drugstore, I’ve never been picky about where I get my music. Big box chain, charity shop, streaming service, wherever, as long as they have what I’m in the mood to hear, I’m good. Still, there is something undeniably satisfying about exploring an abundantly stocked, expertly curated record shop where the proprietor’s passion is palpable. (Apologies for all the p’s.) In this occasional series, I’ll be extolling the virtues of such establishments, and I encourage readers to chime in with their own favourites. There’s no better shop to start with than Uptight Records near Brighton, England. Incredibly, I’ve been to this soul music mecca only once, on holiday. Logistics, namely living in Canada until recently, have hampered return trips. But that lone encounter made a lasting impression.
A family milestone brought my partner and me to Brighton in 2010. We’re both music lovers, so on a break from the familial festivities, we stole away to hunt down a store recommended to us by a local shopkeeper. It was indeed quite the expedition. A healthy hike took us far from busy downtown Brighton to a quiet street in neighbouring Hove, a lane so nondescript and residential that for a while we were sure we’d taken a wrong turn somewhere. At long last, we spotted Uptight’s humble exterior, a cramped corner storefront adjacent to a TV repair shop. It gave no hint of the wonders within, but when we opened the door, we entered soul and funk heaven.
Owner Bob Smith, who also handles those TV repairs next door, is a seasoned aficionado of those genres. He told us that he travels to record shows across Europe and North America, cherry-picking soul discs to round out his robust collection. According to the Uptight website, he also boasts a decades-long history of DJ-ing dance parties and hosts his own web radio show. His shop is a treasure trove of groove-tastic titles on LP and CD, and if ‘70s music is your sweet spot, then this is the place for you. We left with an armful of the most amazing compilation CDs, which we play regularly to this day.
Sadly, our excursion to Uptight predated my recent and ardent rediscovery of vinyl, but upon reflection, it just might have been the spark that rekindled the obsession. We couldn’t have been happier with our CD haul, but I never stopped thinking about the vinyl finds I left behind and how much fun it would be to start collecting records again after buying only CDs for more than two decades. Within weeks of our return to Toronto, I had purchased a new turntable, the first I’d owned in years and years.
I long to revisit the shop as a full-fledged, born-again vinyl nut, and now that we live within 45 minutes of Brighton by train, that visit is inevitable and imminent. See you soon, Uptight!