HEY hey, my my, rock and roll will never die”.

So sang Neil Young, 20 years before anyone had ever downloaded an MP3 or burned their mate a copied album.

Neil’s 1979 mantra may still ring true in the hearts of music lovers, but independent record shops are all but extinct, thanks to a turn of the millennium technological revolution.


But still standing proud after almost 25 years, a last bastion of hard copy music, is Billericay’s Slipped Discs Brown Sugar.

It’s secret to success, explains owner Carl Newsum, is a willingness to evolve.

“The industry has changed a lot and there are now only three independent shops in Essex selling new music,” he says.

“There is no mark-up in music, never has been really, so you do it for the love, not to get rich.

“You have to go with the market changes.

“But the main reason I can still do what I do is because we opened a coffee shop.”

Just over four years ago, Slipped Discs was 200 yards further out of town in a smaller unit.

The independent retail market was on its knees, thanks to internet sales and competition from cheap supermarkets.

When Carl’s landlord revealed he had a bigger unit, further up the high street, due to become available, Carl jumped at the chance.

He and wife, Karen, cooked up the idea for a coffee shop, complete with new decor, homemade soups, cakes and a friendly, warm atmosphere.

“We are three-and-a-half years into it and it’s proved very popular,” says Carl.

“It’s very demanding on my wife, because she makes all of the cakes.

“People come here for the coffee and then will have a potter around. We couldn’t go on just selling music alone.”

Slipped Discs Brown Sugar continues to stock plenty for music lovers.

It sells thousands of CDs and has a second-hand vinyl section.

But these days Carl takes a more commercial approach to the titles he chooses to stock.

“Maybe when I was younger there was a bit of music snobbery, but you can’t do that,” he says.

“I knew a bloke like that, who set up in Ipswich – he lasted a year.

“He didn’t stock any Kylie and just brought in music he liked.

“You can’t afford to be like that. You can’t not stock SuBo or Andre Rieu because, the fact is, they sell a lot.

“We used to be known as a rock shop, but people who are into that will go online to buy it now. I guess we have gone a little bit more middle-of-theroad to stay open.”

But the CDs on the shelves are not all this record shop has to offer. Carl is also the man to turn to for rarer titles.

“We spend a lot of time searching for things for customers,”

he adds.

“People do go straight to Google now, but there is so much duff information out there that we are a better option.”

Carl has clear commercial sense, but scratch the surface and he’s a music lover at heart.

He admits to being a talentless musician, but more than makes up for it with his passion for a wide range of music, from rock and punk through to soul and jazz.

“I’m a bit out of my depth with classical,” he admits.

During the interview we veer off topic and enjoy an elongated discussion about early David Bowie albums and cover sleeve art work.

But when did the industry shift away from us buying albums and logging online for our music?

“The first time I noticed it, strangely enough, was when Justin Timberlake released his first album in 2002,” he says.

“People were buying one copy and burning ten free ones off for their mates.

“When you get figures from record companies, they show why they don’t bother making CD singles any more, because they are all downloaded.

“But around 80 per cent of album sales are still physically bought. People do still want a hard copy they own.”

Carl has also noted the market swerve back to vinyl, with new audiences discovering their parents’ record collections.

“A few years go people would come in with a box of vinyl and you’d tell them to take it to a charity shop,” he says.

“But that’s all changed.

“Most of what people bring in is unsellable, easy listening stuff.

“But one lady, for example, said she had a Beatles album. When she brought it in, she had an original 1963 Please Please Me stereo pressing.”

Slipped Discs may not be filled with longhaired musos pouring over prog rock, but it is still open and going from strength to strength in an era when its competitors are flagging.

It makes a few sales online and also sells rarer titles on Amazon Marketplace.

But if you thought real record shops, which you walk into and browse albums without having to trawl through rows of childrens DVDs, no longer exist, you are wrong.