Edinburgh's Ripping Records: The Last Of The Old School Record Stores

In the build up to Record Store Day on April 16, ST writers recall their favourite shops... Here's why Ticketmaster and iTunes are fine, but Edinburgh's big green monolith with its chalkboards and queues round the corner will always have a place in my heart
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You would think working in the same shop for thirty score years and more would make you jaded or perhaps leave a nagging sense of bitterness? That there would maybe be a rueful part of your psyche that would speculate what could have been, of adventures that might have happened or the opportunities that fate may have bestowed upon you over that lifetime of monogamous graft. For John Richardson, sole proprietor of Edinburgh’s legendary Ripping Records there is a simple all encompassing answer to any of those doubts and questions, “It’s meant I’ve never had to get a proper job” he says with an sparkle in his eye and the slightest, silvery glimpse of wonderful irony.

Briefly, the facts. Established in 1975 on the Southbridge as Sound Centre, a two-floored vinyl emporium on the ground floor with an ill-fated classical music section upstairs alongside a well remembered incongruously placed Space Invaders machine. By 1977 Ripping Records was born, upstairs was closed and for the next 15 or so years it firmly established itself as the best record shop in town. A refurbishment in 1995 saw a re-vamp of the shop, a new front and a new Incredible Hulk green colour scheme. By this time vinyl was out and CD’s and gig tickets had become the hot stock. As the decline of physical music sales began to bite Ripping evolved to become the epicentre of ticket sales for shows across Scotland and beyond. To this day it remains a one stop shop for tickets to all sorts of events. Underground Drum & Bass clubs to Rod Stewart at Edinburgh Castle to acoustic folk nights, it’s all there.

You'll find the entire Syd Barrett back catalogue or a recent Todd Rundgren album or perhaps a Randy Newman live disc. These also sit alongside the Black Eyed Peas and all that stuff but you get the idea.

The format is pretty straightforward; you have the owner John and his assistant of twenty years Nik Sutherland and then a succession of people filling the ‘Saturday Boy’ role. The phrase old-school doesn’t quite go far enough to adequately describe Ripping. We’re talking, physical tickets stapled to a board in the window, a neat metal rack for flyers and posters and large counter mounted chalk board, hand written lovingly on a weekly basis by Nik, detailing all the forthcoming gigs in chronological order. Yes folks, a hand written chalkboard, the source of many a monotonous and slightly inevitable “don’t touch the chalkboard” customer interactions.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a website and a relatively new Ticketmaster machine but the emphasis is still very much on the traditional shop experience. People love it too. Young and old, students, skaters, folk music types, tourists, jakeys, clubbers, you name it. It’s still the shop people queue overnight outside for tickets to sell out shows, still the place people think of first for gigs, tickets and clubs and also the place people think of for browsing for CD’s that no other shops in the Capital stock. Since the demise of Fopp there is potentially no other Edinburgh retail outlet that you would find, for example, the entire Syd Barrett back catalogue or a recent Todd Rundgren album or perhaps a Randy Newman live disc. These also sit alongside the Black Eyed Peas and all that stuff but you get the idea.

It’s as yet unconfirmed as the oldest record shop in Scotland; it is thought that it is the longest running shop of its type at a single site but no official titles yet. One thing is for sure it’s a cornerstone of the live music scene in Scotland, a green-coloured beacon of steady, knowledgeable, occasionally grumpy brilliance that transcends generational music fashions and scenes to deliver an unrivalled service to music people across Scotland. Doing a ‘proper job’ of it if you like. Long live Ripping.

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