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Strange Victory Records

The Northern Irish capital has seen the slow erosion of its once plentiful record shops over the past three decades. Cara Gibney visits Strange Victory to meet a pair of vinyl obsessives who are reversing that trend



It’s hard to keep them on track, Darren Smyth and Jeff Doherty. We are in Strange Victory Records, their recently unveiled, independent, much needed record shop, run with business partner and fellow music nerd, Sinead Green. The pair are planning a forthcoming Edwyn Collins in-store, and opening bundles of posters for upcoming shows that need promoting – Lankum, She Drew The Gun, Jon Spencer & The Hitmakers… As we talk, a potted history of Belfast’s record shops becomes a thread running through the conversation. “Was it Sun Records & Tapes that replaced Smyths For Records? Was Dr Robert better than Backbeat?”

Everyone over a certain age misses the plethora of indie record shops that were such a staple of their formative years. The important alternative sub-cultures and musical identities created, bands formed, albums, singles, tapes, posters, tickets, zines, and scenes… We wore our music like a badge of honour. And in Northern Ireland we had an added element to the sense of sanctuary those record shops afforded. Away from the orange and green, from the security and controls.

Fast forward a few decades and Belfast is a very different place. In so many ways for the better, but in regard to the survival of record shops, not so much. And like many other high streets, Belfast’s city centre has had a punishing last few years. Much-loved Sick Records and Head Records fell to the economic sword, which was bruising for the scene in the city, and beyond. Then, a major fire in an iconic building cordoned off the main thoroughfare of Royal Avenue for a period. But, in the midst of this, three people were plotting, refurbishing, stocking and organising. On Record Store Day 2019, Strange Victory Records popped several bottles of fizz – and to much delight, relief, DJs, tributes, music and crate digging, they opened their doors for business.

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About Long Live Vinyl

ISSUE 35 of Long Live Vinyl is now on sale! In our first issue of 2020 we bring you the inside story of Bob Dylan's most diverse, divisive and fascinating decade – the 1970s. Dylan made eight hugely different studio albums in those 10 years, and we've rounded up some of his closest confidants and bandmates to tell the tale. It's a must-read for any fan of Mr Zimmerman. Elsewhere in issue 35, our packed interviews section features Angel Olsen, Seth Lakeman, The Go-Betweens, Field Music, DJ Shadow and Courteeners, plus we take an in-depth look at The Doors' Morrison Hotel and meet the music fanatics behind America's coolest label group – Secretly Canadian. If that's not enough, we bring you 40 essential folk-rock classics, a guide to building your perfect hi-fi setup in 2020 and the usual eclectic mix of vinyl columnists, news and reviews. Long Live Vinyl is THE magazine for vinyl lovers.