Records Wanted! SE London's Favourite Record Shop Reopens

Records Wanted! SE London's Favourite Record Shop Reopens

Brockley community hub Lorenzo's is the perfect antidote for a year without live music…

It’s been a tough year for music.

The government has, perhaps unsurprisingly, left venues unsupported and overlooked musicians. Creatives have even been encouraged to retrain if they can’t find work.

The 10pm curfew was the final blow, and casualties have sadly started to surface. Peckham’s iconic pool/night club Canavan’s – which was integral to the birth of DJ Bradley Zero’s label Rhythm Section – shut its doors for the last time three weeks ago.

So, in a year devoid of live music, vinyl is the next best thing. Reopening at just the right time, producer, DJ and music connoisseur Lorenzo Bandiera has unlatched his treasured record shack Lorenzo’s (Records Wanted) after a three-month hiatus. 

Following six years of business inside Peckham’s Sky Shopping City arcade, Lorenzo’s is now trading from a roomier spot on Brockley Road, South East London. There’s more natural light than before. But the good vibes are the same.

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Lorenzo’s is a one-man-band vinyl emporium that buys and sells new and second-hand records. Its roots are in SE London, but its genres reach worldwide, specialising in reggae, West African, dance and exotica, alongside its owner’s most recent purchases from Italy. Bologna-born Lorenzo is also “head honcho” of his two record labels: ‘Fly By Night Music’ and his new passion project ‘Terrasolare’, which launched on October 2nd. Though the main draw to Lorenzo’s, reasonably priced records aside, is the friendly, knowledgeable Italian behind the name.

For him, a good record is one that makes you feel something; he’s not interested in following trends. “Music is a feeling, you know. So maybe you’re listening to a crap jazz record or an amazing pop record – it doesn’t matter. I don’t know if it’s obvious to say but what makes you feel emotion is, for me, a good record.”

Lorenzo puts out classics in the window, easy sellers. But his collection is expansive. “I buy quite a lot when I go to Italy. There’s some great sounds over there, more European, weirder stuff”, he explains. A need for more display space led him to relocate to the larger place in Brockley. Inside, there are the same wooden crates filled with music that characterised his Peckham shop’s homely charm. Standing behind a turntable that sits inside a custom-made wooden deck, Lorenzo smiles and chats with customers.

He keeps flipping records, landing on music he thinks his current shopper Duke – a friendly old man who sells Lorenzo his records – would like. Behind him a stick of palo santo (fragrant wood that grows in South America) burns. “This place used to be an estate agent, so I had to do a lot of voodoo to get out the bad vibes,” Lorenzo laughs.

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Like Canavan’s, Lorenzo’s previous shop found a loving home on Rye Lane, Peckham. However, located inside a bustling shopping arcade next to friendly hairdressers, salons and markets, he explains: “We never had any walk-ins, it was so hidden away.” The sign above his trading unit was also of a previous retailer. It read: “PHAZE 9 specializing in Ladies Fashion & Accessories”.

“I was in the real Peckham, you know; it wasn’t ‘trendy’. With me, you have a good example of someone who never really got anything out of the gentrification of that area”, he explains.

Although that didn’t stop a strong community quickly forming around the loveable shopping-centre shack. It was initially set up by NTS frontman Charlie Bones, host of the ‘Do!! You!!! Breakfast Show’, who ran the vinyl store in 2014 before handing it over to Lorenzo a year later.

Over lockdown, Lorenzo kept the business afloat by selling records online on Discogs. But he prefers it when customers come into the shop. With only 300 records on Discogs, he explains: “If I went into a place where all their store is online, I dunno… I would just order it from home.”

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The rise and rise of vinyl is nothing new. Last month, Discogs reported their physical sales (vinyl, CD and cassette) rose by 29.69 per cent from January-June compared to last year. Similarly, in the US, vinyl has just outsold CDs for the first time since the 1980s. But buying online doesn’t come close to the feeling of flicking through a box of records. Especially when its owner knows the contents of that box so well.

“I will always try to fight for people to step through the door. My motto is to always give the customer more,” Lorenzo explains. Something catches his eye. He looks over to Duke who has just picked out an album. “Nah I don’t think you’d like that one, Duke. Too electronic for you”, he calls. The pandemic has had a mixed impact on Lorenzo’s various hustles. In his first week in Brockley the shop was thankfully “very, very busy”, he explains, “as a small business, I can’t complain too much. I received a business grant from Lewisham Council, and I’ve been quite looked after. But the 10pm curfew is nonsense, lots of places don’t get busy until after 10. That industry is in big trouble now.”

Lorenzo misses a lot of those after-curfew venues, such as the parties hosted by Cheeky Soundsystem. “Duke came to that night, it was wicked. Duke, Duke, do you remember the night in Juno Cafe warehouse near you?” he asks. Duke smiles, “yeah that was great.”

A DJ as well, it was the birth of Lorenzo’s son rather than lockdown that hit pause on the CDJs. “[Djing] is kinda stressful. Everyone sees DJs as very cool, but actually we’re all a little bit losers”, he laughs. “It’s very hard, there’s a lot of competition. I was lucky as I knew a few of the good people who I shared my music with, but that’s not always the case.”

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He's also just launched a second record label, Terrasolare: jazz fusion from the Italian collective 291out. “I’m starting something new with this label and taking a simpler approach. [With his first label], every record for each artist had a different look, there was no trademark and yeah, sadly that was wrong”, he explains. The label in question, Fly By Night Music, was launched in 2012 and celebrated its 20 th release back in May with the electronic album ‘Objet Melodie’ by Lorenzo Morresi. “Maybe you’d like this one Duke… a jazz funk fusion band from Italy?”. He slips the fresh 7inch record on the turntable and Duke starts tapping his finger. “Ahhh the introduction tells me, it’s a nice record,” Duke says, “this is what I’m used to, this sound”. “Yeah I know your sound, Duke”, Lorenzo replies.

Duke becomes Terrasolare’s first customer and Lorenzo is beaming behind his mask. “He’s never bought a record off me before! He’s my man, he normally sells to me. Duke’s got a very difficult taste, but he knows what he likes”, Lorenzo enthuses.

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Fifty years ago, Brockley saw the birth of another label, from an entirely different genre. South East London’s reggae scene in the 70s and 80s was prolific. Youth clubs, record shops and recording studios fostered the growth of independent reggae sound systems that built a strong Black community around a love for music. At these musical hubs, more experienced musicians taught younger people how to MC and things about their heritage.

The legendary producer and musician Dennis Bovell, who frequently collaborated with dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, started the new reggae genre and label ‘Lovers Rock’ in his recording studio on Upper Brockley Road in the 70s. This genre moved away from the predominantly masculine roots reggae to include female voices.

Speaking on Soho Radio in 2017, Dennis explains: “We used to have an audition [at Eve Studios] every Sunday afternoon… there was a programme on BBC London called ‘Reggae Time’. It was the only chance of listening to reggae for two hours on the BBC so directly after that… we’d get [the host] to say ‘if you want to audition, get down to Eve Studios in Brockley’”.

This was a genre all about love. It was “significant because it managed to bring people from all nations and walks of life under a unified banner”, Dennis says.

Now, half a century later, Brockley finally has another record shop with a wide collection of reggae tracks. In Lorenzo’s Discogs stash he’s coincidentally selling a record produced by Dennis: ‘Dangerous’ by Janet Kay.

“Yeah I’m very happy to be in Brockley,” Lorenzo says, “and I’m gunna improve the shop day by day.”

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Lorenzo’s (Records Wanted) can be found at 260a Brockley Road, SE4 2SF.

Words: Frankie Lister-Fell
Photography: Sam Mellish

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