Starting as a rehearsal and recording space in owner Chris Oakes’ house, the studio paid homage to Joe Strummer, the frontman of The Clash. Chris’s own music project, “The Strummer Room Project,” released an album and EP on Bandcamp. As Chris got involved in promoting local bands and musicians, he began hosting gigs and small festivals in Banbury and Oxford under the banner of the Strummer Room Project Presents.
In 2018, Strummer Room Records opened a small second-hand vinyl record shop on the top floor of an antique emporium in Banbury’s Old Town. This allowed them to expand their musical offerings. In early 2020, a pop-up shop was opened nearby, further diversifying their stock.
During the Covid lockdown, Strummer Room Records relocated to Cherwell Business Village, which provided them with more space to include brand new vinyl releases alongside their collection of preowned records and CDs. Their dedication to quality and unique music experiences led them to receive the “Record Store of the Month” award from the Record Tokens team in March 2021, recognising their efforts.
Participation in Record Store Day, an annual celebration of independent record stores and vinyl, has allowed Strummer Room Records to connect with fellow music enthusiasts, offer exclusive releases, and contribute to the vibrant music community. And now, in June 2023, they have moved to a larger premises, where they aim to promote live music performances both in-store and in partnership with the licensed café next door.
Throughout their journey, Strummer Room Records has remained dedicated to fostering a love for music and supporting local artists and bands. It’s an inviting place where you can explore their extensive vinyl collection and immerse yourself in the world of music.
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What is the best thing about running a record shop? Why do you do it?
“I have transitioned into being my own boss and enjoyworking in a record shop. Iam able to set my own schedule and be accountable to my customers, which can be a fulfilling experience. I am also finding joy in exploring new music consistently discovering new artists and genres . Music has a way of keeping us engaged and discovering new sounds and artists, regardless of age. Having a diverse range of music playing throughout the day can create a pleasant working environment and even enhance productivity. The world of music is vast, and there is always something new and exciting to explore.”
What is it about your store that makes it special?
“Being the only independent record shop in North Oxfordshire certainly makes us unique and special. We are planning to host live music events in our store and in partnership with the cafe next door store. Live performances can create a vibrant atmosphere and attract music enthusiasts. By hosting these events, we have the opportunity to bring people together who share a love for music. It’s an excellent way to build a musical appreciation community within the area. These events can foster connections among music fans, provide a platform for local artists to showcase their talent, and create memorable experiences for everyone involved.”
What is the most expensive record you have ever sold, and what made it so valuable?
“The most expensive record that we have sold recently is an original pressing of The Zombies – Odyssey & Oracle which went to America for over £1,000. There are not many of these around, specifically in almost mint condition, so it didn’t hang around for long. In hindsight, we probably could have sold it for more, but we were prett happy with that. We also sold a 7” single a few years ago by an Australian punk band called “The Slugfuckers – Three Feet Behind Glass / Live At Budokan”. I bought this for £1 in 1980, got it home, put it on the turntable and hated it… I sold it in 2018 for £450, so probably the most astutue decision of my life.”
How do you handle the preservation & restoration of old or damaged records that come into your possession?
“When we buy a collection of preowned records, the first thing that we do is hand-sort them into three catergories, one pile to go in the shop & online, one pile to go into our sale crates, and one pile to be disposed of. The first pile is initially checked for condition and any seriously damaged records are discarded. We then clean all the remaining records. We use a Spin-Clean system for the majority of the records that we offer for sale. We put more valuable records into audiophile inner sleeves, to keep dust & static to a minimum and then place them in a plastic outer to preserve the outer sleeve from ravages of cratedigging. All online orders are sent out in anti-static inners and a resealable outer, in a custome made vinyl record mailer. “
Do you have any stories of customers who have become regulars and formed lasting friendships or connections through your store?
“The great thing about running a record shop is meeting customers that are into music and the conversation can lead to a much greater depth of music-related knowledge on a daily basis. I now attend gigs with a couple of my regular customers and two of them have now become part of the Strummer Room Records team and work on an ad-hoc basis in the shop when I’m not here or when
I need help.”