The first incarnation of Elite Records … Jay Burgess at the far right
I love vinyl, always have, and I’ve always been a fan of record shops. In my teens and early 20’s I whiled away many happy hours in record shops digging through crates, listening to new tunes, and chatting with the guys behind the counter (see my discussion of record-buying memories here for more on that topic). Sadly, over time I have had less time and less disposable income to devote to record shopping, so to the extent that I still buy vinyl it is mostly online, and predominantly through Discogs.
One of my favorite record stores back in the day was Elite Records in Victoria, which I used to frequent for its excellent selection of new and back catalogue freeform hardcore, hard house, and hard trance, as well as for the laid-back vibe that was fostered by the two guys who ran the shop, Mike and Jay. Elite was open from 1996 to 2002, and was set up by Jason Burgess (aka Equinox) from Bromley, South-East London. As someone who spent many a pleasant afternoon at Elite (as well as a very healthy sum of money!), I thought it might be interesting to catch up with Jay about what it was like to run a specialist dance record store in the 90’s/00’s, back in the days when vinyl ruled the roost, way before digital downloads became the de facto standard for club dj’s. Happily, Jay has agreed to answer my questions, so read on for a fascinating insight into the ways of the old skool record shop:
(Obligatory internal marketing pitch! Check out some of Equinox’s tracks on my mixes Dreadnaut, Twist & Shake, and The One Last One, as well as on Tyssen’s Pendragon Tribute and Girdler Synthetic’s Frantic Classics … ok, you can carry on now)
Pearsall: To start with, when did Elite Records open, and where did the idea to open a record store come from?
Jay Burgess: I opened Elite Records in February 1996, a couple of years after I’d started casually running over the idea. I was a keen record buyer for many years, and, like many, I would do the rounds of various record shops in London and the South each week. I couldn’t walk past a record shop without going in – I’m sure others can relate to that!
Haha, I definitely can!
In essence, I thought having my own shop would be perfect.
Was there any significance to your opening in Pimlico/Victoria, or is that just where you found a space?
Absolutely. I had worked in Victoria for about six years managing a relative’s video rental business when a large chain store opened on the same street. While it wasn’t too damaging, it did make us question the long-term viability with such a rival close by and of course the changing media format at that time. It was decided that the video store was to close which then enabled me to take on the lease of the existing premises. It definitely made the transition more fluid in terms of having to search for the right premises. As much as it was an exciting prospect it was in equal measures a very real and daunting commitment at 21.