Opening in the era of music hall and phonograph cylinders, it has survived the birth - and decline - of vinyl, the arrival of picture discs, audio cassettes, the CD and the iPod, while witnessing musical trends from Gilbert and Sullivan to death metal and grindcore.
Spillers Records in the centre of Cardiff is officially acknowledged as the world’s oldest music store by Guinness World Records. Now its future is uncertain - and some of the world’s biggest stars are being asked to back a campaign to keep it open.
Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, Beyoncé and Justine Timberlake are among artists being recruited to support a petition endorsed by Welsh groups including Manic Street Preachers and Super Furry Animals. More than 1,700 people have signed up so far. The uncertain future of Spillers, which opened in 1894, is due to a combination of commercial pressures, the need of its present owner to sell up and the download revolution.
Its plight mirrors that of other independent record shops around the country which are battling to survive. In the past year, Reckless Records in London has closed two of its shops; Reddingtons Rare Records in Birmingham has been forced to operate only online after more than 40 years, and Mole Jazz, in King’s Cross, considered by many to be the best jazz record store in the country, has closed.
Nick Todd, who first worked in Spillers more than 30 years ago and has co-owned it for 21 years, is being forced to sell by next March as part of the divorce settlement with his wife, the other part-owner. “It is going to break my heart to sell it, but maybe it’s time to move on anyway.’’ The shop, which has a prime site in the city, is facing pressure to move from its landlord, the property company Helical Bar, which is anxious to redevelop the area for high street chains. The company says rents could increase 100 per cent unless the shop moves to a nearby arcade. Mr Todd is talking to prospective purchasers but concedes that the rent rises may be a deterrent.
Columbia Records, part of the Sony group and for which Dylan and the other stars record, was alerted to the plight of the shop by the Manic Street Preachers, two of whose members, Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield, used to busk outside Spillers in the 1980s. A statement in support of the campaign, signed by Wire, Bradfield and fellow band member Sean Moore, says: “Spillers was a lifeline. It gave us our musical education - the only record shop in Wales where we could find music that made us who we are.”
Jim Fletcher, marketing manager for Columbia said: “It has struck a real chord with us. We are the oldest record label in the world and they are the oldest record shop. I think the idea of going down the local record shop is something we can all identify with, in the same way as people like local bookshops. People appreciate the sociability of shops like Spillers, who will stock stuff that the big High Street stores won’t have; they will also make recommendations to customers about what to listen to.’’
The petition, which will be delivered to the landlord, was started by Owen John Thomas, a Plaid Cymru member of the Welsh Assembly at the suggestion of his son and press officer, Hywel Thomas, who passes the shop every day on his way home. It is important that we retain small independent shops such as this.