So vinyl is hot right now (probably one thing that it shouldn’t be!). Over the last few years Aylesbury has seen it’s fair share of record and music retailers come and go, indicating the precarious nature of the music business in today’s climate. However, there’s a secret that the town is hiding… The Vicious Squirrel, based at Deco Audio. A few days ago, I took a trip to visit the record store in its new home since relocating from the town centre. Now based on the Gatehouse Industrial Estate (it took some finding as I didn’t know that it was inside Deco Audio!), the store boasts a dedicated warehouse space that houses vinyl from a wealth of genres and decades. There is also a floor of turntables and a repair workshop on site which tells you how serious they are about music – it’s a love affair and they are going to help you make your vinyl collection dream come true!
I was greeted on arrival and taken up the vinyl floor where I was offered a coffee to assist my browsing (if only I’d had more time!) which is great perk that other stores don’t offer. What I loved about this is that it’s record hunting for grown ups; time out from the kids and work to relive your childhood dreams whilst feeding your caffeine habit. The vinyl area is decorated with black walls that double as blackboards for the sales team to add on their favourite albums or record of the week recommendations. There’s even a vicious squirrel who watches over proceedings from his own top shelf… If you’re looking for new albums or old secondhand favourites, this store has got it all. The staff were knowledgeable and offered me advice on the best companies for reissues (and the worst too). I’ve since contacted them via social media and told them of my love of 80s Madonna and they’ve dug out some LPs for me to go and peruse. Attentive, good customer service is rare in this day.
My only bugbear is that their signage isn’t great, so it took a while to find the centre and it only opens three days a week. Give me records all day please! Notably I was the only woman perusing, which having worked in the music industry for decades I’m well used to, but come on ladies, get in on the seen! We know just as much as the boys!
The Vicious Squirrel have to some great events coming up in the near future. One that particularly caught my eye is the record fair from 30 August to 2 September, which quite frankly you all need to go and support! If you haven’t got a record player, why not??? Last night my evening was made perfect by George Benson and Pat Benatar whizzing around the turntable! The team also mentioned that they are keen to forge links with local bands and host album launches and music evenings. Aylesbury needs more opportunities for live music that extend past its established rock scene. They already have connections with Sweet Billy Pilgrim who originate from the town.
So would I go back to The Vicious Squirrel Records again? You betcha! I’m counting down the days! If you want to find out more information, The Vicious Squirrel.
Recently in an interview Bono said something that is very close to my heart. It’s something that I have been quite passionate about for a long time. It’s a reason to get out of bed, a reason to song-write and create, it’s a reason to be the person we were made to be as artists… It’s no secret that Bono has criticised Christian artists who only produce worship music, and that his own musical and creative journey started in a worship band that eventually morphed into the internationally renown U2. However his stand point is refreshing and challenging, “we don’t have to please God in any other way than to be brutally honest,” he said. And that’s what I love. The fact that I can be brutally honest in my songwriting.
Bono’s thought process goes further than that though; just because an artist is a Christian doesn’t mean that they can only produce worship music. He goes on to say that “Creation screams God’s name. So you don’t have to stick a sign on every tree.” And I agree with him. I always think it’s sad when artists are pigeonholed with the label “Christian” as the genre immediately limits their scope of work. We don’t need to mention Jesus in everything we do, we carry the fragrance of Jesus with us so his presence is always in our work.
Our music might help someone… Over the years, I’ve been encouraged by many a song that wasn’t Christian because I connected with it some way. This is usually because I could empathise with the topic because I was going through the same life experience. Our songs don’t always have to rejoice over happy endings, some of the best selling pop songs over the decades have been sad, yet the music-buying public lap it up as they need something to help them through their difficult times.
I am not a Christian artist. I refuse to be. I’m an artist who happens to be a Christian. What’s the difference? Well although I write the occasional worship song for church, I don’t feel that worship songs are my calling. I don’t feel the need to mention Jesus in every song I write; I believe that my art should be influenced by faith and that it needs to go much further than the walls of the church building. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people who are called to compose worship music for church gatherings, and if that is what God has called them to then that’s great, but for me it’s not the be all and end all.
This route into artistry is often lonely though; artists who don’t tow the party line and stick to producing worship material are often overlooked by the Christian public. Churches in the UK don’t tend to support artists whose work moves beyond the church walls. We need to release artists into their callings and let them create the works that God has designed for them to do. There are far more opportunities for people to meet Jesus if we are honest about life experiences and allow those experiences to help others. And how much more will we learn about God if we dare to explore further than the praise and worship genre? Some of my greatest experiences of God have come through secular lyrics, the process of songwriting or going to concert. So take Bono’s challenge and dare to go further than praise and worship song in everything you do. You never know you might help someone…