The Record Shops of San Sebastian

Yes, the town has three beaches, the world’s finest restaurants and a bustling, vibrant historic old town full of wonderful bars and restaurants, but I’m guessing you’re not going to have much time spare if spending two nights in Dababdaba listening to the bands.

…And what little spare time you’ll have will be spent searching out records, right?

I have prepared a little map to give a rough idea of the town’s vinyl stockists, marked with blue crosses.

REcord shops 1.jpg

Let’s start with the town’s best; Beltza,  on the edge of the old town near the ‘restaurant’ that uses a yellow M as a logo. The shop appears to be a small room with a counter and shopkeeper. However, most of the goodies are ‘in the corridor’ which you will have to request access to. Just say that you know Gerald or are here for the Weekender and he should be amenable. In the side room is a large alphabetically arranged  stash of 60s/70s/80s/90s jazz, pop, rock, Latin, punk and Soundtracks. 

IMG_4507Pictured here are the goodies I bought at Beltza last year (except the 45s and the Ted Heath). The owner looked genuinely crestfallen when I came up to him with the two Freddie McCoys. They had come from his own collection. Prices? Not cheap, not pricey, and bargains can be found. (I think I paid par to slightly over for Lonely Avenue but way under the going rate for Funk Drops).

I had seen the Billy Hawks album there the year before and regretted not buying it (15 Euros, I think). I headed straight for the same rack and it was still there 10 months later.

The shop also has a collection of Euro 45s, that I have never quite got around to going through. Be sure to check the window display too. The display of rare Soundtracks a couple of years ago was jaw dropping.

To the bottom left of the map I have marked the fnac department store. They had a very good selection of re-pressed/re-issued vinyl last October (e.g. Howlin Wolf, James Brown, Muddy waters), though they were hard to find even on the right floor.

IMG_8149The two crosses to the right/east of river on the map mark two that are both worth a look, situated near Gerald’s Bar. The shop nearest the river (just over the second bridge on Kolon Pasealekua) is owned by a bearded guy who spends his time watching jazz/rock guitar tutorials on his laptop. He doesn’t speak a great deal of English, but way more and better than my Euskadi. He used to be a DJ back in the 70s and 80s and I bought a great batch of Spanish pressed 45s on my first visit including this bunch of 5th Dimension classics.

The shop stocks mainstream rock, pop, blues and jazz, albums, CDs and 45s, and rather tasteful new releases – I spotted The Wildebeests in the window a couple of years ago and also bought the Hangee V 45 from him last year (see photo above). The stock is split 50:50 with music and books.

The final shop in town is run by a brilliantly eccentric young guy. I hope his shop is still there. It’s about 200m on the left along Mirakruz Kalea, the main road running eastwards from the second bridge. The first disc I saw upon entering the shop last year was at the front of a pile on the floor. It looked right up my street. “Wow, how much is this?” “It’s not for sale. It’s free.” Meaning it was free with any purchase. The problem was this was the disc I wanted to purchase. I couldn’t. I looked through the racks. I was tempted by some jazz, but had already blown 120 Euros in Beltza and suddenly no longer felt so flush. I had to leave the shop empty handed. He wouldn’t sell the disc to me. I went back to the hotel and Youtubed a couple of the tracks, which confirmed that the disc was so far up my street it would need a satnav to find its way back out.

I returned the next day and pleaded with him to let me buy it. He refused to take money for it and said I could have it for free. (See The Music of Ted Heath in the photo above) I gave him a Sine Waves badge and bought something as a gift for Gerald’s Bar.

His shop stocks a good selection of rock, punk and jazz 33s (I don’t recall him having 45s) and books. He closes at lunchtime (12.30, I think), and has to close sharpish because he walks to the train station (7 or 8 mins walk) to catch a train home for lunch, then returns by train for the afternoon session.

Finally, we leave town and take a train, cab or car to Irun, 15 miles east of San Sebastian. Irun is pretty much the first town in Spain, just over the border from Hendaye, the last town in France. Bloody Mary is rumoured to be the best shop in the area. I’ve never been, but it has a great reputation. Be nice to get the chance to check it out.

Happy shopping.

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