The Joys of Record Shopping in Seoul, South Korea

I was fortunate enough to be born in 1992 – a year in which LP/CD/Audiocasette stores were everywhere and people were still enthusiastically buying music. On top of it all, I come from a family of musicians, so you can imagine the kind of musical collections I grew up with. By 1992, the CD had already established itself as a major music format and its importance in people’s lives was unquestionable. I remember asking my parents for CDs every time there was an occasion – birthdays, name days, Christmas, I would always get tons of CDs or audiocassettes of my favorite ‘90s artists as gifts from my parents. I was (and still do it by the way) giving CDs to my friends too.

I guess the CD mania didn’t really allow me to appreciate or look for any other music format when I was a kid. I remember my parents’ vinyl collections but it never really made much sense to get into the whole thing myself. Most of the LPs we had were Russian pressings and it just looked so weird to me. Like, what do I do with that black round thing? How do I play it? I better just go back to the cool stereo and play my CDs. I should’ve known better…

I’ve never really thought about the true value of a vinyl mostly because I was too young and basically moving along with the trend. The technological advancements in sound quality and proliferation and affordability of HiFi stereos made it even easier for people to enjoy music and purchase CDs (and audio-cassettes till early 2000s actually).

As I was getting into music more and more with each second, it was only natural for me to discover the magic of a vinyl record. I guess it all fell into place when I became a die-hard fan of old-school rock music. When this whole new world opened up in front of me, all of a sudden I had tons of exceptional ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s rock bands settling in my heart and they brought so much more than mind-blowing rock&roll in my life. These great artists brought with them the old ways of music which eventually became a staple for me. Of course, growing up with artists like Eric Clapton, The Beatles, Chicago, Toto, Tina Turner, Foreigner and similar, had a lot to do with my natural progression towards becoming the ultimate classic rock enthusiast. When you reach the next level of fandom, listening to Led Zeppelin or The Beatles on a CD might not be satisfying enough. I’m not sure I can fully explain it but as I was growing up and my level of music expertise and knowledge of rock music history expanded, my preference for musical formats changed too. I still buy CDs all the time but it’s the LP records that excite me and make my heart jump the moment I come across a LP store.

Some of you may know this but I live in Seoul at the moment, though I come from Bulgaria. Just like in my other countries around the world, in Korea too record stores keep on disappearing as we speak. Korean pop is still a massive force and the market for idol merchandise, including CDs, is still going strong. For a moment, if we forget about Kpop and focus on the international music market, there aren’t actually that many places that offer a wide selection of past and current releases. Moreover, my adoration for second-hand LP record shopping had to be satisfied sooner or later. After my favorite little local record store closed (because of course it had to) I felt quite lost for a little while. I had this routine and the owners knew me not just because I was the only foreigner who would come every week but because I would spend a long time there, browsing and listening to music and trying to find comfort. Eventually, I was fortunate enough to be brought to this underground shopping area, located in Myeong-dong (명동), Seoul. I’ve been to Myeong-dong area plenty of times but never knew that there was this second-hand vinyl heaven right beneath my feet. First time I went it was quite late and I couldn’t really make the best of it. I promised myself to devote at least one day and go through each and every LP that was there! I kept my promise….multiple times Ha!

I wanted to share this meaningful experience with you, guys and emphasize once again on how magical it can be to dive into this world of old-school music, put into a vinyl record so many years ago. I am well aware of the fact that most of my readers are probably from previous generations and grew up with LP records so they keep on buying and collecting them. However, it’s not just the older rock fans that know a thing or two about records. Believe it or not, there are many younger people, like myself, out there who are devoted LP collectors and appreciate this format. With this publication, I wanted to not only share what it is like to go record shopping in Seoul, Korea, but also to emphasize and remind everyone that records are the real deal and no other format can ever replace the value and the spirit, this vinyl carries within itself. I truly hope you enjoy the photos!


…This is Myeong-dong – a shopping district, located in the heart and soul of SEOUL, South Korea. There are thousands of tourists who can enjoy all kinds of stores, restaurants, malls and tourist attractions. It is always extremely crowded and it looks something like this:

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…But this is where we are heading for! Myeong-dong underground shopping center – that’s where the real music is!

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After a couple of minutes this breathtaking view welcomes you to paradise! There are plenty of music stores in that underground area but this one is the biggest and offers the widest selection of records. On top of it all, it’s not just this one wall – the owner has little record displays everywhere. I love going there because they have the best ’80s hard rock LPs and in the greatest condition (I am convinced he is a huge classic rock fan)! Don’t even get me started on how awesome the prices are! 

Of course, there are plenty of other genres offered – you can spot classic music, jazz music, pop music, ’90s music and many other subsections!

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…In addition to vinyl records, they also offer CDs (second hand, of course). Here, it says that you can get 4 CDs for 10.000Won, which is around 10$.

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Sometimes you can come across real treasures! That wasn’t what I came for, though…

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My favorite section – the place where all the great things happen is this one – this little shelf that contains mostly Korean (or Japanese) pressings of LPs from the good old days of hard rock (a.k.a the ’80s). The prices vary from 5.000Won (5$) to 15.000Won (15$), depending on the condition or popularity of the LP. I’ve been going there for quite some time now and what truly impresses me is that there are new (old) ones every time! Some even quite rare, actually! There is a little chair provided for the people (like me) who just have to go through every single record and make sure nothing is left unseen. Time flies so fast when you are looking for your next big discovery!

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These are just some of the treasures I found…

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Some of them I do have, some of them I don’t! I am still working on my rock collection and have a lifetime to do it! I wasn’t really sure what to get till I saw those two albums…

It’s amazing how the things we want so much, always find a way to come to us! I have been record shopping for ages and this is the first time I see those two albums in any music format. Bonham’s “The Disregard of Timekeeping” has been on my “list” for so long! It was almost unbelievable that it was there, just waiting for me…

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Fortune’s self-titled debut album is one rare-gem! I have never came across it and knowing how rare it is, I just had to buy it!

The prices of both were 7.000Won (7$ each). It’s crazy, right? Excellent condition, still with their lyric and promo sheets inside! This is what I’m talking about – I don’t know about you, guys but the thrill of browsing through records and all of a sudden finding one that you wanted so much can be such an emotional moment. Moreover, the most amazing thing is that these kinds of experiences can make you feel so much closer to the music. I didn’t have the chance to be born during the time these albums were released. I never attended their concert or passionately discussed such records with my friends. For someone like me, this is the most genuine way to feel that ’80s rock vibe. For a second there I feel like I was part of it all and it feels so good! Just like that, by holding an old-school second-hand record, I was brought back to the late ’80s and time didn’t matter anymore, it was all about my favorite music and me.

Bonham – The Disregard of Timekeeping (1989)

Fortune – Fortune (1985)

Moving on to the big wall of records… I just had to browse through them all.

Def Leppard

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Other interesting records I thought I’d never see in Korea!

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I wasn’t the only one on a hunt…

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The kings!

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Another separate CD section for the enthusiastic collectors.

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There were a couple of more stores which I had to visit before I leave. Though this one was the biggest and definitely the best, sometimes you never know what will jump out of the old vinyl boxes. Interestingly, there were plenty of people who were browsing and looking around. Korean people haven’t fully given up on LPs and that’s great!

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One of the other little stores always offers the best deals! In front of it, you can spot a couple of boxes, full of records, all for 5.000Won each (5$). I always find pretty interesting things there! Last time I went, I purchased Europe’s “The Final Countdown” and TNT’s “Tell No Tales” so with the hopes of finding new treasures, I went back…

& let the browsing begin…

I don’t have Guns N’ Roses’ “Use Your Illusion I” and it was such an amazing deal that I just had to buy it!

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Guns N’ Roses – Use Your Illusion (1991)

There are plenty of LP stores all over the underground shopping center but some of them were closed as it was too early when I went there.

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Of course, there are stores that offer the suitable sound equipment for listening to those LPs you just bought.

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…and there’s me at the end of my record shopping journey all happy and full of smiles, holding my three new LPs.

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I hope by my words and photos you can tell how exciting and joyful this whole experience was for me. I do that quite often but this time I decided to photograph it all step by step with the hopes of triggering pleasant emotions to my readers and create a sweet memory. I am leaving Korea for good pretty soon but this habit of mine will keep on existing wherever I go. I hope that people out there don’t forget the many benefits of purchasing a record and don’t stop doing it. As I said, that’s one of the most beautiful ways of going back in time. Imagine – this LP was made 30+ years ago and somehow it found its way to your arms. To me that’s just so extraordinary.

When I went back home I had the chance to take a closer look at my new LPs. Ain’t they amazing?

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P.S. All the photos are taken by me. Please make sure that you don’t just save and use them without my permission! Rock on!

The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~

10 Classic Rock Records That Should Be Owned By Everyone

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Innovation, brilliant musicianship and timeless impact are the three criteria based on which I chose the following list of 10 albums I believe should be owned by absolutely every person who values and understands music. There are indeed SO MANY groundbreaking albums that re-defined history but then again, we have those 10 which I think went far beyond re-defining – they simply turned things upside down. The echoes of their strong collision with the music world were so loud we could still hear them every day. Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Eagles and Fleetwood Mac are among the artist the works of which I would like to draw your attention to. I am positively certain that my readers know and are already in possession of those record but in case you don’t own a copy, grab your things and rush to the nearest record store!

(P.S. I made this list based on my personal expertise and opinion. I realize that some of you may not agree, but I still think those 10 albums deserve to be on everyone’s record shelf)


The Beatles – Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

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I just had to kick things off with this groundbreaking masterpiece, because let’s face it – no other record can actually beatSgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” when it comes to influence, cutting-edge music and artistry. Beatles retired as a live band and focused entirely on writing new music and experimenting with latest techniques in the studio. In June 1967, the results were in. Beatles didn’t have to worry about playing this album live, so they could go in any direction they want – they had the absolute freedom to arrange and produce things the way they wanted them to be. On Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, each of the Beatles adopted a new imaginary persona, which made things so much more interesting. The album also marked the beginning of album-oriented rock. “Sgt. Pepper” is a concept album you just have to listen from start to finish in order to truly understand its beauty; the record is simply one 40-minute song, an entity, an exceptional musical monster. Not only that, but it was the psychedelic, highly experimental, ambiguous, quite surreal nature of the record that gave rise to art and progressive rock, as well. Let us not forget that “Sgt. Pepper” has one of the most original artworks which re-evaluated the importance of album covers for future releases. “A Day in the Life”, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, “When I’m Sixty Four”, “Penny Lane” – songs that live forever.


Led Zeppelin – IV (1971)

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With masterpieces like “Stairway to Heaven”, “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll”, Led Zeppelin’s fourth album was destined for success. Surprisingly this album never actually topped the US charts, despite being in top 5 best-selling albums in the States of all time and being owned by pretty much every person who lived during the 70s. The organic and folky but quite atmospheric song “Stairway to Heaven” became the most requested song on a FM radio ever, breaking that 3 minute song barrier. It didn’t matter what the critics said about Zeppelin or this album – what mattered is that they made history.


David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)

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The absolute peak of David Bowie’s career has to be the adventurous concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”. For this album, the white duke adopted the persona of a Martian who comes to Earth liberate human kind. The album, along with David Bowie himself became synonymous with art rock, praising individualism, mysticism, theatrical performances and fashion. David was so ahead of his time – he simply offered a glimpse to another world, where you can be whoever you want to be.


Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)

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“The Dark Side of the Moon” shook the grounds of progressive rock the moment it was released to the public. It was this album that forever shattered the notion that progressive rock couldn’t be enjoyed by everyone – Pink Floyd simply brought this style to the mainstream audience. “The Dark Side of the Moon” is not just your ordinary influential rock album of the 70s – it’s an absolute cultural landmark and a celebration of cutting edge techniques, keyboards, synthesizers, sounds effects and coherent musicianship. With its highly intellectual, avant-garde lyrics, the album explores themes such as time, money and the dark-sides of human nature. “The Dark Side of the Moon” spent 471 consecutive weeks on the Billboard album chart – an achievement no other album could ever surpass. Kudos to the brainchild of David Gilmour and Roger Waters!


Eagles – Hotel California (1976)

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Eagles are probably one of the most beloved American bands of all time – Americans wouldn’t trade them even for the Beatles. In 1976, they just blew off the roof with the concept album “Hotel California” which eventually became one of the best-selling albums of all time and one of the most critically acclaimed records of all time. “New Kid in Town”, “Life in the Fast Lane”, “Hotel California” – all brilliant rockers with an everlasting impact! The title tracks contains one of the most memorable guitar solos; lyrics-wise, it deals with topics still relevant nowadays – self-destruction, corruption, drugs and the greed in the music industry.


The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966)

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Whether you like Beach Boys or not, you gotta respect them for their legacy and especially for “Pet Sounds” – one of the most influential albums of all time, loved by critics and fans from all over the world. Brian Wilson’s goal was to create “the greatest rock album ever made” – a powerful rock tornado with absolutely no weak points or filler songs. I am not sure we can refer to “Pet Sounds” as the greatest rock album but it’s definitely in the top 10. Brian Wilson adopted so many interesting, cutting-edge techniques and approaches for this album – from unusual instruments to sounds of dogs barking and bicycle bells; from complex symphonic arrangements to sophisticated vocal harmonies. No wonder “Pet Sounds” changed history – it offered the ultimate musical experience. Not to mention that, just like “Sgt. Pepper”, “Pet Sounds” was equally responsible for the development of art and progressive rock.


Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)

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Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” is essential for so many reasons. If, for a moment, we put aside the fact that it’s one of the BEST SELLING albums of all time and won a Grammy award for album of the year, “Rumours” was the album that forever blurred the lines between pop and rock. On top of that, “Rumours” was recorded when all members of the band were divorcing or breaking up with each other. There was no way a good album would come out of it. However, against all odds, their brutal frankness somehow stroke a chord with the audience and the album achieved something they never even hoped for – immortality. Candid, open-minded, emotional – I guess it’s true that the greatest masterpieces come out of pain, sorrow and heartbreak. Every song on this album, though it’s about sadness and break-up, is worth listening to.


Derek & The Dominos – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970)

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I don’t even know where to begin with when it comes to this album. Often considered as Eric Clapton’s greatest career achievement, the double album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs”, can’t stop captivating the audience with its emotional intensity and groundbreaking guitar work. Eric Clapton was simply giving it his all on this record. The inspiration 7-minute epic ballad title-song, “Layla”, has to be one of the highlights of the 70s and the ultimate staple of what a love song should sound like. The album is so much more than that though – “Bell Bottom Blues”, “I Am Yours”, “Anyday” – any song of the record offers comforting blues, solid rock&roll, raw guitars and a great mood.


Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)

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After careful consideration, I decided to wrap things up with Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”. When it comes to the origins of heavy metal, things might be a little bit blurred. The foundations of the genre were laid in time, with the contribution of so many bands, styles, approaches, etc. However, to me personally one of the first records that presented a clear-cut vision of what heavy metal should sound like was “Paranoid”. There’s no surprise that many critics refer to this album as “the birthplace of heavy metal”. The simplistic approach to music, heavy guitar hooks, gloomy lyrics, exploring dark subjects and of course – the loud and quite sharp vocal delivery of Ozzy, defined the sound and image of heavy metal.

How many of these records you guys own?


References:
P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers.
The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~