Waking up to a dance of cloudy, sunlit showers, it was time to see a different side of Hamburg’s music history: its infamous record stores. The city has a rich history of vinyl collectors and DJs digging through crates and spinning hidden gems in clubs such as St. Pauli’s Golden Pudel Club.
Our guide through the winding streets of St Pauli was Booty Carrell, a local legend who mans the counter at Groove City Records, and a spinner of a bewildering array of vinyl. If you’re looking to take a funky journey from Pakistan to Paris and back again, Booty is your guy.
Booty is an incredibly warm man. What’s apparent from the first steps out onto the street is how much he loves people and adores his neighbourhood. We jokingly dub him ‘The Mayor of St. Pauli’ as he stops what seems like every few steps to hug or shake hands with passers-by. We travel under the walls of the historic meatpacking district and take a look at the outside of Kunst: an unassuming nightclub which played host to the likes of R.E.M (in their fledgeling days), and now hosts a variety of local Turkish bands.
Our first stop is Hanseplatte, an airy space that specialises in music from Hamburg. Booty really looks like a kid in a candy shop here, thumbing gleefully through the plastic-bound records, spouting little facts about seemingly everything he touches. He grabs a red, white and green record and motions for it to be put on loudspeakers. The groove of Erobliques’s ‘Urlaub in Italien’ flows out into the street. The track is a crowd favourite but was never committed to a studio recording. Throughout the song, the whoops and cheers of the audience can be heard as they chime in with this beloved Hamburg local.
As we walked past the meatpacking steps that colourfully proclaim ‘St. Pauli’, Booty points out the dark shopfront of Smallville records.
“They never open before 2 pm, even on Saturdays when they can get the best business. They’re proper night owls”.
Next stop on our tour was Booty’s own Groove City Records, specializing in funk, soul, hip-hop and jazz. Upon entering we’re greeted by owner Marga Glanz, who has run Groove City for 14 years. “10 years ago the 12-inch business was gone” she relates, “the hip-hop musicians all started using Serato”. Groove City is more internationally inclined than Hanseplatte with the recognizable faces of Anderson .Paak, Curtis Mayfield and MF Doom all staring out of neatly arranged piles of vinyl. One record that appears constantly on this winding journey is the colourful Derya Yildrim and Grup Şimşek a “modern super quintet” who have just released their self-titled debut album. Booty is very proud of this record and points it out multiple times on the tour.
As we walk out into the overcast Hamburg morning, Booty praises St. Pauli’s ability to never lose its character and the area’s determination to not give in to gentrification. Our next stop, the comparatively large Zardoz Records, moved some years ago because the rent in its previous location was simply too high for it to operate. But here in St. Pauli, it has found a home. As Booty laughs and jokes with the owner, something that our guide said earlier begins to ring true; “It’s really great that fellow record store owners and workers feel like your friends and colleagues rather than your competitors. It really helps music flourish in the city”. Indeed, each shop proudly carries a full list of other vinyl proprietors in the area, in case they don’t have what their customer is looking for.
Last but not least, we come to Freiheit & Roosen /HAFENSCHLAMMREKORDS which Booty describes as a crate-diggers paradise; if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and do some real hunting. Amongst dusty hip-hop compilations, you’ll find a huge array of kick-knacks. Old postcards line the walls, and you can even pick up a version of Top Trumps that is based around oil spills. Weird, wonderful and cavernous, really adventurous diggers will no doubt find something special here.
And so concluded our alternative take on music history in Hamburg. Booty hugged us both and warmly promised to visit us in London one day. Infected by his passion and positivity, we made our way back onto the winding streets of St. Pauli, to continue our day in the late sunshine.