FEATURE: Sound It Out Records | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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I bought my first vinyl when I was 13 years old. I walked out the store on a crisp Autumn day with a rustle of leaves blowing towards me and I clutched the record, sheltering it as if it were a newborn child. It was the first time I owned something. Rushing home from the shop, I felt important; I had something to treasure, something to protect and savour. Over the years, Joni Mitchell’s Blue has protected me and served me well with every rotation. After each spin, that same wave of pride and purpose washes over me, like it was that very same Autumn I left the shop as a child.

The shop in question was North East institution Sound It Out Records. The small shop has rooted itself deep into the heart of the Stockton community. Over the years, for myself and many others, this local hub for passion grew into a safe haven. It became a place dedicated to an unyielding devotion for music. As Jeanie Finlay’s 2011 documentary will attest, what made Sound It Out so special was the purity that emanated from it.

In 2014, I took up work experience there. I was let into the haven, I was in nirvana. The besotted cult following I had seen pass through those doors were now coming to me, I felt like king of the world.

Almost instantly I was hit by the truth: this wasn’t an idyllic paradise, held up by goodwill. The backbone of this shop wasn’t sheer record-related whimsy, it was a selfless dedication to something important. The tireless hours dating each individual record, scrutinising over every detail of the label, the artist and the release. The mountains of vinyl to categorise, the archives of information to update, replenish and maintain. It was never as easy as it looked, and it was a labour of love.

Sound it Out Records was the result of people knowing exactly what music can mean and what it can do. It was perfect for those who needed it; it was an escape for those who needed to escape, it was a performance space for those who needed to perform, it was information for those seeking to learn. It was an anchor for Stockton and it became a foster home to music and all who leaned on it.

Through my weeks of work experience, Melanie taught me the intimacy of a record and the value of learning and absorbing it all. Stuart, though a thankless task at the time, turned me onto Prince, a gratitude I will never fully be able to repay. Tom Butchart, who left us on 9th June, took me aside on my final shift and shared a few candid words about the reality of retail and the drive necessary to keep a place like this alive for the decades it endured. Those few weeks are cemented in me. Tom’s morality and commitment, and the compassion and resilient dedication to his extended family of vinyl enthusiasts are etched in my memory. I loved that shop.

As Sound It Out closes its doors for the final time on 31st August, I want to thank it for the lodging it gave to each and every curious punter that walked into the humble building. Sound it Out Records was the music, the staff, the love and the avid community of customers who gave everything to it.


Image: Tom Butchart by Mel Butler

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