You cannot talk about the Brisbane vinyl scene without mentioning Rocking Horse Records. This shop is an institution for music lovers and boasts perhaps the most broadly comprehensive stock of records in BNE. Walking out empty handed is next to impossible, and while it sounds cliche, this store really does have something for everyone.
Under the neon rocking horse sign and down the staircase, the inner city shop feels like a euphoric hub of musical activity. The backroom turntable is in perpetual motion spinning everything from local lo-fi punk through to 90’s Berlin techno. I always take out my headphones when I walk into the shop and regularly find myself reaching for my phone to shazam a tasty track. While the record shelves physically dominate the shop floor, the walls are collage of all things musical- covered in posters, band flyers, photos froms gigs, record sleeves, and all manner of graphics that have been accumulated over the years. It feels like a real record shop.
In terms of genre strengths and deficiencies, Rocking Horse is a pretty good all-rounder. When I shop at RH I usually end up walking out with something House or Techno, Hip Hop, Jazz, Funk or Soul. Those are just my tastes and what I usually end up looking through in the store.The Jazz section is especially strong, taking up the entire back wall, and includes a small but rich selection of avant garde and local presses that I haven’t found in other stores. The funk and blues sections are smaller but well organized and with a good breadth of genre, mostly second hand records but with a fair mix of re-releases and fresh press in there as well. Hip Hop, Metal, and Electronic all have their respective territories and I’ve found plenty of quality records in all. The Rocking Horse metal section as actually pretty extensive and organised into various subgenres where applicable. Other than a few small specialty stores like Phase 4 and NGM, Rocking Horse is probably the best spot to browse for metal in Brisbane. Rocking Horse does a good job at catering to the ‘popular’ genre tastes but also keeps a solid stock of more partician and highly regarded underground stuff as well.
Rock and Pop are the most widely represented genres in the store, and Pop is a very loosely applied term. Aphex Twin? Yep that’s in Pop. Massive Attack, Of Montreal, the Goon Sax? Yeah mate, just over there in Pop. Besides masses of records, there is an expansive CD rack, book shelves, cabinets filled with collectibles, posters, and audio equipment like turntables and cartridges. Rocking Horse is really a one stop shop for your vinyl needs.
The records crates are easy to navigate, whether by genre or artist, and the many sections of discount LP’s, 45s, and loose records make for an authentic and slightly chaotic dig. It’s the type of store where you’ll find 16 year old kids buying $40 Arctic Monkeys records, shopping beside 50 year old audiophiles hunting for that rare 1978 Chet Baker B-Side. The prices are pretty reasonable as well, although expect to fork out between $30 and $50 for any shiny fresh presses. I’m more inclined to rummage through the second hand sections and usually pay between $5 and $15. There IS an enormous amount of cheap wax however like anything worth having you’ll need to work for it. Look out for a stool to sit on and save your back, as the cheapies line the underside of the record shelves and are sorted alphabetically (although somewhat haphazardly).
The Rocking Horse staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and look as though they love their work. They’re happy to help find a record in store or order it in for you to collect, and I usually enjoy a good chat about whatever records I end up buying at the checkout. I’ve been shopping there for a few years so maybe I get special treatment, but I get the feeling that these guys (like most record shops) really appreciate customer loyalty and are willing to reciprocate that by helping me out where they can with tracking down records or answering my weirdly specific questions about local acts and the 1980’s Brisbane breakbeat scene (more to come on that in the future). Rocking Horse is an awesome shop and my number one pick for anybody new to the scene looking for a gentle introduction to vinyl and an authentic record digging experience.