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Bookseller Spotlight: An Interview with Jumbo Records

We caught up with Kelsey at Jumbo Records who helps run the book and music selection for the shop, along with illustrative design for their merchandise and magazines. She tells us a little bit more about the history of Jumbo Records, her favourite 33 1/3 books, and why the physical format of an album endures.


Tell us a little bit about Jumbo Records. What’s your role?

Jumbo Records has been around in Leeds since 1971. The name and logo originated from ‘Jumbo Mobile Discotheque’, which was the successful disco and DJ business of the original owner, Hunter Smith. The shop not only sold chart hits, but also specialised in reggae and soul releases. Fifty years on, the shop is still open and has expanded massively! Not only do we sell a plethora of music, but we are also very proud of our ever-growing book section. We also hold intimate in-store shows and signings for artists to promote their music and books.

Seeing as we’re a pretty small team here, we all dip in and out of lots of roles. Recently, I have been trusted with ordering the books for the shop, which has been a lot of fun. It has been really rewarding building relationships with publishers and distributors, so when somebody comes into the shop in search of a particular book and we have it, it’s a great feeling. I also do a lot of the illustrations for our merchandise and end of year magazine!

Jumbo Record, Queens Arcade, Leeds, 1971
Jumbo Record, Queens Arcade, Leeds, 1971

What’s your favourite thing about working at Jumbo?

A lot of customers have a personal connection to Jumbo, which is what makes the store so special. The shop is a space where anyone can come in and is free to chat to us about music, whilst also picking up their favourite album or something they just heard over the speakers. This is great on both sides, as I feel like I am continually discovering new albums and artists that may have never been on my radar. But I think the staff here are probably my favourite part of working for Jumbo. They really are the soul of the shop and I think this is one of the reasons why customers have stuck with us for so long. Everyone has a diverse range of interests, so they are constantly putting me onto new things, be it books, music, games or films.

Vinyl has had a real revival over the last 10-15 years. Why do you think this format has prevailed, despite the popularity of streaming services?

There is something special about the physical format of an album which you don’t really get with streaming. It is a whole experience; you get to browse record shops and find the album, take it home with the main intent of sitting down and listening to it. You really get to appreciate an album to its fullest and it is something you can hold onto forever. Leeds has a large student population, which is great for the shop as we have people of all ages and backgrounds in. Although vinyl is still popular which we are thankful for, the prices are continuing to rise, so we have also seen an increase in the amount of CD’s we sell.

What’s your favourite 33 1/3?

This is a tough question as there are so many great editions! I think it’s a tie between Ezra Furman’s ‘Lou Reeds Transformer’ and Jordan Ferguson’s ‘J Dilla’s Donuts’. They are extremely thorough dives into not only the albums but also the time in which they were created and the effect this had on both artists. They are also extremely enjoyable reads!

What about Jumbo customers – how do they react to the series?

Most customers don’t expect to buy a book when they walk into a record shop, so I think it is usually a nice surprise for them when they spot our book section. Our 33 1/3 selection is particularly popular for a lot of reasons. The range is extremely diverse, with a mix of older and modern classics that cover most genres. They also go perfectly with the album that the book is written on, so we will sometimes have customers buy both the vinyl or CD as well as the book. It’s the perfect way to get to know a record; listening to an album whilst also reading about its creation. Recently, our hip-hop titles have been extremely popular. Will Hagle’s ‘Madvillain’s Madvillainy’ seems to sell out as soon as we put it on display!

What 33 1/3 would you like to see added to the series?

Oh, there are a few!

  • The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators
  • Pauline Anna Strom’s ‘Trans Millenia Music’
  • Robbie Basho’s ‘Visions of the Country’
  • Silver Jews ‘American Water’
  • Outkast’s ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’
  • Karen Dalton’s ‘In My Own Time’

Jumbo Records, is a proudly independent record shop in the heart of Leeds’ city centre. They sell CDs, vinyl, books, magazines, styli and other accessories, as well as tickets to a wide variety of local music venues and much more. If you’re in Leeds, pop into their store to browse their incredible selection. Or you can order from them online, at www.jumborecords.co.uk.

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