What’s Spinning Joel Shortman

We’re spoilt for choice in Melbourne – and not just for brunch spots. Melbourne’s many record stores are a treasure trove of rare finds, must-haves and fascinating personalities. One such example is Northcote favourite Rathdowne Records. So, meet the man behind the vinyl.


Introduce yourself…

I’m Joel Shortman, owner of Rathdowne Records in Northcote and former owner of Small Screen which was a video shop in North Carlton…back when video shops were a thing.


How long have you worked in music?

I started selling records at the video shop twelve years ago.  The records took over the backroom and then the whole shop, then five years ago I had to move to High Street Northcote to fit all the records into a bigger shop.


What do you love about it?

I think about what I’d ideally be doing in my time off, spinning records and chatting to people about music and maybe researching them and putting them in order and then I realise that’s what I do for a living.


What’s the weirdest part of your job?

The fact that this is even a job!  The fact that I had a job in an industry that was killed off by the internet and my escape chute was to embrace an entirely analogue medium.


What are your desert island albums?

Histoire de Melody Nelson (Serge Gainsbourg), Bach Cello Suites, John Coltrane Blue Train.  Trouble is I’m always hungry to hear something new and I’d want to be able to change this list daily and listen to non-canonical records.


What is your guilty pleasure album? Why do you love it?

I listen to a lot of library records, anime soundtracks and space-age records that are full of cheesy tracks in the search for something that gets my head nodding.  I also love Michel Legrand’s Jacques Demy musicals like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg for their sheer catchiness and their pull on the heart-strings. ut bring these records up in a “serious” jazz forum and snobs can shoot you down.

Jacques Demy and Michael Legrand

What’s your musical hot-tip?

I don’t keep up to date with music as I spend most of my time looking backwards, but I’ve hosted some amazing acts in my shop from Lake MinnetonkaChelsea Wilson and Tulalah to Sunfruits.


What/who was your first love in music? Why?

Most likely The Beatles. My brother made me a mix-tape with them on it when I was seven, it also had The Bangles, Bowie and Bananarama.  Dad used to play music pretty much constantly at home and favoured classical, jazz and blues.


Are you a jazz fan? If so, what’s your favourite jazz album/artist and why?

I love jazz!  How can you not?!  Anchored in a deep groove, root or swing and then allowed to go as sweet or sad or mad as it wants, played by the best musicians in the world.  I left classical flute and tried jazz improvisation myself but never had the stamina, so my love and collection of jazz records is this passion expressed physically. I started Rathdowne Records as a jazz specialist shop and my list of favourites is huge but post-bop and soul-jazz do it for me the most: Miles, Monk, Mingus, Roland Kirk.


What do you think makes for a great record collection?

A lifetime of collecting and depth in particular genres and pockets.  “100 records you must own” lists are fine and all, but don’t make for the most personal journeys.  I like getting a whole collection in bulk and sorting out the good, the bad and the ugly.  There’s pleasure and discoveries in second-tier artists, obscurities, also-rans and one-hit wonders.  People should collect whatever they want – a great collection can be just one artist if they choose!


What’s one thing people may not know about vinyl?

You can remove skips caused by dirt in the groove with a toothpick.


What are you playing on a Friday night? What are you playing on a Sunday morning?

Hip hop on a Friday and blues or maybe Nina or Billie on Sunday.  Or vice versa.


Pay Joel a visit at Rathdowne Records, 230 High St Northcote, to find one of the best jazz collections in town. He’s about to launch two very special deals for the budding collector or the black wax connoisseur: 5 x $5 records for $20, and 5 x $10 records for $40. Not too shabby.

Visit Rathdowne Records in September and you’ll find a new collection of 500 jazz records hitting the shelves to join the (already massive) 1000 strong collection in the store all year round.

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