At 16, Tom Abbott helped order hip-hop records at Rundle Street institution B Sharp before eventually owning the joint. Now, after taking a break from music to work as a lawyer, he’s returned to the industry with Record Playerz.
A new underground record store from an Adelaide scene stalwart
Tom Abbott has been a practicing lawyer for the last couple of decades, but at the beginning of this year he realised something was missing from his life: sharing his enthusiasm for, and selling, vinyl records.
“I’m first and foremost a record collector and I’m going to be a collector until the day I die,” he says, “and I want Record Playerz to be a meeting place for people that are into this type of music.”
Record Playerz, located in the basement of Hindley Street whisky bar, Suzie Wong, specialises in hip hop, soul, jazz, disco and RnB vinyl records.
Tom and his business partner, Davide Colombi, source predominantly new pressings direct from distributors, largely based in the US, UK and Europe.
Tom has a thing for hip-hop music – and the genres it samples, such as soul and funk – and his business shows it. Up to 700 freshly minted vinyl releases line the crates, revealing a wide gamut of rap heaters.
“I know it’s not for everyone, but hip hop as a genre is forever evolving,” Tom says.
The late Brooklyn drill king Pop Smoke’s 2020 debut album Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon shines from a shelf, while an early release from landmark Memphis horrorcore firebrand Three 6 Mafia sits adjacent.
Framed black and white photos of predominantly black musicians hang opposite the records, as an homage to those who create the music Tom has found so much joy in.
“I was in a hip-hop group in the late ’80s,” Tom says, “and I had an 808 drum machine and I would just cut in a line off a record. That’s how I got into the whole soul, jazz thing.
“My dad was into jazz music and I had that growing up, but it was more so through hip hop and the fact that hip hop, much like house, would sample these soul records.
“I just had to find that record where they got that lick from.”
As well as in-person offerings, Tom also runs an online website for Record Playerz, through which he hopes to sell his wares to a broader audience.
Although “Adelaide is a great town”, it lacks the critical mass to support a specialist operation such as this.
“We’ve designed this shop in a way that our opening hours are extremely limited,” Tom says.
“I wouldn’t want to be getting into this business wholeheartedly relying upon the income on this store to pay the rent. That would pose difficulties.”
Davide brings his flair for Italo-disco flavours to Record Playerz. You can often find him spinning burners in Suzie Wong upstairs, or the bar’s sister haunt, Bibliotheca on Gresham Street.
Tom has his own deejay genesis story, having burst onto the scene as DJ T-Bot when he was just 15.
Tom further cemented himself into the underground late-night scene by buying an already established a record store decades later.
“I used to own B Sharp on Rundle Street, but sold that shop back in 2007,” Tom says.
“Funnily enough, I had a job [there] before that back in ’88.
“The manager used to let me purchase hip hop for him off the list. This was way before I was studying law – I was in Year 9 at school.
“I would go through these lists and tell him which hip-hop albums he should get, and in return he would flip me a couple of LPs each week. It was a good gig. Plus, I used to get first pick.”
As the owner of yet another record store, Tom’s story is cyclical. He hopes Record Playerz will continue the cycle and foster the same environment that pushed him deeper into his crate-digging passions as a young person.
And while the record store has its specialty genres, Tom says the shop isn’t just for a single type of record-obsessive.
“That’s why we didn’t name it something like ‘deejay’s,” he says. “Record Playerz is more inclusive. It’s for everyone.”