Review: Rough Trade 40th Anniversary Journal

This year the iconic and beloved British music company Rough Trade celebrates it’s 40th birthday and to mark the occasion they’ve published a book titled ‘Rough Trade 40th Anniversary Journal’ which comes with an exclusive 7” featuring John Grant.

The book charts the history of Rough Trade, from the opening of the first record shop in 1976 by Geoff Travis to the birth, rise and fall of the label and it’s return as well as the opening of shops across the world. The book is adorned with photos and images of bands, employees, gigs, records and the jacket was illustrated by London art collective Le Gun.

This beautifully designed, chaotic, cool mesh of personal stories and artwork embodies the Rough Trade vibe. The history of the company is told through first hand accounts of those who worked and hung out there; travelled through and were inspired by it. There are over 100 contributions including pieces by Martin Mills, Thurston Moore, Mark Ronson, Jarvis Cocker, Kate Tempest and Brian Eno. And there are stories from past and present employees and customers who went on to make their own mark on the music industry, charting how their relationships, careers and love of music were impacted by the company.


Rough Trade 40 3

The book is a reminder of how Rough Trade is so much more than just a retailer, it created a movement and a lifestyle in reaction to the domination of the major labels and manufactured music: “It wasn’t just about consumerism, but total immersion: a way of life and a way of thought”. The company and those behind it realized and utilized the power and magic there is in in discovering new music and helping others to do so. And this is why Rough Trade has outlived so many others who put money before the music. Why they’ve managed to be “eternally cool”. Rough Trade provided and still does, an oasis for music fans, where they are encouraged to hang out and be educated: “If music is your religion, then Rough Trade is your church”, Don Letts.

The Rough Trade label changed ideas about music distribution and still inspires independent labels and bands today. It gave chances to artists that would never have otherwise been listened to. It combined opposing genres under one roof, like punk and reggae and built success out of the ‘do it yourself’ attitude. As Bill Drummond puts it, “without Rough Trade the cultural landscape of this country over the previous few decades would be a lot bleaker”.

Rough Trade, what can I say? Happy 40th anniversary and in the words of former employee Andy Childs, we “raise a glass to all those who played their part in the history of this remarkable company”

Buy your copy of Rough Trade – 40th Anniversary Journal here.


Rough Trade 40 2