Don’t be put off by this store’s small size. There are treasures within.
Happyfeet is a relative recent addition to Prague’s small but centrally located second-hand record stores (bazary LP in Czech). Its location, the Lucerna Passage Complex, seems odd at first since the
complex tends to cater to tourists and slightly better-heeled clientèle. In its art-nouveau corridors you will find gourmet food shops, a Persian rug importer, stylish bars and cafes. So when I saw Happyfeet for the first time, I had to go in.
I have been going back ever since and over time I have made some great finds. The bulk of the collection is classic rock from the sixties to the present. There is also a decent selection of local rock/pop and small though well-stocked, soul/funk and jazz sections. The jazz albums are divided into local and foreign pressings, with the local releases being much cheaper. All of the records (except the discount ones) are in plastic protective sleeves.
Those records which were not able to find new owners have been turned into clocks. As much as I love vinyl, this struck me as a somewhat ignominious end for a record.
Specific albums I have found here include Leonard Cohen’s New Skin for the Old Ceremony, Bowie’s Scary Monsters, both in good condition at a reasonable price, which is not always the case. One of the drawbacks of the central location and the above-average range of stock is that the vinyl stock, especially the foreign, i.e. American and British, is a bit more expensive than other places. (Admittedly, in the last year or so there seems to be increasing parity among shops in Prague.)
On my most recent visit I was really spoilt for choice. Both the general stock and the discount section had a number of releases which piqued my interest. It took a lot of will to stick to the budget I had set myself. In the end I settled for Karel Plíhal’s first album and an album of csárdás by the violinist Sándor Lakatos. (Apologies to any Hungarian readers for writing his family name second but this is how it appears on the album.) I have been looking for the Plíhal album for a while, so there was no question that I would be taking it home. I have seen him in concert a couple of times and have some music on CD, but nothing on vinyl. My collection feels a little more complete with his sprightly yet melancholic songs among The Pixies and The Pogues.
Sándor Lakatos is an unknown quantity. I heard some csárdás when I was in Budapest a few years ago. The rhythms and spirit intrigued me, so I wanted to keep an eye out for more. Lakatos is deservedly called a virtuoso. His fiddle dances, croons and weeps from song to song, though the recording is a bit too clean for my taste. But it was a different time, a different aesthetic – a perfect example of the portals second-hand record shops can open up.