Located on 129 York Street, across from the Queen Victora Building and near Town Hall, Ashwood's Music and Books is one of my favorite places in Sydney. A walk down a steep flight of steps gets you out of the city and into the basement of an obsessive collector, a guy who's got a ton of old records, books, comics and CDs he'd love to share with you. From old issues of 2000 AD to "pre-loved" sci-fi paperbacks to assembled Aurora monster model kits (NOT FOR SALE), there's always something good. The staff is excellent, a rotating group of people always ready to chat about obscure jazz or old concerts. On several occasions I've heard some bit of wonderfully obscure music coming from the store's record player and ended up learning something new about Australian music history (Cold Chisel's cover of "Wild Thing" was my first, and its utterly wonderful).

Browsing is encouraged, though the store is a bit cramped. That's part of the charm, though, as books and CDs are literally stacked up on the floor. They don't mind if you don't buy anything (probably on the assumption that eventually you will). The other customers are great, too, a mix of serious collectors and young students. The last time I was there I ended up discussing Bowie with a pimply 18 year old and the ex-hippie behind the counter.

Basically, Ashwood's Books and Music is the perfect place to hide out from the noise of the city and the preasures of academic life. A friend assures me that its a great place to "trawl for Dylan". I just know that 10 minutes digging through its shelves in search of that rare Bing Crosby 45 or original Neal Adams "Demon" issue will leave you feeling rested, relaxed, and ready to face the harsh light of day. Strongly recomended.

(Rare records, books, and other merchendise can be ordered from Ashwood's website, www.ashwoods.com. The same website assures me that the store was founded in 1932, though no other historical information is provided.)

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