If you’re in London, you have to visit Honest Jon’s

Most of London’s well-known record shops are located on and around Berwick Street in Soho.

There’s Reckless Records, Phonica, Sister-Ray and Sounds Of The Universe (and there used to be some more before the Soho’s dreaded ‘regeneration’ priced them out). They’re excellent, but since they’re all so close to each other the prices for new releases are all the same; plus milling about the area can get quite claustrophobic on a busy afternoon. 

That’s partly why Honest Jon’s is such a breath of fresh air. Stepping off the Underground at Ladbroke Grove station and walking up to Portobello Road – the far edge of one of London’s most famous markets – you get a sense of space and calm that you lack in Soho. But Honest Jon’s charms aren’t just spatial: once inside you realise you’re in a true gem of West London sound culture. 

When it was located around the corner in the 1970s, Honest Jon’s became a haven for the local working-class Afro-Carribean community, many of whom snatched up the jazz records, and to this day it has London’s best selection of dub and reggae. (According to this excellent profile by Aaron Coultate, during riots after the 1976 Notting Hill Carnival, Honest Jon’s was one of the few shops whose windows weren’t smashed.) 

Inside you’ll find blaxploitation posters; a great selection of the latest bass music releases, Latin American, African, hip-hop and jazz; as well as books, trinkets, badges and other merchandise. Although they don’t have listening decks, if you turn up during the day and there aren’t many people, one of the helpful people behind the counter might let you listen to what you want over the shop’s speakers. Also, new releases are often a bit cheaper than Soho. 

Image: Rene Passet via Flickr

To visit Honest Jon’s from Generator London, get the Hammersmith & City, Circle or Metropolitan line from King’s X to Ladbroke Grove.