Paul Jackson Music

Paul Jackson Music

Friday, 28 June 2013

#10: Record Store Years

Visiting record shops is something I don’t do as much as I would like to or as much as I used to. These days shopping is quite a different experience from that of my teenage years, and rural Kent offers less in the way of vinyl emporiums than the Yorkshire towns I grew up in in the mid-eighties. Though a record shop in Tunbridge Wells was kind enough to  order in for me  a double vinyl edition of Kraftwerk’s “Tour De France Soundtracks” album a few years ago, it is now an infrequent activity, whereas in my younger years, “the record shop” played an active role in my vinyl adventures.
When I started buying records I was living in Elland, West Yorkshire, from where you could catch a bus to either Halifax in one direction, or Huddersfield in the other. Each town offered a variety of record stores which I would regularly visit at weekends and in school holidays.
It is one thing to vividly remember these shops, but another to remember the records I bought in them; I wouldn’t want to portray myself as some sort of music geek. (!)
Initially these would be family trips out and I was lucky enough at the age of seven to be allowed to buy the Adam and the Ants “Prince Charming” LP. A year later, my mum took me to a record shop in Halifax for the sole purpose of letting me buy Adam Ant's “Goody Two Shoes” single. There was also a large vinyl record section in Asda supermarket where we would do our ‘weekly shop’. One day, instead of being allowed to buy a Star Wars figure, I chose Adam Ant’s “Strip” LP.  All of these ‘record buying’ moments were memorable occasions. (Surely they don’t count towards being a music geek though, do they?).

A little while later I would start travelling into ‘town’ either on my own or with friends. In my later teens meeting my friend Chris on the bus for a day of record perusing became a regular venture complete with fast food meal intervals and then tea back home while we rifled through our purchases.
Occasionally our destinations would stretch a little further to Bradford, Leeds, Wakefield and Keighley after I had made careful studies of the Yellow Pages and phone directories listing all the record shops I could find. But Halifax and Huddersfield were the main ports of call for several years.

A short walk from the bus station in Huddersfield took you to the main high street where Our Price offered the latest chart releases and a good stock of back catalogue. Here I would pester the staff for news on pending releases from artists I liked. Next door was Woolworths that had a wall of shelving displaying each 7” single in the Top 40 starting with No.1 at the top left. I remember looking through a pile of newly released Frankie Goes To Hollywood “Welcome To The Pleasuredome” albums and wondering if I would be allowed to buy on. I also sifted through the basket of Streetsounds Hip Hop Electro albums and choosing which one to buy this week. And I also remember buying an LP of Ennio Morricone music featuring a picture of Clint Eastwood on the sleeve that looked out at me from the rack.  

Tucked away in the shopping arcades were shops such as Bostock Records; a smaller unit with a wealth of vinyl releases. There I bought Adam Ant’s “Friend Or Foe” album in 1982 (We’re verging on nerd territory now)
Further along on another main shopping street stood EGS records which arrived at the end of the eighties and would offer very low priced back catalogue material. 99p for Thompson Twins’ “Here’s To Future Days” album complete with a remix 12” single inside is still one of the best bargains I’ve ever found. Here I also purchased the import double pack of Pet Shop Boys “Actually” and the 12” of “Always On My Mind”. (Okay, I am what I am). EGS also used to sell sealed bags of 7” singles and 12” singles as a kind of lucky dip. You didn’t know what was inside until you’d paid and stood outside ripping the bag open to see if it was worth the purchase. The best I did was two KLF 7” singles; “Kylie Said To Jason” and “What Time Is Love?”.
Over the road was Fulcrum records; a tiny shop that stocked mainly dance music releases. Here I bought “Rofo’s Theme” by Rofo, Marc Almond’s “Jacky”, Digitalis’ “Accepting” and, most notably, the German language release of Kraftwerk’s “The Mix” album.
A few doors down was Big Tree that had a good stock of new and back catalogue records. Although it seems early on, I’m pretty sure it was from here I bought Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” album in 1984 and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” which was still selling well two years after it was released.
There were also music sections in other shops such as WH Smith where I bought new releases such as Streetsounds Hip Hop Electro volume 13 in 1986, and singles including Cliff Richard and the Young Ones’ “Living Doll” (Comic Relief version) and Band Aid “Do They Know It’s Christmas”.

There was also a record section in the basement of Woods music shop that stocked mainly instruments and sheet music. There I bought the soundtrack to the Granada TV series “Sherlock Holmes”, by Patrick Gowers, much to the bemusement and horror of a friend I later bumped into on that day who was focused solely on hip hop music. He couldn’t work out how I could be into the Sherlock Holmes incidental music as well as Run DMC.
Bradleys Records had branches in both Huddersfield and Halifax and it was in the former branch I bought chart singles such as Wham’s “I’m Your Man” when it hit No. 1 in 1985, and also album releases by Doug E Fresh and Whistle.
My cousin introduced me to another record shop in Huddersfield called Dead Wax that was in the Byram Arcade. As we climbed the stairs he told me to picture a room filled with as many records as I could possibly imagine… and then double it. That was Dead Wax. A medium sized room filled floor to ceiling with stacked boxes of vinyl. It was quite a job to navigate around the shop and find the sections you wanted to look through. Quite often you’d have to ask the guy behind the counter for a particular artist and he would reach somewhere and hand you a pile of Pet Shop Boys 7” singles or something. Sadly there was a fire at the shop and for a long time after there were boxes of damaged stock for sale at reduced prices with bits of ash at the end of the sleeves. Last time I went to visit, several years ago, the shop had been replaced by a hairdressers.

Over in Halifax there were the two Groove record shops ran by Jeff and Dianne; Groove and Groove 2. I remember buying the second single by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince called “The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff” as well as several other single releases. On a Monday morning in 1990 I can remember standing outside Groove 2 records waiting for them to open and the arrival, and opening, of the cardboard boxes of new releases. I was about to go away on a course, via my school, and there was time to nip to town and buy the new Pet Shop Boys single, “So Hard”, on 7” and 12” formats.
For part of the year I had a Saturday job in the Halifax branch of Woods music shop which was round the corner from Square Records ran by Alan. My lunch break from Woods would usually involve me nipping round there for a good rummage through the boxes.
Square Records later moved to the Piece Hall which, at that time, was awash with independent shops of all kinds before rising rents squeezed the traders out. One of them was occupied by Wall Of Sound where on buying Kraftwerk’s “Radioactivity” LP, both myself and the owner Elliot were convinced it was scratched when he played it in the shop, until we discovered that the first track was called "Geiger Counter" and the clicks were actual part of the track. Here I also bought New Order’s “Blue Monday” 12” single, many years after it was released but it seemed to be a necessary purchase a few days before I would move to Manchester.

Over the years I have heard from friends of which shops have disappeared and which shops are still there. They remain great memories, and in the same way the character Rob in Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity” novel and film has biographical recollections of each record in his collection, many of the singles and albums I have here in this room still conjure up pictures of the shops I bought them in, the people I bought them with, and the staff I bought them from.