What were your favourite record shops back in the day?
Back in 1985 I used to visit a record shop called Hitsville USA in Newcastle. It was a very small shop that specialised in High Energy & Disco music but also stocked imported hip-hop & soul. The staff had a way of making you feel slightly uncomfortable – like you didn’t belong there, but that didn’t stop me from visiting every week. The shop was very small but extremely cool with an iconic American flag hanging from the window on the fifth floor, even the carrier bags looked super cool – see picture
I was still at school at the time so didn’t really earn much money from my measly paper round – let’s just say I had to deliver alot of papers just to buy one record. I had to choose wisely which was difficult as most of the records were imports from USA so they were very expensive. There was no listening booths like there is today so I had to rely upon instinct as many diggers did back in the day. I was always attracted to certain records by the artwork and the information on the back sleeve – they say never judge a book by its cover, but with a record, sometimes you can. I also used to regularly hang out at Trax Records in Sunderland, they later opened a second store in Newcastle. I was asked to designed a logo for them, which was actually used on the shop front and printed on their carrier bags too.
Was there a record store that made you feel uncomfortable?
Haha I would say 90% of record shops have a certain uncomfortable vibe with the usual grumpy music snob behind the counter who generally take a while to warm to customers, that is at least, once they pass a certain ‘knowledge test’
Is there a particular memory of a mission trying to find a certain record?
London Beats (a cut & paste mix by Jazzy B) was very difficult to find back in the day. everyone I asked didn’t seem to know of it’s existence but I knew it existed, as a friend had recorded it on to a cassette for me. I did see a copy once, at a record fair in Bedford, but I didn’t have enough money to buy it at the time, as it would of meant spending all my bus fair and walking over 20 miles to get home! About 20 years later, a repress of it ended up in my local store at RPM in Newcastle!
What was the best bargain find you remember?
Back in 1992 I was digging in a junk shop with loads of old lawnmower engines and general broken crap, when I found a large box of old records – the box was literally full of 70’s jazz and funk albums Herbie Hancock, Ramsey Lewis, Weather Report ,Jimmy Smith, Stanley Clark, Miles Davis etc you know that really cosmic shit that goes for good money these days, Anyway the owner clearly didn’t know his beams as he said the records were all 10p each … I bought the whole box!
Is there a certain record that sticks in your head that someone in a record store recommended to you & you’ll be ever thankful for?
I popped into Bluebird Records in Luton in 1987 and the guy behind the desk was extremely helpful – I asked him about the James Brown Payback mix and what some of the samples were, he told me to buy James Browns funky people compilation which was absolutely mind blowing back in the day. Everyone and his dog knows about those samples now but back then it was very unknown. Just before I left the store the same guy said to me “if you dig that you should buy this album”and handed me Stetsasonic’s In Full Gear album. I had never heard of them at the time but I felt obliged to buy it after he was so helpful so I just said “ok stick it in the bag too” …I got home and dropped the needle onto Talking All That Jazz … my life would never the same again!
Who was the best salesman?
John Stapleton from Wanted Records in Bristol is a lovely guy who really knows his beans and has some incredible records. I also like Rich from RPM in Newcastle, who always looks after me with his one to one service and generally knows my taste in music. He often lets me in to the back of the store for a private dig. I also have shout out my man Stuart Beattrooper who always come up with super rare goods for me!
Did you ever work in a record store or distributor, if so any fond or particular memory that sticks out?
When I was at school I did my works experience at Charts Records in Sunderland and it was probably the greatest experience of my youth. The staff were incredibly friendly and I learnt a great deal about the music industry and customer service. I also met lots of music reps that would regularly visit the store, selling and promoting various labels. The reps had a lot of white labels that they would often slip under the counter to me. The knowledge I gained from working in the store would give me inspiration to run my own record label, later in life.
What’s better, being sent a record for free, or going to search and buy a record?
I like both tbh, everytime the letterbox goes I get the same buzz as I do from digging in a dusty shop – it’s literally like an electric buzzI once heard someone call vinyl ‘black crack’ which I thought was funny but sadly very true!
What record are you currently waiting for in anticipation to come out, if any?
Releasing my own material is the biggest buzz in the world, I have alot of new material scheduled for release over 2023 – Smoove and Turrells new album ‘Red Ellen’ on Jalapeño Records, more mash up material from my label Wack Records, featuring DJP. I also have volume 5 & 6 to release from the Multitrack Reworks series.