I spent last Saturday in a record shop. It’s not so often I find myself in record shops these days, so it was something of a novelty to have access to this one after hours. The shop in question was in trendy Shoreditch where my publishers had picked for my book launch in London. The upside of this was I found two vinyl offerings (one of which) I will be spinning on this week’s AC and a fine record it is too.
As I flicked through the racks and spent the following few hours talking with my good friend, journalist Paul Sexton about the book as well as every other musical thing, I found myself laughing, thinking how little had changed in record shops over the years. Here we were to launch my book, to my audience with no other customers in the store yet being assaulted by the most esoteric, obscure and frankly inappropriate playlist which was being spun out by one of the staff. None of us wanted to hear it, but hey, why would that matter, if the staff were happy?
In the seventies this was the norm. Going into a record shop was to take your pride in your hands and be grateful that no one hit you on the way out. It’s 1975 and I’m in Bruce’s Records on Reform St. I find myself telling the assistant that I’m interested in reggae because I’ve just discovered Bob Marley. He smiles condescendingly and tells me I’m a sucker to commercial reggae and really I need to go much deeper if I really want some roots music. That was the end of that conversation. If you did hear something you half liked you might pluck up the courage to ask what was playing and hope the guy (it was usually a bloke) didn’t laugh at your ignorance. Worse still was the moment you took your choices up to the counter only for some smartass creep with green hair and nose rings to smirk their way through the purchase and pass your record bag over to you as if handling toxic waste. ‘Thanks,’ you would offer before fastening up your duffel coat and heading back to the rain soaked street.
Ah…the old days. How it all returned to me last Saturday. However my record shop adventures have led to us deciding to make vinyl front and centre on this week’s AC. You will hear great new records by Margo Cilker, Amanda Shires, Joe Pug, Bill Monroe, Carson McHone and those Leeds childhood friends Amy and Lily, Sunflower Thieves. As ever we’ll be on at five past eight this Tuesday evening on BBC Radio Scotland FM (there’s football on digital) and of course any time and place you like after that on BBC Sounds. Join me if you can.