In our galaxy you can’t trust everyone that you meet. I’m so lucky, he’s the only one I’ll ever need.
There are two occasions in my life when I was approached by a complete stranger wanting to buy something that I had in my possession right there and then. Once was when strolling around London with a couple of guys from my band, and I’m sporting my newly purchased limited edition of only 100 Def Jam t-shirts that I’d bought from a hip Manchester dance music shop earlier that year; Mantronix!, L.L. Cool J!, Public Enemy!, Beastie Boys!
It was 1988 and I was becoming obsessed with that new hip-hop music that was pouring into the country from the USA. My girlfriend at the time lived in Manchester and regularly received calls from me to pick up that new Double Trouble 12″ remix by Eric B & Rakim. Most of those records I happily still have and love dearly. One member of my band heard my latest rap sounds via cassette mix tape around that time and says to me; “That’s not real music. It’ll never catch on.”
So this stranger sees my shirt and he says; “I’ll give you fifty quid for that shirt right now!”
It was one of a precious few times I’ve felt like I was on to something. I didn’t sell.
The other time was in the same year in a record shop in London called Record and Tape Exchange and I had today’s featured 7″ single in a rare picture sleeve by Sheila & B. Devotion in my grasp, and I’m about to buy it at the counter, when he steps forward;
“I’ll give you a tenner for that record right now!”, he says.
I balk slightly, then thank him kindly for his offer, but no way was I going to sell it to him. It had been a really good day.
The band that I was in at the time was in London and working on our first album – as they called them back then – for a major label, and was fluctuating between Pink Floyd’s studio in Islington (no really) and the producer’s home studio in Clapham. Days would be long once we’d bashed out the basic tracks of the songs to be reproduced with greater skill and cohesion by the musicians in the band later.
Note I don’t call myself a musician here. I’d have been thrilled to have entertained the fluidity and graceful poise of the piano part from Spacer – if only I could – but instead plonked down my basic chord capabilities and headed with some uncertainty into the future.
That future at that time lasted some weeks when days would pass spent in our dreary basement flat in Camberwell, an average area on the outskirts of London, each of us waiting for our turn to be summoned forth. Some of the band were enthusiastic TV watchers but I wasn’t and never really have been, and so I’d head off to the tube station to get the train into the city, with a small budget to buy some records.
There was that one record shop mentioned that had an upstairs room full of 10p singles. Consider a small space containing sparse window light, but four full walls, with 360 degrees of 7″ singles of varying interest and quality racked high on all four sides, and every one of them for only 10 pence each.
NB: By today’s exchange rate; 0.10 GBP = 0.15 USD. Not a bad deal that at all, eh?
I had hours to kill. Those hours I knew could effortlessly turn to weeks in this business, and so I contentedly examined every single record in that room, emerging later with a small stack for my limited funds.
It’s funny that I can’t remember any other title from the haul I took away with me on that day, but I can clearly recall this one. It’s a classic Nile Rogers and Chic Organization one-off single of the kind that they wrote, produced, and then farmed out to other artists not immediately affiliated with the Chic brand. The song itself was a top 20 hit in the UK nearly ten years prior to the day I bought it, and could be considered by that anonymous shopper at the counter to be a fine slice of rare groove.
For me it represents a dream 12″ vinyl LP that I would dearly like to own one day but as yet does not exist. Chic recently released a double CD compilation of those aforementioned tracks that they created and produced for the likes of Diana Ross, Carly Simon, Debbie Harry, and Sheila & B. Devotion, but for me it’s just not the same as owning it all on record.
I totally get how that guy felt when he saw me with this in my hand. I’d have felt it too if the tables had been turned. Of course now he’d just have to head to Discogs and with a couple of clicks could easily acquire the exact same version for a mere one-pound-forty-nine-pence plus shipping.
But that’s not the point, is it? The journey is all in the finding out. The time taken, and the effort spent. This was one of those moments, like a line drawn in the sand.
Like a spacer. A star chaser.