In the Nursery

In the Nursery 1

Sesudient // Archaic Torso / Blade / Incidental Guilt (Third Mind Records 12″, 1990)

My favourite record shop of my life so far is called Vinyl Exchange on Oldham Street in the centre of Manchester, in England.

I can’t recall exactly when I first discovered it but I know that it was sometime in the 1980s. It’s still going strong to this day, but for me – since the advent of compact disc taking away an entire floor of its retail space – it just hasn’t been quite the same as it used to be.

Vinyl Exchange early on carried exclusively used records and occasionally cassette tapes and videos from back in the days before small digital discs changed everything. It was stocked by offerings from the public but more excitingly through a syndicate of record reviewers and writers from Manchester who contributed to glossy magazines via features and music reviews. They would regularly trade promotional copies of free records to the shop for beer money.

In this way the records that you found in the shop were unlike anywhere else that I knew of, and often included press kits and further information about the artist to pitch the product to the writer, and these were offered gratis inside the sleeve at point of purchase, and usually referred to on the small green stickers affixed to the top right corner of the sleeve, as with this one.

You could lose hours in tireless pursuit in that place and I very often did.

I’d typically get the train on a Saturday from my hometown of Widnes in the North of England, roughly ten station stops, thirty-five minutes, and twenty-seven miles from Oxford Road in Manchester. I didn’t have a great deal of money in those days and would budget throughout the week for my Saturday visit into town. I would stop in to various record shops in the city as I wound my way inward but would always end up in Vinyl Exchange as my last port of call.

It’s on a street corner surrounded by bars and restaurants in a popular student area of town. In my day it was opposite Eastern Bloc Records on the other corner of a busy intersection; an almost exclusively-dance-music shop that had a box of 50p (75c) sale 12″ singles on its counter that were in no way representative of its typical store stock. I found some great stuff in that box.

I’m thinking that sales reps would come to the store and offer free records if the shop would invest in their latest hopeful offerings. If you could get your latest record played in Eastern Bloc on a Saturday afternoon it was a very big deal. Kids would congregate in the store before heading out to the legendary Hacienda nightclub later that night. Eastern Bloc was Manchester’s hip record shop to be seen in if that was your bag. Vinyl Exchange wasn’t quite the same kind of place.

Firstly it was much older and more earthy, dustier and I’d say even grimy compared to the sleek and polished interior of Eastern Bloc. It had racks around the walls stuffed with record covers in plastic sleeves by names I’d never heard of, and large cardboard boxes beneath those racks full of reduced stock. Vinyl Exchange had a very proactive stocking policy to cope with the volume of records it would receive on a daily basis. Every three weeks the entire stock would be reduced until the item had sold. The supply effortlessly equalled the demand at its peak.

I recall I went for a job interview in Vinyl Exchange once. I had no illusions that they would hire me but wanted to try anyway just in case. I recall I was taken downstairs into the basement and sat on a chair surrounded by more records than I’d then ever seen, and I probably spent my entire allocated time just wondering what was in those boxes all around me. The cooler young chap sat opposite me and very much going through the motions on that day said that he was looking for someone who could specialize in raising their dance music reputation in the area. I was clearly way out of my league but enjoyed the experience nevertheless.

If I could have only been left alone in that basement for an hour or so…

That was exactly my thing when shopping for records and to a certain extent very much still is. I’d always be keen to find something unusual or esoteric without being too weird or hard to grasp. I’m fascinated by the underdog I guess and try to find stuff I’ve never heard before and which intrigues me.

Consider this entry’s featured offering for a moment and let us indulge in a fairly typical mental checklist from a Saturday afternoon spent crawling around on the floor with boxes of reduced vinyl stock all around me. It was an attractive proposition for me to pick up seven or eight records for the price of one across the street, and I exhibited endless patience and tenacity for the journey;

Does the band have a stupid name? No it does not. It’s kind of intriguing. I have not heard of this band before. Does it have an appealing tinted image on the cover? Yes it does. She looks like a chanteuse in a foreign language film I would like to see, and she is holding a flower in a quietly seductive fashion.

Does it have slick art-department-style squiggly lettering for the main song that you would in no way be able to decipher where it not for the same song title repeated in clearer type on the back of the sleeve? Check. What’s a ‘sesudient’ anyway? How about featuring its year of release in Roman numerals? Check again. Very classy is that. Carry it under your arm to college and the girls will just swoon all around you.

Do you get any free stuff with it? Oh boy, do you ever! Three photocopied sheets are inside; including the intro sheet written by a representative from the record company who would happily sell you his fingernails if you’d just listen to the bloody thing. He’s talking on here about “the Bardot-like voice of Dolores Marguerite C.” as well as “atmospheric melody” and “orchestral textures.” I think I’m in…

Is it cheap? It’s 10p. Oh, sorry… It’s TEN PENCE!

In the Nursery 2 

This 12″ single was my first introduction to In the Nursery, who are two almost identical twin brothers from Sheffield in England playing militaristic and often moody orchestral music. Sesudient is taken from the album L’esprit that I probably bought the very next week from the same shop in mint condition for one-pound-99 says the sticker on the sleeve that I still have. From that record I’d recommend Azure Wings. It’s captivating stuff.

All songs spoken of you can hear on You Tube, and while we’re at it when legendary UK DJ John Peel’s impressive record collection was recently introduced to the internet and one act per month was featured from it in alphabetical order, In the Nursery was the letter I. Each letter of the alphabet accompanied a short film that highlights their relationship with John when he was giving airtime to their earlier more post-punk type stuff. I prefer the later stuff, to use a time-worn cliche.

There was a time when I would utilize strenuous efforts to remove price stickers and pen markings from records I bought, but when scanning the sleeve for this I removed the two stickers from the inner sleeve I’d affixed them to and returned them to the front cover. The older I get the more I forget and this now helps me to remember. You can see that the record had been reduced many times before someone took it home and on that day that someone was me, digging in the dirt for the never famous.

I miss those days like I cannot adequately tell you.

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10 thoughts on “In the Nursery

  1. Very top banana. Evocative and madly interesting. What a beautiful universe of vinyl described by a master vinyleer. Love it.
    Speak soon mate. J

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  2. You were the very man to introduce me to that very ‘vinyl-ee’ emporium, and I am forever grateful for that introduction… I continued my own journeys there to discover obscure electronic/ambient discs in the ’90s… That possibility of uncovering the next musical gemstone drew you back each time – lovely piece that, keep ’em coming!

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    1. I still call it my favourite ever record shop even if it might not quite be anymore. I’d never miss out on it when back home though. Thanks for what you said about what I did too. It means a lot to me that you read it. xo

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  3. lovely, lovely piece — my adolescence in suburban California was much more motor-car intensive, but we likewise spent many an hour at second-hand shops on trips to SF and elsewhere, gambling modest sums of cash in search of an under-heralded gem. Cheers!

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    1. Thanks for your comment, I truly appreciate it. I couldn’t begin to tell you just how much money I’ve wasted over the years on stuff that looks good in your hand but sounds crap on the turntable. But then you find a little jewel like this one and it makes it alright. Almost ha ha. Thanks again.

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