Category Archives: record stores

Tiny Black Round Thing

D.P. Gumby presents "Election '74" / The Lumberjack Song
D.P. Gumby presents “Election ’74” / The Lumberjack Song (Charisma Records 7″ flexi, 1974)

Can I just say that this is the first time I’ve been on television?

 

 

Woefully outmoded 7″ formats in the days before girls presents a flimsy, and easily creaseable, lightly bent and smudged tiny black round thing as cover-mounted and given free with the May 1974 issue of the New Musical Express rock music weekly.

I didn’t get mine from on there as I was only thirteen years old at the time and anyway the NME was full of sixteen page dissections of King Crimson and Blodwyn Pig live albums in 10-point type and with NO PICTURES.

On the contrary, I think mine came from a record fair quite some years later, in a much more sensible stiff white card sleeve and with a hole cut in the centre to make the label visible, upon which the seller had quite correctly indicated that the item inside “plays well and is jolly funny”.

Monty Python back

He’s not wrong either.

“Election ’74” is a slightly extended version of the ‘track’ (as we long-hairs called them in those days) from the classic Monty Python Live at Drury Lane album of the same year, backed by The Lumberjack Song from the same record. Prior to this on my featured record Michael Palin does an excellent announcement exclusive to this version that is hilarious and only available here.

Well, no, that’s not strictly true, as if it was only available here nobody would have ever got to hear it as it’s pressed on a flexi-disc, a record similar to a standard 7″ single in look and size, but of a completely different width. In that on a standard 7″ the playing surface won’t crease or fold if you sneeze near it, whereas this version most likely will. And anyway the entire farrago is captured for your listening pleasure on the Tube of You just over there. I’ve just now checked. Go see.

In the meantime I shall wax romantically about the kudos one could achieve back in those acned days of yore by quoting entire reams of Pythonesque garble such as this to one’s ‘troggy’ mates in between school lessons, when warming oneself by the radiator opposite the staff room. Each of us present during those eternal hours also silently wishing for the sweet breath of the female to invade our personal space but – to quote an excellent record of quite some years later – we were getting nowhere fast.

The flexi-disc itself never did catch on, although I do have a fair few of them – eight of them in total kept in one single paper sleeve and still not as thick as a standard 45. My favourite flexi is probably my ‘Synthesized Speech’ one courtesy of Bell Telephone Laboratories, affixed to a square sheet of also flimsy plastic page, and released in the year that I was born, in 1961.

There are three bands on this other record; a band in this instance not meaning Vampire Weekend or suchlike, but actually a section of the playing surface of the record. It got confusing in them days, which is possibly why the band became the track or cut in later usage.

Band 1 on my ‘Synthesized Speech’ record is ‘The computer speaking’. Band 2 (my personal favourite) is called ‘The computer reciting a soliloquy from Hamlet’, and band 3 is ‘The computer singing.’

I’ve just now visited the excellent Discogs website and stone me if this actual obscurity / piece of nonsense plastic is listed on there with many more details and seven pictures! Man, I love the future. But don’t get excited, kids. You can’t buy this baby on there.

It turns out that the computer machine on the record, on band 2, recites the ‘To be or not to be’ speech – later covered by Python in some form or other if I’m not mistaken – and on band 3 sings us a version of the classic A Bicycle Built for Two, in all of its early Kraftwerkian splendour.

This version of the Daisy song occurred seven years earlier than the one performed by the computer HAL in Stanley Kubrick’s excellent 2001 feature film. I wonder if Stan had his own copy of my Synthesized Speech record? I’d really like to know but I’m sorry there isn’t time.

Over to you, Brian, with the results from Leicester.

You never forget it.

Handling the Big Jets

3. The Members #1

The Sound of the Suburbs / Handling the Big Jets (Virgin Records 7″ single, 1979)

They play too fast, they play out of tune, they practice in the singer’s bedroom. The drum’s quite good, the bass is too loud, and I… can’t hear the words.

 

Record Shop Shots’ original idea was intended to be an internet radio show, albeit under a different name that never ventured further than a vague idea in my head. The emphasis here is on vague. I had no idea how to actually create an internet radio show, despite making cursory inquiries to a couple of people who had done it themselves once or twice along the way.

But I did have a name for it and a concept too, and that kept the idea in the to-do file for a short time.

Quite a few years back I’d read one of the first forays into books written about collecting vinyl records. Its name was Vinyl Junkies by Brett Milano, written in 2003, which now seems a longer time ago than it actually was. The catch line on the cover was a quote from musician Steve Wynn; “Makes me wish I’d kept my turntable”, it said. I can clearly recall a time when that was a statement many people spoke as they lurched in droves towards the compact disc.

There’s a quote on page 14 of the book by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, another keen collector, who captured most eloquently my own modus operandi;

“When you’re a collector, you’re creating order out of this chaotic information”, he says. “That’s necessary in a way, and it caters to creative impulses. There’s something I really like about the archival nature of it – you’re gathering information that falls below the radar, so it becomes less ignored. That’s why I separate myself from, say, Beatles collectors. Collecting mainstream material is a different thing, more like collecting toys, more object-oriented. I’m more interested in defending the cultural value of music that’s not allowed into the mainstream. That’s more of a renegade practice.”

I like it. That’s exactly how I feel about buying records. He nailed it exactly. I’m having that.

I got it too. I got a name for my radio show. Renegade Practice Radio. R.P.R., even.

I love it.

Now I just need a theme song to open the show. It has to be an instrumental of something that would be easy to read that exact quote over and yet would also crescendo effectively. I knew just the one.

Handling the Big Jets by The Members. It’s on the b-side of their biggest hit Sound of the Suburbs, and starts out quiet and builds to a rocking riot. I even recorded the 49 seconds of intro via my mini-disc player and it worked perfectly with the text. Then I waited for further inspiration to visit.

Months passed and of course it never happened, and now all I have left of the plan is the music, and the record itself.

Take a look at that cover image up there, an absolute triumph of design. Malcolm Garrett of – in this instance – Affluent Images, excelled himself. Each single sleeve he would design (chiefly for Buzzcocks records) would for a time feature a different word beginning with the letter ‘A’ next to the word ‘Images’, and that was his shtick. It’s also how the band Altered Images got their name, from the single sleeve of Promises by Buzzcocks. True story.

The Sound of the Suburbs single by The Members comes in what I later learned to be called a die-cut sleeve, in that it has a window in its cover, allowing the viewer to see through the clear vinyl 7″ 45 to the back of the scene, in this case an excellent collage of exaggerated English suburbia. Also noteworthy is that the title and producer information of the record is scratched into the clear plastic in place of a typical paper label. It’s the only time I think I’ve ever seen that for a record label. (Fast forward to some decades later and the now fairly prevalent use of a full side of etching on the unplayable side of a double vinyl set. Quite a common occurrence in record manufacture these days is that. I have quite a few of those to marvel at.)

The back sleeve of the single is also impressive design. Let’s throw it into the mix here as a bonus;

The Sound of the Suburbs/Handling the Big Jets (Virgin Records 7" single, 1979)

In the background top left we have a faded-out shirt, featured more prominently on the cover of the band’s debut album three months later, plus typical home appliances like a food-mixer and a hairdryer, and finally the jet airliner from the cover flying over the suburban house featured in the song.

Classic design and concept cohesion strategy right there.

Wonderful stuff.

Spacer, Don’t Go

Spacer / Don't Go (Carrere Records 7
Spacer / Don’t Go (Carrere Records 7″ single, 1979)

 

 

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.