Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Here's a tale I've told a time or two of a profitable weekend back in more innocent times than these. I guess though that as it did involve a form of theft, reference to innocence seems less than valid.
Back in the mid 1980's - alas (minimal) research has not thrown up the actual year - I was down in the capital city, Hackney to be precise, visiting my friend Epic Soundtracks for the weekend. This fairly frequent if irregular two day stay would invariably revolve around the haunting of the many wonderful record stores then in existence - remembering of course that even Virgin was worth a visit in those days - so as usual, I'd spent a couple of months saving up for the traditional spending extravaganza. This particular weekend was to be a little different though.

On arrival, after ce again onmarvelling at the ever increasing and quite breathtaking record collection Epic was accruing (some years later after his sad and early demise, it was rumoured that Noel Gallagher had written out a cheque for £250,000 to buy the lot, only for Meg to put the kibosh on that - might explain their subsequent separation I guess) it was suggested we took the tube out to Kensington Park Road, and the original Rough Trade Record store, which was in the process of closing down as it relocated to the Portobello Road - rumour was there might be some bits and pieces going spare (ie free). Epic (as had his brother Nikki) had worked there of sorts in the past and had obviously (I say obviously but then I'm old and I'd know anyway) been in Swell Maps, one of the label's first acts. I knew the store from occasional visits down south to ask them to shift copies of several fanzines I'd produced over the years.

On arrival, the place had been pretty much stripped, but along with a few Metal Urbain singles and green vinyl Sire promotional LPs (with unreleased Ramones track, as I recall), we found a box, about to be chucked (honest guv), of used record tokens - staff had obviously exchanged these for vinyl and not known what to do with these odd bits of paper oftimes attached to greetings cards. Some were pristine, some a little bashed up, but none had been crossed out, so it occurred to us we might be able to re-use them....

We weren't sure mind you and bravely though hesitantly sallied forth to test things out. It fell on me as an unknown face to go first, and I remember to this day going into WH Smith on Notting Hill Gate, picking up a 12" single of Rod Stewart's "Baby Jane" - (1983?) - and nervously approaching the cashier with the least obviously used token, half expecting an alarm to go off and certain arrest to follow. Of course nothing of the sort happened, I was given a few pence in change, handed the bagged up record and hastily departed the premises. We spent the rest of the weekend blowing this treasure trove (see note) on all sorts of stuff in all manner of chain store record emporia (hello Virgin and HMV ).

(note - treasure trove may broadly be defined as an amount of gold, silver, gemstones, money, jewellery, or any valuable collection found hidden underground or in places such as cellars or attics, where the treasure seems old enough for it to be presumed that the true owner is dead and the heirs undiscoverable- well, close enough....)

Memory is that we split something like £550 worth of tokens between us which back in those pre-CD days bought a fair bit of vinyl. Engorged with spending power I inevitably went on to buy a whole load of stuff just for the sake of it, much of it since given away or sold on, but as a fond (well fond-ish) memento of my luckiest day, I've still got that Rod single.

Do not worry though record stores of London (especially Plastic Passion, Minus Zero and, yes, Rough Trade) you more than got your real money's worth out of me in the years that followed.

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