Tuesday, June 16, 2009

London '79

6-16-09 Vinyl Time – Travel (London '79)

The strongest mental image I can conjure up is myself as a 21-year-old in London, England for the first time. I walked all over London, before discovering the ‘underground’ (i.e. Tube Trains). I walked from Lime Grove near Shepherd’s Bush to Notting Hill Gate and discovered The Record and Tape Exchange.

I spent a while looking around downstairs – the new arrivals bin etc. My journey continued as I went up the stairs – and saw the 45 room for the first time. I had been an Anglophile ever since The Beatles, The Avengers, The Prisoner…and seeing a used record store in 1979 London was a powerful experience. All those rows of records! And I theoretically had all the time in the world to look through them all! Private Eye” flexidiscs! The wonderful world of 50p British 45’s! The guy behind the counter up there was spinning instrumental dub reggae – “African Dub”, unless I am mistaken – no, I do not know which volume it was. It was there that I discovered the timeless and slightly disorienting nature of “record store time displacement” – I would’ve gone in at 10:00am, and by the time I first looked up from the bins – it was probably 2 or 3 in the afternoon.

The best thing about this scenario: I didn’t have to make anyone else wait while I looked through a seemingly endless amount of 45’s. My 4 or 5 hours of work probably resulted in a stack of 45’s about 3 inches thick. I really wish I could remember how much all of it cost, but that memory is lost to the mists of instrumental dub reggae being played non-stop for 5 hours. I certainly wasn’t buying anything expensive.

I also found a place in Soho called “Cheapo Cheapo Records” where the 45’s were even cheaper than The Record and Tape Exchange – 10p! 25p! They had a cart in front of their store full of promo 45’s – all ridiculously cheap. I bought an even bigger stack, and it cost less than the first stack of the day. So, now I’m walking through Soho, on a late fall ’79 afternoon. I certainly saw Foyle’s, Virgin Megastore, HMV Bond Street etc. – expensive places, compared to R&T Exch and Cheapo Cheapo. But I also bought stuff at those stores. I remember hearing Madness “Night Boat To Cairo” somewhere; another Virgin store was playing Spizzenergi “Soldier Soldier”. I think the Virgin Megastore had the 3-D cover of “The Raven” by The Stranglers…I definitely heard The Slits being played. And The Selecter. Gary Numan…it was that time.

I figured out pretty quickly to not eat at a Wimpy Bar – hamburgers were too small, and rather greasy. Was there a Burger King near Hanway Street? Everywhere charges V.A.T.? What’s that? You mean if I say it’s “To Go” – I pay less? Tried a few pub lunches – this was when I was drinking, but…I’d rather stay sharp, for the record stores.

I ventured forth into many bookstores, too. I found greeting cards with Hipgnosis designs! I bought an Ian Carr book – “Music Outside”. What a nifty time it was. Being in England 30 years ago as a 21-year-old – I wouldn’t trade that memory for anything.


Anonymous said...

Damn! What a time to get lost in London record stores. Re: record store time displacement - Heh! Charles Martin knows all about that! Thunderstorm? What thunderstorm?

Ron Kane said...

"Record Store Time Displacement" is a wonderful thing. Of course, it's much harder to find, in the new century. Big shout out to Down Home Music in El Cerrito, CA!