Nowadays, I manage a record store, it’s that simple. I went to the source. Not because, like a junkie moving to Nepal to grow poppies, I was cutting out the middle man, more because there is not much else I can do or have an inexhaustive knowledge of. I know things that are of absolutely no use to anyone at all.
HARVEST RECORDS opened its doors in 1975 a few doors down from the tenement I grew up in on Bruntsfield place in Edinburgh, the opening coincided with my breaking a leg, and therefore provided a distraction for my immobility in the form of listening to rock music. In the late months of 1975 and the early months of 1976 I got and devoured Station to Station by David Bowie, Welcome to My Nightmare by Alice Cooper and Master of Reality by Sabbath .They also played host to the–-at that time–relatively unknown club band from Australia AC/DC, then on an early British tour to promote High Voltage, I got them to sign a poster and they were very nice to us 9-year olds. But all of this was merely appetite whetting for when I could walk properly again. There were tons of record shops in Edinburgh, all of them wildly different to each other, and if you started at my school, situated between Edinburgh College of Art, Heriot Watt University and Edinburgh University, you could hit all of them either after the school day was over, or on a Saturday morning (this was the best time, because you had no homework or any particular reason to go home).
The nearest and greatest was EZY RYDER situated in the huge sprawling Greyfriars market, which sold pipes, bongs, hippie clothes, incense and related items, the center being taken up by a huge oval-shaped counter where you browsed, the records were all second-hand, and mostly one pound and forty nine pence, it was here that I bought my first Can album Soon Over Babaluma as well as records by Amon Düül, Soft Machine, Captain Beefheart, and a brace of other records that were probably horrible that I can’t remember. The staff were for the most part, terse and unforgiving, judgmental and sneering at my tastes (and everyone else’s).
HELL Records was at the end of the alley by my school, a tiny hole in the wall run my a retiring hippie with a mustache and John Lennon glasses (they all did). The records were okay, but the best thing was he had a badge machine (button machine) and for fifty pence you could get a miniature album cover (from his copy of the dork bible “the album cover album”) on your school blazer lapel!
The high street in Edinburgh was home to a few vinyl palaces, the greatest of which was PHOENIX the window crammed with album covers, and the sleeves inside reinforced with cardboard so the spines would not bend: these guys took their business seriously, there was no natural light inside, and my memories of it are dark, in these pre-punk days, I remember buying a Henry Cow album and a lot of weird looking jazz. There was “the other record shop” – Phoenix’s competition, a brighter, airier place, and also there was Hot Licks, next to the notorious Cockburn Street market.
A little further into town, in the very city center, you’d find Virgin and Bruce’s (two locations) these were the hippest joints in town, Virgin was still a tiny store , and Bruce’s really started to flourish when Punk was born. I have many happy memories of trawling the streets on a Saturday morning throughout the ‘70s and into the early ‘80s, also going to Ezy Ryder every lunchtime whilst in school. This is the reason I now have a horribly unbalanced database in my mind full of information that’s not really ever going to help anyone, but I’m glad I do; maybe in the future some scientist will probe my mind after I am dead and find out about Wilko Johnson’s first solo album after he left Dr. Feelgood, how Virgin marketed it with a free live album. How they also changed the sleeve of “approved by the motors” because the guys in the band were so ugly no one bought it, even though it contained their smash hit “Airport”. How some record shops proudly would not sell 45’s because they considered them for kids, blah, blah, blah, blah.
** Chris Connelly’s new album, Artificial Madness, is out November 11th, 2011 on Relapse Records. Order it HERE.