It's close on two years since I last strode past the trollops half-heartedly displaying themselves in the doorways of the seedy titty bars on Soho's Rupert Street. As always, I was sweating in anticipation of getting my hands on something that I had been fantasising about for months. To the strippers' consternation the objects of my desire were housed in an establishment even grottier and more down-at-heel than their sordid clip joints, for I had eyes only for Cheapo Cheapo Records.
|Soho Vinyl Fetish|
My determined gait and fixed gaze transformed into a stumbling lurch and wide-eyed horror as I saw that not only was the shop closed, but it was actually closed down. With my forehead pressed against the cold, hard shutters that separated me from my favourite musty vinyl hovel, I peered into the gloom of the shop, the shelves empty of all but dust. Ground level had always been the home of the CDs and DVDs, so part of me clung to the hope that the basement, where all the vinyl hung out, was still heaving with dusty gems and if I just waited long enough someone would spot me at the shutters and welcome me in. Figuratively, if not literally, I'm still waiting.
To say that I felt something approaching bereavement at the loss of my favourite digging spot is no exaggeration. Yes, a couple of hours in the dank confines of Cheapo Cheapo's basement usually left me feeling like I was in the grip of tuberculosis, but it was always worth it. Somehow, the Dickensian conditions and the need to heft boxes of unsorted records around to make sufficient space for my feet, added to the joy of finding some obscure gem or other that would leave me mentally crossing yet another item off my wishlist. The bloke who oversaw the record department, I think his name was Ian, must have had a time machine to take him on regular trips to the 1970s. How else could he suddenly get hold of multiple promo copies of albums by The Lavender Hill Mob, Easy Street, Aviary, Bobbidazzler and The Dixon House Band? Perhaps not rare according to The Record Collector Rare Record Price Guide, but priceless when, like me, you're a fan of the kind of bands who never quite got noticed enough in the first place to slip off the radar. I believe the store owner died suddenly - I hesitate to speculate that it was down to a respiratory disease - and the vinyl part of the shop was presumably no longer viable without him at the helm to deal in the bread and butter that was the sale of the devil's coasters and their moving-picture cousins, the DVDs. Turning up at his funeral to ask what had happened to all the stock was not something I considered. Not for long anyway.
But that's old news and I'm getting over it now. At least, my therapist thinks I'm making progress. What has brought all these feelings bubbling to the surface again is the fact that just this week I paid a visit to one of the dust and mildew farms that I started to frequent on the rebound from my prematurely terminated relationship with Cheapo Cheapo only to find that it too is soon to close its doors, permanently. The record shop in question is Music Search, a suitably fragrant and unkempt little dive in Chertsey, Surrey, which just happens to have all the ingredients that make for a perfect digging spot, namely: thousands of poorly organised records spilling out of grubby crates and boxes; friendly, anecdote-spewing staff; no discernable natural light; patrons who drop in just for a chat; and a flexible approach to pricing. The owner is rather fed up with the local hoodies breaking in to steal his petty cash of an evening and, as of August he is handing the premises over to a cobblers. Cobblers! While you still have the chance, get yourself down to Music Search, pick up a few bargains and a respiratory disease and, if you see Clive, the elusive owner, try to get him to reconsider. Tell him I sent you.
If you have a local record store that you want to tell the world about (by 'world' I mean the handful of discerning punters who visit this blog), let me know and I'll give your fave digging venue a mention here. Let's not lose any more of these wonderful places.