It’s known, that I am quite partial to buying the odd vinyl LP. This usually requires me to drop into a charity shop and trawl through the boxes of old records, which are usually pushed under a shelf beneath various gift shop tat and mismatched crockery. If I’m lucky the charity shop has a more informed approach to their musical merchandising and the box is at least waist height, but this is rare. Most of the time I squat between funky smelling old gents trousers and cracked leather slip-on shoes, with an ache in my lower back, attempting to flick through the LP sleeves and searching for some black vinyl magic.
Today, I have a meeting in Crystal Palace, an area I’m not too familiar with. I take a stroll to check out the possible shops, cafes and general vibe of the village. Drawn by the brown leather furniture stacked outside a run down shop front, I venture into an unknown shop that will remain nameless. The shop is one of those cool vintage stores, selling unique clothes, retro furniture, books, junk and stacks upon stacks of vinyl records. It’s everywhere, piled next to book shelves, towering on top of chairs and flowing down the stairs, into a lower floor where I can see more crates.
The shop owner glances my way and says “Are you looking for anything in particular?” A creeping mania takes hold. I am grinning like Lon Chaney, and whilst having this internal dialogue inside my head I blurt out, “It’s like an alcoholic going into an off license.”
He stares at me blankly. Maybe HE was an alcoholic and I have just reminded him that he needs a drink. Damn my misjudged humour. “There’s more downstairs”. I follow him down the stairs and into the delights of the basement.
Wooden crates, plastic bins and cardboard boxes are carefully tagged, PSYCHEDLIA, 60’s, 70’s, SOUL, JAZZ, SOUNDTRACKS excetera. There is even a record player to try them out on. This man even has his customer service technique down to Liberty standards. “Give me a shout if you need any help”. He leaves me too it.
The first LP I pluck out is ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Hear on the Moog’, featuring electronic interpretations of Ravel, Chabrier, Lecuona & Bizet. Interesting. A stack of Bowie albums, Dinah Washington and a Beatles compilation I’ve never seen before.
The ‘Jazz’ section however gives up some Count Basie, Jimmy Smith and Oscar Peterson. Now, that’s what I call music. I quickly peruse the Soundtracks box and unearth an old Star Wars soundtrack ( I just sold mine before Christmas!) Music from The Godfather and one of my favorite Steve McQueen movies of 1973, Papillon. I slip Papillon onto the deck, align the stylus and turn up the volume slightly. The crackle and pop of forty years sets my mind drifting to a dark prison cell in a penal colony in French Guiana, not unlike the solitary conditions of the basement I find myself in. I must have this record. The reality of the situation suddenly hits me. Apart from some loose change for a coffee, I am cashless. I have already dug way too deep and I am destined to go home empty-handed today.
But what would McQueen do? Escape. Hide the records at the back of the wrong box. Smile, look for the door, and just keep walking. This one can wait for another day.