Friday, April 20, 2012
Our town used to have a few record shops in it. There was What! Records, on the site which is now a boarded-up (read 'unwanted') McDonalds, and Shooting Star Records, whose staff provided my first ever introduction to the lofty dismissal that was to become de rigeur in British record shops. There was a cheery Woolies, which had a handsome 45s section (all £1.07), and before that, a record shop further up the hill in what was briefly an Adams, now a charity shop. Aside from the many unsupermarkets flogging the odd loss-leading CD, all of our town's music-buying options are long gone.
Apart from one.
In 1978, Gordon Hayes was my next door neighbour's son; long-haired, intellectually bespectacled and clad in a leather jacket. Tall and skinny, he and his blonde and terribly grown-up looking sister (to the little girl living next door) would come and go from number 4, visiting their Dad Eric and waving. Gordon was the man who acquired two terraces next door to each other at the top of town in what was then a busy spot; turning one into his shop, he christened it Nervous Records (it seemed as good a name as any) in January of that year and it became the destination for anyone 'serious' about music.
As a teenager I would pop in there trying my hardest to look all grown up while asking for a Thompson Twins record I probably had to ask my Dad to pay for, which would later have been a Cocteau Twins record I couldn't afford, or a Smiths album I could only look at...while buying my 80s cheese from one of the places down the road to spare my blushes. Wouldn't do to let Gordon know I was as big a fan of Kajagoogoo as I was The Art of Noise.
Almost 35 years later, Gordon can still be found in that shop. Nervous Records watched rock curl up and dye, punk throw a tantrum and slam the door on its way out, mods battle it out with the rockers and New Romantics flounce in and out. It gritted its teeth through the terrible glory of the 80s, humoured Britpop, welcomed Drum'n'Bass and embraced Electronics, all the while providing a steady supply of folk, 60s, 50s, Soul, Disco, Beatles and Indie. If it could be scraped into the surface of a round bit of black plastic, you could get it from Gordon.
What's wonderful about this place is that it hasn't really changed all that much. There is still piles of stuff to look at (though the piles have changed) and something interesting to be found. Even today we walked away with six CDs and a Grace Jones LP. The signs are uniquely hand-written in Gordon's distinctive hand (mostly caps). The music is tidy and organised, and well sectioned. Collectors' gems line the walls.
Anyone who loves the unique pain of fingertips worn sore by rifling dusty plastic sleeves, and the smell of records stacked several feet deep, will enjoy a visit - Gordon will merrily wave off your cash-only purchase with a grin. Having lived through a painful period of seeing so many record shops close across the country, we're proud to have Nervous Records right on our doorstep with Gordon at the helm, and we consider him a stalwart ambassador for considerate music-buyers and the curious alike. We also consider him a friend, and we salute him with our sore fingers and gently-emptied wallets.
16 The Lawns
And no, there isn't a website.