Wednesday, October 07, 2009

 Vinyl flashback #1 - P-Money
 I recently had a discussion online with a bunch of Auckland music folk, about record shops we remember going to when we first started buying records. Various names popped up, like Rock N Roll Records, Record Warehouse, Revival Records and others.

It got me thinking, and I decided to start a new series on my blog, talking with local music fans about some of their favorite memories of record shopping, and of fave records and where they found them. First up, I was lucky enough to get P-Money to talk about some of his formative record shopping  experiences. P-Money is currently winging round the UK as part of Zane Lowe's DJ tour and doing very well for himself. Enjoy his vinyl tales. Thanks for your time. Pete!
(P-Money's blogmyspace pages)

What was the first record shop you remember going to?
There was some little store, I must have been about 7 years old, maybe younger, [I went] with my dad - he had a shop in the main street in Papakura and he knew all the shopkeepers in town. We'd go in there to buy whatever was out, I guess, and my parents were buying music. But I remember that Woolworths had records in it, when it was a department store before it was just a supermarket.

But the first one that I frequented to buy my own stuff, was when I was a bit older, probably 12 or 13, and it was one of the Sounds chain, the Papakura store, where I grew up, and then it changed into Truetone. I used to buy records from there. I got this, one, BDP, from there, cos they used to have clearance [bins].

My friend, Toni Cooper, he used to work there, and I think they would order records they knew weren't gonna sell, so they could mark them down and buy them cheap! They had so many copies of this album, and I swear that nobody in town even knew what it was, and they marked it down to three bucks for me. Cos I had no money, I'm like a little kid [then].I used to go in there after school every day and just look at the records, and look thru the clearance bins and whatever was in my range, if it was under five bucks, I'd snap it up.

So they'd mark things down , “Make that three dollars, man, make that seven”, and I was like, ah, I can get that. … I think albums back then were about $15 to $18, maybe $20 for imported things. So three bucks was a score.

The first big store that I remember was Real Groovy. I'd heard about, cos I didn't grow up in the city, so I didn't know about the bigger stores they had in town, all I knew was my little local one. My friend came back from town, and he had, like, an Ice Cube album on vinyl, and the Source magazine. I was like “where did you get these things?” cos they weren't in my local record shop. He was like “Real Groovy” and I had this vision of this magical place that had everything that I wanted.

I finally made the trip, I took the train, 45 minutes on the train, walked all the way uptown from the town station, finally found the place, and it's this massive store, and it's so big, and I just couldn't believe it. And I didn't have much money, and I could only afford one record and it's this one...

Ultimate breaks and beats compilation. This is number nine. Because I had read about this compilation in the Face magazine, cos my art teacher gave it to me in art class, and it had an article on the producers Marley Marl, and Hurby Lovebug – he was producing Salt N Pepa, and I read the article and they mentioned that series of records, and they were saying it's easy to get the breakbeats now because they're all on these complilations. So I knew of it, but I'd never seen it.

I was sifting thru Real Groovy, and I found it, and thought this is the record they're talking about. So I bought it, of course I only had one copy, and took it home and didn't really know what to do with it. Five seconds of the music is really good, and the rest is crap.

But then I learnt about breakbeats thru finding the record, that what flicked the switch for me, like, "right, so there's random songs that have really cool parts that you can sample and loop up and make hiphop songs", which just opened my brain up again. Like, okay, now maybe I can find these on any record, I don't have to buy the compilation, I can find the originals.

I went back numerous times after that, of course,.. I'd rock up to the second hand desk and just talk with those guys, and every now and then I'd bring in promos that I got sent I didn't want any more and trade them and pick up a bunch of records. There was definitely a rapport, but I had that more with my local store. Especially growing up, all thru my teens, I'd be there every day after school. They didn't have a huge vinyl selection, but I'd order in things that I knew about, and they'd get me my twelve inches and double copies of things that I needed to DJ with.

My friend Kersham, our whole friendship was based around that record store. He used to work there and I would see him every day. To me, as a kid, he had this huge knowledge of music, which I didn't have that, and I learnt from him, and I learnt from Toni – he gave me the first Public Enemy album, Bumrush The Show. They're like my favourite group of all time. Toni said to me you can borrow this – this is mine, but take it home and have a listen to it, I think you'll really like it”. I was blown away. I was like “wow!”, and from then I was sold on them.

I ended up working in the store for a while as well, for school holidays. I would do stuff like wash the windows, just so they could give me like a free album and stuff. Its funny how it all connects, cos it was Peter Farnon - he started Beat Merchants – he was general manager of Trutone and he came to visit the Papakura store, when I was cleaning the windows, and so he gave me the records, and couple of years later when he opened Beat Merchants, I was a regular customer there. That was another store that I frequented a lot.

With Groovy it was like, cool this is an outlet where I can get the information that I need, not just the music, but the added benefit of being able to get all these records and put the pieces of the puzzle together, and they had books and magazines as well.

What about when you started getting some overseas trips and hitting up record stores?

Beat Street in Brooklyn was like Mecca. I couldn't believe it when I first walked in there. The space was not that big, like Groovy, much much smaller, but just dense with stock, so many records. And I'd never seen so many copies of each release, whether it was the latest thing or a reissue, like an old EPMD 12 inch, they've got 20 copies, sitting there, so people can come in and just pick up doubles, whereas here, you;d be lucky to find one, let alone two.

The price used to trip me out. When I went, they were averaging about $5 US for a 12 inch. So I could get two, for less than the price of buying one here - $25 for one 12 inch single. So would just go mad. And i was coming back with like a crate of records, maybe 80 records. That's 23 kilos of extra baggage. You have to pay for it!

I was doing all kinds of tricks, I had a back pack full of maybe 30, 40 records, I could fit as many in there without it looking like I had this really heavy thing on my back, so I'm trying to stand up real straight, like its not straining, me, and then I've got plastic shopping bags either aside, with another 20 records in each one, so I'm physically carrying about 20 kilos on me, plus I got the 20 kilos in my luggage, and you just do whatever you can to get it home without paying excess baggage.

Beat Street had a DJ in the store too, who would be playing all the latest stuff. So instead of having to go and ask to hear a record, hes already playing it. And then you're hearing thing s you might not have picked up off the shelf. Its a really great environment. You rub shoulders with other DJs and music fans, which is a huge thing I miss, and I think .

That's the biggest downside - I'm not so sentimental about physical vinyl, but the community aspect of DJs and music fans all convening at one spot, cos they know all the new records have just dropped, and they're all discussing the recent finds, what they're looking forward to, and a real face to face human interaction and getting a vibe for records and it made certain songs more special amongst communities, or in my experience, where as now you can still discuss things with a much broader group of people online, it is the same kind of thing, but you re not actually in the presence of those people.

That's one of the greatest things about record stores – I used to love going there when I had no money, to hang out with the clerks selling the records, or the other guys who were buying things. I'd be in the record store 3,4, 5 hours just to socialise. And I'm listening to every record in the store getting vast knowledge of music, and I'm putting stuff aside when I have some money, and that's just gone. Its completely gone. So I am sentimental about that, the experience.

It used to be a hangout, especially Best Merchants in the city, for me, and my scene, around like, 99 to 2002. That was a really good time for hiphop music in general, with good record coming out, cool indie labels like Rawkus and similar, were consistently dropping good records.

There were a lot of DJs that were involved in scratching and the turntablist thing was going on, and the store was like a hub. You had Sirvere [Phil Bell] ordering all the latest stuff, making sure we're as up to date as possible , even tho we're this far from where the records are being made. I've still got tons of friends from those years.

I love the convenience of being able to get online and at the very least being able to stream any song I can think of, even if I cant find the file to download. I'm talking about rare things that you think nobody else knew about, and you can find it on youtube!

The other store I really used to like -cos I used to think of Real Groovy as your mainstream, obvious, record store – if you wanted to dig for records, you could go there and find cool stuff, but everyone else is there too, and not so far off the beaten track was the Record Exchange on K Rd. For some reason, to me that felt like thats where you go if you really know whats up, for digging for records. I really enjoyed that place when it was open, when it was in St Kevins Arcade, and then it moved to 123 K Rd.

I remember the first time I discovered that place; it was upstairs there. It was a reasonably small room, and no-one had told me about it -I just saw this sign on the street and wandered up there, this dusty-as place, and it kind of felt – and I might be wrong and forgive me if I got the wrong impression - but I kind of felt a little bit of snobbishness from the staff there, kinda looking down their nose, like you don't know anything about music”, which was definitely common amongst many record stores.

Some staff were great, very open about their knowledge of music, others were like “This is just for me, you have to earn my respect in order for me to share my information”. It was all part of the fun really. But I felt a little bit intimidated in there, I didn't know enough about music, but I liked what I was seeing when I was digging thru their records.

I discovered my love for Isaac Hayes there. The To Be Continued album, I found that in there. All I knew of Isaac Hayes at that point was the Shaft soundtrack. But that record just looked really interesting, the cover, his face. I just thought it looked really cool. So I bought the record, took a chance on it, bought it home, and I heard Ikes Mood, on side two – it's an amazing record, for a start – and it's got the little piano breakdown which has been used countless times in hiphop songs, but I didn't know it was from there.

So it was like “Wow, I found this break that other people have used”, so I went back to get every Isaac Hayes album I could find. Cos I loved the music -let alone the novelty of someone had sampled it – but the music itself really spoke to me.

Record Exchange was the spot – they had a good selection of Isaac albums at the time, so I cleaned them out. And then a couple of years later, they had reissues in Beat Merchants, for like $40, $50, and I was like, I picked all these up for under 8 bucks, sweet! It's all timing with records too.

Now, go read PART TWO.


Anonymous said...

Do we get the money shot (sic) in part 2? ie photos of his record collection?

Peter McLennan said...

I'm working on it! Cheers, anon.