The Vinylist: Mark Johnson – 70s & 80s punk

Reader Mark Johnson takes us on a tour of his collection, which ranges from Stiff Records to Third Man – and includes a Wurlitzer dedicated to The Cramps…

What was the first record 
you bought?

“In the summer of 1977, I was 14 and had never bought a record before. All the parents in my street put on a Silver Jubilee street party. The oldest kid set up his record player and had a box of singles. That’s when I saw and heard my first-ever punk record. It was The Adverts’ One Chord Wonders in a picture sleeve. Everything about it just struck a chord (no pun intended)…

“I went to Virgin Records in Leeds to buy it with my paper-round wage but I was told the sleeve had been deleted. I didn’t want to go home empty-handed, so I bought the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen, which I had to hide in my school bag for the first few weeks.” – Mark Johnson

What genres and artists are you most interested in collecting?

“Punk, then post-punk and rockabilly. The first LP I bought was The Damned’s debut, again because of the sleeve. Those early punk sleeves had so much energy. As punk faded, I moved on to bands like Killing Joke, Echo And The Bunnymen, the Furs and Bauhaus. Then, in ’85, I started working in the Virgin Megastore in Leeds. That’s when my tastes really broadened. Everyone in the store had an LP section to look after and I was given reggae, so I started collecting LPs by Steel Pulse, Culture, Prince Far I and Dr. Alimantado. I stayed with Virgin, then HMV for nearly 30 years. When Virgin became extinct, I rescued the lightbox out of the main window as a souvenir.”

How many records do you have?

“Around 2,000 LPs and singles. Over the years, I’ve swapped and sold records with friends and dealers – either to make space for more records, or to boost a flagging bank balance.”

What’s the most valuable record in your collection? Do you have any special rarities?

“I bought Joy Division’s An Ideal For Living 12″ when it was first released – they were the first live band I ever saw. I also have an original Spiral Scratch EP by the Buzzcocks, which really kickstarted the whole DIY approach to releasing records. I also have the first two original Cramps 7″s, and I’ve been collecting Jack White’s special Vault releases on his Third Man label.”

What’s the Holy Grail record that you’d most like to own?

“As a teenager, I always had two. The first was a 7″ by The Damned called Stretcher Case, which was given away at the band’s first anniversary concerts at the Marquee. I eventually tracked one down in the 80s for £40. The second was So It Goes by Nick Lowe, the very first single to be released on the Stiff Records label In 1976. I now have a few copies, including a copy only given out to radio stations.”

What’s your listening setup?

“Nothing fancy. My turntable is a TEAC LP-R500. I also have a Wurlitzer Niagara jukebox, which holds 80 7″ singles. It looks and sounds great and there’s lots of fun to be had changing the records. It’s currently themed around The Cramps and I spent a lot of time (and dosh) tracking down many of the original rockabilly and garage singles The Cramps covered. The Sonics, Macy Skipper, The Novas, The Trashmen and Jack Scott are all on there.”