In this extract from new book The Vinyl Revival And The Stores That Made It Happen, author Graham Jones visits Sheffield vinyl guru Barry Everard.
Barry Everard is the music man of Sheffield, responsible for giving many bands a helping hand in the early
days of their fledgling careers. Def Leppard, ABC, Human League, Pulp, Richard Hawley, Comsat Angels and Gomez are just some of them. Music suggested by Barry was used in Sheffield’s most famous film, The Full Monty.
Barry has had his ups and downs over the last few years. He has found it increasingly difficult to make a reasonable profit, and many times, has felt it is time to call it a day. Then he gets a regular customer coming up, giving him a big hug, saying how much he loves the shop and making him promise never to close it. Moments like that have persuaded him to carry on serving the good people of Sheffield.
“It’s more than just making a living,” Barry says. “It’s a calling, it’s something we’re almost driven to do, and we feel a deep responsibility of doing the job right.” Even so, Barry insists that shoppers must understand that record shops are not charities. He bemoans the fact that so many people come into the shop, check their mobile, then tell him that the app they’ve just consulted shows they can buy the same CD 48p cheaper from an online retailer.
Barry has thousands of items that he is selling cheaper, though it can be difficult to convince people that the internet is not always the better option. Amazon has done a fantastic job of giving the impression that it cannot be beaten on price. Barry has a saying which he bases his business practices on:
“Prices are vanity
Margins for sanity
Prices for show
Margins are dough”
To survive today, record shops must have a presence on the internet. Record Collector is doing great business, selling collectable vinyl online. What’s more, the resurgence of vinyl has had new customers beating a path to its door, so much so that the shop is now taking more money on the format than CDs.
Another change has been the return of students. Sheffield is a university city and for many years, the students were the core customers for Barry. When downloading came along, students embraced the new technology and the numbers buying physical product from him dwindled to a trickle. Now the students are back, shopping in the store for vinyl.
Barry is having a great time recommending records for students who now shop there. For him, nothing beats introducing somebody to an artist, and the next time they come into the shop, they say that artist is fantastic and ask what else there is by them. Vinyl customers are less price-sensitive than people who buy CDs and are prepared to pay for what has become a premium, collectable product.
The shop has also provided many moments of record-store humour. A customer purchases a record by The Specials. The next day he brings it back, complaining that he didn’t receive his gift as promised by the sticker on the album bearing the legend
“includes ‘Free Nelson Mandela’.”
One of Barry’s regular customers, a Roxy Music fan called Robin, was hospitalised after suffering a brain haemorrhage. As he started coming out of the coma, one of the doctors revived him by patting his face and asking him: “What’s your name?”
“Virginia Plain,” Robin responded, quoting the lyrical sign-off from the end of Roxy Music’s first hit. “Oh dear, he thinks he’s Virginia Wade,” one of the nurses said. Robin has since made a full recovery.
Barry is also surprised that some people in Sheffield get confused between a classic soul singer and a type of crumpet: twice in his retailing career he has been asked for records by Wilson Pikelet.
The shop celebrated its 33-and-a-third birthday recently. Two of Sheffield’s favourite sons, Richard Hawley and Martin Simpson, both sang at an unforgettable party to celebrate the occasion. Another celebrity, Johnny Marr, came into the shop and brought a pile of vinyl albums to the counter. “Are you Barry?” he asked. “Yes I am,” Barry replied. “I understand you’re something of a legend in these parts,” Johnny said.
For Barry, it’s moments like that which make the struggle to keep going worthwhile.
Yo! Bum Rush The Show
Record Collector became the scene of story that has since passed into popular folklore, when Barry pulled off a coup by arranging for American rap crew Public Enemy to do an in-store signing before their gig supporting The Prodigy at Sheffield Arena in November 2015.
Arriving somewhat later than expected at the shop to find a large crowd waiting to greet them, the band were happy to chat and sign copies of the new album, but were far from finished when their taxi arrived to pick them up at 6pm. When they eventually emerged from the shop to set off for the gig, the taxi had disappeared.
With the band due on stage at 7.30, there was no time to waste. Barry asked local photographer Kevin Wells, who had been among the fans who had come to get his CD signed, if he could give the band a lift to Sheffield Arena. With Chuck D in the passenger seat and Flavor Flav, together with two of the band’s crew, crammed in the back of his Ford Focus, Kevin set off. Although the traffic was bad, Kevin knew all the shortcuts, so they were making good time. Even so, the band’s phones were constantly ringing, with cries of: “Where the hell are you?” among the more printable enquiries from the other end.
Kevin put on a CD of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and was amazed to discover that Public Enemy were fans of the song. As the voices rose to an operatic crescendo, he found himself living a Wayne’s World moment for real with Public Enemy headbanging and singing along to the song – a sight that he will never forget seeing in his rear-view mirror.
Lewis Hamilton would have been impressed by Kevin’s driving. They reached Sheffield Arena in less than 20 minutes, only to be stopped by a security guard who didn’t believe that Public Enemy would turn up to their own show crammed in to the back of a Ford Focus. The rappers were eventually let through and, thanks to Kevin, they made it on to the stage just in time. They invited him to be their guest of honour for the evening, but Kevin had another gig of his own to go to that night – he was due to take photos of Scouting For Girls at another venue.
The story was dramatised in an episode of Sky Arts TV series Urban Myths, in which the Life On Mars star Philip Glenister played the part of Kevin in a comic re-telling of the tale.
Barry is happy to offer words of wisdom based on his 40 years of experience selling vinyl. “The best bit of advice I can give any new record shop is to trust your own judgement. I am called Record Collector, as that is what I am. The shop is an extension of what was once a hobby.
“I always believed in vinyl and, over the years, amassed vast quantities of it, as I was convinced that in years to come, my hunches would pay off.
“What I did not see coming was the internet. That turned many of my vinyl hunches that cost me pennies, extremely profitable.
“In the early 1970s, David Bowie’s self-titled first album on Deram could be found as deletions in Woolworths for 49p. I bought every copy I saw. The electronics retailer Tandy started stocking records for a while. Somehow, they would obtain RCA deletions which they would clear out at 29p. I would take quantity of anything interesting. I was in South Wales and called into a shop in Swansea on the day of release of the limited-edition LP Live At The Padget Rooms, Penarth from local rockers Man. I knew only 1,000 had been pressed, yet this shop seemed to have about half the stock. I bought a box lot for £1 each.”
Motor City Mayhem
“In Sheffield, we had a motor-parts dealer selling deleted and overstock vinyl. A lot of it was on John Peel’s Dandelion record label. Artists such as Gene Vincent, Kevin Coyne and Clifford T. Ward were on sale for 29p.
I bought as much as I could. A few weeks later, they cleared out what was left for 15p. It was time to have a second bite of the cherry.
“Many vinyl fans in Manchester will recall Global Records. They were housed in a huge warehouse and would import vinyl from the USA. Prices were between 29p and 79p and you could pick up artists such as Neil Young, Frank Zappa, The 13th Floor Elevators and thousands more. I was one of their best customers, so would often be offered even lower prices.
“Of course, you always think about the one that got away, as opposed to the hundreds of brilliant deals I did. For me, it was when Global offered me 200 Electric Prunes albums at 15p. I was struggling for storage space, so politely declined. I still cringe whenever I see copies being sold over the internet and the prices they are being sold for.
“Then there was the day I lost a million – or, more accurately, failed to take advantage of an opportunity that would have made me £1 million. I remember a day wasted checking out the branches of London’s Harlequin Records. Every bargain rack in every store was full of this record featuring a cover where the band members’ heads had been superimposed onto cats’ bodies painted by a nine-year-old. Well over 1,000 copies at 50p each. No wonder that didn’t sell, I thought, and left the lot. So, it seems, did everyone else. The title? Pussy Plays by 1960s psychedelic band Pussy. Value now? £1,000 each.
“I was certain that one day, picture discs would be highly collectable. Record companies would give away vast quantities to chart-return shops so, as these shops had not paid any money for them, they would clear them out for around 50p. I’d tour these shops each week, buying what I thought would become collectable. It turned out to be a shrewd move, as that 50p stock often sells for between £25 and £50.
“Always put your customers first. Whatever bargains I bought, I would always display in the shop and I would store any surplus, in the belief it would one day be collectable. In the days of record store carnage that you highlighted in your first book [Last Shop Standing: Whatever Happened To Record Shops?], it was the vinyl that I had bought all those years ago that kept me going through those difficult times.
Last Chance To See
“Don’t just rely on the record companies for your stock. I have bought off record libraries, radio stations, businesses closing, wholesalers, etc. When you see clearance and sale lists being emailed to you, don’t delete. Have a look and think, is there anything on this list that one day will be collectable? This is how Record Collector has kept going through the tough times and thrived in the good. You can do it, too, if you go with your gut feeling.”
One of the joys of visiting Record Collector is that Barry is a great raconteur and is always happy to have a chat and tell you some of his fabulous anecdotes: but please visit before it’s too late. After 40 years of selling vinyl, retirement beckons for this retailing veteran. Before he closes the doors for the last time, it would be nice to think that his contribution to Sheffield music might be recognised by the music industry, the city of Sheffield and the country itself.
233-235 Fulwood Road, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S10 3BA
Tel 01142 668493