PREFACE: My friend and esteemed UK colleague Zaid Mudhaffer recently wrote up an interview he conducted with renowned London record connoisseur Zaf Chowdhry - whose great new BBE comp of pre-Yacht Rock soul jewels drops any minute now (deets below). Seeing as my blog page is the corner of egotripland where record talk takes place I decided to host Zaid's excellent piece here. Dig it!
Words: Zaid Mudhaffer
Ever notice how record stores attract an unusually high proportion of weirdos and eccentrics? Zafar Chowdhry saw more than his fair share of everyday stone crazy behavior from 1988 until 2005 as owner/manager of Reckless Records on London’s then record store-heavy Berwick Street. Sometimes, amidst the daily operation of serving up the finest used soul, funk, disco, hip-hop and house records in town, political correctness, common manners and order would get left at the door, and madness ensued. These days, Zaf’s preferred method of selling records is through www.zafsmusic.com , and is preparing for the release of his new compilation Americana: Blue Eyed Soul and Sounds From the Land of the Free (July 4th, BBE). Here, he fondly remembers the times that retail got real and things got hectic.
Jazz Box Set Junkie.
There was a guy called Jose who used to come in. He was a big jazz fan, but he had a serious drug habit. He would bring in the most unbelievable jazz box sets that he used to steal from Virgin or Tower or HMV. We would order what we wanted – we’d go to the major music shops on Oxford Street and write down a list, then he’d bring them in. Expensive Miles Davis ones, Joe Henderson, Blue Note, Milestone ones, everything. He would sweat profusely at the counter, anticipating his drug money. He’d get the money, go off, then come back when he was ready to get high again. He only stole music he loved. If somebody asked for a rock box set he would tell them to fuck off. There was Book Man as well, another junkie – a really intellectual guy who’d hit hard times – who would do the same for us, only with books. One day he just disappeared off the face of the Earth. Don’t know whether he OD’d, got clean or put in prison.
There was this guy who used to come in the shop called DJ Danger. He was a garage DJ from Camden (north London). He would ask us to play stuff for him all the time, and we used to get sick of him asking. One day we just refused to play the tune. So he basically hijacked the shop, refused to let anyone out, and threatened to beat everybody up unless we played the tune. It was like that film with Al Pacino where he hijacks the bank [ Dog Day Afternoon ].
Keith Chegwin, Above the Law.
Keith Chegwin (popular British 1970s and 1980s children TV presenter) was filming in the shop for some show where he used to set people up. Inadvertently, he walked out of the store having failed to replace a record he’d picked up. Rod, who was working in the store at the time, chased him down the road, and in the ensuing melee, put him in a headlock, and threatened to call the police until he returned it. Cheggers was an alcoholic, so maybe that explains his unusual behaviour.
Chris, the store’s other proprietor, was trying to record something off the radio at home one day. He ended up picking up a cellphone conversation through his radio between a drug dealer and his girlfriend from one of the towers he lived near. He was setting up his deals for the evening. It was unreal – it was an hour-long tape and we would play it in the shop. People would walk in and instead of hearing music they would hear this tape playing of this guy terrorizing his girlfriend. There were so many killer quotes on there. It was like “leave the puffs (cigarettes) by the door” and “leave me 30p to buy milk.” It was like a soap opera, because a couple of days later Chris put on his radio and picked up the same guy’s phone and the next part of the conversation. (Techno producer) Kirk Degiorgio, who used to come in the shop a lot, made a copy and gave it to Marc Mac and Dego (of 4hero). It's legendary.
Really, really nice, friendly white girl coming in and asking Chris, a black guy, if he had any Skrewdriver. Skrewdriver are a neo-Nazi punk band.
No Shirt, No Service.
There was an Irish woman who came in one morning – the first customer on a Saturday morning - trying to sell some records. Despite the hour she was drunk, and for no apparent reason proceeded to start taking her clothes off in a striptease. She was out of her bra before we restrained her and threw her out.
Americana - Rock Your Soul: Blue Eyed Soul and Sounds From the Land of the Free drops July 4th on BBE. Buy it here .