Tales of a teenage record-buyer in 1980s Preston
Action Records is a long-running and much-celebrated record store on Church Street in Preston, Lancashire. I know it’s still going – although I must confess I haven’t been in there in almost three decades. Living in London and now Hastings for twenty-odd years it’s really not that convenient for me. And trips to Preston these days tend to be a frenzied whirl of family visiting rather than a time to browse record stores. But as a teenager Action Records was an absolute goldmine of musical discoveries for me.
It was the early 80s, a few years before CDs became ubiquitous, and the second-hand vinyl racks at Action Records at the scruffy end of Church Street were something I poured over at least once a week. New albums back then were comparatively expensive we must remember. Although you could see numerous name bands at Preston Guildhall for just three or four quid (tickets that would cost you almost ten times that these days) to buy a new album you were talking £4.99. My paper-round and (later) my glass-collecting job in the local pub wouldn’t run to many of those. So going to Action Records, with its huge range of second-hand vinyl from around £1.20 to around £1.80, became quite addictive.
On starting out my lifelong obsession with buying rock music not only was I able to rapidly acquire the back catalogues of bands that everyone who was into rock and heavy metal at school was talking about (the likes of Rainbow, AC/DC, Whitesnake and Status Quo), it was also a treasure trove for seeking out the more obscure stuff, too. Albums that had long been deleted from bands that had been forgotten and that 80s fashion dictated should be completely ignored could be snapped up for next to nothing. It’s purely thanks to Action Records that I got turned on to the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Humble Pie, Mott The Hoople, The Sweet, Widowmaker and The Yardbirds.
These days it’s so easy to seek out information on vintage acts and it’s pretty easy to purchase their entire back catalogue. However, pre-internet, unless you knew your music history inside out there was quite a bit of guesswork involved. I would often go by the very scientific method of buying albums through either (a) recognising the name of one of the musicians as someone who had played in another band or (b) liking the cover. I developed a lifelong love of Mott The Hoople and Ian Hunter (neither of whom I’d heard of and about whom absolutely no-one was talking about at the time) purely after being drawn to the bright, florescent pink cover of the ‘Mott’ album and being prepared to shell out £1.20 for it.
Musically, for me it was an exciting voyage of discovery and Action Records made that possible. Sometimes there would be some helpful bits of advice from Gordon, the proprietor, but never in a way that made you feel small or outside some hallowed music aficionado clique that you were not part of.
I’ve still got much of my Action Records second-hand vinyl, even though I mainly listen to CDs these days, and I’m absolutely delighted that it’s still going. It certainly played a major part in my musical appreciation and, who knows, maybe it’s finally time to pay a visit again next time I’m in Preston.
Thank you Action Records.
There’s a short 2015 film celebrating Action Records’ legacy here: https://vimeo.com/125335358
Record Store Day this year is 22nd April 2017