Tag Archives: vinyl

In praise of Action Records, Preston

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.

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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.

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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

http://www.actionrecords.co.uk/

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In praise of the CD: Seven reasons why CDs are my favourite music format ever

It was only a few years ago that people were finding it hilarious that I was clinging obstinately to the CD rather than embracing digital formats. Now, with the renaissance of vinyl, some still regard me as a Luddite dinosaur for not embracing the switch back to the 12 inch.

Here are seven reasons why the CD is king for me:

1. I love physical product – I can’t excited at the thought of sifting through computer files for my listening pleasures. While the bibliophile gets immense satisfaction from browsing through a proper library of real books, I get the same pleasure from my physical collection of albums. I like the artwork, the lyric sheets, the song-writing credits, the information on who is playing what, on when it was recorded, who produced it and so on.

2. But there’s only finite space – I started buying LPs as a teenager in the early 80s but had switched over to buying CDs by the early 90s. However, even in that decade I’d amassed enough vinyl to still fill up three large cupboards today. If I’d carried on buying vinyl at the same rate I’ve purchased CDs over the past 25 years I’d have no room to eat, sit or sleep. For me the CD provides the perfect balance between the romance of a vinyl library and the efficiency of a digital library.

3. Sound quality is important to me – If you played me a brand new vinyl album and a CD, personally I’d struggle to tell the difference. But brand new vinyl albums don’t stay brand new for very long and I prefer listening to stuff without crackles, scratches and jumps. OK CDs can degrade you tell me but I’ve never had more than a tiny handful of CDs that have become unplayable and (with a quick spin on my £15 CD cleaning/repair kit) all but one of those was as good as new afterwards.

4. Jumping up and down every twenty minutes is a pain in the arse – Getting up to put a fresh CD on is fine. But it’s only when I’m playing some of my old vinyl that I’m reminded how ridiculously short the LP format was. When you’re reading or working or just chatting to your partner, having to get up to switch sides every twenty minutes or so is just a pain. I’m sorry.

5. I like the integrity of the original album – My retro tastes mean I listen to an awful lot of reissues but, unlike many digital fans, I love listening to albums in full in the track order they were released in when they were originally put out on vinyl – and this accounts for the vast majority of my listening.

6. Though I like all the extras too – While I like listening to albums in the way they were originally conceived, I also love all the extras the additional length of the CD format allows: the B sides, the acoustic versions, the missing songs restored to live albums etc.

7. But most of all – I’m 50 now. And after experimenting with cassette tapes and records in my early years as a music obsessive, I’ve simply lavished far too much time, money, attention and love on my CD collection to ever contemplate changing formats again now. Good job it’s the perfect format for me then…

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