This piece, about my favourite record shop, originally featured in Mojo magazine. I'd suggest you visit but I'd give it a miss if I were you as it may mean you arrive 5 minutes before me and bag that elusive krautrock rarity I've been seeking out.
|UNDER THE COUNTER- KINGBEE RECORDS,
True junkies know that even friendships mean nothing when it comes to the hunt for that elusive vinyl fix. Living in Liverpool in the late eighties, I'd outgrown the record shops there having picked them clean. Plus they were turning into video stores and pet shops overnight. On the phone to fellow junkie Dave Rofe in Manchester, he told me about a shop near him. This information, however, had its price. He insisted I give up top secret information about at least two 'classified' shops in Liverpool in exchange. "This shop is worth it", he assured me. Desperate to complete my collection of Donald Byrd productions, I told him about a shop in Knotty Ash that would be full of hamsters and parakeets by the time he got there and fed him another in Huyton which I'd systematically stripped clean in an operation of near military precision leaving only Kajagoogoo 12"s.
As I was unfamiliar with Manchester beyond the road to the Hacienda club, we arranged a meet the next day. On arriving I told Dave it was impossible for me to drive to the shop from Manchester city centre wearing a blindfold. An hour later, knees dusty from crawling under the racks and with an armful of magic it was clear this shop in suburban Chorlton was even better than he'd said. Scooping up piles of uncut funk I was feeling high and so foolishly generous I even let him have a Blackbyrds remix LP I'd pulled from the racks before him. "Don't come back over here without calling me first", he warned as I headed for home, bags stuffed. I told him I wouldn't. Two days later I snuck back over, absent mindedly neglecting to call him. Just as I figured, like a petrol station hit by a procession of thirsty Jags, Kingbee was, two days on, topped up again with gems I'd had scribbled in my dog-eared notepads for years. I remember spending another forty quid and worrying what I'd do about that county court judgement I had in my back pocket.
This called for a drastic tactical rethink. Within the year, I had moved about three streets away. In truth I can't say that was the only reason I ended up in Manchester, but the thought of strolling around the corner with an ever decreasing wants list was, shall we say, a factor.
Kingbee records opened in September 1987 and, while R Noel was three miles away over in Burnage topping up his Slade collection courtesy of Sifters Records, (proprietor 'Mr Sifter' is famously namechecked in Shakermaker) those with a taste for something more satisfying than old Mott The Hoople b sides became part of a regular team of mitherers who scour the sections dedicated to their respective musical poisons more often than is frankly healthy.
This is the kind of shop it is impossible to visit once. Owner Les Hare and assistant Neil, both confirmed vinyl junkies themselves with musical tastes ranging from Felt to Bobby Blue Bland, are constantly besieged by hooked anal retentives from across the globe. There are Japanese dealers filling granny-type shopping trolleys on wheels full of anything made in 1965 by gravelly voiced mods, Belgians travelling overland for a single Smiths picture disc, London DJs topping up their samplers on the way out to the motorway, cricket captain Derek Pringle en route to Old Trafford voraciously clearing the wall displays of Krautrock and Psychedelia, and members of the Charlatans surrounded by pot- bellied gas fitters from Oldham fighting over northern soul records at 150 pounds each. Kingbee somehow houses around 30,000 records, not including a basement full of delights spoken about in whispers by the cognoscenti. London-based Simon Lee of the esteemed neo-disco outfit Faze Action, a man with a serious problem, was asked in a recent interview to list his three favourite record stores. One was in Japan, the other was in Stockholm and the third sent Les home with a smile on his face.
Les and Neil are just as happy dealing with pre-teens ordering this weeks new boy band as they are with regular visitors like maracca maestro Bez or the drummer out of Freddie and the Dreamers who occasionally uses the shop as a refuge from autograph hunters while shopping in Chorlton.
Having met Bez, I asked Les and Neil to think of a visitor who would totally faze them. Neil mentioned Morrissey through he doubted they had anything by Sandie Shaw he hadn't got. Les came up with Elvis, a star to match a mysterious recent visitor who initially appeared to be a painter and decorator working in the grocer's next door. Neil relates the tale: "He kept coming in and asking if we had a sixties EP by Ricky Stevens and later told us he was Ricky Stevens- a real JR Hartley scenario. His record's worth forty quid!".
Lesser mortals are known by their secret nicknames Mr Chainsmoker, Mr Knocked The Turntable Over, Penny Farthing Face (who once parked his strange bicycle outside the shop) and Girl With Black Hair Who's Going Through A Folky Phase. On the occasional quiet afternoon the pair of them will note each regular- Blimey Charlie, Mr Anymore Jazz Behind There, Everyday Steve and list the bizzare requests of confused passing shoppers. Neil: "The shop window is full of record sleeves and a woman popped her head in the door the other week asking if we sold nail clippers". If she'd stayed she could have taken her pick from racks full of everything from soundtracks to ska, psychobilly to streetsoul. The walls are lined with collectables from a 700 pound prog- folk LP by the Spriguns Of Tolgus to The Web's fine and psychy Fully Interlocking. In the corner a Throbbing Gristle box leans against the collected works of Cliff and The Shadows. Les has recently got his head around the lounge-funk craze. he is now a dab hand at spotting a worthless LPs by German oompah band with seductively nudie covers from the genuine sitar laced underground classic that will have the right person parting company with 15 or twenty pound. Easy.
Plans for an imaginary future include making the shop ten times bigger, installing a cafe and doubling the stock. But for the moment they've enough to worry about. There's a Channel 4 camera crew on the way tomorrow. They're making a documentary about regular visitor Martin The Mod. Plus there's a whole queue of blokes who look like Tom Sellick wanting to know if there's any new Northern in.
"It's great when new people come in". says Les. "It's really flattering when they get excited. One bloke said, 'I'm not telling anyone else about this in case I miss something' ". An appalling attitude if you ask me.Kingbee Records is at 519 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, Manchester M21 0UF. Phone: 0161 860 4762
Hurry While Stocks Last- a list of current goodies for sale:
Executive Four- Got A Good Thing Going On- proper rare Northern Soul
United States Of America LP - an original copy of their first LP- "I was tempted to swap my Edsel reissue for it"' says Neil.
Twisted Nerve OST- a much sought after British score. Get in there before Derek Pringle gets a wad out of his whites.
Frank Wilson- Do I Love You- the original US demo is reputed to be one
of only three known copies and is currently valued at around 7,000 pounds.
This is a later UK Motown issue in a picture sleeve with the heart-wrenching
words on. A snip at forty quid.