Friday, 18 January 2013

The Blues Ain’t Nothin’ but
Even I couldn't get between Muddy and his fans
In December 1968 I worked in Dobells Blues Record Shop down the Charing Cross Road. I wanted to avoid my Dad’s holiday moans about my long hair but also I was a fanatical Blues convert.

Dobell’s was run by a cheery geezer called Ray. I don’t know why he took me on. Maybe he thought I’d attract the long-haired bespectacled stoned skinny white hippy student geek demographic. Maybe he thought I’d chase everyone into the Jazz Shop next door where he worked.

It was like an alcoholic being put to work in a distillery.  I spent hours listening to “Muddy Waters at Newport” on the headphones in the booth as the queue built up. I’d dash to the counter. 

Irritated shopper: “Have you got ‘Muddy Waters at Newport?’”

“Yeah, er, this one copy left…”

“It looks scratched.”

Picky bastard, I thought.  At least it had been wrecked by a genuine Blues fan.

I’d then have a hazy debate with shopper No. 2 about whether harmonicas are more expressive than guitars, as the queue grew longer.

Sometimes I’d put the wrong LP into the sleeve for someone and they’d come back the next day.

“Look, I asked for Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘The Real Folk Blues’”

“Oh, sorry…. er, can’t find it on the shelf.”

“That’s because you’ve been playing it in the booth.”

When people asked a serious question like “Do you have Sleepy John Estes’ 1935 Brunswick Sessions with Hammie Nixon?” I’d stare at them blankly. Just because I was a fanatic didn’t mean I knew anything.

After three weeks I finally went home to a futile argument with my Dad. But I’d had a rich education in music and Ray one in hippy students.

All this is relevant.  The news is full of the death of High Street shops. People are buying online and are jaded with the store experience.

At last I have a footnote in history. Because, you see, it was me who started the trend.


  1. Well, I buy online because there are things I can't actually find in book or music shops. But I'm not jaded with shops. I actually prefer that, and if I know that I can find a book in a shop, I'll rather go buy in there than buy online!
    But if my cd - or vinyl - looked scratched, I'd complain too :)

  2. It appears that when the Internet was invented / found / discovered (whatever it was!) there was nobody who stood up and took credit. Unlike Edison and Graham Bell for their respective innevtions. Some day it will be discovered that it was you who initiated this game-changing trend!

  3. Very flattering of you, Ankur! But if I claimed I invented the internet Sir Tim Berners-Lee would be knocking on my door... Sir Tim seems a great guy but we have one thing in common - he never made any money out of it.....

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