21 September 2023

B̶e̶a̶c̶h̶ B̶o̶y̶s̶ Cheapo Cheapo: Very Complete

The Beach Boys Very Complete: Wilson, Brian: Amazon.com: Books

In 2018 I wrote a piece for this blog entitled "Cheapo Cheapo Records - The Complete Story". It was a reworking of several earlier posts about coming to terms with the closure of the Soho record shop which I'd been frequenting for 24 years.

Those original posts were more discursive, and a fair amount of pruning and reworking went into the rewrite, which can be read here

That'd be the sensible choice. But if you're an idler who fancies the scenic route consider me your enabler, as I've assembled the unedited posts together below.

Oh, and the title? Blame the Beach Boys - or the publishers of the 1976 collection depicted above. The group released an album that year which included a cover of Chuck Berry's Rock'n'Roll Music. But the sheet music for that ditty seems to have been inserted into the songbook as an afterthought, as it's not actually mentioned in the contents. Which makes, I suppose, for a Wilsonian sort of logic in the naming of the book. 

Now it only remains to be seen whether those who happen upon this blog while idling on the internet will be drawn more strongly to the promise of a complete tale or the ungrammatical alternative now proffered below, should you choose to click to continue.  


13th January 2010: A Wreath for Cheapo 

"Wandering around Soho, it's quite possible you may stumble into the aptly named Cheapo Cheapo Records. A belter of a tiny shop found located on Rupert St that has cheesy vinyl and oddball stuff hidden amongst its dusty shelves. An assortment of second hand vinyl, Cheapo Cheapo might resemble a jumble sale inside but you can lose yourself for hours." (Londonnet / pic: Laura Appleyard)




I was really sorry to learn of the demise of Soho's Cheapo Cheapo Records last year. If you don't live in London, it probably won't mean anything to you, and maybe other people's favourite record shops are intrinsically uninteresting to the rest of the world - a bit like other people's babies - but I felt a sense of loss that I'm going to try to explore.

And just as people with children are interested, sort of, in other people's children - if only to make withering comparisons - record collectors may find something to interest them in the following.

First off, and ridiculous as it sounds, I feel I have gone through a kind of mini-grief process. There was certainly that casebook sense of initial disbelief, partly because I'd been to the shop a few days before when a sign on the door had simply indicated closed for stocktaking. Then a week or two later a new sign simply said CLOSED. No, lose the block caps, I'm not ready: Closed. That's better.

I'm not sure whether, at that point, the stock was still enticingly present - enticing, that is, if like me you enjoy the incidental journey through a certain amount of old tat - nor am I sure whether I altogether believed - or quite understood or even wanted to understand - that new sign at first glance. Closed as in "closed-closed", as Whoopi Goldberg might have put it? Not a shop which had been around, endlessly generating new (in the sense of newly acquired) stock at least since I first came to London in 1985.

I dreamt about it, about being inside once again, a few nights later. The pain, really, is in not having one final chance - not to plunder, a la the ill-fated Apple boutique, but to pay my last respects, and maybe finally buy some of those fairly pointless and inessential jazz/nostalgia CDs which hovered on the margins of possibility on each visit. And to do that not so much for the music as to perform a kind of final, altruistic - I might as well saying loving - act: to show that someone finally cared even for those unlovely parts of the shop.

I had developed severe lumbar pain towards the end of 2006 which kept me off work for several months and ever afterwards had been much more cautious about the amount I would carry from Cheapo in one go; even the necessary actions of standing still in one place or bending slightly as I went through the racks would lead to the onset of warning pains, so although I didn't stay away from Cheapo once staggering (in the time allocation sense) back to work, my body no longer allowed for the absolute immersion over extended periods which had once been the hallmark of those visits. And after all, I must have told myself, it didn't really matter if I didn't take absolutely everything my heart had desired and my eyes devoured on any one visit: this small and cluttered record shop would always be there, with its infinitely extendable stock ...

Stock such as a rarely explored (given that they remained there for years) supply of the many World Records (an EMI nostalgia offshoot) LPs, most of whose contents are probably on CD in one form or another, but I don't feel happy in now being obliged trust to luck. The vinyl remastering of those ancient (20s/30s) recordings was excellent, as I know from an LP I had of Vivian Ellis's Bless the Bride.

Downstairs I once saw the budget label Marble Arch reissue of Donovan's LP Fairytale, the very first record I ever bought, and it seemed that everything I had ever listened to and discarded could be found in some part of the shop. There was even the That'll Be The Day soundtrack double album which I had never actually owned, despite its importance in my musical history. I didn't buy either but always assumed they'd be there waiting for me. Or another copy later.

I did buy a CD of Fairytale there later, in an approximation of its original, full-price, cover, but that was hardly the same thing; the psychedelicised image of Donovan - in effect passing off Try For the Sun as Sunshine Superman to attract pocket money purchasers, if you know your Mr Leitch - on the front cover of the Marble Arch album was my memory. And it was substantial, heavy vinyl. Even if they knocked a couple of tracks off the original issue.

In its sheer range of items, Cheapo suited me very well. In addition to the growing love for rock'n'roll and especially doo wop noted elsewhere in this blog, my musical tastes had been partly shaped by what was available in my local library. No pop to speak of; lots of classical music, which didn't interest me, but a fair amount of folk and jazz - especially early jazz. By good chance I stumbled across individuals whose work I still love: Luis Russell, the orchestra leader who later became part of the Louis Armstrong backdrop but whose band around 1929/30 formed a link between the freedom of early jazz and the riff-based attack of swing.

Clarence Williams, on an album later described when I bought it at another shop in London (a jazz specialist, closed down long before) as being "rare as hen's teeth," featuring my (and the world's) first unwitting exposure to Louis Jordan's singing ...I liked some of the folk-related stuff, such as Davy Graham, but jazz: Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Clarence Williams - essentially everything up to Charlie Christian - was my main enthusiasm, running alongside the love of pop shared with my brothers. I seem to remember doing a lot of borrowing on Thursday evenings then walking the three minutes home to catch TOTP.

The library must have softened its policy at some point, as I can recall borrowing, at the same time the recently issued double album of Kingsize Taylor's Beatles Hamburg tapes and an EMI Louis Armstrong memorial album which featured the performance of St Louis Blues backed by the Russell orchestra which Philip Larkin once called "The hottest record ever made" (though he may have recanted as I couldn't find the review reproduced in the paperback edition of his collection of reviews entitled All What Jazz).

But - just as I might have done when in Cheapo, and settled in for an hour or two - I digress. The warning signs about the shop's possible demise were certainly there, and had been for some time. As one assistant there put it, when someone comes in with no conception of overheads, quotes the Amazon price for an album and expects you to match it, the writing is on the wall. Maybe the wonder is it had endured so long. I overheard another worker (possibly the boss; I don't know) evidently at the end of his wick one Saturday night, complaining about the number of tourists who came in demanding directions, alternating with junkies. (Both went, literally, with the territory.)

My relationship with Cheapo changed when I began buying CDs and DVDs for work. They never gave out receipts so I was obliged to explain that my employers needed some evidence of legitimate purchase so could some form of ... after that, they would give me a business card with the amount handwritten on the back. As this explanation needed to be reiterated to different assistants, and as it became pretty obvious I was buying quite a lot on each visit, I began to chat regularly to one of the assistants when I came in and learnt in more detail of the shop's difficulties. He bemoaned charity shops who would mark up poor condition albums because a certain price was mentioned in the Record Collector guide and said the shop was only surviving on its weekend business.

At times I was given the rare privilege of a look-see at new aquisitions on bakery-type wooden trays including, on one memorable occasion, a whole lot of Ace CDs which I bought for around £4 apiece. Whether or not my place of work was in dire need of a comprehensive collection of the recordings of Rosie and the Originals was not, I have to confess, uppermost in my mind at that moment of shy, manly pride at thus being ushered to the inner sanctum. (But in my defence I have always gone for the bargainy side of things - and besides, the shade of the late John Lennon, he say an unquestioning yes.)

There was something slightly odd in this change of relations, however. I'd been patronising the shop for over fifteen years before becoming a professional punter, as it were, and during that time there had been no need for greetings or pleasantries. This wasn't about rudeness (although elsewhere on the net you can find reference to the dourness of one worker there) but a recognition of what we, shopkeeper and customer, were there for: it wasn't HMV or Tower Records; the surroundings were far from spacious, and when it was crowded at weekends there'd be a fair amount of squeezing past people, but the point was this: the stock was the thing, and the stock spoke for itself.

I once took a female friend to this almost exclusively male domain; buying an LP, she felt obliged to say to the assistant, by way of explanation: "Reliving my lost youth." I ought to be ashamed of my glee as I pounced ("Wrong!") on this solecism as soon as we left the shop; sadly I'm not. It was my world and she had made a dreadful - if, let us be fair, understandable, what with being a woman and all - error. We were all there for our lost youth. It didn't need pointing out.

Over time, the available areas of Cheapo shrank a little (yes, you're right, I'm softening you up for the death, but let me tell it anyway; I, for one, need to hear it at the appropriate pace). An upstairs area was no longer in use, although I don't know whether that means that large chunks of stock had been successfully sold off or not. I think some of the upstairs vinyl was the nostalgia-based stuff which then found a home on the ground floor at the back. There was a basement which concentrated on soul and jazz; many cassettes in those long-lost cassette-playing days were bought there, including those of Leslie "Hutch" Hutchinson, a Grenadan cabaret singer whose music was the soundtrack for an important relationship; I commemorate both the singer and the other listener with the image below:

Once the darling of Mayfair (and Edwina Mountbatten in particular; see the biography by Charlotte Breese), Hutch was buried in Highgate Cemetery at a poorly attended funeral, although messages still appear in The Stage on the anniversary of his death.

I could go on with lists of records and artists but I think it should be clear by now that the main point about Cheapo is that it is bound up with so many of my memories. There is probably even, on some level, an association with the annual visits to Glasgow in December when very young, my little legs aching with the vast distances covered, to see Santa in one or other of the posher old-style shops - Copeland's, Pettigrews and some others - later to be swept away by cheaper alternatives. It was in one of those, or possibly in the Dalziel Cooperative in Motherwell, who also put a lot of effort into their Father Christmases, that one year there was a kind of tunnel you had to go through to reach Santa; years later, when I walked through a basement room of the art school's Blytheswood Square building, all of whose surfaces had been entirely covered in newspaper (by a fellow art student, Sheila Calder), I had a tantalising, elusive sensation of deja vu which I knew was associated with those Christmas visits without being able to summon up a precise image. And even though Cheapo was about interests developed in adolescence, the cramped and cluttered areas, the tiny staircase, now seem interwoven with both of those memories: more burrow or lair than cavernous emporium of the sort found just down the road at Picadilly Circus, it was the kind of record shop that Kenneth Grahame's Badger might have felt at home in. It was a place where you could lose yourself, or rather find once again that truer self, that non-coporeal identity, a thing of undefined hopes and dreams: a record collector, exactly as you were at sixteen. So I have to admit my cruelly maligned friend's "Reliving my lost youth" was precisely right, although I still say the utterance of that intention was wrong or, at best, superfluous - rather like, if you have the appropriate faith, saying to a priest mid-Mass "You do realise that this ceremony is quite important on a spiritual level?" Babe: they already understand. That is why they are record shop assistants. Or so I'd like to think.

I wish the former workers and owner well in whatever they undertake. They were, as I think Andrew Loog Oldham said of Immediate Records, part of the industry of human happiness. The last conversation I had with the Cheapo assistant whom I'd come to know a bit was, I fear, slightly cut short by me, as I had other stuff to buy, and it was getting late; I wish now that I had stayed longer. Ah well.

I don't want to make this piece just a list of records but I do want to mention one more which can stand for so many others. The area around the entrance had been largely taken over by DVDs but towards the back of the ground level area of the shop there was still a lot of vinyl which compelled you (or me, anyway) to linger.

The image found on the net, above, is not quite right, but at least you can glimpse beyond the DVDs to the very back where (trust me) waist height shelves were stocked with jazz and nostalgia CDs. Vinyl was just to the left. So many albums I'd seen on record shop shelves in Glasgow in the seventies, there they were again, and I'm not just talking about artists of the day: most of those budget rock'n'roll reissues of the seventies which I've talked about in other entries were there too.
And I suppose it's partly that which makes the loss of the shop so poignant: here was a magical second chance to acquire or reacquire those albums and I didn't take it.

One which I particularly regret was a double Jerry Lee album in a gatefold sleeve with a tinted archetypal picture of the young, blonde-locked Killer. I'd totally forgotten about this album, issued on Phonogram before the advent of Charly, which had been played at an art school dance, possibly on Halloween 1975, and I have a vague but pleasing memory of connecting with the older student whose record it presumably was, so that it has come to represent a token of that promise-laden time:

Like pilgrim's withered wreath of flowers
Pluck'd in a far off land. 



19th January 2010: Cheapo Revisited


My Cheapo gaffe friend (see earlier post) has a young nephew also given to superfluous utterance. His grandmother once told him that her mummy was up in heaven. To which that mite replied : "She's dead - face it."

But perhaps today was the right time in my own grieving process to seek a final pointless-but-necessary confirmation of my own loss by making a pilgrimage to Rupert Street to see - well, whatever there was to see where once Cheapo stood. Subjecting my battered psyche to this ordeal, I reasoned this morning, could only strengthen it - and besides, I had to go into town for work-related purchases, anyway.

Aware both of the ridiculousness and the necessity of adding Rupert Street to my itinerary, I proceeded to make the journey precisely as I would have done in those long-ago days before my love for the place became devalued, or at any rate changed, when I moved into professional purchasing mode. I left the Argyle Street exit of Oxford Circus tube, walking past Carnaby Street (that "heaven on earth," as I believe the New Vaudeville Band once termed it) and what had been, until 1997, Marshall Street Pool, where I used to swim regularly. The site of the building was covered in scaffolding and padding, but there was an entrance through which I caught a glimpse of the whitened shell of the pool. It would have been easy to walk quickly in, take a few snaps before anyone thought to question me, and go. For a moment, I was tempted, but (in what I fear is fast becoming this blog's catchphrase) I didn't. Not simply for fear of being chased by "the man", but at least partly because I think I already knew, the instant the thought formed, that a few snaps of a now dilapidated pool would be unilikely to bring either pleasure or succour.

The same might be said for going back to Cheapo, but the difference is that, quite apart from the the twelve and a half years I've had to get my head around the closure of Marshall Street, there was a very neat cut-off point. The Guardian newspaper has a column entitled Notes and Queries, a mind-boggling mix of the trivial and the serious. One of the questions put to readers was: "What would have been the lead story on the day Princess Diana died, had she not popped it?" This was my response:

Not, perhaps, headline-grabbing on a global scale, but the imminent closure of the Marshall Street swimming pool, just off Oxford Circus, was uppermost in at least one mind that day. Going for one last swim before it shut its doors for good that afternoon, I attributed the long faces to employees losing their jobs. I did not see a newspaper with an alternative explanation until about 1pm.
That diversion over, let's zigzag down from Marshall Street to Rupert Street and "face it." I have my camera ready for whatever awaits, and here it is:

The grey is an apt touch. Harsh and metallic where once there was the green of growth.Click on the next image if you want to torture/heal yourself by getting even closer:

And finally ...

Now there's no doubt about it anywhere, is there? as a Noel Coward character might say. No, no doubt anywhere.

As I type this, it occurs to me that, having taken the photographs from the opposite side of the road, I didn't then cross and peer inside. Had I done so, I'd have been looking for what, exactly? A binbag full of forgotten CDs? Unlikely: the repainting and the darkness of the interior suggest nothing has been left to chance. No; as with Marshall Street, I think I immediately grasped that any further investigation would not bring comfort.

There isn't much else to say. All images in the earlier post were taken from the net: the picture Lennonised then adapted for my blog heading is by Laura Appleyard, whose flickr photostream, and the image in its original form, can be found here; other flickr images were by abkeating200, Tschechoslowakische Ausschussware, renaissancechambara and TheNotQuiteFool, who has his own, slightly briefer, lament for Cheapo here. The above mementoes were taken by me today, January 19th 2010. If others want to use them as a staging post in their own half-real grief, feel free. I took some more, hoping to capture someone in the act of walking past in the manner of Ms. Appleby's image, but I'm new to the world of digital photography and kept being half a second late for the decisive moment.

In any case, the empty street captured above feels more true to my subjective experience - although I was moved by the small kindness of one individual who waited until I was done (unusual in Central London) before walking past; perhaps he, too, had lingered overlong in Cheapo on occasion.

19th May 2010: Cheapo Cheapo Closure Closure

Hmm ... not quite as I would have wished in every particular, but those who have read the earlier posts lamenting the loss of Soho's Cheapo Cheapo Records may be gratified to learn that I have unexpectedly achieved what amounts to a kind of closure today. And it all came about from a conversation at a party (ooh, get me) on Sunday.

I was talking about records to a former bouncer and mod, who bought a lot of Northern Soul in Cheapo, which led to my googling for recentish comments about the shop and finding the Gumtree advertisement mentioned in the previous entry. I emailed enquiring about CDs (the ad only mentions the large stock of vinyl) and today phoned to arrange a time to come and view whatever there was. I said to my colleague, only half-joking, "This feels like happiness," comparable to a wonderful moment during my dominie incarnation when I was given a week off normal duties (still paid, mind you) to take part in a sitcom summer school. Ohhh yessss. And the knowledge that my colleagues received no comparable dispensation made it, I have to admit, all the sweeter. (The eventual fate of a sitcom I wrote a few years later kind of balances things out, but no more o'that.)

Anyway, off I trot to a warehouse near Hanger Lane. The actual process of reaching it is unnecessarily arduous, largely because the directions at a bus stop are, in effect, upside down, causing me to stride away from my goal until I can figure the matter out. Not to worry, I say to myself: it's a kind of a quest, Christopher Vogler-like. Riches and fulfilment await once the obstacle of my essential stupidity in practical matters such as these is overcome.

Alas, not quite. The fulfilment, I mean. Or the riches. But I'm certainly glad I went. There is a great deal of catalogued vinyl which hasn't yet been sold, so if you are reading this and are interested, please look at the previous entry, which has a link to the original gumtree ad with contact details. Or simply click here.

For work purposes, I could only really be interested in the CDs, and there were only about four or five trays of these left. The person in charge said that a shop or chain of shops in, I think, Birmingham, had come and gone through everything and creamed off most of it. So there wasn't a huge amount on the jazz/nostalgia or 50s/60s pop front. And I can't really say I found some unexpected gems - some of the most enticing didn't have discs inside.

But on I went, in the end choosing about forty CDs, although some of them had warnings on the front about scratches, and quite a few were classical ones about which I'm not in a position to make a judgement about. I took a few cassettes as well, including a Beatles bootleg - unusual fare for Cheapo.And one from EMI's Golden Age of series, because of the association with the Hutch cassette in the same series.

The whole thing, from entering the warehouse to leaving, took about two to two-and-a-half hours, a good average for a browse in the actual shop. I had taken a great deal of cash in the event of some mammoth haul; let's just say there is a lot of change to hand back to our accounts person. And despite having back problems, the amount I was carrying didn't even justify a taxi.

At the station I texted my colleague that what I had got was "mostly tat but very cheap tat." A lot of it will prove useful, even so, at one point or another, at work, just as some obscurities found in the shop itself and bought on spec have done: a CD of American parlour songs has filled recording gaps in more than one songbook, for example.

My dream scenario would have been to pass the shop by just before (or after) it closed for the final time, and been tipped the wink to come in and lingeringly take my fill before - well, just before. Then, oh, then would I have rushed to the jazz/nostalgia section as to a long lost lover, ensuring that never again would there be any gap in any forties songbook, and every Gershwin or Rodgers'n'Hart toon would have around fifteen or twenty versions for comparison ... mostly from the mid-forties, but you can't have everything.

And all those 50s/60s pop compilations which I'd held off buying as we probably had about ninety per cent of the songs ... it really does come down to what I said in my original entry (A Wreath for Cheapo), about wanting to show the shop, as though it were a person, that someone loved even those seemingly unlovely parts.

No, my experience today didn't quite live up to all that. Quite apart from the fact that most of the best stock was already gone (even the jazz/nostalgia items which I didn't imagine many others would want), not being in the original environment changed matters, lessned the pleasure of searching: I had to stoop over the trays (sort of like baker's trays) so it wasn't that comfortable, although the person showing me over the stock did what he could to ease things. And there was no sense of hurry but, in truth, there wasn't really much to linger over.

This wasn't the lesiurely leavetaking I was once privileged to have with a dear friend: more like the "Challenge Anneka"-type experience I once had when obliged to go through the belongings of someone who had lived in a housing association flat in the knowledge that everything not chosen and taken was going in a skip a few days later. Well, no, even that wasn't the same, actually, as no hordes of Birmingham record store people had descended on the flat earlier. And there was a pleasing pay-off there, as the bereaved family were grateful that some, at least, of his many books were going to enrich the lives of others.

In the case of my friend, the length of his illness and his foreknowledge of its inevitable outcome allowed him enough time to sort out and sell on batches of his books, and even now I can be stopped short when a seemingly innocent copy of one of them is proffered to me with the magical signature inside. After his death, his widow asked me to sort through what was left; it didn't seem right to let the heavily annotated poetry books and playscripts go out into the world, even though I know (or I earnestly hope) I shall never have cause to use them in any kind of a professional way again, and so they sit in a box which I shall probably never open and never look at but never throw out. (Hey, it's a guy thing. Don't worry about it. You can't deal with sport. We can't deal with grief. Though actually, I'm not that good at sport either. Aaaanyway ...)

I also got a bit of information about why the shop closed when chatting as I went through the CDs in the warehouse. The owner, who had had the shop at a fairly cheap rent, had died, and there was really no one to carry on, especially as his filing methods had apparently been highly idiosyncratic. When in Cheapo, I talked mostly to a younger assistant, but I think the owner was the fairly taciturn bearded man mentioned in some online forums. As I said in that earlier entry, I don't think his manner counted as rudeness, simply an awareness that the stock sold itself, and you came to Cheapo in order to find things you couldn't find anywhere else - which you certainly did, time after time.

And now it - and he - is no more, and now there can be no tantalising illusion that all the stock, just as it was when I last went in, is just waiting somewhere for me to go through it. Today's browse was, I suppose, equivalent to chucking soil on a coffin: not that great to do, but comforting in a ritualistic sort of way.

And in a public service sort of way, let me repeat the message of the previous entry: at the time of writing, Cheapo's vinyl stock is still for sale - click on previous entry for contact details. If you email the address in the ad you will be sent a fuller list of what is on offer. There isn't now much left in the way of CDs or DVDs although there are a lot of music videos, mostly classical and operatic, including many unopened ones.

I hope the LPs, in particular, find a home. Presumably they were, individually, loved once. (Yes, yes, apart from the review copies, obviously, but don't spoil the mood, eh?) The familiar covers which seemed to have been in the shop since I started visiting Cheapo were a unbroken link to the libraries and record shops of the past which nurtured my love of music and ultimately led to this blog. By coincidence, there is a current Radio 2 series about the demise of the record shop to which I was listening as I went on my expedition to Hanger Lane: blame was squarely put on the supermarkets, rather than the web, able to command large discounts and not interested in anything not in the charts. The guy I was talking to on Sunday had talked with a kind of reverence about the knowledge of either an assistant in Cheapo or maybe the ownere himself, and the surprise when there was a soul record which he couldn't immediately call to mind - or to hand. And not with any kind of showman-type flourish, just: here it is. That one.

Revising this piece a couple of days later, I'm also struck by the oddness of the leavetaking ceremony: although there was someone to bear witness - or to stop me pocketing the stock - it was essentially a solitary act. In a way, that's as it should be, as record collecting is essentially a solitary pursuit (I never invited my Cheapo Gaffe Friend back to the shop for seconds), but I'd like to think there was some kind of reluctant cameraderie, as well as rivalry, among most of those who haunted the shop, all pursuing an ultimately futile quest for the perfect record, the magic all-solving discovery - which rather recalls another concluding passage, now ten years old:
Meanwhile, I'll keep hoping, as doubtless we all are, to catch the echo of those all-solving, all-healing sweet words of pismotality from that ideal doowop record which nestles somewhere in the track listing on the next CD compilation I buy.

Or the one after that ...
So I'm sorry that they couldn't have shared in the opportunity I had, and hope that they will find some way of working out their own impacted grief. Guys (cause it is guys), I have laid me down - or at any crouched me - over those remaining crates of CDs for you. Sort of. Like some kind of a bridge over a river of wistful sighs emanating from those who suddenly come across the news that Cheapo is no more, or who pass by then find they can no longer just pop in. I got the knees of my trousers all dirty too. For you.  

It is, of course, also about time passing: almost twenty five years of my life going to Cheapo, and this year the amount of time I have lived in London shall be equal to my time in Scotland. There may, I suppose, be other record shops in my life - and I suppose I have to hold on to that.

But there won't be another Cheapo. 

21 May 2010: Cheapo - a musical tribute by Alastair Dougall

I stayed on for an hour at work to add more to the previous blog entry. Getting home, I googled "Cheapo Cheapo closed" and found this musical tribute by Alastair Dougall, which suggests there's plenty of grief to go round. I haven't picked out all the words yet but it sounds beautiful. And who needs words when you have music? Although I caught bits and pieces like "Phil's still frowning in the grave." And the song is also a lament for the dispossessed of the record industry, and the artefacts they produced: Cheapo is the place "where old albums go to die."

Update: Alastair has kindly forwarded the lyrics and given me permission to quote them here:


An open door, past the pushers and pimps and whores, that was Cheapo Cheapo Records, three full-to-bursting floors.
Phil the owner, perpetual frown, keep you head down when he's around...
If you want to piss him off, just ask him what's in the shop.

Goodby, goodbye, Cheapo Cheapo Records, Rupert Street won't be the same...
Closing time, Cheapo Cheapo Records, green paint peeling in the Soho rain...
It's a shame no one will look through your racks again.

The famous, the failed, deleted and the super-rare, second-hand and never played, the has-beens and the never-were...
Priced up the same, best check on the condition, don't ask Phil for your money back, there's no receipts or compensation...

Good bye, goodbye Cheapo Cheapo Records, where old albums come to die
Closing time, Cheapo Cheapo Records, you could pick out a classic for a song...
But it's a shame the way those Cheapo days have gone.

...Rock and roll and jazzy noises, funk and country m/f voices, soundtracks, classical, spoken word,
And piles of promos no one's ever heard....

Goodbye, goodbye, Cheapo Cheapo Records, Phil's still frowning in the grave...
Closing time Cheapo Cheapo Records, you surely lived up to your name...
But it's a shame no one will look through your racks again.

Alastair Dougall's myspace page with more songs and info about him is here

28 May 2010: Cheapo 2008

Found this on flickr, dated February 2008, credited to Federella. Think you can glimpse some CDs bottom left, but it's mostly DVDs, which began to crowd out CDs in the front of the shop. The figure is looking towards the back, wherein a range of viny and jazz/nostaligia, classical etc CDs lurk. It certainly gives a sense of how cosily cramped the premises were; I'm proud to think I may have contributed to the wearing out of the floor. Click for a larger image.


13 June 2010: Cheapo - slight return

 Some days or weeks after my visit to Cheapo's old premises on January 19th  I went back - and this time actually crossed the road and pressed my camera against the window pane. Not much was visible on the day itself and I didn't bother uploading the photograph here, as one pile of debris looks pretty much like another, but that worn floor in the image taken from flickr in the prevous post now makes the following foggy image more readable, so here it is: Click to make it larger.

Sad, isn't it? When people talk about the guts being ripped out of a building, this must be what they mean. Even with the two images side by side, however, the more recent photograph is still hard to read with certainty, though presumably the dark rectangle through which the ladder cuts is the back half of the shop which once stocked my beloved jazz/nostalgia CDs. Confusing because what may be packing crates in front appear to join up with the darker shape to make a separate object.

Note, too, the red tiling on the right of the frame: presumably this shiop had other stories before the late Phil's. The more I look at this image, the more it seems sort of attractive, reminiscent of Vuillard or someone like that:: all these different patterns together. And the emptiness tells its own story for those who knew Cheapo. I haven't cropped the picture, by the way: that's just as it came out when I pressed my camera agains the glass and hoped for the best.

Mother of mercy, is this the end of Cheapo? (In this blog, I mean.) Perhaps. Though I'll probably go back periodically and look at what's there. There is also the small matter of a piece of writing which never got written - it was one of several treatments for a series of short radio plays about the area. Don't know if I want to do it now, but I'll see if I can find the sheet and copy it here. Done, as far as I remember, in the slightly annoying and mannered style of an Edinburgh writer whose name I've forgotten, but involving an exchange between the male regulars of a shop very much like Cheapo and a would-be female customer.

But what I remember most strongly is something which didn't make it in to the synopsis and doesn't really make all that much sense: an idea of the narrator or protagonist of the piece going downstairs to the basement and having - and this is what I can't quite describe - some kind of a protective cage or protective barrier in some way connected with musical knowledge, or maybe it was about absorbing, from all the rich and varied stock, some kind of superstrength, I don't quite know. But I certainly know that Cheapo, from my earliest days of acquaintance with the shop, which more or less align with my earliest days in London, was a place of fascination and a place of comfort, a refuge, I suppose, inspiring the same sort of emotions in me as my first local libraries (which lent vinyl, as I've described in earlier entries). So on the one hand it was a place to avoid all that London had to offer, and to retreat to nostalgia for the buildings which had sustained me for so long in Scotland - but I'd prefer to say it was a place which allowed me to look beyond London and my social limitations to that international brotherhood to be found in those locations, now enshrined in legend, where twentieth century popular music blossomed: Memphis, Chicago, New York.

Although I would say that, wouldn't I?

As I review those words I recalled a fragment of lyric heard on an LP which my eldest brother (I think) was playing around the early seventies:
Seeing through the universe -
Thinking is the best way to travel
As he had LPs by such groups as the Deviants I thought for many years that what I had heard was from the same sort of underground bag; it was only relatively recently, filling one of the many idle moments for which the net was made, that I found out it was the Moody Blues. Which also makes me think that the instrumental runoff, if that's the correct technical term, for the Ben E King recording of I Who Have Nothing contains a few bars which may have "inspired" (if that's the correct term) part of Nights in White Satin, a song whose fatuousness was unrivalled until the appearance of Bo Rhap. [Note to a colleague: just my opinion. I may be wrong. Aside: I'm not.]

18 June 2010: Cheapo Cheapo's Vinyl stock still for sale - updated link*

 If anyone reading this is interested in buying or enquiring about Cheapo Cheapo's vinyl stock, here* is an updated link. (If you're new to this blog, find more information about Cheapo by scrolling down the last few posts.) Presumably the Gumtree site only allows ads for a certain amount of time; this was reposted on 7 June. 13,000 records are available for £2000. A small sample is given in the ad but if you email the seller you will be sent a much larger list.

If the ad has disappeared again you can check if the stock is still for sale by going to gumtree, here*, or if that doesn't work, enter the following categories (click on screengrab below to enlarge)

I do hope the stock gets sold and not melted down or whatever. Perhaps the Museum of London could recreate the shop. Is there a record collector who could love all the styles represented?

*  Sadly, the links are no longer relevant.

2 February 2011: Cheapo Cheapo Records update


I'm delighted to report that Alastair Dougall (above), the Brighton-based singer songwriter who composed the lament for Cheapo Cheapo Records which you can find in the post here, has now recorded a new version which you can check out on his myspace playlist here, along with an album's worth of other tracks.

It's a new performance with better audio than the youtube clip, with production values and everything: a discreetly employed harmonica and a hint of harmonising now reinforce the elegaic tone. I noted one tweak of the lyric: now Phil is "spinning" rather than "frowning" in his grave, which fits in rather neatly with his occupation - though it also conjures, for me at least, the idea of Phil as a DJ in some parallel universe where Peel didn't make it back from America. Anyway, I intend to investigate the playlist further, but for the moment I can strongly recommend the song about Cheapo for those who have wandered through its doors, or record shop nuts in general: it captures the essence of that vanished emporium of tat and treasure - and its inimitable proprietor.

Coincidentally, a comment has just been added to my initial post about Cheapo closing, saying that Phil Cording died on the 29th of January, 2009, and the shop was closed exactly two months later.

Already two years ago.

Even now, although I did eventually have the opportunity for closure of a sort, as reported here, I think of the back of the shop where the jazz and nostalgia CDs eventually landed up and wish I could just have a couple of hours of immersion, especially as for work purposes I've recently been buying a lot of twenties and thirties music.

This has required endless poring over online tracklistings and discographies, but the light click on an item from a well known shopping or auction website cannot compare with the experience of handing the things themselves in Cheapo, instantly being able to tell from the look of the CD whether or not it was a contender, and the excitement of a sudden, unexpected discovery.

I suppose the pleasure was a largely, though perhaps not exclusively, male thing, or at least one more suited to those individuals who find diversion and comfort in the solving of puzzles. I'm not keen on them myself, but I suppose it was a kind of crossword type satisfaction: faced with nine CDs of roughly corresponding Peggy Lee material, how do you make a decision about which disc to buy? Factors such as earlier experience of the audio quality of a public domain label, the author of sleevenotes (if any), the professionalism of the graphics on the cover, all come into play but there are no easy answers - of that you may be sure.

I was in town to see a film at the Curzon Soho yesterday, so couldn't resist walking up Rupert Street to see whether there had been any change from the "To Let" signs. The inside of the shop had been spruced up, and there were various packages lying around, suggesting new fittings or stock for whatever the site of Cheapo is about to become.

Didn't have my camera, but it doesn't really matter now, does it? Don't think it'll be a record shop. And so goes almost twenty five years of my life.


25 February 2011: Cheapo gone MADD 


Saw this for myself tonight, already knowing it was inevitable, as I had seen, a few days after the last entry, signs of some kind of counter being put up in the Cheapo Cheapo Records space, but above is final proof. It has happened. The shop I loved, the place which sustained me through amateur and professional associations (oh, read the relevant entries, if you can be bothered to find them) is now ... "London's first mango-based dessert and coffee lounge."

Don't get me wrong: I endorse the consumption of fruit - at least in theory. And it's a  bold move to have an eaterie in the heart of London's West End. Who could have seen that coming? But will the customers be nourished as I was?

It has been open since 20th February - last Sunday, in fact. Maybe I'll visit it, walk inside, torture or reassure myself - or both - with thoughts of what once was. I wish the new establishment success - no, actually, I don't much care either way. The years will devour them too - which reminds me, if I may jump from Lear (King) to Belloc, of the lines:
When they married and gave in marriage
They danced at the County Ball
And some of them kept a carriage
And the flood destroyed them all.
Not quite sure how that translates to those who have elected to run a mango-based dessert and coffee lounge but trust me, it does. Or it will.

And before you ask, I have no idea of the appropriate punctuation for the above because, although the lines have resonated with me since childhood, I pasted the lines from a website.

I've had a look at the menu but don't particularly feel like advertising the website. You will be able to find it for yourself if you want. All I'm saying ...

 ... All I'm saying boils down to this. There are some of us, still, for whom "Berry Crunch" means a particularly poor specimen on the Pye International label.

And he seems to be, at least temporarily, too pooped to pop - indeed, the song, wretched as it is, now seems prophetic - but good on him for persisting, almost to the point of mania.

What you might call a Casey jones.

Alright, I'll stop now. 

26 February 2011: Madditional 


More details about the translated Cheapo, taken from the blog of "specialist branding agency" Underscore.

The owners appointed underscore to devise the name and create a fresh and funky brand to take their exciting concept to the market. The name itself is a mix of the words Mango and Addict, as most choices on their truly unique menu contain the superfruit Mango in some shape of form ...Our communications needed to be playful, versatile and bold to establish a new brand in such a busy location as Soho – which is why MADD is the perfect name for this destination restaurant.
So now you know the Rest of the Story. An "exciting concept" indeed.

Oh, and if you have any allergies, please let them know before ordering. Thank you.


22 March 2011: Non-cheapo mango 


Normally around this time of year I attend a work-related lunchtime event in the West End then beetle off to root around in Cheapo Cheapo Records.

Today, the event over, I thought now would be the time to brave MADD, the mango-based dessert cafe which has sprung up in the spot where once Cheapo stood.

Don't know what it's like at night, or at the weekend, but today (a Tuesday), at around half past one, it was empty. You buy and pay for your order at the counter and they bring it to you. Takeaways are notably cheaper: the mango pudding I settled for (shades of the Two Ronnies' rook restaurant) was about three pounds takeaway and about six pounds to eat in. Anyway, I paid for it, asked for a tea with lemon. No lemon; should have asked for mango, obviously.

And then I went to sit at the back to await my pudding. I went right up to the back, where once the nostalgia CDs lingered. All gone. But you knew that.

Anyway, what I noticed was that (as per the image of riotously happy people, above, from the underscore blog) the seating - low white plastic stools or red plastic benches - was vaguely trendy but clearly not designed to encourage lingering overlong: a kind of upmarket McDonald's, only with non-tokenistic fruit. Oh, and there was muisc, my goodness me yes: Magic Radio. And the song playing? Phil Collins' Another Day in Paradise.

I looked around to see that the area where the vinyl ended up had been partitioned off, and that there were barriers in front of the steps downstairs to where the soul music was (although by way of compensation the next Magic track was Rescue Me, Chess Records' attempt to do a Motown). So the seating area was fairly limited which suggests, along with the pricing, that they are focusing more on the takeaway side of things.

At some point my mango pudding and cup of tea - sans limon - arrived (unless that's French for "lime"; I can't remember). The tea was in a cardboard cup, even though I was a sit-in customer, and didn't look all that appealing. The pudding was fine, well laid out, but pretty small, and vanished almost immediately. Having further tasks to complete, I didn't hang around; luckily the assistant was on her mobile so no need to say anything of any kind. On each table there was a card with a blank space on which you are invited to doodle or write whatever you wish to share with "our community" - but what sort of community is that, exactly? The card addressed customers as Maddam or Maddman, and I wondered what the late Phil would have made of it all. Fuirther down the road, or possibly in Wardour Street, whither I was headed, there was a hummus cafe with two slogans: "Give peas a chance" and "Hummus where the heart is."

Doesn't even make sense.

So I'll go no more a-roving to Rupert Street to eat expensive and non-filling mango-based desseerts. I spent a fair amount of time in HMV Oxford Circus, but everything seemed expensive and there weren't the rewards and sudden excitements of Cheapo.

Oh, and I did see what appeared to be a carrot cake in the counter display at MADD, but I didn't try it. Probably mango-based, anyway. 


To conclude, below is a more recent post, written after "The Complete Story" had been assembled:


14 February 2021: Return to Cheapo or Is That All There Is, Sonically Speaking?

 Whenever I start to recreate a visit to Cheapo Cheapo Records in my head I always find myself striding purposefully towards the very back of the shop, ignoring the lure of those goodies nearer the entrance.

Which is odd, because this wasn't something I ever actually did. 

My main interest was in CDs, and even though DVDs multiplied and become more prominently displayed during Cheapo's final years a substantial amount of shelf space was still given over to the humble compact disc as you walked in, and it was my invariable practice to start with a look through these before gradually working my way towards the inner depths.

That harder-to-get-at stock did become more appealing over time because at some point - possibly in the shop's last two or three years - all the nostalgia CDs were torn from their hipper companions and relegated to shelving along the back wall, hence the destination in my reverie. By "nostalgia" I mean mostly thirties and forties recordings and a few discs from the early fifties which didn't fall into the rock'n'roll category - the Great American Songbook, in other words, whether crooned by British or American artists, or essayed by a smattering of jazzers: Peggy Lee, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and others were heavily represented.

Rock'n'roll (and more recent pop) was there to stay in pride of place, greeting any prospective customers who popped their heads round the door, but I'm guessing that such Radio 2 Sunday fare as Peggy Lee - or what used to be Radio 2 Sunday fare until recently - hadn't attracted quite the same number of impulse purchases, hence its demotion to the comparative inaccessibility of the back room. And it wasn't just the extra few yards which made it hard to get to, as some readers will remember: you could have quite a job squeezing past should any other punters be clogging the shop's narrow thoroughfare - an image now doubly distanced, alas, at the time of writing.

So why weren't Miss Lee and her cohorts seeing much action? I suppose because the nostalgia brigade tended to be older than the typical Cheapo customer, more likely to be well-heeled enough to prefer splurging their money in the bright, wide-aisled comfort of Tower Records in Picadilly Circus or HMV's flagship store in Oxford Street, where a vast nostalgia/easy listening section always seemed to include an endless supply of British dance band releases on the Vocalion label. So why struggle through the confines of Cheapo when you didn't even know what, if anything, you might find of some favourite artist?

But I loved the mystery, the uncertain rewards - and it didn't hurt that during the last seven years of Cheapo's existence I was often buying records on behalf of an employer, building up a comprehensive library of popular music, so every visit to Soho's record shops was also a paid day out - though I'd have gone for myself anyway, and frequently did so at the weekends. In those final years, for work and play, I spent many happy hours going through all those nostalgia CDs at the back - which I suppose is why, with the condensing effect of memory, this now seems to have become the sole purpose of all my visits.
In truth, you wouldn't necessarily find the best or most interesting purchases on those furthest shelves, but the process of making a selection from those particular rows of CDs was undoubtedly the most fascinating part of any expedition.

It was a little like engaging with Radio 4's Round Britain Quiz, a show to which I have become addicted in recent years. The appeal of quizzes - for me, at any rate - is the fleeting and illusory reassurance they offer that all the information unthinkingly amassed over the decades, all those trivial and pointless details taking up so much valuable headroom, might prove to be of some practical worth, after all, and so for that blessed half hour of brain-barbecuing, if no other, there is a feeling of wholeness ... and I don't mean Bob of that ilk.

Actually, maybe browsing in Cheapo is more accurately described as a mirror image of that famed radio quiz: whatever they may know about other stuff, with very few exceptions its contestants are sorely lacking when it comes to basics of popular music - the exact opposite of what's needed when approaching that back wall, hands outstretched in readiness, trying to summon up every last jot and tittle absorbed from mounds of books, sleevenotes, radio programmes and music papers in unwitting preparation for this decisive moment ...

And so it begins again, in yet another waking dream, and I feel afresh that question-solver's satisfaction and immersion while flipping through the rows of CDs, absorbing an array of visual and verbal clues on each front cover, deciding in a millisecond whether or not an examination of the back sleeve, or maybe even an investigation of such prophecies as might be contained within the innards, is merited.

The packaging on those CDs of older music contained the hardest codes to crack. At that time rock'n'roll was only just coming into the public domain, so choices were comparatively limited, but there were any number of discs of earlier music to choose from, on a bewildering variety of labels, and my mission was to select the right one for a particular artist: the disc most likely to contain good quality transfers of the original recordings - definitely not rerecordings or airshots, thank you very much - and which seemed to include a representative sample of their best known work. 

Certain labels offered a reasonable guarantee of good sound, and the annotations to be found in the sleevenotes of such lovingly curated discs might contain enough information to allow the hunt to stop there and then, but it was rarely that simple. Many CDs, tantalisingly cheap, provided no obvious signposts: if the artwork looked amateurish, or the picture of the artist was clearly not from the period of recording, I would know to be cautious before adding it to the pile; if a title like "The Best of" or "Greatest Hits" was applied to someone whose career, like that of Duke Ellington or Louis Armstrong, spanned many decades, I knew it would be wise to scan the back sleeve for more information; often, however, the blandness of certain covers, or their deliberate aping of more reliable releases, could deceive.

Artists like Donovan or the Kinks may have felt - and for all I know, continue to feel - aggrieved that budget rereleases of their material on Pye's offshoot Marble Arch in the late sixties devalued their brand, but unless memory is playing tricks there were only a limited number of those reissue labels around in those days; by the late 2000s, however, any record stall in any Saturday or Sunday market would be thronged with different labels, different repackagings of an artist's material from who knew what stage of their rise or fall in the public's estimation. Cheapo differed in that it certainly had much of the bargain basement stuff but a fair number of worthwhile compilations were mixed in - provided you knew what to look for.

Which is not to say that spotting the gems among the dross was always straightforward, even for the seasoned obsessive. Which is why - and here I come, at long last, to the burden of my song - a website devoted to one of the artists whose discs were frequently to be found against the back wall caught my eye a few years ago - too late, alas, to inform my purchasing in Cheapo but still well worth the attention of anyone still looking out for CDs of that sort.

I reckon that what every major artist needs is a website along the lines of The Peggy Lee Bio-Discography And Videography ... which may be a bit of a mouthful, but it's something which merits leisurely investigation if any of the foregoing has found an answering chime in you. It's an ongoing labour of love, maintained and updated by Ivan Santiago-Mercardo. 

You may recall that when a character in The Importance of Being Earnest finally discovers the military directories which will confirm his name he exclaims: "These delightful records should have been my constant study!" I don't know when Mr Santiago-Mercardo set up his site but had I been armed with a printout of his findings in the late 2000s I would have saved many man-hours in Cheapo ... not, of course, that I regret a minute of that immersion.

For Peggy Lee fans, the Lee-curious, or even readers who are simply interested in the phenomenon of public domain, or otherwise dubious, CDs - this site really is a must. Although I didn't come across it until 2018, long after Cheapo had been repurposed for the consumption of mango-based desserts, I immediately seized upon its information to buy yet more Peggy Lee CDs, even though clicking on a keyboard to purchase an item within that larger emporium of tat and marvels, ebay, is a poor substitute for the glow experienced while carrying a tottering pile of prizes to the counter at Cheapo's.

The Peggy Lee Bio-Discography And Videography will afford the reader many happy hours - or it probably will, if you've read with interest so far. Its author has taken it upon himself to annotate all the public domain releases out there, to point fingers where necessary (the needledrops of Hallmark), to indicate who has stolen other companies' material, and so on. He singles out, for example, a Spanish company who not only ripped off the bulk of a Mosaic release - a company renowned for its meticulous work in locating and remastering material - but didn't even have the grace to wait a few months until Mosaic might have got a decent return on their investment of time and money, thus discouraging such companies from future projects and, in this case, affecting Mosaic's relationship with EMI and having a knock-on effect on the possibility of subsequent releases by Capitol.

But the real, mind-boggling, work has to be Mr Santiago-Mercardo's valiantly sifting through all the vast multitude of similar-looking releases, assessing sound quality, contents, noting the amount of duplication to be found in other compilations and so forth, thereby making it possible for boss-eyed palookas like me to obtain more bang for their master's buck. Peggy Lee recorded between 1941 and 1995 - think about that for a moment - and the site takes you through all the different periods, all the studio recordings for Capitol, Decca and many others, all the transcriptions and film, TV and radio appearances. There are also some exceptionally detailed but very clear and well-written essays about key songs including Fever - making clear just who owed what to whom - and Is That All There Is?.

The image gracing the top of this piece of a notional "Very Best of Peggy Lee" has been taken from his site. He observes of its contents:

Combines 18 Columbia big band studio recordings from the Benny Goodman years (early 1940s) with 2 performances from Lee's radio show (early 1950s) and 1 World radio transcription (also from the early 1950s). Obviously, the title of this cheap and inconsequential disc is outrageously off the mark.
Guided and warned by the information on this website I've able to buy a considerable number of additional Peggy Lee CDs covering periods of her career not already represented by purchases from Cheapo, and there has been an additional pleasure in calculating which combination of budget purchases might match some more expensive and luxurious release which it would be harder to justify buying on my employer's behalf. 

A set of transcriptions (studio recordings meant for radio play only) were released complete on Jazzology's Audiophile label, for example, but Mr Santiago-Mercardo handily points out two lower-priced compilations which contain the bulk of the recordings. He advises that the Audiophile release is the best option but criticises its "middling" sound quality, stating that "all 49 numbers exist in far better quality", though not as yet commercially released. He then goes on to discuss another issue which includes a few of the World transcriptions: "No, it is not excellent sound quality.  But it does eradicate the dullness or opacity which characterizes many another release." If those words mean nothing to you then you are unlikely to gain much from this site. But if, like me, you have bought many a CD of older material and been stung, then this is precisely the kind of thing you will lap up.

The homepage for The Peggy Lee Bio-Discography And Videography can be found here. Those intimidated by the sheer range of what's on offer may be better advised to go to the FAQ page here, which includes notes on a selection of recommended introductory CDs, including advice about which editions to avoid. 

But if you want to plunge straight away into the world of dubious discs with innumerable variants, the heavily illustrated page here is where you want to go - its full title is: "A Gallery Of Public Domain, Budget And Bootleg Compilations". And if you have hung around in Cheapo, or any market stall, you will feel instantly at home.

There is, of course, a case to be made for asking: why bother with any of this? Won't the music come through anyway, even if the sound isn't alway top-notch? Well, maybe ... if you're lucky ... but it's one of the ironies of the digital age that a sound carrier intended to provide greater fidelity than vinyl can often sound a whose lot worse in the hands of companies out to make a quick buck - and if these artists of former times are to find favour with a new generation surely they need to be heard at their best?

I was lucky enough to have a brief email correspondence with sound restorer John R.T. Davies, shortly before his death in 2004; as some readers will know he left a legacy of remastered jazz recordings on the JSP and Hep labels and elsewhere, and understood better than most in the game how to preserve the original sound: too many CDs - and not only public domain issues - have the life drained out of them in an effort to obliterate the scratches, destroying what Davies called the "air" in a recording. (It's still going on if you frequent streaming websites: just compare a few different sonic treatments of the same jazz classic.)

I had emailed Mr Davies to say how much I'd appreciated his CD remastering of sides by Luis Russell, who had been one of my first happy jazz discoveries on vinyl in the early seventies, and got a charming reply almost immediately. A great man who devoted his life to preserving great music for everybody, he even arranged for his Marshal Cavendish Jazz Greats CD of Billie Holiday (part of a CD + magazine series) to be sent to my place of work free, gratis and for nothing, knowing that it was about passing on this music. A link earlier on this blog to an interview in which he talked about his rationale for remastering is no longer operational, but I think his key point was that he was aware that the transfer he made might eventually prove to be the only source material remaining, and thus he felt a sense of duty not to interfere too much with the original sound. 

At some point in the future I may try to list my purchases from Cheapo on this blog; secreted in some hard drive somewhere there ought to be text files listing those items bought for my employer over the years. The little business cards which Phil signed as proof of purchase were stapled to expense forms and handed to the accountant at my workplace; I have no idea whether these still exist - I suspect not, as the most recent must be about twelve years old now. 

I suppose CDs themselves are old hat now that so much music is streamed, and there's no doubt they are less attractive than LPs; it's difficult to imagine a similar revival. But when someone recently posted a picture of a CD with the distinctive Cheapo price label affixed to it on social media it pierced my heart, evoking memories of that wonderful, ridiculous Aladdin's Cave, filling me once again with that hopeless yearning described in an earlier piece about Cheapo closing:

I dreamt about it, about being inside once again, a few nights later. The pain, really, is in not having one final chance - not to plunder, a la the ill-fated Apple boutique, but to pay my last respects, and maybe finally buy some of those fairly pointless and inessential jazz/nostalgia CDs which hovered on the margins of possibility on each visit. And to do that not so much for the music as to perform a kind of final, altruistic - I might as well saying loving - act: to show that someone finally cared even for those unlovely parts of the shop.



No comments:

Post a Comment