Some of my favourite records (in no particular order)
The Shangri-Las - Past, Present And Future
Claudine Clark - The Strength To Be Strong
Blondie - Europa
Teri Thornton – Why Don’t You Love Me
Ted Taylor – Somebody’s Always Trying
Carl Hall – The Damn Busted
The Cookies – Only To Other People
Etta James - Feeling Uneasy
The Sweet Inspirations – Get A Little Order
Janis Ian - Society's Child (Baby I've Been Thinking)
Garnet Mimms & the Enchanters – Cry Baby
Francoise Hardy - Message Personnel
Aretha Franklin – Sweet Bitter Love
Laura Nyro - Mercy On Broadway
Darlene Love – Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)
The Debs – Under A Streetlight
Born to a professional singer and a bookie in 1953, I caught the record collecting bug in the early 1970s, a little late in life compared to many of my Ace colleagues. But boys need their hobbies and as a lad I amassed an impressive collection of paisley silk neckties and Victorian coins. Regrettably, they all got left behind when my mother and her brood did a moonlight flit from our council house.
I wanted to go to Art School, but when the City of Leicester Grammar School for Boys expelled me in 1968 (long story, send an SAE or ply me with drink) I scoured the local rag and bagged a job as a trainee optical technician instead. I didn’t count on grinding away at the same trade for 39 years, but I was quite good at it and it paid the rent. Besides, it made me feel good to see Thora Hird on television wearing spectacles I had made.
In 1976 I moved to London, where I first got to know Ady Croasdell and Tony Rounce, both of whom sold old records from a street barrow in Soho, a regular haunt of numerous of my new London pals, including the notorious Carole Gardiner and Malcolm Baumgart, names with which some folk reading this will be familiar. I owe much of my musical education to Carole and Malcolm. Don’t ask me how it happened, but one minute I was Kevin Ayers’ number one fan, the next I was snapping up US girl group 45s like there was no tomorrow, many of them found for me by Ady on his regular jaunts to the USA. I soon also developed an interest in R&B and soul.
When Carole took over running the Phil Spector Appreciation Society, I was pressganged into giving her a hand. That lasted for about 15 years, during which time we published about as many issues of the club’s two magazines, Phil-ately and That Will Never Happen Again, copies of which used to fly out of Compendium as fast as I could staple them together. PSAS had several hundred members around the world, many of whom I still know.
In 1985 Ady asked if I’d like to help him compile an LP for the Kent label of girl group tracks, which we entitled Where The Girls Are. That was the beginning of a whole new sideline for me. A series of albums followed for Ace’s Impact imprint, including Girl Zone and Girls With Guitars. I know some young people who tell me those magazines and LPs influenced their lives, which makes me feel kinda peculiar. When Bob Fisher launched Sequel Records, Malcolm and I compiled for him Here Come The Girls, a collection of girl singers from the UK Pye label. It sold about 20,000 copies, mainly in Japan. Suddenly we were in demand. The HCTG series eventually ran to ten volumes.
Then Tony re-entered the picture, first at Sequel, then Westside. I lose count of the CDs Malcolm and I helped materialise with him at those labels. Ace kept us busy too, with the Where The Girls Are series and other projects. When Tony joined Ace I began collaborating more regularly with him, mainly on collections of the work of producers and songwriters such as Jack Nitzsche, Leiber & Stoller, Pomus & Shuman, Goffin & King and Bert Berns, my real area of expertise. Sometimes I wonder where I found the time to do all the work, what with my day job and S’pop, a website/discussion forum my pal Phil Chapman and I “arrange and produce”, but I did.
In 2007 the opticians I had worked for closed down, but I made no rush to hunt for a new job. When Ady asked me what my plans were, I told him something I’d revealed to no-one else, that in my dream world I’d go and work for Ace. He put a word in for me and here I am, helping Carol run Ace's origination department three days a week, and working as an A&R consultant the rest of the time.