Some of my favourite records (in no particular order)
Laura Nyro – Mercy On Broadway
Ted Taylor – Somebody’s Always Trying
The Shangri-Las – Past, Present And Future
Lana Del Rey – Art Deco
Carl Hall – The Damn Busted
The Cookies – Only To Other People
Blondie – Europa
The Sweet Inspirations – Get A Little Order
Garnet Mimms and The Enchanters – Cry Baby
Björk – Bachelorette
Aretha Franklin – Sweet Bitter Love
Darlene Love – A Long Way To Be Happy
The Debs – Under A Streetlight
Brenda Holloway – Sad Song
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 I did amass an impressive collection of paisley 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 I scoured the local paper 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 the Two Ronnies, Thora Hird and Fenella Fielding on TV wearing spectacles I had made, and for a few years my mother sported the most stylish eyewear of any Leicester bus conductress.
In 1976 I moved to London, where I got to know Ady Croasdell and Tony Rounce, both of whom sold old records from a street barrow in Soho, a regular haunt of some 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 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 punk and 60s 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 society’s two magazines, Phil-ately and That Will Never Happen Again, which flew out of the Compendium bookshop in Camden as fast as I could staple them together.
In 1985 Ady asked if I’d like to help him compile a girl group LP for the Kent label, which we titled Where The Girls Are. That was the beginning of a whole new sideline for me. A series of albums followed for Ace’s short-lived Impact logo, including Girl Zone and Girls With Guitars. I know some young people who tell me those fanzines 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 very well, mainly in Japan. Suddenly we were in demand. The 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 at those and other 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, Bert Berns, Leiber and Stoller, Pomus and Shuman and Goffin and King, my real area of expertise. Sometimes I wonder where I found the time to do all the work, what with my regular day job and S’pop, the website/discussion forum my pal Phil Chapman and I used to run, but I did.
The opticians I worked for closed down in 2007 but I made no rush to hunt for a new job. When Ady asked me what my plans were, I told him that in my dream world I’d go and work for Ace. He put a word in for me and here I am, running the origination department with new colleague Sam Szczepanski three days a week, and working as a freelance A&R consultant the rest of the week. Most recently I’ve been getting a kick putting together girl-pop comps for our newfangled Ace International imprint.