About Black Star Records
We (Sue and Fran) have always loved the arts and music – mainly from a standing in a field and nodding our heads for the last few years. But Sue had an early career in the West End managing The London Palladium and The Lyric. Fran, not as lucky. A cliched very long stint in the city working for the man. Getting shouted out by millionaires in suits with big red ties and shiny shoes in the IT and Resource management business for over 25 years.
But music was always a real love, escape, and support for both of us. Live music especially. Our holidays have always been field/tent/mud and beer based. We have been so lucky to fill our worlds with some of most incredible music and bands.
Our initial thought – keeping in mind we set the shop up in the first main Covid lockdown, was to show our children its OK to do something you truly love and follow a dream. It has been such a mad and scary time for so many, and indeed many of our friends and family have been so negatively affected by the Pandemic. We just thought it the right time and reasons to start (even though A lot of people thought us crazy)
We also, are truly passionate, about supporting artists directly. Across all mediums. And the pandemic did hit these truly amazing and incredible people more than most. So how could we be a positive change was also a question we asked ourselves? How can we encourage people to own their art and directly invest in the artists? We will put our money where our heart is.
We opened a record shop, with a real focus on community, art and sharing what we and others love. Taking a leaf out of a certain star-man’s book. The idea of Blackstar records was born. Encourage people to own music, look at the art of the Vinyl and music scene. As well as an online community that can share in collecting, online gigs, physical shows. And just sharing in the joy of it all. Fran's IT background, and Sues theatre and event background. As well as 40 years of music, gigs and fandom. We feel it was a scary but clear step for us. And we have loved every minute ever since.
The people, the online club, discovering new music and sharing new music. That is a real thrill and privilege we get to enjoy every day. We have been doing this since October 2020. And even with all the lockdowns and madness. It has been the greatest and most fulfilling professional decision of our life’s.
I guess you’d call us a heritage shop. With a wall dedicated to the top 50 albums of all time (which sells out nearly every quarter), but we give as much wall space and bin space to new music. We make sure we do an album of the week and month. And try to stock a varied and diverse collection.
We still have people coming every week asking for music we have never heard of. Which very quickly turns our cool dial down a few points instantly. But our live/ festival ears are always dialled in to the emerging music. And for a couple of old gits – we are so proud of the Albums of the week and that we actively push, sell, recommend (Bully) great new music where we can.
I love that I just sold Berwyn’s new album to a fella with more grey hair than me, along with the Achtung baby and Harvest he just took off our top 50 wall.
The shop makes room for some incredible art, vintage posters, very rare photographs. We also sell Guitars and a well known HiFi retailer have put together a Black Star Stack for us as well to sell in store. So, we have a real unique look. It feels like a show room with some of the things we have in. But we take real pride in that our customers are all ages. From 7 through to 77. That we sell 25 Marin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” a month to the youngsters, and an equal amount of Wolf Alice, Black Country New Road and Berwyn’s to the more mature record collector.
Our very first customer was a 6-week-old baby. Her name was Phoebe, and her parents took down Pet Sounds off the top 50 wall for her and wanted it to be her first piece of wax.
We gifted her the record and with a tear in our eye. We were off to the races. Phoebe will have a special place in our hearts forever. Our first Black Star customer was younger than our shop idea. What a great start we thought.
So many record shops. Fran is a child of Manchester during the hey day of Factory, Madchester and the emerging sounds of such an incredible time. But queuing up at Tower Records after spending an hour on the number 26 bus was a weekly event. Then spending everything I had on some Stone Roses rare 12” or a James album. Then having only 10p left to phone home and beg my dad for a lift home back to north Manchester.
However – and I proudly say this - the very, very first record Fran ever bought was Burning Love by the King on red vinyl, with a die cut heart shaped sleeve. I played it to death in my bedroom. Hairbrush mic in hand, along with cricket bat lead guitar to be called upon at any minute. I still bloody love Elvis – although I may have hid that as a flared, baggy jean wearing Mancunian in the early 90s.
We lost our vinyl collection/ habit through most of adulthood. Work, kids, responsibility, moving house, blah blah blah – middle age cliché. Then Fran stumbled across Hundred Records in Romsey. Near where we live. Fran instantly declared to the owner (Mark) that we were going to be friends and he better get used to us. We just restarted collecting and was ready to spend, spend, spend. To be fair we were the perfect customers for Mark – lol – but what a shop and what a guy.
That shop and Mark was so important to me (Fran) especially, but we both reconnected with vinyl, collecting and supporting the community almost as soon as we walked in marks shop in Romsey.
We when we combined that with our passion for live events and festivals. The two just went hand in hand. We collected as much new music and vibes as we could. But always listened to Mark and what he thought we’d like. We almost created a Fran and Sue Algorithm there. And it was always a highlight of the week to pop in, coffee in hand. Talk music and new bands. Leave with something we knew we’d like, but also something challenging outside of our norm.
Mark got it right nearly all the time – but we are easy customers. We love nearly everything.
But Hundred records – still the best record shop in Hampshire. Love it.
We have too many memorable record store experiences as customers. But all centre around landing a new piece of wax. Every record still feels special.
We even get giddy about unboxing stock now we own a record shop. It’s all ours until we sell it. So, every delivery day feels like xmas.
RSD felt like we won the record store lottery, unboxing nearly 1000 new records for that first drop. What an amazing feeling.
But the funniest memory - and I (Fran) say this knowing that Sue will punch me when she reads this – was me popping out for a cheeky latte and walking back down the village high street, spotting a distinguished gent just coming out of our newly opened (first two weeks) shop. Me asking Sue if he had been in for long and her saying not really. Just stood over there quietly. Wished us luck. Was very kind about the shop. And quietly left…
When I asked if she recognised the bass player from Pink Floyd… she dropped said purchased take out latte and sat down quietly for a gentle weep.
He was wearing a mask though – but we do take great joy in telling people how crap we are at this. We didn’t even recognise the guy from Dark Side Of The Moon. LOL.
OMG – what a crazy thing to try and do in year 1, never mind the pandemic. Talk about a steep learning curve. But we loved, loved, loved every single second of it.
We viewed it as an opportunity to host and welcome our customers and share a unique moment rather than worry about selling.
And that is what we did. Everyone got a welcome and a chat. We learned so much about everyone’s tastes and loved that day. We encouraged people to hang out with us outside and have a covid safe beer and not rush.
We didn’t expect people to be waiting outside on our first drop but there were about 20 people happily there from 4am. And then on the second drop, well more than double that.
We didn’t sell out, but we didn’t make any massive mistakes either (other than not getting enough Ultravox and Prince)
Oh god – it would be easier to tell you our favourite child. Its Em…No Sullivan…No Its Em. But Pearl Jam at Milton Keynes a few years ago was hard to top. And then PSB at Goonhilly for the 50th Apollo Anniversary.
I (Fran) only read music autobiographies really. This is a Call: The Life and Times of Dave Grohl was the last one. So it’s now my fave.
Blues Brothers – Of Course…
Burning Love by the King.
Hymn From a Village – James.
Fools Gold – Stone Roses.
Purple Rain – Prince
Everest – PSB
Fishermans Blues – Waterboys
Runier – Methyl Ethyl
Florence and The Machine
Fran’s is Fisherman’s Blues and Sue’s is Purple Rain.