About Flashback Records (Crouch End)

Give us the background... when and why did you decide to open a record shop?

After leaving college, I worked at Music and Video Exchange and then Reckless Records where I became manager of one of their stores. I hit a glass ceiling there and decided that to proceed further I’d have to set up on my own. That was nearly 20 years ago now, and I now have three shops in North London. I’ve never seriously considered anything else. I try to minimise the management aspect so I can do what I love which is buying and selling records. Even after 30 years in the business, nothing gives me greater pleasure than someone bringing in a pile of records to sell to Flashback. You never know what might be there and the more you know about music, the more you realise you don’t know, so it is a constant process of discovery. There was a record released on the Immediate label in the late 60s called "Happy To Be Part Of The Industry Of Human Happiness” and i think that just about sums up what I feel about running record shops. The vast majority of people I encounter, whether customers or staff, love music and love record shops.

Having worked in other record shops I tried to take the best things of those shops and then add my own flavour. The most important thing in Flashback is the staff. I like people working in Flashback to be happy, honest, generous folk who have a deep passion for music. This then translates to the customers who find a friendly environment with knowledgeable and approachable people behind the counter. Everyone has their own thing and that diversity is key. But there is no factionist

- everyone gets along on a human level however divergent their musical taste. I know the shop is made by the people working there and the Flashback community is very strong.

I used to take the bus into Darlington from the village I grew up in in Co Durham and go to the Record Shops - The selection was very limited in the 1970s - basically Woolworths, WH Smiths, Boots, Binns (a House of Fraser Store) and Dressers, an independent Stationers. My budget was very limited, but I’d buy what I could and then pore over the sleeves on the bus on the way home, itching to hear them. Even as a pre-teen, I was buying Abba and Wombles records, but my tastes developed. I used to have an old reel to reel tape recorder with a microphone which I’d put up against the speaker of the television so I could record the new tracks on Top of the Pops.

My mate Nick Saloman has a shop in Bexhill, Platform One, which is lovely as he seems to be able to source amazing records. Another mate David has the Little Record Shop in Crouch End which turns up some great stuff too. I like the vibe of the smaller one man shops as you have a dialogue when you’re there and its as much a social visit as a record shopping spree.

Whilst at Music and Video exchange, a guy turned up for work calling himself Joss. I was convinced he was actually Julian Cope, as he was wearing a World War 2 bomber Jacket and looked just like him. On further investigation, it turned out he was Julian’s brother. 

Morrissey came in one day and some idiot put on a Smiths track. You’ve never seen someone leave a shop so quickly! Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth played an instore and delivered a storming set, climbing over the racks, jamming his guitar against the ceiling and behaving in a far more reckless way than one might expect. Chatting to him afterwards, he said he was aware of my consternation as he was crawling over the record racks, but said not to worry, he’d only put his foot on the hip hop 12” s! Bobby Gillespie is a regular who is absolutely charming. Opeth came in to do a piece for Classic Rock and turned out to be massive record fans, buying loads more than their ‘budget’ of £50, and Michael Monroe of Hanoi Rocks came in the other day to do a Finnish TV piece. He was a real Rock’n’Roll star, charming and over the top, ending up playing an unaccompanied Sax solo at the end to the delight and bemusement of our regular customers.

I am the king of bad puns. I have a real scattergun approach to humour. If I think something is funny, I’ll say it, even if it is in bad taste or likely to offend someone. Every once in a while, I say something that is actually funny. Not often enough though, I’m told!

One of the best gigs I went to was Godspeed You Black Emperor at the Scala a few years ago, there were several hundred-leather jacket clad Rock fans in the audience and I’ve never heard a crowd so quiet and in awe of what they were witnessing. You could hear a pin drop. The Butthole Surfers were amazing, filling the lower cymbal of a high hat with lighter fluid and setting it alight, then bashing it so great gouts of flame ascended to the rafters, much to the consternation of the venue. I saw Lydia Lunch play and there was a guy heckling her from the crowd with horrible sexist comments. She waded in and smacked him around the head, after which he was escorted out by security. I don’t espouse violence in general, but I think this guy really deserved it.

Currently I love the Iain M Banks books - such a sad loss to literature along with Terry Pratchett who also died recently. 

Apparently, Iain proposed to his girlfriend of many years standing a few months before he died, by asking her if she would be his widow!

I think Terry Gilliam’s Brazil would be my all-time favourite. Such an astonishing mix of fantasy, black humour and storytelling with a properly bleak ending, which he had to fight the studios to retain.

If it were just three, then they’d have to be long! So Yes - Gates of delirium, ELP - Karn Evil 9 and Van Der Graaf Generator - A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers. All prog I know, but they do long form very well!

The Cure, Butthole Surfers, Van Der Graaf Generator, Bevis Frond, Ozric Tentacles, Kate Bush and Eddie Izzard and Tim Vine in the Comedy tent

The Cure 17 Seconds is a complete album, not a single second wasted!