Today it gives great pleasure to ask Graham Jones author of the essential read ‘Last Shop Standing‘, recently made into a film answered some questions asked. In fact the DVD of the film will be issued as a limited special edition for Record Store Day on 20th April 2013. I actually first met Graham back in 1982 at the Deeside Leisure Centre, Queensferry on the Saturday of Futurama 4 festival. He was managing a band called The Cherry Boys, whom I was looking forward to seeing that day. I was helping a good friend of mine, Fitz, sell some audio tapes at the event and Graham asked if we could sell the band’s cassette for them.
1. My first encounter with you was when you were the manager of the band The Cherry Boys from Liverpool. The ‘Give It Rice’ tape which I was given by your good self, was taken literally by some fans, with the band being showered with the grains. What was it like in those heady days being their manager? I had been working in a food factory making the flavour to cheese and onion crisps so suddenly to be managing a band and touring and appearing on radio was fantastic. It gave me the chance to pack in the job and no longer walking around smelling of cheese and onion.
2. Two successful Peel sessions, the single ‘Kardomah Cafe’ was receiving daytime airplay and the band’s Crash Records label even released it in Red Vinyl (which I own myself, it is my favourite song of all time coincidently). Did you think it was only a matter of time to hit the big time? What went wrong? For me the follow-up single ‘Shoot The Big Shot’ was a bit lame compared to other songs they had up their sleeves. We were a bit unlucky with ‘Kardomah Cafe’. Our greatest champion was Janice Long and a couple of weeks before its release Janice took maternity leave from her job at BBC Radio 1. Her replacement never played the record. Howie the drummer had a bad accident when his hand went through a pane of glass. We had to cancel a lot of gigs and then used a stand in for some but it wasn’t the same. The song stayed in the top 100 for 3 months but did not break through. It needed a big effort from the record company but it did not happen. We did get it to number 8 in Spain though. As with a lot of bands they came frustrated with the record company and split to get out of their contract with them. Howie and Jimmy went on to start Exhibit B whose album ‘Playing Dead’ attracted rave reviews. The album is hard to get these days but is on iTunes and sells well. Seems just very unlucky then!
3. Two of the band went on to join The La’s including Chris Sharrock who also drummed for The Icicle Works and Robbie Williams. Do you still keep in touch with the lads? What’s happened to the others? John Cherry joined The La’s and as you point out and Chris Sharrock has done well, currently playing with Beady Eye. Howie and Jimmy formed Exhibit B. Jimmy actually provided a lot of the soundtrack to the ‘Last Shop Standing film’ and his song in the credits ‘Sexbomb Uber Alles’ has attracted attention from all over the world with people wanting to know how to get hold of it. I am delighted to say that his current band The James Clarke 5 will be releasing his album ’Sexbomb Uber Alles’ on 15th April just in time for RSD. Highly recommended. I will check it out. Later in the year The Cherry Boys material will be released on CD for the first time and the band are thinking of doing a one-off gig in Liverpool. I will definitely will attend that concert, just try stopping me.
4. When The Cherry Boys split up, what did you get up to in the intervening years before your writing exploits began? After The Cherry Boys split I worked at HMV for a bit but since then my job has been to visit and sell to independent record shops all over the UK. When I started their were over 2,200 but now only 300 remain. Yes it’s a real shame and I applaud your efforts to highlight something we all once took for granted seeing in every town centre in the UK.
5. For me your book ‘Last Shop Standing’ is a must for any record buying fan to purchase as it’s full of great stories, characters and events. What gave you the original inspiration to write such a piece? I noticed record shops were closing down at an alarming rate. Between 2004 – 2009 a record shop was closing every 2 days. I had customers losing their homes and having breakdowns so I thought if I could highlight the situation it might bring them some positive publicity. At that point I thought all record shops will be closed in 20 years time so I thought I was in a good position to document their tales. I thought I was writing the obituary of record shops but all these shop owners had such funny anecdotes that the book became a celebration of our much-loved shops. Well many a story made me chuckle.
6. The transformation of the book into a documentary film, was this an idea you had from the onset or was it in response to the rave reviews the book has achieved? Was it easy to attract the musicians for the filming? It was, surprisingly easy. They all came via the shops themselves. Johnny Marr was a customer of Kingbee and the owner Les put us in touch. Paul Weller shopped at Honest Jon’s and Alan the manager put us in touch and Richard Hawley was a regular in Record Collector in Sheffield and Barry the owner approached him for us. They all wanted to help as they appreciated that record shops had helped them early in their career and wanted to give something back. Well the result was extremely good.
7. For me, I could see the gradual demise of the record shops with the squeeze from such giants as Woolworth’s who made up most of the chart return shops from the late 80’s. The expansion of Our Price to undercut the local stores, which did put many out of business around the same time and of course the advent of the net? Did you see the writing on the wall too? Yes I did see the writing on the wall but many record shops didn’t. The industry had decided to put all their efforts into selling through the supermarkets or online. Record shops needed to change to survive. Those who didn’t and relied on the support of the record labels were doomed.
8. Do you think the Record Store Day event has help stem the loss of record shops or just seen as a glorified fad manipulated by the record companies to create a second Christmas eve bonanza? Record Store Day was the catalyst for the revival of the record shop. Last year their was over 400 exclusive releases and that has got people going back into record shops. The problem I have is that why should their just be one day a year when record shops get the exclusive product. To make our record shops healthy businesses the industry should give them exclusive product all year round. If you buy the new Nick Cave album from an independent record store you got a free exclusive 7” single. This was brilliant and that is what should happen with all key releases. My sentiments totally and a record store is not just for Record Store Day, but it should be visited all year round.
9. What gems have you purchased from previous Record Store Days? What are you hoping to get hold of this year? I buy lots of stuff on RSD but the 2 things that I bought make me smile when I think about it. The last couple of years I have bought the ‘Official films of Record Store Day’ both brilliant documentaries. One is ‘Sound It Out‘ which is about one record shop and their customers in Stockton in Teeside. The other is ‘Vinylmania’ an Italian film about our love of vinyl with a super soundtrack. I had no idea when I bought them that I would be involved with the ‘Official film of RSD 2013’. We have a new version of ‘Last Shop Standing‘ only available from independent record shops from 20th April. It contains 75 minutes of extras including an Update since the film was made. A visit to what we think is the most unusual record shop in the world. Some comedy moments from record shops and anecdotes from the shops themselves. Full interviews with Paul Weller, Richard Hawley, Billy Bragg, Johnny Marr, Jo Good and Sid Griffin of the Long Ryders.
10. So finally what’s next for Graham? Are you writing again? Have you returned to the stores within the book to see how they’re fairing? On July 29th I have a new book out called ‘Strange Requests and Comic Tales from Record Shops’. It contains 200 funny tales gathered from record shops both past and present, guaranteed to make any music fan laugh. Many of the tales are highlighted with cartoons by one of the UK’s top cartoonists Kipper Williams famous for his work with The Guardian and The Sunday Times. Well that book will be on my shopping list when it comes out later this year.
Thanks again to Graham Jones who you can tell he is enthusiastic about everything music, a trait we need in more people in music. You can contact Graham via his Twitter account or via the ‘Last Shop Standing‘ Website. Let’s hope his efforts haven’t been for nothing. Remember it’s all down to you all the buying public around the world.