Vinyl records are returning to popularity. GREG LAMBERT meets a Morecambe music fan and shopkeeper who is helping to lead the vinyl charge.
Sales of vinyl records have outstripped music downloads for the first time ever.
The news that UK vinyl sales beat those from digital downloads for one week in November was met with sheer delight by record shop boss Paula Baker.
Paula and her husband Mark opened their shop Vintage Vinyl in the West End two years ago.
And the vinyl comeback has validated them taking the plunge, she says, because it shows people are starting to reject the “isolated experience” of downloading music.
“When I take a vinyl record out of the sleeve and place it on the record player I’m connecting with it,” she says.
“My daughter said to me when I opened the record shop ‘it won’t work because you can just download music at home’. Then she lost her phone and with it, lost all her music.
“I gave her a record and said ‘this is something you can own’.”
Paula and Mark’s shop on Albert Road is a real throwback to the days when people used to go down to the high street in droves to buy their favourite albums and singles.
A record player in the corner spins some of her own favourite tunes.
It’s a real mixture, everything from Madam Butterfly by Malcolm McLaren to a ska album by Skinhead Moonstomp.
There is a big ska movement in Morecambe and Paula says the genre sells really well.
“Punk, ska and reggae are the hardest records to keep in the shop,” she says.
“I don’t even have a ska section. People come in and know exactly what they are looking for. The Beatles, the Stones, Dylan and Bowie also sell well.”
Paula has changed her own image over the years to fit with the music of the times.
“I was a skinhead for about a year in 1984.
“I was a punk before that. We used to congregate on the promenade near the Clock Tower.
“Then I became a modette. I loved the scooter movement. I can remember the West End and Broadway being full of scooters.
“Morecambe really pulsated with music back then.
“Then I was a goth for about three months but I found they walked too slowly and were far too miserable! Then I became a mum and not too long after that I woke up one day and I was a hippy!”
Paula says Vintage Vinyl came about because record collector Mark “just couldn’t stop buying vinyl”.
He amassed around 40,000 records and it got to the point where they needed to open a shop to house it all.
And Paula absolutely loves it. She gets to sing along to her favourite songs all day and loves to help some of the West End characters who pop in.
“There was one guy who had a bad heroin problem,” she says.
“He gravitated to my decks and said he used to be a DJ. So for a few years he came in and used to play them.
“He came in every few weeks and for the time he was here, was totally transformed. He went into a happy place.
“It was such a privilege to help that chap. He had all the worries in the world but he left totally different to how he arrived. We also had a little boy come in, he must have been about eight. He looked at the shop and said, ‘what is this?
“I said ‘it’s a record shop’.
“He shouted his mates over from by the fish and chip shop across the road.
“They were all stunned when we put a record on. They hadn’t seen one before.
“The next thing he brought his mum in with him and he wanted his own turntable.”
For Paula, experiences like this are what makes her job so worthwhile.
She admits Vintage Vinyl is not a money-spinner but for her, it’s not about that.
“Some weeks I work 80 to 90 hours and I’ve never in my life worked so hard to be so poor!” she laughs.
“But I love it. I feel more enriched than I ever have.”