One of the great things about working in a secondhand bookshop is being able to listen to the radio or the music of your choice whenever you like, which for me is most of the day. When I bought the property, along with the shelves, a few chairs and a centimetre of dust, I inherited the previous owner’s stereo system consisting of a good Pioneer amp, tuner and tape deck, an average cd player and turntable and 4 cracking speakers. Upstairs are 2 Celestion Ditton 44s from the 60s I think. Downstairs are a couple of three and a half foot tall beasts with no visible make on them. These brutes could wake the dead when the volume is pumped up, without any distortion but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for the neighbours) there aren’t too many opportunities to put them through their paces. Occasionally, as I’m doing the tour of the shop just before closing to turn off all the lights and check that no customers are lurking in dark corners, I put on something appropriate(perhaps some electric Dylan or Credence Clearwater Revival) and crank the volume up. Good money has been offered for these speakers on several occasions but always politely declined.
Not all of my music is apporopriate for playing in a bookshop, no matter what the volume. Some of Tom Waits more experimental offerings might scare the customers while Stevie Ray Vaughan or Rory Gallagher would probably be a bit to loud and distracting. Some stuff is well suited to the atmosphere of a bookshop: maybe Nick Drake’s “happier” albums, Kate Rusby, The Be Good Tanyas or some classic jazz from Ella, Billie or Louis. Mind you even what you may think would be totally inoffensive will offend and annoy someone. One elderly lady customer in a charity shop I used to work in would put a finger in each ear when we played Dougie MacLean and would be heard to mutter “could someone not put that man out of his misery?”.
Anyway you can’t spend your whole life worrying about what other people think and after all it is my shop so I don’t mind playing a bit of Dylan, Van the Man, Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard even if they’re not everyone’s cup of tea.
Top of the playlist over the past few months have been: Sam Baker’s two albums, ‘Mercy’ and ‘Pretty World’; Gurf Morlix’s ‘Diamonds to Dust’; Roddy Woomble’s ‘My Secret is my Silence’ and Julie Fowlis’s gaelic offering ‘Cuilidh’. Nearly any time I put on Gurf Morlix or Sam Baker, someone would ask “Who’s that singing”. Another album which gets that reaction is ‘The House Carpenter’s Daughter’ by Natalie Merchant.
One drawback to having all this music in the shop is that people are constantly wanting to buy one of the CDs or LPs despite the blindingly obvious “NOT FOR SALE” signs . Only today someone brought up Bob Dylan’s ‘Live 1975 – The Rolling Thunder Review’ double cd and asked how much it was. As if. Also this morning a well known Scottish/Australian author whose name I’d better not divulge(though it begins with ‘F’ and ends with ‘aber’) approached me with a strange request. “I know your vinyl isn’t for sale but is there any chance I could borrow your copy of Van Morrison ‘Hymns to the Silence’ to copy as it isn’t available on cd any more?” He said he’d return it by this afternoon and I reckoned someone so well known should be easy enough to track down if he didn’t bring it back so I thought “why not?”. It’s half past four now and there’s no sign of him yet and it’s started to pour but I’m sure I’ll get the album back before long.
The tuner get’s its fair share of use too as I usually have radio 3 on in the morning. They play a good range of music and generally the presenters are incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgable without being patronising. Some of the music is on the ‘slightly challenging’ side but generally it’s worth the effort. I’m not sure what it is about it but I don’t like Classic fm(in fact it’s banned in the shop). It could be the adverts, or the annoying presenters with their fake mid-atlantic accents, or the whole “relaxing/soothing/romantic” thang. I’m not sure, but it generally has me reaching for the bucket.
I used to be a devotee of the Tom Morton show on Radio Scotland every afternoon when I just had a wee radio sitting beside me but it doesn’t really work over the big speakers what with the chat, the competitions etc. Tom is very good and quite funny and has a great taste in and knowledge of music but I think the choice of music isn’t what it could be with a bit too much pop and “classic rock“. A bit too Radio 2. I love radio 4 as well – World at One, Afternoon Play, Brain of Britain, Feedback etc. but again not on the big system and unfortunately the little radio sitting by my desk has rubbish reception on FM. Once we get a decent computer with decent broadband, I’ll be able to listen to Radio 4 on it and I’ll also be able to take advantage of the great “Listen again” facility on the BBC to listen to all the great Radio 4 shows I’ve missed or Radio 2′s Bob Harris Country or Iain Anderson’s great night time show on Radio Scotland.
Of course there’s one thing that takes priority over Radio 3, Radio 4, Van the Man, Dylan, Billie Holliday or whatever and that’s Test Match Special. What a joy work is when I can sit and listen to the wit and wisdom of Aggers, Blowers or Vic, the dulcet tones of Sir Vivian Richards, Colin Croft, Barry Richards,Brian Waddell et al.
now playing…..Sufjan Stevens “Come on feel the Illinoise“
p.s 5.01pm – ‘Hymns to the Silence ‘ has just been returned!
p.p.s. Check out – http://www.sambakermusic.com/