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Interview: Jim Cooke, Manager of Selectadisc

1 June 06 words: Scotty Clark
photos: Dom Henry

We had a chat with the long serving manager of Nottingham's favourite independent record store...

Tell us about the origins of Selectadisc.
Selectadisc was started by a local lad from Hucknall called Brian Selby who went to art college and then worked down the pit. He didn’t like that so he started selling records down on Mansfield Market in 1966. Around that time the recommended retail price for records disappeared and Brian took that as a chance to open a discount shop. I came across Selectadisc in the famous old Arkwright Street down the Meadows in 1969 as a fourteen year old and thought wow! 
What were the first and last records you ever bought?
The first was Telstar by the Tornadoes in 1962 and the latest was the Soledad Brothers album. 

So what’s it like working in a record shop? Is it ever like Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity?
If I didn’t like it I wouldn’t still be here. I really enjoy it. As far as High Fidelity, I think when we had the specialist second-hand shop halfway up the street, it was very much like that.
Why do you still sell vinyl?
Because vinyl is the only way to listen to music. I remember around 1991, shops like Virgin and HMV stopped selling vinyl and people were laughing at us for staying with it. We got a lot of stick from reps and record companies alike, saying it were a thing of the past. Now, you look, Virgin have restocked vinyl, HMV have stocked vinyl again.
You’re an avid Notts County fan. Why did you choose to support the Magpies?
I liken Selectadisc to Notts County. It’s kind of an underground thing. Most people go to Forest, who are the mainstream team. County are the smaller shop, the independent, they’ve got a nicer feel to it. I used to be involved with the football fanzine, which used to sponsor the youth team.
Over the years, many people involved in the shop have been involved in the local music scene…
I did a fair bit during the miners strike, putting the likes of Billy Bragg, the Redskins and The Three Johns on as fundraisers. Then there’s Neal, Stuart and Mark from The Tindersticks,. Then there’s Nail, who is half of Bent. We’re really proud of the fact that members of two of Nottingham’s most successful bands used to work here… it kind of says something about the shop. Another lad who worked here and went onto bigger things was Phil Bembridge who became the Editor of The Face. He is sadly no longer with us.

What impact have the new technologies and downloading had on the shop?
A hell of a lot. To be honest with you I don’t think there is a great future for local independent retailers such as Selectadisc. If you look around the country they’re all closing down…
Computer games now outstrip music sales. Will you ever start selling them?
Not us! What enjoyment would we get out of selling computer games?
What’s been the best music visit ever to Selectadisc?
Without a doubt it was when The Clash just came in off the street and played unannounced in 1985. The drummer was playing on the wall and Strummer on the counter. The funny thing was some kid came up to Strummer, obviously not recognising him and introduced himself as the Social Secretary at Clarendon College, offering the band a gig! 
Why has there never been a Selectadisc record label?
There was once! Black Magic which was a big Northern Soul label, which sadly went bankrupt. I think the biggest record that actually featured on TOTP was PaPa Oo Mau Mau. 
So where else in town has the shop been?
From Mansfield Market to Arkwright Street down the Old Meadows, to Goldsmith Street where the Royal Concert Hall now is to Bridlesmith Gate and then Market Street. 

As a successful independent regional music retailer, what would you say has enabled Selectadisc to remain successful?
By following our customers tastes. By doing so we have always managed to remain one step ahead of the industry. Another thing that has been the Selectadisc way has always been to try and buy up bankrupt stock cheaply and then pass that discount onto our customers, which is how we’ve managed to be so successful.
How did the London shop end up on Oasis’ What’s the Story? Morning Glory album cover?
It was a fluke. We got a call saying our shop was on the cover! I’ve seen Japanese tourists outside the shop having their photo taken. Why Berwick Street was used I don’t know. I’ve stood on the spot where the photographer must have stood and it’s on the junction of Noel Street. That’s the only reason I can think of.

Do you ever get musicians gigging in town popping in?
All the time! Ian McKay of Fugazi was in last week, every time he plays in town he pops in. That fellow from the Ordinary Boys was in recently. We’ve seen Paul Weller in the shop and David Byrne pushing his kid in his pram around. I remember Stuart Pearce coming to the counter one day and saying how he liked the shop because people don’t hassle him or bother him in there, staff just leave him alone to get on with what he’s come in to do. Then there was Molly Sugden! She was in Panto in the Theatre Royal and used to walk her two Poodles past the shop every morning and her two dogs would cock their legs up against the shop doors without fail every time. I remember Billy Connolly having a rant when he picked up a The The album of Hank Williams covers, moaning about how could anyone have the audacity to record Hank Williams songs. Frank Bruno and Bob Monkhouse have also shopped at Selectadisc.
Tell me more about Brian Selby who started the shop...
Brian’s always stayed in the background. He’s an ideas man, even when we were doing loads of Northern Soul stuff with the Black Magic record label and having acts on Top Of The Pops. He’s always had the knack of employing people who knew how to do the job.
Anything else you’d like to say to LeftLion readers?
We’re just grateful that the people of Nottingham have supported the shop over the years. Obviously, the first thing I do when I go to other towns and cities is look for the independent record shop and see what’s out there. Everywhere I go, even Manchester and Birmingham, nowhere has got an independent shop the size we are, which has got to be down to people supporting us. 

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