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Selectadisc in the Nineties

16 April 20

In the days before iTunes and Spotify, Nottingham boomed with dozens of record shops. The biggest of these was Selectadisc, which opened in 1966 and finally closed its doors in 2009. Jim Cooke was the store manager and worked for them for over thirty years. Here he remembers the halcyon days of the nineties in that store...

Record shops were riding high when the nineties started.1989 had seen some fantastic releases by De La Soul, The Stone Roses, The Pixies, Soul II Soul, the Beastie Boys, Happy Mondays and we at Selectadisc were selling plenty of these. The Wonderstuff were massive as well, Lou Reed had returned to form and debut albums from Mudhoney and Nirvana pointed the way to the future, their path being prepared by the ahead-of-its-time American SST label.

It wasn’t just physical music we were selling either; the shops were heavily involved in selling gig tickets for Rock City, Bill Redhead's gigs at Trent Poly and Lynda and Anton's Night With No Name, which covered various venues and helped break many new bands in this city. Darrell Martin had started his Just The Tonic comedy nights, and the city was buzzing with live entertainment.

Even the football was good with both Notts County and Forest in the top division. Selectadisc was heavily involved in the football fanzine movement too, selling retro football shirts, subbuteo shirts and fanzines from across the UK. England's success in Italia ‘90 coupled with New Order's World In Motion prepared the way for the gentrification of football. Local fanzines The Pie (Notts County) and The Almighty Brian (Forest) were fantastic sellers and a must for any local football fan. In our shop Paul, Fergus and Gary had a grip on the dance side of things down at the bottom of Market Street so things were good.

1990 finally saw The La's and the Happy Mondays break through, Public Enemy became huge, Deee-Lite came from nowhere, The Fall returned to form and A Tribe Called Quest blew everybody away with their debut album. It's easy to forget how regularly big bands such as the Levellers, Inspirals, Carter USM, James, The Shamen played venues in Nottingham at the time.

1991 was a big year for us. In early September we moved the vinyl upstairs and put CDs on the ground floor. CD sales had outstripped vinyl so we needed to keep them in view of customers. We continued to champion vinyl, especially after both HMV and Virgin removed it from their racks. Personally I have never collected CDs, always sticking with records. I remember faxing record companies begging them to continue releasing albums on vinyl; particularly MCA, asking them for Nirvana and Counting Crows for the shop.

For about a year we had been making plans to open a London store on Berwick Street in Soho and finally, after loads of hard work, we opened it in late September. It was a very slow beginning but wow did it take off later.  Tracy Pratton, Dave Morton and Phil Bembridge all upped sticks from Nottingham to work there. Phil later became editor of The Face.

I must mention the first Tindersticks release from 1993, a band made up of Nottingham Selectadisc old boys Neil and Mark. I’m so pleased that they ventured to London and got the success they deserved. Stuart Staples’ first band The Indignant Desert Birds had to be seen to be believed. The opening of the London shop brought a lot of media attention to us and helped all round. It was a great year with huge albums from REM, Massive Attack, Nirvana, My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, Ice T and KLF. Alongside this my beloved Notts County returned to the first division, so life was cool.

Nottingham had a good vibe with several indie record shops in the city and we all worked together. Dave Brett ran Way Ahead on St James’s Street and had the metal scene covered. He later spread his range when Tom, who opened Reveal in Derby, appeared on the scene. Kev, Paul and Jonathan ran Arcade and were similar to us but on a smaller scale; they were brilliant at what they did. Former Selectadisc worker Rob Smith ploughed his own second-hand furrow at Rob’s Record Mart on Hurts Yard; a treasure trove of a shop.

Funky Monkey were doing their thing down Hockley, a great shop which had the dance and house scene covered. Guava sprang up on Market Street, Good Vibrations dealt in second hand on Mansfield Road. Revolver Records was run by another ex-Selectadisc man Tony Mack and eventually sold out to HMV. I can't remember when Rob and his wife Jill first sprang up with Anarchy records, but they were a lovely couple and fellow Magpie fans, so I liked them. We all rubbed along together; I can't recall any animosity between any of us as we were keeping money in the local economy while fighting off the big boys from Virgin, HMV and Our Price, who also had big stores in the city.

I became heavily involved with the London shop so Basil, Dick and Jenny came more to the front in Nottingham and did a fantastic job. We recruited well with our staff having amazing knowledge across the board. In pre-internet days I reckon we could answer any customer's request between us. HMV and Virgin were always sending people up to us if they had proper questions about music.

Above: The London branch of Selectadisc that ended up on the cover of one of the biggest albums of the decade

1995 was a big year. Our Soho branch ended up on the front cover for the second Oasis album What’s The Story Morning Glory and the national media were all over us. The agency that did the shoot came in the store to tell Tracy that we had a chance of being on the album cover. When it came out. I went down and walked the shoot and worked out that the photo had been taken from Noel Street. Maybe that's why they chose it? It’s since become a tourist location and I've seen loads of people having their photo taken there.

A period I really enjoyed was when elevator and lounge music came to the fore with the release of The Sound Gallery, Inflight Entertainment and The Sound Spectrum, coupled with the release of soundtracks for Get Carter, The Sweeney and The Wicker Man on Trunk Records. We were instrumental in getting many of these titles issued on vinyl and worked alongside Gordon Montgomery, the main who started Fopp, in doing this. We had plenty of vinyl shipped in from the states as people were so inquisitive to hear all the original tracks that hip-hop bands were sampling.

This mid to late nineties period was incredibly enjoyable both work-wise and from a music point of view. We had a guy called Rich Willis working with us, and we were big mates with George from Big Daddy magazine; they were putting hip-hop bands on like Jurassic 5, Alkaholics and many many DJs. Rich really had his finger on it and was a great comrade. Paul Harrison ran our second-hand department in fine style and sales were booming. Si Fearn, from the legendary Bob Tilton, was amazing on the hardcore and hip-hop scenes. Nail, who went on to form Bent with Simon, was always apleasure to work with – completely barmy, but he sure knew his stuff.

Our secretary Sue was crazy as well, but she was the glue that held everybody together. We could not have done anything without this fantastic woman. I’m sorry if I've forgotten anybody, but the one person I can’t leave out is Brian Selby – the man who created the whole shebang, and just let us all get on with it. Brian loved being around young creative people and gave Nottingham both Selectadisc and The Garage. If only we'd had got the old Classic cinema next door to the shop on Market Street when we went after it. We were going to build an arthouse cinema with music, food, drink and DJs etc. RIP Brian and thank you for everything.

Thanks to everyone who supported the shop over the decades. I still buy records and raise my hat to Joey Bell for giving it a go at Forever Records in Cobham Chambers. But I buy from discogs or eBay mainly, and can get most reissues myself as I still run a small online business with Pish from the Soundcarriers. I still enjoy visiting Fopp in the Broadmarsh which has a friendly vibe to it too. Asa, who works there, is so enthusiastic and DJ's all over town. I'm sure he'd be working for Selectadisc if we were still going.

This article was originally published in the Celebration issue of Overall Magazine, which we highly recommend you have a proper read of below...

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