VINYL JUNKIE: Joe Lawrance AKA Zapatoo Part I

As a record collector it’s always a pleasure to meet like minded people. We can chat about rare records, records we want, label art anything really that has to do with our love of old vinyl. There are certain collectors though that have taken their love of collecting to an extreme. They’ve been collecting for 30 years or more and go to great lengths to get the records they desire. It’s like a drug to get a new piece of vinyl and drop it onto the player to hear those sweet grooves whistle with those classic sounds.

So in this second feature on another of these special people we highlight a true vinyl junkie! He was kind enough to sit down and give us a huge history about his years collecting and his passion for all things Reggae!

Joe Lawrance

The cat in the middle with the Trojan tee on.

I’m Joe Lawrance, otherwise known as Zapatoo (the Tiger) in the various forums. I look after the Trojan Records forumand have had the privilege and pleasure of doing this since 2004. I’ve been buying Reggae for over 40 years and liking Jamaican music for longer, but this isn’t about who I’ve met, what ultra-rarities I’ve bought or what legendary selectors I’ve seen.

I’ve never been a musician, never been inside a recording studio, haven’t really mixed with the Reggae famous, though I’ve been lucky enough to meet just one or two, never worked in a record shop other than helped out occasionally, never worked for any music publication and have only written several informal album reviews.

I’ve occasionally been a selector, although when doing this at a few weddings many years ago, I didn’t get to play too much Reggae. Having eased back into selecting with occasional spots in the last 6 years, Reggae has been the main music I’ve played.

This is just how I, as a big fan of Jamaican music, saw and experienced things all those years ago and how my enduring appreciation of “records” and especially the music began.

As a 5-year-old kid, I was moved from living with my father, stepmother and half-sister in Bournemouth to living with my Mum, her parents, my older sister and a different younger half-sister in Greenford.

Alan FreemanThere was no record player in the house, I’d only get to hear Pop songs on occasional broadcasts on the wireless on BBC’s Light programme (Alan Freeman’s “Pick of the Pop” on a Sunday afternoon and Brian Matthew’s “Saturday Club” on umm…Saturday were two I remember) or by sometimes seeing “Juke Box Jury” on BBC and “Thank Your Lucky Stars” (again, hosted by Brian Matthew) on ITV.

And if weather conditions were right, we could pick up Radio Luxembourg some evenings – a musical delight, given that the BBC usually dished up middle of the road Pop music!

A visit to my Mum’s best friend was a treat because they had a radiogram and a pile of records in colourful company sleeves that I loved to look at (London / Parlophone / Columbia / HMV / Decca / Warner Brothers and so on) and which would sometimes get played while we were there.

Somewhere round about 1962/63, my Grandad bought a record player for my older sister, by then, a young teenager.

He worked for the John Lewis company as a French polisher, visiting folks’ houses all around the London area and restoring furniture and with John Lewis selling all sorts of goods and services for the home, presumably got staff discount on the record player.

Thing was, we didn’t have any records except a few 78s, a legacy from an earlier wind up gramophone that he had (and which was well before my time). However, this new record player had 4 speeds (16, 33, 45 and 78 rpm) and 2 styli, a regular one and one for 78s, meaning we could play the 78s, though to my young ears they sounded odd and not like the records I’d heard on the radio or the television – Sandy Powell’s THE FLIES CRAWL UP THE WINDOW and HE’S DEAD BUT HE WON’T LIE DOWN anyone?

Luckily for my older sister, my Nan (who worked in the canteen at Glaxo Chemicals) had a colleague whose husband worked at the nearby EMI and who got hold of reject pressings of current chart singles.

My Nan used to buy 2 or 3 for a bob or two most weeks – none were in sleeves.

My sister loved these and would spend ages playing records and often, I could be watching and listening – to help preserve the records, someone had the bright idea of using an old Radio Times and keeping the records between the pages – rather neat, I thought and anyway, there was no such thing as back then!

COMING UP NEXT: My Boy Lollipop!

I've been involved in the Los Angeles music scene since at least 1995 going to shows, promoting, spinning records and running labels. Ska and Early Reggae are my passion among other things of course.