VINYL JUNKIE: Joe Lawrance Part VI, The Glory Years

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!

Read: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

1970 and (early) 1971 were “the years” – the years that finally cemented an enduring appreciation of Jamaican music, the years I really laid into buying records and broadening the styles I’d buy – some Ska and Rocksteady LPs and discovering the delights of the very different Studio One sound, the years I found a shop having a regular supply of tunes and the years that are probably the most prevalent in my Jamaican music collection.

At that time, I was buying virtually nothing but Reggae – mostly singles, but enough LPs and of course, this was the first time the legendary “Tesco Specials” put in an appearance. These were mint warehouse stock, mostly Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae, bought up mostly by Tesco, distributed to many of their supermarkets, displayed haphazardly and sold with a “pile ‘em high, flog ‘em cheap” philosophy.

The first batch arrived probably in late-ish 1970 and cost 1/6d each – over a couple of visits, I loaded up with a few Ska Beats, some more Giants, possibly a Caltone or two and a good number of the Pama stable’s records. The Kingstonians’ HOLD DOWN and Dennis Walks’ DRIFTER (both on Crab) were two I bought, I’d known them from LPs, both have become massive tunes and remain a firm favourite to this day.

However, earlier in the year, I’d been advised of a decent record shop where I should be able to buy Reggae records fairly readily. This shop (Lullaby of Broadway in West Ealing) was only about 3 miles from home – a short work and then a bus ride.

On my first visit to the shop, I bought 4 singles, the like of which I’d not heard before, didn’t get played at the Oldfield Tavern, weren’t ever UK chart hits and certainly never got played on the radio. These tunes were:

• Mediators ~ LOOK WHO A BUSS STYLE b/w VERSION (Success)
• Joe Gibbs & the Destroyers ~ NEVADA JOE b/w STRAIGHT TO THE HEAD (Amalgamated)
• Derrick & Jennifer ~ NEED TO BELONG b/w LET’S HAVE SOME FUN (Crab) and…
• Derrick Morgan ~ RETURN OF JACK SLADE b/w a re-recording of FAT MAN (Unity)

1970 also saw me make my first visit to a traditional Jamaican “blues parties”, which I’ve recounted elsewhere.

As 1970 moved on, I felt I’d got enough knowledge and maybe even a bit of “cred” to feel brave enough to venture down to Shepherds Bush Market (only a route 105 bus ride from home) on the occasional Saturday morning – Saturday mornings were the best time, the market would be buzzing with people, the stallholders were raring to go and the smell of the fresh fruits and vegetables were a great backdrop to the insistent bass that could be heard from the tiny Reggae stall in the market’s annexe.

This stall was usually run by a guy called Caesar and it would be pretty busy most of the times I went there. On my first visit or two, I felt too intimidated to actually venture into the stall and buy anything, probably I’d already bought a record or two at the other “proper” record shops in Shepherds Bush. Soon though, I ventured in and stood at the back and learned to occasionally nod for a tune I wanted (you had to be quick, not only would you be lucky to hear more than about 30 seconds of a tune, but there might only be one or two copies – snooze and you lose!) and while I never felt fully comfortable there, it helped that Caesar soon came to acknowledge me and sometimes chat a bit.

I can’t really remember specific records I bought there, although the Duke Reid label springs to mind.

…and that’s really how it all began, throughout the 70s, I bought mainly Soul music, Soul-Disco and out-and-out Disco, although I’d still pick up a little Reggae here and there, singles and albums.

During the 80s, record-buying tailed off to not very much at all. During this decade, I bought my first flat, then sold that and moved into a house, got married, had our first daughter, moved to another house and had our second daughter…not much cash for records, though I did buy an occasional album or single – mostly Soul/Club/House.

By the early 90s, I’d given up buying vinyl, in favour of CDs, though this was hardly noticeable, since I hadn’t been buying much anyway.

My return to buying Reggae in any quantity again wis in mid-1998, while I was working in Croydon (South London) – plenty of record shops, from the likes of the HMV and Virgin chains to a good handful of independent stores, like Beanos.

… and by the time I’d discovered music forums in 2003, I was already back in the Reggae saddle, re-discovering Trojan and buying a few albums on Pressure Sounds and Blood & Fire, often on recommendation from the good folk I met online.

However, this return to buying Reggae and 7 inch Reggae singles, which was triggered in about 2005, is a tale for maybe another time.

THANKS JOE FOR DOING THIS!!! It was a great read and I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did reading it.

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.