Maybe it’s because people having been listening to more music at home, maybe it’s because lockdown has had us digging our old record players out of the attic – what’s certain is that vinyl sales have soared since full lockdown eased. So, now you’ve rediscovered the importance of music in your life and you’re free to browse again, what are you going to do about it? Well, head to Bob’s Records in Whittlesey, obviously…
‘It started just as a hobby, really – and in a way it still is,’ says Bob Athow. ‘All I’m doing, really, is giving myself something to do at 78. I enjoy doing it, and it’s all grown from there.’ And grown it certainly has. In his shop Bob now has close to 30,000 rare and collectible bits of vinyl on display, 27,000 of them LPs. It’s a true Aladdin’s Cave for analogue music lovers – one that has gone from a hobby to a record shop that now rivals the best in the land. ‘There was a bloke came in a couple of months ago and he said his ambition was to go to every record shop in the British Isles. He’d been collecting records for 35 years, and he came in here and said: “I can’t believe what you’ve got…”’
That customer ended up spending over £200, and left a very happy man.
‘It was all stuff he said he’d struggled to get over the last few years,’ says Bob. Being in Whittlesey rather than a major town or city sometimes presents challenges – but collectors know a good thing when they see it. ‘I sometimes have problems getting people in – but I never have problems getting them to come back.’ Bob now has several regulars – ‘serious collectors’ – who will happily travel 40-50 miles to get what they want. And that could be anything from early rock ’n’ roll to a Wombles album. ‘You just don’t know!’ he says. ‘No matter what comes in, there is always someone somewhere out there who collects it.’ Some rather humble looking bits of vinyl can fetch pretty high prices, too. ‘We’ve had a couple worth a thousand pounds,’ says Bob. ‘The first album by a group called Still Life, who were a prog rock group was one. The first Zeppelin album is worth a lot of money – though I’ve never actually seen one myself. All the really expensive stuff tends to go abroad, to Russia or America. But there are thousands worth in between £100 and £500.’
They’re not just bought to play, either. ‘Some just want to collect, some play them, some frame them. I got a record for a bloke and when he came to pick it up I said “I hope you enjoy it…” He said “I don’t listen to them – I frame them and put them on the wall!” Some of the artwork is phenomenal, without a doubt. But most people buy them to listen to…” Many customers are those who sold their record collections to go over to CDs and have decided to start again. But according to Bob – and contrary to what many might expect – it’s mostly younger people buying vinyl these days. So what is it that is so special about vinyl? ‘They talk about the smell of it and all that… I don’t know about that, but it’s a different sound, without a doubt. CDs just don’t sound as good.’
BOB’S RECORDS 16 Broad Street, Whittlesey PE7 1HA T: 07802 354220
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