The resident DJs at Flying the party – Dean Thatcher, Brandon Block, Lofty and Rocky – were also in charge of manning Flying the shop. Starting out in the basement of Kensington Market. The market was place we`d hit for years for second-hand clothes. Demob suits, dress shirts, waistcoats, work boots, cravats, ties, and hats. Fiona and Fran were upstairs at Sign Of The Times. It`s hard to imagine now but record shops in the late 1980s / early `90s were intimidating places. Full of etiquette and codes. That`s perhaps putting it politely. It was male animals in a male habitat. Manoeuvring for higher positions within the pack. There was a lot of egos, attitude, and piss-taking. Where the staff assumed alpha status. It was a sellers market. They had the gear and we needed it. And they knew it. Entering a shop for the first time was like walking into a wild west saloon. Or that pub in American Werewolf. Where everything stops and everyone turns and stares. If you quickly hid yourself by pretending to flick thought the nearest rack – despite having a list in your pocket of exactly what you wanted – the guys behind the counter would nudge each other. Readying for the game. The list by the way – you could never actually pull it out of your pocket and simply show them – you would have to memorise it. If you went up to a counter and asked for the wrong thing. They`d laugh you off the premises. The whole shop joining in chorus. If you asked for the right thing, but your face wasn`t familiar you`d get a
“Sorry mate. Sold out.”
“Last copy just gone.”
If the record you were after happened to be playing on the shop turntable, it`d be
“That one`s reserved.”
Steve Lee`s Future, Black Market, Bluebird, Quaff. Trax was a law unto itself. Luckily I`d “bonded” with Oscar. Both of us worse for wear one Christmas. In a toilet in Windsor. Each shop had their own regulars. Their own crowd. I got knocked back so often that I began to suspect that a lot of the tunes – cribbed from Boy`s Own and Terry Farley`s reviews in ID – had been made up. By the late `90s this had all changed. The climate harder, more competitive. More records, more copies, more shops, more choice. And higher rents. The shops realised that turning the Teds away was no longer a business model.
Flying carried a bit of this air – the only promos I ever came out were the ones that Dean had produced or remixed – but they recognised me and I did always manage to bag something I was after. On Fridays when the distro man with the van would arrive, a who’s who of Balearic rammed the counter. DJs adding new releases for Saturday night to their piles of vinyl. Raising their hands for copies of what was spinning, as if at a cattle auction. It was a spectacle that needed to be witnessed. But a nobody like me could forget about trying to buy anything. Just grab a bottled beer and watch.
The shop produced a weekly newsletter. Listing best sellers and recommendations. These, in retrospect, defined a “Flying Sound”. And a moment in time. One when we were still kind of innocent. I wish Id kept them. A couple of years ago I contacted Rocky and Dean to see if they had any. To no avail. Then put out a general call on the internet. I cribbed the music below from those I received, and records that I know I heard or bought there.