I opened Record Rack on the High Street in 1989. I sold new and used records on two floors. Somebody may have heard of it .. once! Actually, it was patronised by bands after they rehearsed at JB's and the shopwas in the Chain With No Name, a Rough Trade collective of independent retailers. Kieron (Dec 2, 2016)
I went into partnership with Robert Mears, a long-time friend from school days. He remained in his job but put in shifts as and when possible. I wish I could have made him ultra-rich but, although appearances are deceptive, running a record shop can lead to a frugal existence. I had to make it appear that the shop was a nerve centre of the music industry but in reality it was a struggle to make any decent money.
Dudley was a great town when the shop was opened. All the major retailers had branches in the town - even after the opening of the Merry Hill Shopping Mall. Those who only know the modern-day shabby Dudley would be amazed at how it thrived back in the day. I was keen to locate on the High Street but couldn’t possibly afford the rent around the Market Place so opened in an empty retail shop near the top of the town, close to the old cinema and opposite the church. Hanson’s brewery was still in operation and the smell of hops was always in the air – a lovely aroma on arrival for work every day.
Formerly a gas shop and showroom, the unusually shaped-retail space was owned by Price-Drennan, the estate agent’s who occupied the corner site on Stafford Street. Alec Price was a congenial landlord but refused to allow us a rent-free month in order to get the empty shell into shape. I remember that the rent was £6,000 per annum [it was back in 1989!!] and the rates were around £2,300. It was painful therefore to pay upfront whilst spending a few weeks putting together a record shop from scratch. In order to save money we built all the shelving, sales counter and storage units. Bob and myself had to revive all the skills we’d picked up in woodwork and metalwork lessons at Rowley Regis Grammar School. Some of the work was genius – we used metal clothes racking on the walls from which we created a metal frame that provided a 45 degree angle for our CD racking that stretched the entire length of both exterior walls. The vinyl record shelving was easier and put together with melamine boarding from Wickes. As the storage shelving behind the counter was going to take the weight of all the vinyl, cd’s and cassettes etc. we used real wood and our old teacher would have been proud of our effort. It took three weeks to get the basics done and a week in which to get a limited amount of stock on the shelves.
We opened the doors to the public in September 1989 on a Monday morning. The takings for the day were a fairly pitiful £25. Things didn’t get much better throughout the week but …. on the Saturday and I put together a P.A. system outside so that Kevin Archer, former guitarist/vocalist of Dexy’s Midnight Runners could perform for us during our opening week. We’d known Kevin since schooldays so he didn’t mind doing us a favour and performing for free. His set largely featured material from his Blue Ox Babes period. I thought I’d slice through the bureaucratic red tape and didn’t bother to fill in forms at the council for this performance. I guess I thought the worst that could happen was the police telling us to turn it off. As it happened there was no officialdom and shoppers on Dudley High Street were treated to an impromptu mini-gig. Kevin’s one-man show attracted a crowd, some of whom wandered into the shop and some even put some money in the till. We were up-and-running.
Facing Dudley's 'Top Church' this emporium, co-owned by Kieron McMahon and Robert Mears, opened in September 1989 and sold new and used records in two rooms. There was a strong emphasis on indie music and the shop was part of the "Chain With No Name" cartel led by Rough Trade. The second-hand department sold lots of rare records from soul and jazz to post-punk. The shop was a port-of-call for bands who browsed the store between their soundchecks at JB's and their gig later in the