In 1985 my career prospects weren't looking good. Since leaving school as soon as I could in 1980 I had spent the following years alternating between unemployment and fairly pointless college courses. I was enjoying music, socialising etc., but treading water as far as any sort of career, as I just didn't have a clue what sort of job I could do, though pressure to get something beyond temporary summer employment was mounting.
All my spare money was going on records (new and used) and around this time I recall hearing a few tracks from James Mason's now classic Rhythm of Life album, one being the ‘Sweet Power of Your Embrace’ at an all-nighter in Colchester, and ‘Slick City’ on a regional soul/disco show so the LP had become top of my wants list. If you were a dance music fan (especially living outside London) James Hamilton’s weekly Record Mirror column was essential reading, with its reviews, news and charts. It was there I read about a record finding service ran by a DJ called Steve Goddard. Back then I was desperate to talk to anyone who was vaguely "in the scene" and exchange musical tips and knowledge, so I called up Steve and asked about the Mason LP.
I seem to recall we had a few long chats about music, a couple of months later Steve contacted me and said he thought he had found a copy of the album and wanted £15 for it (quite a lot back then). I'm not sure where I got the money but I sent him a cheque off and a few days later the LP arrived in the post, but with one big problem, it was missing the cover. There was a note apologising offering £2.50 credit off next purchase but it wasn't quite what I had hoped for.
Getting an album with no sleeve is a big compromise, so I rang up Steve to tell him I wasn't happy but before I got onto that he told me he'd just landed a job running the dance dept. of a new record megastore in Oxford Street, London. He also mentioned he was looking for a couple of knowledge assistants and would I be interested in the job. I was pretty bloody interested I can tell you! I went up to London for an interview a week or two later, but as it turned out Steve decided not to take the job (as he'd been offered a big rise to stay where he was) and recommended me as the department manager, which with a bit of elaborating on my CV I unbelievably managed to get. The record shop was called Smithers & Leigh and was situated at the Marble Arch end of Oxford St, and only lasted just over a year.
Thankfully, I managed to jump ship to Rough Trade distribution after 9 months. However, it was that job at the record store that got me started and still wonder if I’d have managed to catch a break if I’d not called up Steve and had his help?!