The singer-songwriter Richard Hawley once said of Sheffield’s Record Collector: “It turns my brain to mush and I end up walking out with things I didn’t even know existed.” Opening its doors in 1978, the Broomhill shop is now celebrating 40 years of stocking genre-spanning music and in Yorkshire it is at the forefront of the vinyl revival. “It’s been a labour of love,” says Barry Everard, who has been behind the enterprise ever since it opened its doors one Saturday morning. “It’s filled with incidents of pop stars, stories, accolades and interesting things.”
Previously working as a manager at Virgin Records in the city, Everard decided to open up his own shop in the student-heavy area of the city.
“It makes us one of the oldest shops in Broomhill,” he says. “Which is quite bizarre now really given that we were once an upstart shop scaring off the locals with our purple and green-haired customers.”
The shop’s opening was a humble one. “I just opened up the shop without telling anyone it was going to happen. I worked overnight and stocked the shop. There was no fanfare, I just chucked a few records in the window and stocked the racks, that was it,” adds Everard.
“The first customer that came in didn’t actually buy anything, they sold me something. The sister of Graham Fellows [aka John Shuttleworth] came in and she wanted to sell me a copy of Fog on the Tyne. We were a second-hand shop so we did a deal. It was later said by Graham that his very own sister had actually taken this record from his collection without his knowledge and sold it.”
Whilst Record Collector started off purely stocking second-hand material, this soon changed when the local student population began demanding the latest releases.
“We only mutated into a new vinyl shop when we had streams of students asking for the new David Bowie album,” says Everard, standing among the thousands of CDs and DVDs which are now piled up on the overflowing shop floor, with even more in the stock room upstairs. “Despite all the format changes over the years, one small feather in my cap in the roller-coaster world of record collecting is that we kept the integrity of maintaining a record shop. Despite every twist and turn and fashion of things like cassettes and CDs, we have always maintained a vinyl shop. I’m proud of very small things but that continuity is one of them.”
Keeping the faith in vinyl has paid off too, with current sales the highest they have been for many years.
“There’s definitely a resurgence,” Everard says. “There’s always been a strong undercurrent for it but it has definitely increased. There’s been a lot of people that have always been into vinyl and a lot of people seem to think that people went off it because of CDs.
“However, a lot of people actively resented CDs and there was a bit of a backlash. These people had hundreds or thousands of records that they loved but all of a sudden the record labels made a change. People didn’t turn their back on vinyl, the record companies stopped producing them.”
Whilst a great deal of custom has now moved online, both in terms of purchasing and consuming music, Record Collector has embraced the positives that the internet can offer alongside the personal touch a record shop has.
“The internet on one hand damages shops,” says Everard. “But on the other hand I’ve got loads of records being sold to Australia or Argentina.” Everard’s eye for what might be valuable one day has been something he’s fine–tuned over the years too. “You can’t predict collectability but I have a long history in the business of backing my hunches and over the years I have bought quantities of stuff that I thought would one day be valuable. I didn’t mind stockpiling these things and just holding onto them, although some people think I’m mad doing that.”
Such an approach has garnered both Everard and the shop a lot of fans over the years. Music fan and snooker player Steve Davis can often be found in there rummaging through the racks for gold or even giving the shop a shout-out on national television when the snooker is in town.
When the Smiths’ Johnny Marr popped in his opening gambit was: “You’re supposed to be a bit of a legend around here, aren’t you?” and Everard also built friendships with the likes of late BBC radio DJ John Peel and Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott.
Record Collector was an early supporter and boasts an impressive claim about the band too. “We sold more copies of the first Def Leppard EP than any other record shop in the world,” Everard says. “Joe Elliott came in and asked what he owed me after we’d sold all of the copies and I said: ‘You don’t owe me anything because we don’t need to make money out of local bands’. He gave me a fiver and said: ‘Get yourself a pint’.”
Record Collector will find itself immortalised during its 40th year in a rather unexpected way as it is set to become the backdrop to an upcoming television programme based on an incident that went viral in 2015.
“Arguably the most famous rap group in the history of the world, Public Enemy, decided they would like to come up here to do a signing,” says Everard.
“They were top guys and everything went OK to start with but then the taxi didn’t come to pick them up so the band were already running late. Then the returning taxi drove off and they were due on stage in an hour at the arena.
“Kevin Wells, a local photographer, happened to be here taking a photograph of me, so he offered to take them.
“They all piled into his Ford Focus and he took a photo of them all together. He saved the day, but that image trended around the world and it’s now snowballed into Sky Arts picking up on it.
“They are retelling the story as part of the Urban Myths series. They took over a record shop in London and mocked up the front of the store with our sign and logo and shot it all down there. It’s blown my mind, it’s crazy. I’m proud but also bemused.”
Events such as Record Store Day see hundreds of people queuing hours before the store opens to buy special releases which helps keep the shop’s profile in the public eye. Combined with an increased appetite in vinyl, Record Collector is showing no sign of slowing down, even if its owner of 40 years may need to look into that at some point in the future.
“I’m getting closer to retirement age,” he says. “I’m already collecting a pension but I’m still working.
“How long I can do the 70-hour a week lifestyle, which is what you have to do to be conscientious and good, I don’t know. It takes a lot of work and time. It’s a lot of fun but how much fun it’ll be when you’re 90, I’m not entirely sure.
“The thing that keeps me going is that stuff keeps happening. It’s this crazy life that keeps me going. People love this shop and travel from all over the country to come to it.
“One of my best customers once said to me: ‘Music is my religion and this is my church.’”