His Scarborough shop may be called Record Revivals, but when chatting to Paul Toole it quickly becomes apparent that vinyl records have never really been away.
There’s no doubt about it – record sales are on the up. Last year, around 4.5 million chart-eligible LPs were sold in the UK – a huge jump from 3.2 million in 2016. And it’s not just nostalgia for the glossy black disc which is driving sales – a YouGov survey showed that one in four 18 to 24-year- olds bought a vinyl record in the last month.
Paul believes there are various factors that drive the love of vinyl. “In recent years a strange thing has happened. Young people who have grown up with downloads and streaming – not even CDs – have really embraced vinyl. They understand it’s something you have to look after,” he says.
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He also thinks that people love the fact that a record is a tangible object, adding: “There’s something about the imperfection in the sound that people really relate to on an emotional level.”
He says his two main customer groups are youngsters in their late teens and early 20s and middle-aged people who sold their vinyl collections and now regret it. Alongside them are the serious collectors who have always favoured vinyl and never stopped buying it. Encouragingly, he says, there are increasingly more female buyers.
Paul, 60, falls firmly into the serious collector camp and fell under the vinyl spell as a youngster. Originally from Manchester, his first job after leaving school was at a record shop – the Golden Disc in Oldham. He started as a Saturday boy in 1975 and used to buy in punk and soul singles. He went on to buy and sell records as a hobby and recalls taking boxes of vinyl to sell at the legendary Wigan Casino, a top Northern Soul venue which attracted scores of record dealers during the legendary “all nighters” in the late Seventies.
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After that, he sold via Record Collector magazine during the 1980s. During that time he was running pubs and music venues before moving to Scarborough in 1983 where he operated the Stage Door and the Talbot – both much-loved music venues famed for their support of the local scene.
Since then, Paul has worked for housing associations in homelessness prevention and also spent 10 years as a probation officer. However, his love of vinyl was ever present and when he learned his friend and record shop owner Rod Emms was due to retire in 2017, everything came into focus. “It had always been my dream to have my own record shop,” says Paul. “It’s the job I was destined to do. I’d been a customer here for years and when Rod said he was planning to retire I jumped at the chance. Rod still comes and runs the shop when we go away. It’s really important to us that he’s still involved.”
Paul says that he felt a huge responsibility in taking on Scarborough’s longest-established record shop. Rod launched Record Revivals in Victoria Road in 1982, selling vinyl out of cardboard boxes.
As the business grew, it moved to Falsgrave Road and later to Northway, where it remains now. The shop is part of the iconic building which houses the Stephen Joseph Theatre, whose offices stretch over the top of the two-storey record store.
“Thankfully they never tell us to turn the music down,” Paul laughs. “We have a really good relationship with them. There is a real synergy between theatre and music.”
He says the shop has strong links with other independent businesses in the town and that they work alongside other sellers of second-hand vinyl, referring customers to each other’s shops if they can’t find what they’re looking for.
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And what are people looking for at the moment? “Some Nineties vinyl goes for a lot of money because it sold so few copies at the time. So few copies were pressed due to CDs. It was dance music that kept vinyl presses going.
“Good sellers at the moment are things like Arctic Monkeys – they were our best-selling band over the course of the year. Last year was a really good year for jazz too – things like Ezra Collective.”
The biggest day of the year for the shop is Record Store Day, coming up this year on April 18. It will be a real celebration, with DJs and an unsigned bands competition where the winner can get a record pressed on vinyl.
One of the DJs will be Paul himself, under the name Mister Tooley. He is no stranger to playing in front of a crowd, having done DJ sets at Glastonbury for the last six years, playing mainly funk, R&B and gospel.
Paul runs his shop with his wife, Gill, though she works more behind the scenes, and both are ably assisted by a small team who tend to be sons or daughters of local musicians. Paul says this has given the shop a whole new energy. “There’s not a single day that I don’t look forward to coming to work. It’s the best job in the world.”
And the million dollar question – what is his favourite record of all time? “I always come back to Skull Snaps – a funk album from 1973. I’ve loved it since I was a teenager. When I play it in the shop people say ‘I just have to have that’.”