Interview: Sergeant Buzfuz on the enduring appeal of the record shop

Veteran independent label Blang Records, home to releases by Joyzine faves The Awkward Silences, David Cronenberg’s Wife, The Reverse and more, are currently in the midst of a month-long residency at Islington’s legendary Hope & Anchor (see below for dates), belatedly celebrating the release of five albums during the lockdown. One of these LPs came from label boss Joe Murphy’s own band Sergeant Buzfuz, whose seventh album Fox Pop was released back in July 2020 (and featured on Joyzine here) and to coincide with the residency, they’ve released a new single from the record. “Rare & Racy” is an ode to the second hand book and record shop in Sheffield bought his first albums whilst at school, and was sadly forced to close its doors for the final time when its lease ended and the council approved developers’ plans to turn it into flats.

We caught up with Joe to talk about the enduring appeal of the record shop in the digital age.

With so much music available online these days, what is the allure of the record shop for you?
A record shop is a chance to disappear down a hole where the White Rabbit has lost his watch.

Do you have a current favourite and what makes it special?
Elvis Shakespeare in Edinburgh is a good one. I’ve always preferred second hand record shops because you don’t know what you’ll find. There’s a great one in Stirling too, Europa, great for 60s psych.

We’ve lost a lot of record shops since the arrival of digital downloads and streaming – which places dear to your heart have disappeared during that time, and what is it about them that you miss?
Well I wrote a song about Rare & Racy in Sheffield, that had been there since my childhood so that was always going to be a miss (it was mostly a book shop actually). I briefly worked in Swindon and there was a great one there, Plum, long gone, I got various mono Beatles albums and a bunch of Flying Burritos stuff there, very cheap. Totem in Stoke Newington was great. Record shops are like other small businesses with personalities which are being eaten by giant chains and economic policies. Who wants to go into an HMV and struggle to find what they want amidst the DVDs and bullied staff when they could be going to a rickety shop with dangerous stairs and an eccentric owner?

What is the most unusual experience you ever had in a record shop?
Getting arrested in Caller’s department store record division in Newcastle in the year I spent there after being a student. I’d been keeping terrible night owl hours and stayed up all night in order to be on time to sign on. After doing that I was well strung out and should have gone to bed but wandered in and saw the Teardrop Explodes 12 inch You Disappear From View EP (great record) and made a very inept attempt to nick it but I got nicked instead. I was fined £10, which I paid back at a pound a week. My friend Andy Peaden then went to Callers and bought it for me, it cost £1.48 so I ended up paying £10.48. Years later I would be in Buzfuz with Julian Cope’s brother. And Andy Peaden’s wife was taught at school by the Copes’ mother. It’s a circular world sometimes. That was the beginning and end of my criminal career.

If you could open your dream record shop, what would it be like?
As well as stocking stuff like psych, punk, indie, reggae, electronica, ‘world’, folk, country, etc I’d also stock crap like Cliff Richard, Coldplay, Mumford & Sons, The Cure, etc. in the hope that people who are only exposed to shit will come in and hear something different on our system and hopefully have their ears turned. Maybe those records would go in a ‘mainstream’ section and I’d enjoy putting things I hated in there. It would have links to the local music scene i.e., a local music crate, gig tickets and a noticeboard for gigs and musicians. We’d also sell music books, fanzines (we’d take zero commission on those), graphic comics and novels. We’d have book readings and acoustic gigs. We’d have a small cafe area. Workers would not be allowed to look too hip and trendy, they’d be encouraged to look like normal shop workers so people wouldn’t be intimidated by being served by experts. Record shops can attract nerdy males, like me, so we’d try to make it attractive to female shoppers and ideally have female staff and nice toilets. If whoever lived upstairs had a cat they’d be encouraged to lounge around the shop and be given attention (but not food) by the customers. 

“Rare & Racy” and the album Fox Pop are out now on Blang Records

The Blang Records residency at The Hope & Anchor, Islington continues throughout October:
October 20th: Sergeant Buzfuz / Lucy’s Diary / Slate Islands
October 27th: The Awkward Silences / The Faux Fibbers / Pink Eye Club

Find out more on Sergeant Buzfuz’s official website

Interview by Paul Maps

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