A kid in the Lower Sixth used to shoplift records to order. You’d look for him after Assembly and say: “Have you got ‘Do Anything You Want To Do’ by Eddie and The Hot Rods?” and he’d just nod and say “Woolworth’s or Smith’s?”
Other teenage entrepreneurs ran a more traditional business model. They’d seek out rare or sought after discs and sell them on at a premium. This was basically a monetised version of the Panini Football Sticker market we’d all traded in a couple of years before. Their Stock Exchange was a noticeboard outside the toilets. Buzzcocks – Spiral Scratch EP – £2. Williams, 5A.
Paul blew away the competition on price, product range and his innovative next-day delivery service. He really was the Amazon of his day, except that where Amazon just doesn’t pay any tax, Paul didn’t pay anything at all. His single-price-point structure predated Pound Shop by decades – you could order Walk on By by The Stranglers (7”, picture sleeve, blue vinyl, B/W Old Codger and Tank) or six sides of Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends and you’d pay a quid either way. It was an elegant egalitarian model – Paul reasoned that the risk was the same, so his reward should be, and he never tried to gouge the market with supply-side spikes like the Panini boys by the bogs.
Paul was ridiculously clever, looked about 30 and dressed like a geography teacher, and that’s probably why he never got nicked for his nicking. He never targeted the independent record shops – possibly I think out of a recognition of their love of music, but more likely because the department stores had much more lax security. But his enterprise had one enormous flaw – Paul was a music snob.
He refused to steal anything that was in the charts, and he wouldn’t go near the New Romantics or anything that didn’t have guitars in it. There was an element of education in his principle – he’d say “I’m not going to help you listen to that,” with a sad shake of his head. The Beatles were borderline. You could just about get him to pilfer Revolver, which he’s do with bad grace and great dexterity, but if you asked for Please Please Me he’d probably come back with Freddie and The Dreamers, just to punish you. I think there was a bit of personal pride involved too – if he ever did get caught, he’d much prefer to have a copy of Damn the Torpedoes (Tom Petty larceny?) up his jumper than Into The Gap by the Thompson Twins. Over time, as older prog and punk fans left the school, he faced more demand for the kind of Duran Duran / Spandau Ballet stock which he simply refused to acquire, and his business floundered on the same simple, honest principles on which it was founded.
Paul went on to Cambridge, and then to Pentonville.
Anyway, I’m rambling. My question is: is there anything in your collection that got there by illicit means? Let’s hear your confessions.