I first traveled abroad in 1979.I had been given the names of several record stores in London – but I hadn’t been smart enough to have made a hotel / bed & breakfast reservation.The first place I went was full, but they took pity on me, and soon I was off to a tiny B&B in Goldhawk Road (West London), practically walking distance from The Record & Tape Exchange – Notting Hill Gate.I knew about the HMV and Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street, and I soon discovered that there were tons of record stores, as I walked around Soho for the first time.
I only had 1 or 2 guys I could ask about record stores in London – I only knew 1 or 2 guys who had ever been!At the end of the 70’s, it was fairly exotic that I had looked for records anywhere outside of Los Angeles (as in the “SF Bay Area”).But – in London, everybody seemed to speak English – and the stores were full of stuff I had never seen before.Private Eye flexi-discs?British Frank Zappa records?Loads of promo 45’s for 25p?All present and accounted for, sir.
I walked all over London.After that, I walked all over Paris.The only record store I knew about there was on the Champs-Elysees (my mother bought me a Lard Free LP there, “Lido Musique”) – I think it was gone by the time I got there.Crocodisc!My friend Cameron and I took the train, took the metro – but mostly we walked.What this meant was that sometimes I left records at a store when it was raining – to my eternal shame!Cameron and I looked people up in the phone book – Roland Bocquet, Gilles Yepremian etc.I still know Gilles, but I’m out of touch with Roland.Both of them were very kind to Cameron and I.
And then there’s the miracle of Amsterdam.Boudisque, Concerto…great record stores.And nearly everyone spoke English!We walked those canals, let me tell you.I eventually spent two winters in Holland, but that wasn’t until the early 90’s.
Stockholm, Helsinki, Koln (“Saturn Musik”!) Brussels (stuff near Blvd Adolphe Max)…did we even get off of the train in Copenhagen?I remember we couldn’t wait to get back on the train in Irun, Spain – after seeing the cops with machine guns, and not caring much for the available food.
I asked another friend to take home a 25-count LP carton that would’ve been too expensive to mail.He complied, then promptly left it in a phone box in Victoria Station.When Cameron & I got back to London, there were messages for us all over town (at the AmEx office, at the B&B etc.) – I tried to send him an offensive telegram, but they wouldn’t let.I settled for calling him “Plankton!” (we were such Cook & Moore fans!).Yes, I eventually got my box of record back safely (after going to, like, five different weird places in London).
I still mostly have the records I bought on my first trip to Europe. I managed 4 or 5 good trips to Europe, before I started in on New Zealand / Australia.