Memory Lane is a record shop that was established in the early 1980s. Originally located in Morden, due to the popular demand of the customers, Memory Lane moved to Croydon in 1993. We met with the owner, Mick, to discover the history behind the shop and what its future holds.
Mick had dreamed of opening a record shop since he was in his early 20s. After discussing the possibility with his bank manager – and being laughed at, Mick sought employment on a building site where he suffered an accident. Although unfortunate, he was able to open the shop with the compensation money. Mick had always been entrepreneurial and loved buying and selling records for profit at his school in Essex.
Mick had an interest in music and record collecting from a young age. When walking down the street in Essex at the young age of 12, he heard the Beatles song Love Me Do blaring out of his brother’s friend’s bedroom window. It was from that time onwards, that Mick began to gain an interest in music and started looking through piles of records and singles. He got a portable record player for his room and searched jumble sales and flea markets for stacks of records for only a couple of pounds. Mick was an avid collector long before the days of Memory Lane. Mick told us of an amusing incident where he would visit his best friend’s older brother on lunch breaks at school. He had a pile of records and played Bus Stop by the Hollies and asked if he would sell it to him for £1. This would have been his paper money for the week! But although he loved it so much and was willing to pay, his friend’s brother wouldn’t accept the offer. Still determined, Mick went home to empty his piggy bank. He returned with £5 for the record but still no luck! This event had a strong impact on Mick, as it taught him to never part with anything he really loved. It taught him that price is immaterial and that if you love something, no money will buy it.
This is a story of a man who turned his passion into a career. Among Mick’s first LPs are Everlasting Love – The Love Affair (no.1 in the charts at the time), The Hollies – For Certain Because, Trojan – The Tighten Up Vol.1, and The American Folk and Blues Festival, a 1964 compilation from a second hand junk shop.
Mick used to go to Broad Green Records, which sadly closed around the same time that Beanos opened in the late 1970s. Only a few collectors saw the potential of records at the time. They were just becoming desirable, as tape was all the rage. Broad Green Records was ahead of its time with the use of record grading. Record Collector magazine started shortly before Memory Lane opened in Morden and they used to call him to enquire about record valuation and label information. In those days it was often difficult to be accurate, but with the Internet, this has become much easier to determine.
When Memory Lane moved to Croydon, it bought the big “scooter scene” of the time with it. In Morden it was popular with the 80’s new wave of rockers/bikers, teddy boys and the Mods. They would come in and buy whatever they could afford. The window display featured a scooter on one-side and rock and roll records on the other. This was and is, a shop that truly caters for all!
After over 10 years in Morden, Mick was running out of space. He began to look around for a new space to set up shop. As he used to trade at European record fairs in Holland, France and Germany, he often needed to visit the American Express shop in Croydon, to cash up his foreign money. He parked outside a furniture shop on Frith Road, which was a busy street with a good vibe – a great shop location! Mick saw that the shop was to be rented and after speaking to the shop owner, he was convinced this was the right place. After around six months of renting, his business started to grow and the landlord asked if they would be interested in buying the shop. Mick enjoyed the competition of living in between two other record shops. It kept him on his toes and helped keep the prices fair. Mick describes Memory Lane as being a true collectors shop; collecting and archiving labels and rarities.
One of the most rare records in the shop currently, is the original Liza Jane single by David Bowie. Mick owned this record when it first came out, and before Bowie reached the international stardom he now holds.
South Croydon clubs such as the Oval Tavern and DJs provided a good music scene, and people from London and Brighton would travel to Croydon for records in the 1980s and 90s. Many people wanted to work for Memory Lane but insurance and health and safety prevented them from expanding and hiring more staff.
Nowadays, Mick likes the fact that his shop has a personal feel to it and that it is small and intimate. Sadly, Mick is losing money but will not leave, as he has never been in it for the money. Many people could learn a lot from Mick’s passion and loyalty to his shop and customers. Mick sees many people these days having to sell their beloved record collection so that they can afford to pay their bills. This is a sad reminder of how much times have changed since the heyday of vinyl. Record collecting has become a luxury hobby and often collectors will ask for re-issue copies so that they can afford it. There is no longer a mid-range market as people either want a bargain, or they are looking for the really expensive records. The rise of the CD and MP3 download has killed the mid-range market.
Another huge influence on the change in record buying is the Internet. Mick says the Internet is full of dishonest sellers with a lack of experience. The feel-good factor when buying records in store is gone, and there are many grading discrepancies, as buyers cannot see for themselves the quality of the record they are buying. The Internet is killing small businesses and the buying experience. Mick encourages his own son to go and buy in-store, as the Internet is faceless and therefore not always trustworthy.
Mick provided a colourful account of the early beginnings of his enthusiasm for what he does, and of the development of his long established record shop, Memory Lane
By Anna Howard & David Jones
Many thanks to Mick for a very informative and interesting interview.
Memory Lane Records, 55 Frith Road, Croydon. 020 8649 7220.