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Part 2

Well, the Piranhas released a superb Attrix single, Jilly, and recorded various sessions for Peel. I and some of my pals heard they had a residency at a small pub on Brighton seafront called the Alhambra. Determined to see the band live in the flesh, we ventured out one rainy Sunday night.

We were astounded to see dozens of other people on the train, wearing black and white striped clothes, talking loudly about the Piranhas! Such excitement over a local group. We got to The Alhambra, a really atmospheric, dark little dive. It was so packed that I had to share standing-room on a chair…the group were excellent, and the vibe was thrilling in the extreme.

Months went by, until I got an excited phone call from Rick Blair. Attrix wanted to talk to me. I jumped on a train. Rick and Julie had rented a shop in Sydney Street, Brighton, and it was to be their version of Rough Trade: a shop selling mostly independent records, and to represent Attrix Records, the label.

Rick said to me: We know a lot of stuff as regards current bands, records and so on, but we don't know half as much as you do…you are the right age, youve got your finger on the pulse. Would you consider coming to work in the shop for us, and to help me choose the stock every week? Would I? I jumped at the chance! And so began The Great Adventure.

For the rest of that year (1979), whenever I (or my friends and I) went shopping on Saturdays, we would drop in on Rick and Julie. We must have been a nuisance sometimes, but they never complained. I made up lots of compilation tapes of the newest, happening sounds for them.

It was an unpaid position: things were going OK, (the Dodgems' Science Friction and Piranhas' Jilly singles were selling well) but no fortunes were being made, and the rent on the shop was costly: it was situated in the heart of a bristling network of well-established lanes and roads, stuffed with shops of all sorts. But the pure excitement and access to so much fun more than made up for any lack of cash.

We all stayed up for most of that first Friday night, still painting the shop! The second compilation album, Vaultage 79, was released that very Saturday the shop opened it's doors…the local press arrived, pictures were taken, and we sold hundreds of copies of the album.

I vividly recall those once-a-week excursions to London in Rick & Julies beat-up old heap…they were long, draining but fabulous days. Once in the Metrop, we would head for Rough Trade. Head honcho Geoff Travis and Rick had already struck up a good rapport by phone, now they met face to face. That first day alone, I met and chatted with Spizz, Daniel Miller, members of Kleenex, The Slits, Nikki Sudden (from Swell Maps) and future Smiths visionary Scott Piering.

Ispotted Billy Idol, napping at a greasy café table. At Rough Trade we bought lots of brilliant little 7-inch singles, and a few weird and wonderful obscure albums. I chose the majority of these, which was quite a responsibility! Then it was on, to deepest Harlesden, to a place called Lightning Records (home of Althea & Donna, and hundreds of other Jamaican Imports). Lightning was a colossal warehouse, a supermarket, which contained records. Millions of records! Here, we bought the major-label stuff, just the hip material, of course!

Then a drive out to Barnes, and a stopover at Terry Newbery's rambling place. Terry was a former school chum of Rick's, and had himself been in various groups throughout the sixties and seventies…he was (and probably still is) a mercurial chap, a dazzling talent in the recording studio as a producer and engineer…he had built his own huge mixing-desk, which was always housed in the front room of his home…he was forever working on it. These were lovely evenings, the three of us just laughing, chatting, in Terry's kitchen. Gallons of tea was consumed, as Rick and Terry bantered away to each other in surreal pigeon French (a hangover from their schooldays).

We also discussed where Attrix Records was going: which direction to take, which bands to record, artwork, etc. These were crucial meetings producing many ideas. This was all heady stuff for a lad barely out of a council estate! But there was more to come...

One of the bands on Vaultage 79 were The Chefs, three boys and a girl who made a brilliant sound, power-pop wrapped in bubblegum. Helen McCookerybook (probably not her real name) led the band, supported by Carl Evans on guitar and Helen's brother James on second guitar, with an ever-changing circle of drummers. Helen and Carl (separately) wrote fantastic, but silly, pop songs. I saw them at a few gigs, and became their number-one fan. And then I became their Manager! As one does. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Take me to Part 3 - In the studio

Members of Brighton bands signed to Attrix Records outside the shop in Sidney Street, 1979
Top man. Rick Blair outside the Attrix Records shop in Sydney Street. Hepaved the way for many previously unrecorded bands to get on to vinyl.
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