Will Webster found his way into the music industry via the job centre. In Will’s case it was in Bristol and he started off working in Virgin Records as a singles buyer.
In the 80s nearly every record shop had a singles buyer. The sales rep from Island records mentioned to Will one day that they had a young Liverpool band of whom they were expecting great things, and asked if the store would be happy to do a PA. The band in question was Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Its debut single was a little ditty called ‘Relax’. By the time of the PA, ‘Relax’ was number one in the chart and Frankie Goes to Hollywood was the hottest band in the land. When the band arrived; a massive crowd greeted them. Nothing was too much trouble for the band and they signed hundreds of autographs and posed for everybody who requested a photograph.
After a while one of the band, who cannot be named for obvious reasons, sat down looking exhausted. Will had asked his friend Roger to help with security and he asked the tired-looking member if he could get him anything. The aforementioned band member replied, “I just feel like some coke.” Eager to please, Roger rushed out to the newsagents across the road and purchased a bottle of Coca Cola. Arriving back at the shop, Roger handed the coke over to the band member, who rolled his eyes and replied in a thick Scouse drawl “Thanks mate, but this wasn’t the type of coke I was after.”
Towards the end of the band’s stay at the store Will asked them if they would pose for some pictures holding a poster saying “Frankie Supports The Bastille” – a Bristol nightclub, owned by Will’s mate Dave Darling. The band was happy to oblige and Shane, a staff member who had persuaded Will that he was a quality photographer, snapped away. Will was eager to see the photos, and the next day he asked Shane if he had had them developed. “Sorry, Will. I forgot to put any film in the camera.”
Will spoke to me about his two most awkward customers. The first came into the store and asked for the new Frank Gillis album. Will searched high and low on his computer, but could find no sign of it, so he phoned up the import companies, who have databases covering every CD that has ever been released. Still no joy. Will tried other variations: Frank Gilles, Frank Gillas etc, but nothing pertinent existed. Will presumed the CD had not yet been released and asked the customer to come back the following week, when he might have more information. Week after week the customer called in for news on Frank. Exasperated, Will asked the customer to do more research. The next week, the customer came back and said Frank did the music for Chariots of Fire. It was then that Will realised that Frank Gillis was Vangelis.
At least Will was able to laugh at this customer, unlike the chap who brought ten 12” reggae singles to the counter and asked if he could listen to them all. As it was a busy Saturday afternoon, Will told him he could play only three of them. On hearing this the man leapt over the counter, pulled a knife out and bellowed his protest at poor Will. Luckily, the man’s friends jumped over and restrained their infuriated companion. It is always great to see customers who are passionate about listening to music, but maybe this customer’s enthusiasm over-stepped the mark.
Phoenix Sounds is a wonderful record shop. Will is one of the unsung heroes of record retailing. He never wins awards, never gets media coverage but is delighted just to be making the music fans of Newton Abbot happy. In return they appreciate having one of the largest record shops in the South West in their town.
I asked Will what Proper releases he is enjoying or looking forward to?
I am currently enjoying the La Roux album ‘Supervision’, a great return to form. I am looking forward to the new Paul Burch album ‘Light Sensitive’. He is an all-time hero and much neglected songwriter and player of real talent, and I once lit a cigarette for him.
Will is also looking forward to Record Store Day, it is always a big day at Phoenix Sound, with the queue starting in the early hours. After free tea, coffee and croissants there’s usually plenty of the most desirable items to go around. This year Will is going for plenty of the Bowie – surprise surprise – and admits to being more than usually excited about the London Suede release…
The story of Phoenix Sound is one of over 200 UK independent record shops featured in the book ‘The Vinyl Revival and the Shops That Made it Happen’ by Graham Jones.
The book has been turned in to a film ‘The Vinyl Revival’ and is released on DVD on 13 April. Both book and DVD are distributed by Proper Music
If you would like to be Proper’s Featured Store, contact Graham Jones.
Tel: 01626 334942
Monday – Friday: 9:30am – 5:30pm
Saturday: 9am – 5pm
Sunday: 11am – 3pm
Unit 6, Pearl Assurance House