So many long-established record shops opened during the punk and post punk periods. One of these was Action Records owned by Gordon Gibson who originally started selling second-hand vinyl in a Blackpool market. At first it was tough going and he pondered about if he had made the right decision. One day he only took £2 in takings and his bus fare home was £2.40. Luckily for music fans he stuck with it appreciating how much he enjoyed chatting to people and persuading them to buy things that they had not intended to purchase originally.
It was not long before they expanded and moved to Preston in 1981. It is a testament to Gordon that 38 years on it is still as popular as ever. Anybody speaking with him will quickly realise that he is not a Lancashire lad and although it is nearly four decades since he left his native Stranraer he has lost none of his Scottish brogue.
He ended up in Lancashire following an appeal on Bob Harris radio show back in 1971. He had hitchhiked down to the Lincoln festival to see The Byrds, James Taylor and Tim Hardin amongst others. On the way down he was picked up by fellow travelers Alan and Shelia Cookson. The three had a fabulous weekend and vowed to stay in touch. Easier said than done back in 1971 with no email or Facebook. Soon they had lost touch so Alan and Shelia put out an appeal on Bob’s show for Gordon to give them a call. Luckily Gordon was tuning in that evening and heard Bob read out their phone number. Can you imagine Radio 1 giving out somebody’s phone number these days?
It would attract all sorts of chancers and loonies but back then it was a much more innocent time. The rest as they say is history. Gordon moved down to Preston to live near his friends and has stayed there ever since.
Between 1982 and 2009 Action had its own record label releasing records by artists such as The Boo Radleys and three albums by The Fall. It all started when Gordon releasing a single by his brother’s band The Genocides. That started a pattern where he was happy to release recordings by customers and friends providing he thought it was decent. Cornershop drummer Dave Chambers once worked at the store. Another early employee was Nick Brown who was clearly influenced by his time with Gordon as he went on to open Intoxica Records in London.
The resurgence of vinyl has given the business a real boost and one thing Gordon has noticed is the younger people who come in only buy vinyl. His CD sales amongst the under 20’s is negligible. Back in 1995 though Gordon appeared on TV saying that vinyl would vanish unless somebody started manufacturing needles for record players. He could not get them anywhere and predicted a grim view for vinyl unless this problem was rectified. Lucky for everybody it has been.
Action is always keen to have bands play the shop. One gig has reached legendary status with the music fans of Preston. A young Devon band yet to taste fame called Muse rocked the shop and it seems like half the music fans of Preston have told Gordon they were there but he recalls the band playing to around 30 people.
This was not the case when Bastille recently played the shop. This time over 100 music fans from Preston can say they were there as the shop was packed.
Recently the shop had two hugely successful signings with ex-Mansun singer Paul Draper and a week later they had Steven Wilson. The queue for Steven Wilson was like Record Store Day with fans travelling from as far afield as Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Sheffield to meet the man.
Gordon has no plans to quit, however, and intends to be selling vinyl to the people of Preston until the day he retires. Nearly 40 years after opening he is still so passionate about music. He is the sort of person the music industry should be honouring.
In 2015, an excellent short documentary titled ‘Chasing by Nuns’ was produced telling the story of the shop. It can be viewed on YouTube.
I asked Gordon what releases distributed by Proper he is enjoying and looking forward to:
One of the highlights of the last month was having Paul Draper do a signing in the shop for his excellent new on album on the Kscope label “Spooky Action”. Speaking in the shop Paul said he could never have foreseen doing a solo album after the Mansun split all those years ago but I am sure that all his fans are so glad he did.
Next big one we are looking forward to is the new album from Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice. Individually both are strong acts for us and together this is just going to be fantastic and especially with a very limited white vinyl edition for the indie shops.
On Wednesday, the 27th Sept Reverend & the Makers who are distributed by Orchard are appearing in the shop to play a small acoustic set to promote their new album at 6pm.
If you would like to be Proper’s Featured Store, contact Graham Jones
Tel: 0177 288 4772
Vinyl, CD, Second-hand, in-stores, tickets
Monday – Saturday: 9am – 5:30pm
46 Church Street