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Feelers On The Dealers

Dougie's Music Store

Article from International Musician & Recording World, April 1985

The big cheese goes to Cheshire

Punter shows off his new car

I guess it's just because I've been mentally scarred by being christened with a stupid name like Billy Punter, but I think there's something almost quaint about a music shop with a good stock of cheap and fairly unusual gear.

If Laura Ashley made amps, she'd surely come up with something like an AC30. If all those people who make imitation antique pine dressers turned their hand to synths, the result would definitely approximate a MiniMoog. And if those trendy shops that sell '30s art deco ashtrays at ridiculous prices were forced into the guitar trade, they'd certainly get a few Rickenbackers in.

Most music shops, however, are closer to a Habitat or a Sainsbury's Homebase than the homely, chintzy style that's making so many people so much money at the moment. The racks of gleaming keyboards, the neat piles of black rack-mounted amps with hi-fi styling, the walls lined with identically shiny Japanese guitars and the glare of the spotlights all conspire to produce an air of merciless efficiency that can be both unwelcoming to the average punter and positively frightening to the first-time buyer who wants a bottom E string rather than a top-line FM synth.

Many good music shops get round this by having helpful, friendly assistants who are eager to please whether you're a boffin or a novice; but often I've been into shops who stock everything from a Mesa Boogie to a MIDI interface wanting nothing but a few plectrums (plectra?) or a lead and been treated like something that's just crawled out of an 'F' hole.

Which is why I liked Dougie's. It's a small place — in fact when you first go in you think it's about the same size as the average outside bog, but with Tardis-like ease it expands as you notice the maze of rooms behind the scenes. They've got a few of the brand-new bits and pieces that everybody's raving technologically about at the moment; a well-chosen selection including a Roland Mother Keyboard and a computer-linked Sequential Six-Traks, Yamaha's FM portable PS-6100 and some TED digisound drum sound modules. Mostly keyboards or something to do with them, in fact; the drum department didn't actually exist at all, and the guitar selection was small to the point of almost being so (despite a nice old Ovation active bass and a couple of smart Rickenbackers).

But there lies Dougie's strength — they've built up a good reputation over the years with the local keyboard players, and they've also had the suss to concentrate on being good at one area rather than spread themselves too thin by attempting to cover everything.

So, of course, the Punter persona for this visit was preordained; I had to be a keyboard player. But it was no good attempting to carry off an alias involving money, the way I was dressed. Not so much Jean-Michel Jarre as Saint Michael Jumper, so I'd have to be a skint keyboard player.

At Dougies, you'd definitely be onto a cheap bet, with their impressive second-hand selection starting at around a ton. Heavy, I'll admit... oh, sorry I meant a hundred pounds. Having sussed the cheapness of the stock I decided to push it almost as far as I could, with my first target for the tryout being a fairly decrepit-looking but once tasty ARP monosynth. It looked interesting but battered, and being a slight admirer of the vile noises Ultravox's Billy Currie manages to wring out of one of the same ilk, not to mention, the Psychedelic Furs' usage of the selfsame brand, I thought I'd give it a go.

When the assistant came over, not long after I entered the premises, m'lud, I asked him if I could take a look at it, so he plugged it in to a keyboard combo (good idea — better than the so-often-used cheap practice amp) and turned it on. Then he proceeded to demonstrate the sounds you could get, going through the functions one by one. Unfortunately he didn't explain any of them to me, giving his run through more of the quality of a personal play than an educational demo. Still, when I asked him if I could have a go he looked a little surprised but moved out of the way and left me to it. The ARP was, indeed, what one might term a spunky little beast (if you must) and made some nice noises. However, it had a fault which meant that occasionally it would stick on a note and prove impossible to cut off unless you switched if off and back on again. A bit of a problem, and one that should really have been caught by the shop. It could be corrected cheaply but it's a shame it hadn't already been.

So I had another look round, casting my lizard-like stare over a Korg BX-3 Hammond-type organ (a snip at £300), an early Roland mono, the SH-09 (again at £150, a bargain) and several more keyboards of various vintages. The assistant came back after a while, and I asked him what else he had in a similar price range. He then took me on a small tour of the shops, recommending the Roland SH101, the Korg SM01 (a small but variable synth, as used by Depeche Mode in their pre-fortune days) and, in passing, the Moog Prodigy. However, he did say that although Moog had claimed the Prodigy to be a Minimoog alternative, it wasn't anything like. Not classic high-pressure salesmanship, but accurate and helpful. High marks again.

The final score, then: good for stock, prices, and honesty. Minus points were scored on a couple of small things, though — the fault on the ARP won't help it get sold, and the assistant's style of presentation didn't aid my deep understanding of the principles of synthesis. However, overall (can I have your marks please, Luxembourg?) it was a worthwhile shop for anyone with unusual synth tastes to visit, or if you're not rich, like most of us, it's a must. The stock is well chosen and, as an afterthought, if they haven't got something you want, they have a sister shop called Flash Street Electromusic in Bolton (not that far away) where you probably will be able to find your desired bit of gear. No wonder all those cats from Cheshire smile so much.

DOUGIE'S MUSIC STORE (Contact Details)

More with this topic

Previous Article in this issue

The Tracks of our Tears

Next article in this issue

Frankfurt Review - This Year's Models

Publisher: International Musician & Recording World - Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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International Musician - Apr 1985

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman



Feature by Billy Punter

Previous article in this issue:

> The Tracks of our Tears

Next article in this issue:

> Frankfurt Review - This Year...

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