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Feelers On The Dealers


Article from International Musician & Recording World, July 1985

Billy Punter's literary skills hit Rockbottom

Huge. Big. Enormous. Massive. Large. Capacious. Goliath. Colossal. Ample. Brobdingnagian. Immense. Expansive. Vast. Whopping. Giant. Stupendous. Gargantuan. Not a small shop.

Get my drift? While I wouldn't go as far as to say Rockbottom's premises are the biggest music shop in the world, it's certainly the biggest I've ever been in. A man could wander through the amps alone for days without encountering a single living being other than the occasional carved effigy of Jim Marshall erected by the natives.

The stock is similarly sizeable; if you played E major on every guitar in the Rockbottom racks and on their walls you'd have wasted a lot of time acquiring blisters like soup plates. And the keyboard department... you only have to walk in and you start sprouting a sequinned cape and long blond hair. Yes, there are even more racks than Rick's.

But of course, as I propound occasionally in my fetchingly homespun way, there is more to a good shop than jut a big pile of gear. The ideal shop would have helpful assistants, a well-chosen assortment of goodies old and new, a reasonable degree of expert knowledge about the stuff they sell, and, of course, they should hand you a suitcase full of used fivers as you enter and wash your car while you're inside making scratches on the back of their £4,900 Alembic with your belt buckle.

Funny, I've never been totally satisfied with anywhere. However, if you discount the most unlikely of these requirements and try to reconcile the rest with reality and the fact that even music shops have off days, staff shortages and for all I know, PMT, then you have a fair yardstick against which to judge the instrumental marketplace.

So with all these carefully worked out philosophies in mind I strolled on down Southwards. Somewhere about Crystal Palace I changed into this month's disguise; a Jazz role which involved a stick-on goatee beard, a loud kipper tie, braces and a huge suit with a copy of Charlie Parker's biography sticking out of one of the pockets. A good disguise, apart from the fact that I was mistaken for Robert Elms 14 times and asked to join Working Week twice on the way.

When I arrived (noticing on the way in that the shop is only a hundred yards or so from West Croydon Rail Station) I was left to my own devices for a few minutes. Well, in fact I was left to examine the shop's devices; amps, guitars and most percussion downstairs and keyboards, recording gear and occasional hi-tech guitars and drums on the first floor. Stocks in all departments are impressively wide-ranging, covering both traditional (Marshall, Fender, Gibson, Moog, Sequential, Zildjian), individual (Vigier, Status, Trace Elliott, Capelle, Oberheim) and as with most music shops these days preponderantly Oriental (Aria, Ibanez, Tokai, Westone, Roland, Casio, Korg, Yamaha).

But don't take that list as being any means conclusive, because if I listed everything they've got from Akai to Zildjian it would probably take up the rest of the magazine. And that's not the idea, idiot. If I'd wanted to work for Littlewoods catalogue...

After I'd pottered around and fiddled with a few bits of gear — without having my hand slapped, which was refreshing — one of the assistants leant in my direction and enquired sociably as to whether I needed any help. I realised I had to keep up the Jazz image so I asked if he had any big fat semi-acoustic Jazz guitars, as usually played by big fat semi-acoustic Jazz guitarists.

"How does a really nice second-hand one for £235 with case sound?" he enquired. Restraining the urge to imitate a second-hand semi-acoustic guitar, I affirmed and he led me to a smart red Aria with one of those rotary tone switches and in very good condition. It played really well, everything on it worked and with a flick (well, a twirl) of the switch you could achieve those big fat Jazz sounds or a thin clattery Funk noise no problem. Truly and verily, it was as good a deal as the lad had promised and I was impressed. But did it have the Jazz? I thought not, so I went upmarket and played the podgier, browner model that was going (new) at about £380. Expensive, as all these are, but apart from the horrible flatwound strings that Jazzers seem to love, again it played well. I said so, and then got around to some serious bargaining. What if I had another guitar to part exchange with it? No problem, I'd have to bring it in for an exact quote but they were sure they could do me a good deal.

But as ever the Punter push off had to occur so I said I'd think about it (the usual lie) and jived off streetwards. It had been a pleasant visit, which is fairly unusual for a start, and I left actually feeling that I wouldn't mind buying an instrument from there.

A friendly atmosphere, a good stock, a huge place, a willingness to offer a deal... definitely in the Pick of Punter's Places this year. And all that Jazz.

ROCKBOTTOM (Contact Details)

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This Is Gordon Sumner

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

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International Musician - Jul 1985



Feature by Billy Punter

Previous article in this issue:

> Beatroute

Next article in this issue:

> This Is Gordon Sumner

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