Rock O’ The North….Pt 1

In case you haven’t noticed Windows (of the Arcade) has gone all upmarket in recent months with a shop refit and new branding to boot. These days they’re JG Windows – Music For Everyone.

Except that’s not quite true. That’ll be music for everyone except those of us who buy vinyl. Believe it or not there are quite a few retro rockers out there who still cling to large slabs of black, coloured and shaped plastic and pack our family homes with fold-out sleeves, poster bags and triple devil-tinted studded box sets.

But we won’t be going to Windows to supplement our collections any more. Oh no. For us the shutters have come down. I was in there last month trying to track down the tour edition of Def Leppard’s new single C’Mon C’Mon (a fist-pumping return to anthemic form, by the way).

The bloke in his 50s with a goatee looked at me like I was some kind of freak when I asked for a copy of the coloured vinyl 12”. “We’re not stocking records any more,” he said. “They take up too much space you see.”

Now I can get that kind of comment right here at home. It’s one of the wife’s all-time favourites as I attempt to squeeze my Love Bites box set (the one with the missing cards to make up the Hysteria sleeve….) in between a Dora The Explorer Laptop and The Little Mermaid DVD. I don’t expect it from the music store I have frequented and loved for 20 years.

It only seems like yesterday when I queued for hours on a freezing January morning to spend my Christmas money in the Windows sale. There I was, shoulder to shoulder with greasy thrashers, hair metal heroes in full make-up and the odd Maiden nut seeking out the very best in rock bargains.

That day I came away with my treasured Master Of Puppets picture disc LP and A Show Of Hands by Rush. All for under a tenner. It made life worth living and I have spent hours hidden away in that basement of glory sifting, agonising, dreaming and, most of all, digging deep into my empty wallet.

I don’t even know what’s down there any more. It’s probably a shrine to boy bands. We rockers have been pushed from pillar to post for the past year and our new permanent home is where the classical crap used to gather dust. In full view of passers-by, on the ground floor, bathed in uncomfortably natural light. No vinyl, no body odour and, crucially, nowhere to hide.

In the past I have been able to ‘go to the bank’, ‘pay for my tax disc’, ‘meet a contact’ or ‘go Christmas shopping’ without fear of discovery. The Windows basement was the perfect hideaway and escape from mind-numbing reality. Now I could be spotted at any moment blowing the child allowance on the entire Quireboys’ back catalogue.

Of course I could always head back to Pet Sounds in Old Eldon Square. Or could I? Popped in last Friday to be told that was it. The lease was up, the stock was going on eBay and I’d just happen to revisit one of my favourite haunts for the first time in five years only to be told another of rock’s famous old doors was being slammed shut in my face.

Did somebody say there was a rock revival? Is is true that vinyl is en vogue? Not according to Newcastle city centre.

I’m a journalist specialising in sport and rock music. Can’t play either so I write about them instead.

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