When you get up in the morning and head to our sink to make a cup of coffee, you see this out of the back window:
That is part of Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott – he who designed the red telephone box and Battersea power station.
If you go upstairs, you can see this out of the bedroom window:
That is part of the Wirral, with Giles Gilbert Scott’s ventilation shafts for one of the Mersey tunnels. Now, I’ve never been for a proper dig over on the other side of the river and I’ve never really explored much over there. So, in the spirit of the £10 challenge, I wondered why not go for a little shop and look around at the same time?
So, A-Z and camera in hand, I toddled down to Liverpool Central station, with home behind me:
Two problems immediately raised their heads. Problem One: the cash machine wasn’t dispensing ten pound notes, so the day was quickly rebranded as the “Two Fivers Challenge”. Problem Two: I couldn’t use my cheap day pass until half nine, so I nipped over to Waterstones to waste half an hour looking at architectural books to get me in the mood. Did you know Thurston Moore has put out a book of “punk houses”? Lots of slightly run down rooms with band posters. He’s a silly billy that Moore.
Anyway, with those problems successfully negotiated, it’s to the platform…
…and visual proof of the rebranding:
I’m heading to Hoylake which is just about in the top left corner of the Wirral, right on the coast. The Open Golf was played there a few years ago. I’ve never been but a bit of internet driven research suggests there are three charity shops. Before I can really wonder whether the effort is justified in travelling half an hour to get to three shops that may not even have records, I’ve arrived and in my first one:
Success. The first pound of the day goes on a folk compilation on Fontana – The Big Folk:
Its bought primarily for Stefan Grossman’s Religious Trainfare Blues which seems apt. However, head and shoulders above the rest is, unexpectedly, The Corries’ October Song. Its beautiful, slightly droning, trad folk. I’ll have to seek out the album it’s off.
There’s also an early contender for the boring book, the Janury 1970 edition of The Green Book on Plastering:
Another pound spent, if only for the typography.
Next, across the road to a British Red Cross, with a terrible selection. I did take a picture of the outside but I won’t put it up. It’s just the front of a British Red Cross and isn’t terribly interesting. This, however, obviously is:
Wherein I find another book, for fifty pence:
It’s a series of “thoughts for the day” with nice pictures of cliffs, horses, birds nests, shepherds and the like. On the inside cover, there’s a dedication “with love, Auntie Norah”. As sweet as it is that the dedicatee probably kept it for the rest of their life but, as far as presents go, it’s hardly the most subtle.
I also buy a record for 50p that will be used for sleeveface later on. More of that later. The other record, complete with sticker saying “EP. Classic. £1.” is this:
Robotronik on the a-side does nothing for me but the single and album versions of The Robots are great fun. As it’s from 1991, there’s a slight Eurodisco/house feel to it but rather jolly nonetheless. It reminds me of that song from Flight of the Conchords.
Next, there’s an Age Concern with one box of M.O.C. (Market Orientated Classical). If that’s not a genre, it should be. I pass on the lot.
From here, I head down towards the promenade for a look:
I’m about the only person there except for a lone dog walker, despite the fact it’s the school holidays. Growing up by the sea, I love the coast on days like these. In one direction you can see the hills of North Wales:
In the other, it’s the mouth of the Mersey and, faintly, the docks at Seaforth:
By now, I’m getting a severe attack of Digger’s Bladder so have to nip to the public loos at the immaculately kept but deserted Hoyle Road Bowling Green. Shortly after, I realise I’ve now walked so far down the coast, there’s little point of going back to Hoylake station so a picture of the pleasant very, very slightly Art Deco brick station will have to wait for another day.
Heading towards Manor Road station, I notice this:
Nipping in, a nervous bloke – clearly they don’t get much custom – serves me some delicious homemade chocolate:
I only remember to take a picture when we’ve tucked into them later. The two in the bag are what is left of the Bilberry Swirls.
On to Manor Road station with this lean-to/shelter:
And, off the train again, at Conway Park with its brutalist concrete, half-buried station:
From there, its to the Grange shopping centre in Birkenhead. Again, internet research suggests the presence of some charity shops.
The first yields no records…
…but does have this 1927 book for 99p in the window. I now understand the attraction of shopping for breaks:
Across the way is Claire House Hospice Shop:
Where a quid gets me:
Little Benny & The Masters’ Who Comes To Boogie on Bluebird for a pound. The sticker says this is the “No. 1 Go Go Record”. It sounds pretty weak to me, sadly.
I also get this for another pound:
Monyaka’s Go Deh Yaka (Go To The Top) on Polydor from 1983. Its American reggae and the club mix is a bit of a grower.
By this time I realise I’ve no idea how much I’ve spent, one of the fivers being used in the chocolate shop. I’ll be flying blind until the end of the day.
Its to another bare shop before wandering round Birkenhead Market next door, looking at t-shirts with a flared nostrilled Fernando Torrres on them. I come across a little flea market just outside. There’s a stall selling records, amongst other things. Some sleeveless, some just sleeves, lots in a terrible state, clearly this woman isn’t a “proper” dealer. I ask if I can take a picture of the stall but she suggests not to, people being concerned about snoopers for the DHSS. Having watched Boys From The Black Stuff last week, I know its not worth it. I have a pleasant chat with her and rescue three records. They’re a pound each, just like most records on this side of the river. Clearly the council must have a policy. I get:
Dusty Springfield’s Stay Awhile on Wing, bought to hear her version of Mockingbird, which turns out to be a pretty slow blues-y treatment. It’s a classy album throughout, the title track was already one of my favourite Dusty songs. The best thing on here is probably an ace version of Mama Said.
The Love Unlimited Orchestra’s Rhapsody In White on 20th Century. Very well known, obviously, but its worth highlighting What A Groove, which locks onto a very, very heavy, well, groove. Cracking stuff indeed.
Kinky Friedman’s Sold American on Vanguard. Clearly this is “satirical” country, with title like High on Jesus and Ride ‘Em Jewboy. Get Your Biscuits In The Oven And Your Buns In The Bed is one of the best song titles I’ve heard in a long time. I have a very large soft-spot for funky or beaty or oddball country, as those of you that listened to that chart I did a while ago will know. Sadly, its only really Top Ten Commandments that gets close to that standard.
Next, I wander for an inordinate amount of time looking for the next stop I’ve marked on my map. Eventually, I stumbled upon Grange Road West. As I head towards what turns out to be a dry charity shop, a voice behind me shouts “hippy”. I turn, eager to see the hippy. I see a tall, bald man stood in the doorway of The Codfather’s Plaice chip shop. He shouts hippy at me again and I dive in to the Salvation Army shop, one of a charity two-fer:
Its four records for a pound and the first one facing me is this:
The other three I find are:
First, the Zack Laurence Orchestra’s Zackarach Cocktail. Its versions of Bacharach and David songs, so obviously the key is trying to avoid sounding like cheaper versions of already stunning arrangements. Walk On By manages to do this, What The World Needs Now turns out to be a slightly trippy jazz-waltz. The best thing on there is the version of The Look Of Love. The melody is taken by a nice flute but the the harmonies come from a surprisingly subtle synth of some sort.
Next is Mambo Jambo by Members of the Perez Prado Orchestra. Note, not Perez Prado, just his mates. Inevitably, it’s a skilfully done run-through many of the tracks you’d expect and that I have elsewhere. The title track is particularly good, the version of Patricia is led by a wibbly organ. The percussion is rattling and it makes a good listen, maybe a touch too pleasant. The sticker in the top left corner is in Braille but, rather oddly, it’s the only record in the shop like that.
Then we have a 10”, Victor Herbert Melodies played by Ronnie Munro And His Orchestra. I’ve got this as part of my ongoing crusade to pick up 10” records with nice covers, in preparation for something that myself and a fellow plusser are planning to release some time soon.
Next door to St Vincent’s where records are fifty pence and I have the find of the day with what look like four Nigerian gospel records. However, on further inspection, they are weirder than they seem. I can’t find a single mention of these LPs, bands or labels online. If anyone has any idea about them whatsoever, please could you let me know. I’m dying to know more about them.
Let’s Sing Together by The Light Bearers on Chrisounds, from 1978. This is one of the best things I’ve heard in ages and certainly one of the oddest. It turns out to be lo-fi funky Christian soul with gospel vocals and psych-y wah-wah guitar. The title track in particular is just amazing, it almost sounds contemporary like The Go Team or Lemon Jelly or someone but better than that and much weirder.
Second, its The Holy Cross Singers’ I Have Found A Song on Challenge Records, another that really defies explanation. The best I can do is to suggest imagining Daniel Johnston or Mingering Mike or Wesley Willis were Nigerian, Christian, women and a choir but that doesn’t do it justice. The off-kilter vocals and detuned guitars make it sound weird, incredibly lo-fi and – if this was from New York or Tokyo – totally avant garde. Ace.
Another by The Holy Cross Singers on Challenge, this time its Ara Yeravo. Here we have slide guitar, melodica and the singing isn’t in English anymore. Rather than Daniel Johnston and the like, at times it sounds like The Fugs, if the Fugs were Nigerian, Christian, a choir and women.
The next is Nsukka Choral Group & Gospel Singers' Hallelujah Joy, again on Challenge. Although some of it is, by the standards of the previous three records, pretty straight West African gospel, there’s some winners and its still very oddball. The gentle hi-life guitars and melodica on Christ Is Risen are brilliant.
From there, I nip across the road to this intriguing looking place:
Inside, it’s a nutters paradise. Floor to ceiling, tumbling piles of second hand books. There’s even a back room with hand-written signs warning of the dangers of falling books.
There’s boxes of sheet music, maps, magazines, newspapers, hardbacks and all sorts of junk:
I grab a small pile of stuff but don’t include it in the £10 running count, whatever it is at the moment.
Contact, the staff magazine of the Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Board from December 1948.
A couple more for my old music book collection.
A Certificate of Orbit to prove I ate at the rotating restaurant at the top of St John’s Tower in Liverpool. It was opened in 1968 but the restaurant closed in the late seventies.
A present for my wife, a series of mid-century musings on the state of literature.
From there, I head into Skeleton Records. I’d never actually been before but its location influenced the location of this challenge. It has one of the coolest shop exteriors I’ve ever seen:
I grab two LPs:
Art Farmer – Benny Golson Jazztet’s Another Git Together on Mercury from the bargain racks for £1.50. Its splendid, pacy stuff with Space Station and the title track particular standouts.
Ornette Coleman’s Skies Of America. Experimental free jazz with orchestration arranged by Coleman. Strirring stuff.
I also get a pile of 45s, the best of which are:
Jack Nitzsche – Hard Working Man, heavy blues with industrial noises as percussion and vocals by Captain Beefheart.
The Easybeats – Friday On My Mind/Gonna Have A Good Time, which I’ve wanted since hearing the b-side on Fuz’s Xmas swap.
The Count Five – Psychotic Reaction, no introduction needed I shouldn’t think.
Grapefruit – Deep Water/Come Down To The Station, local proggy \blues rock double sider.
Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song, one of the few bits of Zep I can be bothered with.
The Silhouettes – Get A Job, wonderful doo-wop hit.
UFO –Prince Kajuku, I’ve been after their early Beacon singles since I got a foreign 70s best of their early stuff. Head down, proggy riffing blues-rock.
After being defeated by the location of another charity shop which has moved locations, I decide its time to head home, with the cathedral visible in the distance:
On the way, I pass the YMCA:
For another 99p I get this:
The Goldenaires Choir – Hear The Word Of The Lord on Vox, 1959 – much more straight gospel from 1959. Beautifully sung but I much prefer the solo stuff, where the choir sings backing. Fare Thee Well is the best for me and the cover is great.
The Toy Dolls – Nellie The Elephant on Volume for 69p. Obviously, its novelty punk but I had a copy when I was a kid so it brings back all sorts of memories. Although I’ve got a copy, this one’s got its picture sleeve, which my previous one didn’t, so there.
On the way back, I pass one of the ventilation shafts for the tunnel you could see from our bedroom:
Then two others:
Round the corner is Hamilton Square, which is apparently the location of the most listed buildings in one place in the country, after Trafalgar Square:
Away from the square, I wander past the tower of the station…
…before reaching Woodside Ferry Terminal where, for slightly obscure reasons, they are installing a German U-boat for the tourists to look at:
Before long, my ship is coming in:
Aboard “one of the most famous ferries in the world”, with Gerry & The Pacemakers amusing the tourists, you can see the famous Three Graces of Liverpool. On the right, you can see the top of St John’s Tower, where I can now prove I ate in the late sixties:
You can also wave goodbye to the less famous but still charming ventilation shafts on the Wirral:
A time-check on the phallic Liver Building before back up the hill home, past the Blackie, Chinese Arch and a huge Banksy:
And we’re back:
It turns out I spent £9.18 on charity shop records and much more on other stuff.
Just time for my sleeveface. You won’t believe how long it took me to find this view…
…just so I could do this: