This was the land of the British Invasion, and I was wide-eyed at its bright lights, big city nerve centre.
Zoom forward 10 years and it’s 1979.
I was with Polydor Records, finding and developing new artists, working with musicians such as Paul Weller and The Jam, Ian Dury, Billy Fury and my proudest signing of the time, the Comsat Angels, who have attained cult status over the years.
Those were heady times. In the midst of it, I decided to take a holiday to visit my uncle in Canada. He was living in Edmonton, which was . well. ‘nuf said.
But we took a side trip to Banff and Jasper and there I lost my heart – to those rocky mountains!
I returned to England and jumped back into that intoxicating world of the music business, but a little piece of me remained behind in Canada.
Some years later, I was at a crossroads in my career and wondered about rekindling that old romance – this time with commitment.
My uncle agreed to sponsor me and I immigrated to Canada in 1994. Trouble was, my uncle had since moved to Toronto and my mountain love was nowhere to be seen.
“If you want mountains, you have to go to the west coast,” he told me.
So, I packed my car and drove through the states until I was on the other side of the continent.
I was staying with a friend in Vancouver (loving the mountains, but still unsettled) who talked me into a fish ‘n’ chip supper in Steveston.
I didn’t want to go, but he insisted. Not only did I fall in love with what reminded me of an English seaside village (only surrounded by some awesome mountain), I saw a place where I could join that sense of home with the kind of work that makes me sing out loud – music.
I opened the Beatmerchant Record Store in Steveston in October 2005.
As the name implies, it’s all about music, but it’s not just about commerce. It’s a place to talk music, honour artists of the past and present, and have a face-to-face experience with music lovers.
Recently, a couple of kids came in asking about Jimi Hendrix – I love that.
So while HMV and other big record stores close and the world moves to digital and downloading, I’ll continue to stock vinyl albums of the Beatles to Billie Holliday, posters from Jimi Hendrix concerts – along side Carly Rae Jepsen and Josh Groban CDs.
It might sound corny, but I see myself as a keeper of rock and roll history.
That said, anything worth keeping is also worth sharing with others, which is why I’m excited about the opportunity to write this column, “Talking Tunes,” for the Richmond News.
It will be a blend of . comedy, drama, history and humour! And maybe one or two horror stories.
Frankie Neilson owns Beatmerchant Record Store in Steveston and is responsible for starting the summer music series, Music At The Cannery,
Richmond News ~ May 2013