• Bobo Coen

A Pilgrimage, A Gig and some crating

I spent last few days in Birmingham . I was mainly here with My good Lady Wife to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We decided the best way to do this by going to Slayer's farewell concert in the Arena because nothing says Romance like screaming your throat raw to Angel of Death.

We did cultural thing on first day and visited the museum. Nice collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Egyptian, Roman, Greek artifacts plus history of  people from our host city. Then it was gig day.....what to do till doors open? We decided to go to Sea  Life aquarium.....closed for renovations till Sunday! O.K. let's go to back to back living museum...nope need to book in advance....hmm

Only one thing for it. Reluctantly My long suffering spouse agreed to visit one of Brum's two record stores. It appears at present time the whole city is a construction site so after navigating through labyrinth of closed of streets and following the frankly crap sat nav on my phone we finally found it.

Swordfish Records. It is tucked away in side Street they claim is city center. This is a small and I mean really small store run by two guys, one of whom looks like a Hawkwind Roadie and the other a Whispering Bob Harris stunt double. There was collectibles aplenty displayed on walls from Sabbath to Bowie and a large selection of second hand bins but what caught my eye was a big selection of Psych/Underground Reissued Vinyl. If budget allowed I would have gone bankrupt. As it was I got a lovely copy of Blue Cheer's 2nd album Outsideinside on Sundazed Records. It was lovely little shop but I felt D' Wife and Myself deserved a liquid reward for our Quest to find this hidden treasure of a shop.

Lucky there was a rock bar right beside it called Scruffy Murphy's. There was sign on side saying lease this pub. Not a great omen but hey it's gig day it should be hopping....wrong!

It was with the exception of a few punters empty. It was decked out in rock bar style, posters, records, etc on wall but this place is dead as a dodo. We drank up and headed to hotel to get ready for night of metal. I went to Hotel bar for sneaky pre gig drink and my heart nearly stopped as I bumped in to Slayers Front man Tom Araya in lobby. I politely introduced myself and exchanged pleasantries all the while screaming inside "Stay Cool!!" He was as nice as could be and after getting photo I had to my pint in both hands to stop from spilling it in my lap. They say never meet your heroes and there might be wisdom in that but He was great.

We made our way to Arena. Needless to say the electricity was almost visible in air of arena, with such a strong line up. Obituary played short set to good crowd but Anthrax really brought the energy,  it descended into a big old sing along. If possible Lamb of God raised energy even higher. The place was ready to explode by time Slayer hit stage.

They played everything you could ask for. It was a great gig and all four bands on night brought it to stage I was exhausted at the end . If you haven't been to a metal gig it's true to say the crowd at these types of gigs are the friendliest and most fun you will encounter and that's before you experience the pure, unconscious enthusiasm. A Slayer crowd in particular are fanatics. As I lined up for overpriced, crap  beer a chant of "Slayer! Slayer!" started in distance only to move like a tsunami along the corridor and be taken up by everyone in lobby...you won't get that type of dedication at the spice girls reunion.

It was excellent night and I retired to my hotel both elated and sad I won't be seeing them again.

Next morning My wife wanted lie in so as my Brest friend was making a lightning visit with his wife  from Dublin just to hang out we decided we would make pilgrimage to the sadly closed Crown Pub to pay homage to first venue Sabbath ever played...but rewinding a bit we felt duty bound to check out the only other record store in city. The Diskery. Once again we navigated the baffling streets till we found it.

This was more like it. The window was crammed with records and assorted brick a brack from old displays to a Daniel O'Donnell souvenir plate(???) As we entered the description Aladdin's Cave was a fair if wildly understated one.

The store was established in 1959 and in this location from 1972 so you can imagine every available space was crammed with records. The remaining space was filled with various things from a bucket, a Charles Manson life size cut out peeking from behind old concert poster to dolls with an arm missing, skulls and I everything in-between. It was a visual feast and too much to absorb in one sitting or in my case standing open mouthed. I was momentarily stunned. Where to begin? I could have just stood there and soaked it all in but I was on a quest. The front of counter was expensive collectibles and bar that and one bin of new albums it was all 2nd hand. I spotted a section of Yutile hits, yes all Christmas albums!!!!! soul, reggae, a children's section marked out by a cut out of Chucky from Child's Play which made us smile ( we don't do lol...too old, too grumpy for those shenanigans).

Then I looked around for rock section...no a-z...no genre, no sense of order or organisation that I could see, just a whole wall of vinyl and a sign saying "CHEAP ROCK" I hoped they had a defibrillator behind counter because my Heart stopped and I'm pretty sure a bit of wee might have made a bid for freedom.

This was a true crater's paradise. I jumped in. I had no choice but to go through every bin in case I missed something. I found four records I wanted but could have grabbed 10 times that if budget allowed.

I was happy as hell as the owner told us a story about Noddy Holder and spoke about walk of fame that features a star each for all of Sabbath except Bill Ward which seems bit unfair. (I believe this has now been rectified) I then spotted regular coming in and being guided towards up until then unseen door to another inner sanctum presumably crammed with records. When I inquired what's through that door I was informed if I went through it I would never be seen again....This is the  living embodiment of down the rabbit hole!!! I really want to know what's behind the hidden door but time was pressing on and so we had to regretfully leave. This store was heaven for record collectors and hopefully I'll get to revisit and sweet talk my way into secret garden of vinyl.

The final part of our adventure was a visit to aforementioned Crown Pub. Although shut down it's a listed building and thanks be can't be torn down .It just an old pub to most I'm sure but was a bit special for us at  be at exact spot heavy metal was spewed on to public for first time. Photos taken it was back to pub and a nice liquid wind down for great few days

Right that's two record stores of my list...where next?


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