Tag Archives: Francis Records

September 20th 1975

“Went to work in suit – caused a stir! Went with M&D to Julie and Bonkers Bernards new house – damn smart!”

Not very “rock’n’roll” is it? Wearing a suit to work? What the hell was I thinking?… other than obviously trying to draw attention to myself.

Julie & Bernard were my Mum & Dad’s neighbours for many years. A young couple who had recently had a baby boy and moved to a new house out in (I seem to remember) West End. Julie was a very clever woman – some kind of senior teacher or something? – but her husband Bernard was a joker and a bodger, hence the given ‘bonkers’ attribute.

A bodger is someone who works on a property but cuts as many corners as is humanly possible so as to give a nice appearance but with little real structural substance. It is fact that in the interim years, subsequent neighbours have had to pay the equivalent of small fortunes to put his early 1970’s ‘DIY’ right.

Many (new and used) property owners suffer ‘bodgers’. Me and the wife are two such victims!


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September 8th 1975

“Speaker not fixed but got it back again. Read Mr F’s poetry, wrote a critique”

I don’t understand that first sentence. Not at all.

Why would I get the speaker back if it wasn’t fixed? Maybe whoever was fixing it – and I am still clueless as to who that may have been – told me keep using the speakers until a part arrived. Who knows? The not-inconsiderable trials and tribulations of a teenage hi-fi enthusiast!

The second sentence relates to my brief – very brief – flirtation with poetry. STOP laughing at the back!

But not for me the beauty and prose of someone like Tennyson, Yeats or Frost. No, my fascination was for the poetry of… my boss, John F at Francis Records!

I will give him some credit though. His poetry influenced me to write my own. Mine was… let’s just say a little more ‘song lyricy’, owing much to the classic stylings of such luminaries as… well, Steve Harley, Bill Nelson and Roger Waters.

I know what you’re thinking… does EFA70sTRO still possess any of his teenage poetry and will he share it with us?

Maybe, but only if you behave!

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August 4th 1975

“Started back at Francis – Great! Got some record covers and Free Tommy tickets”

Yes, you read that right.

I’m back behind the counter in Francis Records’ pop department.

How did this happen? Weird really… it seems the elderly Mrs Francis suddenly decided to retire. Actually, semi-retire as I was to find out a little later.

Despite getting unceremoniously fired by her – for reasons still unknown – I continued to go back in the store as a customer to look for stuff, always popping in to the classical department downstairs to say hello to her son John.

During one of these visits he informed me of his mother’s decision and asked me if I would be interested in returning to the fold. Would I?!!

So here I am during my Summer holidays, providing my services to the recording industry once again. Pig back in the poop.

Looks as if my timing was perfect too? My first day back and John gifted me four complimentary tickets to Ken Russell’s new film “Tommy”

I need to say a few words about Tommy…

Apart from – obviously – their singles, Tommy was perhaps my first proper introduction to The Who. Released in 1969 this expansive double album was the first concept album billed as a “rock opera”, a term I have always liked!

It – as anyone will inform you – tells the detailed story about a deaf, dumb and blind boy who – via his love for pinball – becomes the leader of a weird messianic cult. When you say that ‘out loud’ it sounds utterly preposterous doesn’t it?

The album’s tale is held together by a set of terrific songs though, Pete Townshend proving his worth as a terrific songwriter. 40 years later they still sound strong and fresh, standing the test of time magnificently. Indeed, much of the subject matter still has a relevance in the 21st Century:- “Amazing Journey” & “The Acid Queen” (The growth of psychotropic drugs), “Eyesight to the Blind” (religious beliefs), “Cousin Kevin” (bullying), “Pinball Wizard” (OCD), “Tommy Can You Hear Me” (child abandonment), “Sally Simpson” (celebrity fanaticism), “Tommy’s Holiday Camp” (religious cults) and, somewhat ironically given Townshend’s own brush with the law in this general arena, “Fiddle About” with its graphic depiction of pedophilia.

As with many of my other eventual album purchases I had listened to “Tommy” on tape first, drawn initially to Sides 3 & 4 moreso than 1 & 2, mainly thanks to the inclusion there of the hits “Pinball Wizard” and “I’m Free”. (“I’m Free” took on special significance for me in 1997 when I blared – and I mean BLARED – it on repeat for an hour straight when getting home after selling my business)

For me, it’s not as perfect a concept album as I later discovered “Quadrophenia” to be, but it comes pretty damned close. As I remarked to my wife just the other night my adoration for The Who is based almost entirely on these two double LPs. Personally I never felt “Who’s Next” to be as brilliant as everyone else kept/keeps telling me (“Won’t Get Fooled Again” obviously excepted) much preferring this pair of pairs. (I also have a soft spot for “The Who Sell Out”… if that even counts as a proper Who album anymore?)

The impending movie adaptation would merely take my love for “Tommy” to a whole new level, but more of that later. In the meantime here’s all of its GREAT cuts…

It’s a Boy
Amazing Journey
Eyesight to the Blind (The Hawker)
Cousin Kevin
The Acid Queen
Underture Pt 1
Do You Think It’s Alright?
Fiddle About
Pinball Wizard
There’s a Doctor
Go to the Mirror
Tommy, Can You Hear Me?
Smash the Mirror
Miracle Cure
Sally Simpson
I’m Free
Tommy’s Holiday Camp
We’re Not Gonna Take It

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July 5th 1975

“Start a new job next Saturday at Dixons – will get £4 a day plus commission”

Remember my letter to Dixons back in April?

Well it looks as if my planned defection from the record industry – or maybe my foresight about how things were panning out at Francis Records? – paid off?

I can’t remember ever having an interview, so maybe they hired me based entirely on the contents of that letter?

So, I’d swapped life behind a record shop counter for the equally attractive (at least to this geeky 17-year-old) hi-fi market.

Dixons (a name apparently chosen at random from the phone book) started life in 1937 as a photographic studio in Southend. The business, started by Charles Kalms, was one of the few which flourished during WWII because there was high demand for family portraits and photographic services.

Charles’ son Stanley took over the business in 1950 and he started not only advertising in specialist camera magazines but also selling camera equipment, eventually needing considerable staff numbers to deal with the 60,000 mail order customers it attracted every month.

Dixons grew and grew, added a colour processing laboratory to its ‘photographic’ mix as well as expanding the numbers of stores it owned and opening up floorspace to the then (in the 70’s) public interest in all things ‘hi-fi’

Which is about where I came in.

How would this career change pan out? You will have to wait and see.

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June 6th 1975

“Got letter from Francis Records saying I’d got sack”

Yep, the wizened old bag fired me.

Wish I still had the letter. I probably tore it up in some disgust.

It’s easy for me to say I was amongst the best things that happened to Francis Records on a Saturday and it may sound boastful to do so… but I truly believe I made a difference to sales in what was otherwise a stuffy, staid little emporium.

However, as readers will discover, there is a twist to this tale still to come….

But not before I go off and wander the weekend/part-time employment wilderness for a while

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May 31st 1975

“Felt bad at work”

Did I feel bad or did I have an inkling about what was about to happen?

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May 17th 1975

“Work. Mrs Francis getting right up my nose”

Maybe I was too confident and cocky early on about being able to sell music to the masses?

Mrs Francis – as I have mentioned before – was a stickler for certain work ‘protocols’ and how her staff deported themselves.

Despite the fact that I dressed smartly – I was probably the neatest record shop salesman in Southampton? – in full accordance with her ‘rules’, I know I was often quite effusive with customers about what I thought they should buy. Sometimes LOUD and effusive.

She didn’t like that and so I had to – as the phrase goes – ‘curb my enthusiasm’ considerably to stand within her guidelines.

However, I hated the idea that customers may be going elsewhere to buy their requirements when she refused to listen to my suggestions about what kind of stuff we should be stocking and how many I could sell the following weekend.

Yes, this early in my record career I was that aware of what people really wanted.

Yes, I was already railing against “the man” (or, in this case, the old woman) and despising being told what to do.

Long term, that attitude would serve me very well… short-term it was – as readers will discover in coming entries – nothing less than a recipe for disaster.

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May 3rd 1976

“Work a bit boring without Derek there”

Proof that there was a time when I had some regard for Derek.

If you think I hint at a somewhat unsettled feeling about Francis Records you would be right in doing so.

I enjoyed dealing with the customers and recommending things to the public, but – as I have said before – Mrs Francis was quite a difficult old stick to work for, phenomenally inflexible in her routine and methods. This resulted in very little ‘joie de vivre’ and I seem to remember being told more than once not to laugh and joke with the customers quite as much as I was.

Meanwhile – and by peculiar contrast – we heard raucous laughter coming up from the Classical department below us all the flipping time?! Surely it should be the Tchaikovsky & Wagner lovers with more reason to be miserable? After all, we had the Scottish funk grooves of the Average White Band to keep us happy!…

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