For Peter Paphides music is more than just a job. In fact, it's more than just a simple passion - it's a borderline obsession. Born in Birmingham, what started out as a way of avoiding working in the family chippy has turned into a 25-year career as a rock journalist, with a show on Radio 6 and a stint as the chief rock critic at The Times.
One of the results of this distinguished career is a record collection that is so huge it almost defies description. Taking over a whole room in his house, he has a catalogue of vinyl gems spanning almost every period, subculture and genre of popular music - including a comprehensive collection of Aztec Camera records.
"It's mostly been a constant obsession for me" he told us when we asked him how he went about amassing his collection. "After I became a music writer, I stopped buying vinyl almost entirely - I was deluged with free CDs, so it seemed crazy to buy more music on top of that. But the strange thing I noticed was that not paying for music seemed to be dampening my enjoyment of it. The act of going to a shop and obsessing over that album, reminded me that you need to make an effort in order to get that thrill from music, and handing over money and hoping that you made the right choice and sitting on the bus on the way home, anticipating listening to that record, is all part of that thrill".
When did you start buying records? What was the first record you ever bought?
I started buying records sometime late in 1978. At that time, we lived in a part of Birmingham called South Yardley in the shadow of this weird wavy office block, and on the other side of that block was a little row of shops that appeared to have been unchanged since the previous decade at least. One of them was a record shop called Discus, sitting there amongst a butcher, a greengrocer, a newsagent and a launderette. It's presence there was a reminder that, at some point, records had become important enough to warrant dedicated local shops that sold them alongside all your other household essentials.
Discus had three disused listening booths, presumably a relic from the previous decade, when all record shops had to have listening booths. It had a shelf on which all the Top 40 singles sat, in order of chart position. One Friday afternoon, my mother asked me if I wanted to choose a record from there. I couldn't decide between The Barron Knights' 'A Taste of Aggro' and John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John's 'Summer Nights'. She very kindly bought me both.
Which records are you particularly sentimental about?
Probably my original copies of Aztec Camera's 'High Land Hard Rain' and Dexys Midnight Runners' 'Too-Rye-Ay'. For the longest time, I could barely manage a day without listening to those records.
I also feel an intense attachment to R.E.M.'s 'Reckoning'. When I was about 14, the only working record player in the house was in my room, so my brother would have to ask me politely if he could play a record in my room. He used to play 'Reckoning' late at night. I would fall asleep at some point towards the end of Side One. It was a perfect way to enter the dreaming world.
How do you store and protect your collection? Has it started to take over a part of your house?
I have a record room, which is comprised, floor-to-ceiling, of shelves and drawers with records in them. There's a sort of island unit in the middle with more records, and on top of that is the record player. I had the drawers specially made in order to replicate the feeling of browsing through records in a shop. They're all in drawers, and the front panel of each drawer goes halfway up. It's an unending source of satisfaction.
Has it started to take over any other part of the house? Well, there's also a little record unit in the kitchen, so I have to keep on top of that, but thankfully, my wife thinks it's a good idea to have a record player in the kitchen. It comes into its own if we have people over. After a couple of drinks, everyone's a DJ.
How did you integrate your wife's records into the collection? Did you end up with a lot of duplications?
Not really - she never bought vinyl. When she was a music journalist, she got sent CDs, but she never used to look after them, so by the time we moved in together, all her records were pretty much trashed.
"Has it started to take over any other part of the house? Well, there's also a little record unit in the kitchen..."
How has having kids changed the way you enjoy the collection?
Not really. Both my daughters have record players in their room, although the youngest can't currently use her turntable because she sometimes lets her pet rats out of their cage, and they've gnawed through the turntable power lead. Dora's 15 and she's building up a nice little collection. She's currently into Pixies and Happy Mondays, although I also hear a lot of Grimes, Lana Del Rey, Air and Nick Drake coming out of her room.
What's the rarest record you own? How did you come across it?
The rarest record I own is one I had made especially. It's a rare track by former Camel guitarist Peter Bardens called 'Long Ago, Far Away'. It's a languorously groovy instrumental workout that was never released at the time it was recorded (c1969), but it appeared on an obscure CD compilation about 10 years ago. I really wanted to have it on vinyl, so I found a place that would make me one single copy of it. So, that's the rarest because there are no others in existence.
Is it possible to name one favourite?
Yes. Three years ago, my friend and fellow collector Bob Stanley, who's also in Saint Etienne, gave me an original copy of Anne Briggs' ultra-rare 'The Hazards Of Love EP'. To my absolute mortification, I dropped it and a huge chunk snapped off it. Hearing my agonised moan from the next room, Dora rushed in to ask if I was ok. Unbeknownst to me, she memorised the name of the record and went online to see if she could find me a replacement. Amazingly, she found a copy of the record that was on sale for much less than it would normally be because it was lacking the sleeve - but, of course, I had the sleeve. It was just the record that was broken.
So she spent a fair wedge of her savings on a replacement record in order to give it to me as a Christmas present. Between the mishap and Christmas, Dora occasionally entered my record room in search of the sleeve, so she could pair it up with the record, but she wasn't able to find it. So she recreated the sleeve art with a photograph of her, striking the same pose as Anne Briggs - and that was my Christmas present at the end of 2013. Not a dry eye in the house. So yes, that's my favourite. By a long way.
What do you think is missing from your collection?
Too much. Blood & Fire was an excellent reggae reissue label that existed between the mid-90s and the mid-00s. The records looked and sounded beautiful, and the liner notes alone were almost worth the outlay. I'd like to have a complete run of those on vinyl. (I'm maybe about halfway there).
There are so many super-rare early 70s British psych-folk/acid-folk albums I'd like to get hold of, but I can't afford the sort of prices they go for. I'm almost as happy with a high-quality reissue. By and large though, I'm very happy with what I have. I'm so lucky I've never had to sell it all and start again.
What's the most embarrassing record in your collection? How did you end up owning it?
I guess that owning a couple of Sting singles is embarrassing, but I like them, so what the hell?