ACCORDING to Bob Dylan “they say the darkest hour is right before dawn”. Whilst I can’t attest to the accuracy of that claim, I can confirm that after Friday night’s celebration drinks for the brief return of Davros-Davros Haney to the SN1 district, those early Saturday hours after dawn were also quite bleak for ol’ Cpt Wormhole.

Wallowing under a duvet was not an option though, as I had an engagement to attend — a meeting with two of Swindon’s finest purveyors of musical vinyl, Derek and Eric from Blood On The Tracks.

We met in their top floor Brunel Centre store, just across from Waterstones, in a unit they share with The Incredible Comic Book Shop (old neighbours from their time in the now defunct Tented Market).

They’ve been friends for 28 years (“a life sentence,” according to Eric) but the business partners sat chatting more like a pair of school friends. Pushing wax must be good for the soul.

Derek has his older brothers to thank for a lifelong musical passion: “I was brought up on The Beatles, The Stones, The Hollies...and I’ve always wanted to run a record shop.”

Weekend market stalls and record fairs served as his apprenticeship - “Blunsdon in ‘89, then went to Greenbridge, then Dorcan, then back to Blunsdon, then the tented market, then the Brunel downstairs”. They’ve been in their current unit since May.

As anyone who’s seen High Fidelity knows, you tend to get lots of oddballs frequenting record stores so I enquired about the weird customers.

“Somebody came in and bought Snot Rap by Kenny Everett, on a 7in single, paid £2 for it. For Snot Rap. That was quite a weird one.”

On the subject of landing a big fish, “the best one we had was the Pink Floyd one [Piper At The Gates], paid £5 for it, sold for £250” to a chap from Marlborough.

So what’s in their private collections? Well for Eric it’s mostly Bob Dylan, a lot of blues and folk stuff.

Derek’s tastes are eclectic: “Everything really. Dylan is my favourite, he’s my idol. Then I’ve got things like blues, I’ve got rock, indy... just bought Liam Gallagher’s new one... Queens Of The Stone recently.”

What’s good, and what’s bad about running a record store in Swindon specifically?

“Personally I think Swindon’s a cultural desert really, not many venues... bands on tour seem to go everywhere but Swindon,” says Eric.

The pair agreed that the lack of venues for local, new, non-cover bands is almost mirrored by the decline of the Tented Market and a lack of affordable retail space for young, independent businesses.

On the good bits, he says: “The people that come in, the customers, they talk for hours, you can play it for them and have a chat.”

Derek’s out most Sunday mornings scouring car-boots and other sources for new stock to keep regulars and collectors coming back. Also, they’ll be more than happy to put a record by for you or do a deal if you’re buying a few bits at a time.

  • Next week: Ghost Music