Monday never comes
Delivery day was elevated to mythical status in the days of one old Cornish record shop.
St Austell, Cornwall, the early 90s. You had to work hard to get into hip-hop in the countryside in them days. The Knowledge was born of subscribing to rap magazines, the deep combing of mail-order lists, and recording and rewatching endless hours of Ed Lover doing the Ed Lover dance on Yo! MTV Raps.
Plus, of course, moping around your small-town record shop. Saffron Records, nestled near a ShoeFayre and the Wimpy, was typical of its breed in that it catered to everyone – from kids buying novelty Simpsons tapes to old ladies indulging a rare stirring over Cliff Richard. But Kev, the cuddly sad-eyed shot-putter who ran the store, also had an impressive knack for sourcing the weirdest underground releases, so the shop became a crucial link in our supply chain.
We’d bowl in with questions about the most obscure and non-Cornish of albums, and Kev would always manage to conjure release information, scanning sheets of print-outs, making calls to his delivery guy, and most of the time successfully coming up with the goods. He was a machine: unless he couldn’t get the tape we were after. That’s when things went weird.
If an album wasn’t in and you asked when it was coming, Kev’s answer was always the same: ‘It’ll be in on Monday.’ It didn’t matter that you’d been in asking the exact same thing for the previous three Mondays. It didn’t even matter if the album you were asking for didn’t actually exist. ‘Do you have the new Keir Nicholls album?’ my friend Keir Nicholls once asked, despite having never released an album. ‘Hmm. Let me check,’ said Kev, picking up a print out. ‘That’s gonna be Monday.’
Now Kev was definitely not the devious type. Maybe he just didn’t like to let kids down. Either way it seemed that he was becoming a stuck record of baffling white lies. I started to wonder: what was on those pages of print-outs? Maybe the 'suppliers' he was calling was just his mum on the other end of the line going 'Darling, I don't know what you're talking about... What's Burgy Town Productions?'
As a loyal, loving customer I began to wish he’d just, for once, stop it, open up and admit he didn’t know when the album was coming out. ‘This isn’t on you, Kev,’ I wanted to say. ‘It’s not your fault. I love you.’
Yet it's not to be. The summer of 1992. Word comes that Long Island hip-hop legends EPMD are releasing their fourth album, Business Never Personal. This prompts me to leave the beach every Monday afternoon to make the two-mile pilgrimage, as if seeking my salvation in the Holy Land. God greets me every time with the same response: ‘That'll be next Monday.’ Yet I persevere.
Finally, one Monday, I enter the shop. ‘Did EPMD’s new album come in today Kev?’ I ask, as if for the first time. ‘Hmm…’ he says, ‘that should have been here.’ He checks the back room. 'There's no sign of it,' he says, looking surprised. He looks at his watch. ‘The delivery van is due any minute.’ He lifts the flap on the counter, goes round to the front, and crosses to the door.
'Is this actually happening?', asks my internal monologue.
He pokes his head out into the street, looking left and right in an exaggerated sweep, like a kid trying to impress the tall bloke from the Green Cross Code. Then he turns to me with a resigned shrug:
‘Well, there's no sign of it.’
I half expected him to put out his palm and check for cassette singles falling from the sky.
A final memory of Kev: his special calculator, in to which he’d type mysterious sums and conjure magical discounts. As his fingers tapped his voice would reduce to a low whisper: ‘ That’s £7.89 to you mate’. You’d walk out with a record in a bright yellow Saffron bag, feeling very happy – only to overhear him saying the exact same thing to the bloke behind you. Why did Kev not just make the values on the price stickers lower in the first place? I never did figure that out. Maybe it was just a case of making every customer feel special. If so it worked. Kev was a huge part of my musical education. And his human quirks only make his legend stronger.
Saffron is now long gone, replaced by a bakery and iTunes. Of course it makes total sense to rely entirely on iTunes for music these days, as the Apple platform is massive, efficient and really convenient. I have decided I'm definitely going to abandon record stores and make the switch myself. On Monday...