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Meet the collectors : Clocktower Music

For the first in our new series, MAG_BTM asks music lovers from around the world to dig deep into their life in music, and the records that shaped them

Growing up in Merseyside, Roy Gregory was surrounded by music; the area a melting pot of sound and culture, soul and punk to the iconic Merseybeat; friends either budding singers or musicians in bands. “I couldn’t seem to play or sing any notes at all. So instead, I started buying records.”

What is now Clocktower Music began with a fascination for discovering records never heard of or seen, moving on to become a bone fide, bricks and mortar music destination in Bridport, UK, which has, since 2015, showcased the best in new, re-issued and pre-loved vinyl records – from Abba to Zappa.

Here, Gregory shares the story behind his collection, rare finds and turning a small seaside town into a vinyl hotspot.

Being a collector is a difficult term to think about

I suppose if you have a certain number of records then you’re a collector. It depends on what the definition is, but I never think of myself in those certain terms.

In some ways, my record collection now is the stock that’s in the shop. Over the years I’ve had thousands of records, but personally I’ve always stuck to records that I’ve enjoyed all the way through. What I tend to do –which is a bit like a collector– is that once I find an album that appeals, I want to explore all of the artist’s other records.   

I’ve now physically only got 400 albums, but I like every track on those albums. I get spurred on and invested in a band, and then tend to play through them. This limits my collection, but that’s just how I work.

I don’t have a mind’s eye for sound

This might sound strange, but I don’t know what a record sounds like until I put it on. I know I love those records, but until I put them on, I cannot imagine what they sound like. It’s called aphantasia. If you said to me The Beatles, Yellow Submarine, I could hum it, but it’s my voice and I don’t hear The Beatles singing it, or sound in my head. It’s almost like hearing a record for the first time every time I put one on – I still get that buzz and excitement from it. 

I was a big fan of Elvis Costello from the first album

I would possibly call myself a collector of Elvis Costello because I’ve bought all his singles. What’s always got me is that all the photos in his sleeves and singles were shot around where I grew up in Birkenhead. 

On a Sunday morning when a Costello came out, we’d all run down the road and stand in the same position as the album covers and take photographs. We saw a lot of the early gigs, his parents lived nearby. I was quite taken, I liked that approach of Costello, it was punk but also a lot of other things too.

Roy Gregory in the store. Photo by MAG_BTM

Samplers were an important, new way of hearing music

You’d have radio, pirate radio, and John Peel, but samplers were an interesting way to listen, plus they were low priced. You’d hear one track and then go and buy the albums. 

Nearly everybody I knew had The Rock MachineTurns You On, and The Rock MachineI Love You – samplers had excellent tracks on them because they were trying to promote up and coming acts.  I distinctly remember those samplers, and lots of people who bring collections into the shop have got them too.

They’re not overly expensive now, although there are some rare ones. I bought a collection the other day and I was playing it in the shop when a few teenagers came in and bought them! 

I compile Clocktower’s records from A – Z

For me, music is music, and to youngsters the Carpenters are as relevant as Black Sabbath; they don’t put things into genres. I wonder how much of this is driven by marketing to create sub-categories or create something ‘new’.  The purpose behind it all for me is in the magic of browsing; spotting records you had forgotten about or didn’t know existed. If you are only going to look at metal or prog or soul, you can miss out. It’s impossible to categorise music sometimes.

When I moved to Bridport, I took a stall on the market, one of the best in the Southwest. Of England. People would offer to sell me vinyl, and that’s how I got started. After about a year the town surveyor told me that they were looking for a theme for the market to bring in tourists.

I thought if there is a market for vinyl still it would attract people to Bridport, and it would be an interesting way to put us on the map. I called it Vinyl Saturday. We made Record Collector Magazine’s Record Fair of the Year across Europe, local holiday homes began selling out every time we had a fair, and couple of years later a rep at Sony told me that Bridport is one of the hot spots for vinyl in the UK.

After we had been running the fair for a few years I asked the owner of a local antique shop if I could put some records out in his store, which is now Clockwork Music.

We get people visiting from all over, the last two couples to come in before the last lockdown were from Berlin and Alaska. Once someone’s found us, if they’re back in the area they tend to come back again and again. 

We don’t sell online, and we have a lot of the rarities

 A lot of record shops don’t have the rarities because they’re selling them on eBay, or they’ve got them hidden away on shelves. Here you can hold them and look at them. 

We’re very careful with our records, the sleeves in the best condition are in sealed plastic covers, and we ask our customers to wear blue plastic gloves. We sell 10,000 records a year, so that’s 10,000 pairs of hands. Record collectors want their collections to be in the best condition possible.

I also have music memorabilia on show in the shop, it’s part of this destination idea, that you go somewhere and there are things that you don’t see normally. We also hold gigs here too; one time Professor Elemental was playing, and he said, “You know what Roy, this is the inside of your head turned into reality.”

  1. Clocktower’s Collectables – Primal Scream

    On Record Store Day there was a special Primal Scream release, and Bobby Gillespie signed it!

  2. Race with the Devil, Jean Vincent

    Jean Vincent autographs are rare, I could sell this, but I’m not going to come across another one. As a destination shop, I’d rather have it here than sell it on.

  3. John Lennon, Power to the People

    This is my most unique item. The B-side has only got a tone to it, generally meaning it was the first thing pressed off to see what it sounded like; probably only one or two were pressed. I’ve searched around but haven’t found another one like it.

  4. The Yardbirds, Five Live Yardbirds

    This is a personal favourite. The Yardbirds as all major collectors know had three major guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.

  5. Galaxy, A Day Without the Sun

    Someone brought a record collection in, and this was in there. I’d never seen it before. It’s a private pressing, quite a collectable record as only a small number were pressed, plus it’s been signed by all the members of the band.