Butcher Boy (Part 8, A Record Career!)
1973 was all about work, not school work of course, shop work!
I practically gave up on school in 73, just started turning up at the shop, wasn't asked to, just sort of popped in, put on a white coat and started working. Mum and Dad were told that this year was all about exams and study time, so they never questioned it. The school couldn't care less as I would be leaving in 12 months anyway.
Roy would ask me at the end of the week, what days I had worked and would pay me accordingly.
I was now, serving customers, taking the money, learning how to cut up Pigs, Hind and Fore Quarters of Beef, even how to bone out intricate things like Pig heads!.
And still of course making tea!
Micky was spending more time at the Plaistow shop, so apart from and old part-timer who came in a couple of afternoons a week, it was just me and Roy running things in East Ham.
At the end of 1973, Roy asked me what i wanted to do when I left school. There was of course only one answer. Butcher!
Roy got me on a Butchery course at Smithfield College, day release every Monday. It was the same course that Roy had done years earlier.
Mum and Dad weren't happy about it, but were very supportive as they knew this is the only thing that I wanted to do. Like all parents they had hoped that their son would become a Doctor or Lawyer or something like that. No chance!
I wanted to be just like Roy and have a chain of Butchers shops all over the East End.
I left school early ( you could in those days), just before Christmas 1973. Once again Christmas was manic but this year I survived without being seriously ill!
On the 28th January 1974 I was 16. Dad bought me a ticket to see Muhammad Ali against Joe Frazier, as there was no sky TV in those days, you had to go to certain cinemas to see it live. It started at 04.00am, but to see the undercard you had to get there around midnight. I loved these occasions and went to see all Alis fights.
Roy bought me my own set of steak and boning knives! I was thrilled.
So officially I left schoolin January 1974 to pursue a career as a trainee Shopman / Cutter ( Butcher). At R.Marshall and Sons. High Road, East Ham. London E6.
Roy was still up to his old tricks, lots of knocked off stuff was coming into the shop and over the past year or two the word had got round that here was a guy that would take, and get rid of, anything! So far it was only a few cases of this and that and Roy would cope with it easily, but in 1974 things were about to get a whole lot bigger.
Sometime in August one of our regular customers, an attractive lady called Tina, mid thirties, brown hair and an amazing cleavage, asked Roy is she could have a quiet word. She said her husband had some records and tapes for sale and would Roy be interested in buying them. Music to Roys ears, excuse the pun, he of course said yes. Tina said her husband would call in the shop the next day.
Sure enough the next day a tall thin guy called Trevor came into the shop and asked for Roy. I called out for Roy and the three of us went out to the back of the shop while Micky served. Now although Micky was older than me and had been with Roy longer, Roy liked me in on these things, I think he realised that i was just like hime, I loved the thrill of a scam whereas Micky really couldn't be bothered.
This was the deal.
Trevor had a job as a night Security Guard for a large wholesale and Mail order record company in Ilford. They were huge and were the largest mail order music company in the UK. If you opened a magazine or Sunday supplement in those days, this company would have a full colour page of advertising. "Join our Music club today and we'll send you two free records or tapes for free and every month we'll send you the No 1 record or tape at a discounted price" They invented junk mail in this country, and were a household name at that time.
Trevor said that the security was non existent at night and he had soon realised that he could wander around the wharehouse and help himself to records and tapes then load them in his car. He was the only one on at night and he was in charge. No CCTV of course back then, it was just one security guard and that was him! He said the wharehouse was massive and it was floor to ceiling with records and tapes, there didn't seem to be any stock control and no check on him or his car. He'd been there for 3 months and realised that he could literally take what he wanted. he and his family had enough and thought he would now branch out and make a few quid.
Roys face beamed " Great, get everything you can and I'll have the lot" Now at this stage Roy had no idea how he was going to get rid of it and also no idea just how much stuff would be coming in, but true to form Roy never said no.
Trevors night shift started at 18.00 and finished at 06.00, we agreed that he would come to the shop on his way home at around 06.30 and drop off anything that he had got during the night.
I'll never forget the first day he came over, I got to the shop early to have a look. At about 06.45 Trevor arrived but not in a car, in a small Van. He pulled up otside the shop and called me over to help. As he opened the doors of the Van, I stood back and laughed, it was full from floor to ceiling with LP,s, singles and tapes.Hundreds and hundreds of them. All three of us unloaded the Van as quickly as possible and put them at the back of the shop. Roy said he would pay Trevor the next day as soon as he worked out exactly what he had. Trevor said " No problem", and off he went.
" Same again tommorow, I can get this amount everyday if you want?"
"Keep it coming!" was all Roy could say.
Roy didn't know whether to laugh or cry, this was far bigger than we had ever imagined. LP,s and Cassette tapes were selling for around £2 in 1974 and on that first day we had 350 of them.. So the retail value was £700 in one day, if he could get this amount 5 days a week, that would be £3500 worth. Thats about £20,000 by todays value. Or £1 million per year. This was big, very big!
Roy agreed to pay Trevor 40p for each one, he worked out that he could probarly get £1 each so would earn a nice few quid. But of course he had to find someone to buy the bloody things!
There were 3 Major Record shops in the area but Roy was reluctant to try to sell to them. Too many questions would be asked. But, there was a small sweet shop about half a mile up the road, called Meads. Roy had sold some odds and sods to them over the years, they also had a small sideline in selling Records. Mainly the top 10 Singles and Albums. Roy knew the guy that owned it quite well and they went for a beer. Roy came clean and told him what he was getting, but obviously not where from, they agreed a deal at 80p provided that they took everything.
It worked a treat. Trevor would drop off whatever he had every morning. I would sort them out and Roy would take them to Meads every afternoon. Meads were now able to undercut the opposition in the area by 33%. They were selling albums at £1.50 and everywhere else they were £1.99.
At the end of 1974, Meads Newsagents became Meads Records and Tapes, they opened 4 other shops in Essex in 1975!
Now Roy really was earning serious money, this little deal was giving him between £600 and £1000 per week depending on what was coming in. On top of that he was earning another £400 from the other bits and pieces and then he had his "proper" earnings from the two shops.
The other great thing was that if Roy was earning good money, so was I. For helping with the Records I was given another £50 every week. I was now clearing about £150 per week, that was 4 times as much as my Dad and I was only 16.
Roy had now moved up a gear, he was now in a different league, serious stuff. It would soon become far more serious!