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Haven for the converted

Myself and a huge many  disciples have ventured forth into this oasis of study and contemplation for those who have given themselves over to the following of Vinyl

Record Shop Review / interview

From humble beginnings

I am on my weekly visit to Ben’s Collector’s records in Guildford Surrey, I was struck by a thought . Ben Darnton the owner is a man I have known a long time. This is not something your average person going to a shop regularly thinks about, but then this really is no ordinary shop. I would state that Ben may have more people locally who know him than your average Reality Star may have following them on their facebook profile. He has a hand in many local happenings  from radio chats to organising History talks in The Keep pub. This in Ben's mind is all part of the master plan to spread the word and get people to buy his stock but I think there is more to it and he being a humble man may not appreciate his affect on most of his customers.

Ben and I caught up for a  little chat outside his shop that I will share with you now.

D: “When did the vinyl bug hit you?”

B:  "What got me into it was my grandparents who knew a friend of theirs had just passed away, he had a record player and a box of singles which they gave to me. There was Billy J Kramer the odd Stones and Helen Shapiro type of stuff, so that set me on my way. About a hundred singles, I liked some of them and that’s what kicked off my interest and then onto the back room of the collectors shop in Godalming".

 “When did you begin in Godalming?”

 "I started November 1980 in the collectors shop called the "nice little shop". After plucking up the courage to ask if he [the owner] needed help in his shop. He replied I am going out in 5 minutes so you can start now! After I got over the shock -I was a shy and retiring Surrey cissy as my grandad from Weybridge would call me- I started work for something like 15 pounds  a day or 20 pounds of records".

Ben would have been a fresh faced teenager keen to impress and with an eye for a bargain record that could be sold on

 ”where did this go next?”

 "This soon led to the world of Record Fairs, I did the first Brighton Record Fair in 1981, in those days held initially upstairs in the Brighton Centre and later moving downstairs. It was big. I remember taking 5 or 6 hundred quid which was a lot of money, we kipped in the car so we were stinking a bit as it was a hot day lugging all the boxes in and out. We would then drive along to shoreham then up the A24 for a very nice curry afterwards. This then became the rule for us doing record fairs, they would need to be near a favourite curry house. So we did Crawley, Victoria and Brighton. Also Paddington this was all early 80’s time".

Ben left school in 1983 to proceed to Godalming College where he stuck to the school regime as this was an incentive from Nigel who promised him if he stuck at it he would help with the quest for a Record Shop of his own.

 Ben clarifies, "In 84 I gave up the Godalming shop and moved to the Woodbridge Road Guildford Shop with Nigel".

 The shop is still very similar now as it was then with all the Schweppes boxes that I spent hours filling with singles. I couldn’t drive and at that point would be getting the bus back to my parents in Cranleigh late and feeling especially knackered".

“You stayed at the Collectors Record Shop for a while?”

 "I managed the shop on Woodbridge Road Guildford for seven happy years, I then started to get frustrated as I was on a bonus scheme, so had to sell stuff to make up the wage. It lead to me thinking: I want to do this myself. I started looking around at other towns and decided on Farnham where I opened the first shop in June 1991"

Ben built up his first venture in owning his own record shop at last, Farnham proved very fruitful as had a varied population including many students so there were always people willing to part with their vinyl and CD's, though as Ben said to me he really wished to get back to Guildford.

" I was told about the current shop in Tunsgate by a couple who had their shop next to mine in Farnham; they said that it was available and we came up there together as they were looking at another shop, I liked it and the rent and rates were fairly similar to what I was paying in Farnham"

 " My new shop opened in Nov 83 with a guest appearance from the Little Angels (I knew one of their members from a chance meeting in a USA airport). He lived locally and agreed to get the band there on the day, they were big at the time and I put out an advert in the music press and  had about 200 fans out front which blocked the road, I thought this could be trouble".

 "So got off to a flying start and never really looked back. At that time records were in the minus and cd’s were ascending, I had about 20 copies of Bat Out Hell at £2 and couldn’t sell them. Now in 2022 still at it" 


That is a potted history of Ben's stretch till now, I then went on to his own musical taste.

What would he take out of a sleeve on an ideal evening with a glass of wine in hand?

 "It’s usually a Wayne Shorter or a Blue Note Tubby Hayes, maybe if the family are around it could be Al Green or Earth Wind & Fire or maybe Marvin Gaye". 

"Then again sometimes The Beatles, Stones or the Who. I have two racks for vinyl but probably 3 racks worth that won't fit".

 In that case I asked if you were cleansed of all that vinyl but could keep just one, which would it be?

I thought this would be tough as it would be for me, it seems Ben was quite clear,

 "My grandparents bought me The White Album in 76 which cost £7.99 for Christmas, at that time I could not afford that even with a paper round. So they were sweet and good to me they didn’t have much money so that is the one I would keep".

Have you still got the inserts?

"I have and the white paper that goes between them".

You have many characters and dealers who come to your shop in search of gold.

are there any items that have passed through your hands that you look back now and think: that was something I should have kept?

 "There was a nice old guy called Tony who worked for ITV, he told me that in 1963 his parents bought him a stereogram to play a copy of Please Please Me in Stereo. This record was still mint as he looked after it impeccably, I paid him 3 grand and made 500 but I now think wow it was the one with the little 33 and the rarest version of that record so the rarest of the rare".

Would you now keep that yourself if you had the chance?

"Now I would but then times were hard and I needed the money at the time".

 On to the future, we have all been through a tough time are you optimistic?

 "The last couple of years have been hell, the area outside the shop was a building site while the paving was being done and diggers and noise nearly crippled me. Since covid with cut in rates things are looking up and the vinyl revival is definitely so I am quietly optimistic".

 At this point the phone rang in the background, we concluded there, and Ben discussed the value of someone's 78's they had inherited. He advised in simple terms selling 78's is becoming more difficult as the people who collect them tend to be 6 foot under. I did smirk to myself. He still offered to buy them all...

bens hours.JPG

Interview by Dan Reddick in early March 2022 

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