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Chimmie Does Distribution Part 1

 

I awake with a sick feeling in my stomach. No. Got to be more Positive. I feel pretty weird anyway, but look for a reasonable reason not to get to started: No point in doing anything Until the Traffic Has Died Down.

The day has dawned. The talking is over and now Chimmie must face the Market. Telephone Girl gets the Dove and the Maiden out of the house.
"Let me have a cup of Tea, and then I'll be ready anytime," she murmurs in a sleepy voice which is infinitely more attractive than a trip to West London and returns to tapping out something on the Urban75 message boards.

Some time later we are driving along the elevated section of the A40. Normally this the cue for me to speed up and play the Clash in my head, if not sing out loud joyously. Ah, the Sound of the Westway.......I once heard Billy Bragg on the radio expounding the impossibility of writing songs about the romance of the road in Britain.

The Clash made London glamorous by telling the world how shit it was. To fly along the Westway to the sound of the Clash is to feel that you belong to the future, moving between the bright lights and the sunset country on a magic carpet. There's nothing quite like it in London.The irony of "what a great traffic system -it's so bright" is Double because they feel deeply, passionately about this place. This is Art. Now get cracking and write songs about roads in Britain, you lazy bastards. I will be covering the A82 and the A9.

The West of London is for some reason home to businesses that allegedly distribute records and therefore there I go first. I had other things going on which I'll explain elsewhere, but somehow I knew that the day would dawn when I would have to load up the car and go and stand on someone's doorstep.

You hope that this expedition which begins as an uncertain voyage over stormy seas will take you to harbours of plenty. You hope to ship up at the dock of some loading bay where the magic of commerce, the throb of industry will effect the transformation of Objects into Goods. The hasty conversation where you put it to some debauched old beatnik that if he misses this one.................Then you chuck them out of the boot, get the paperwork and get the fuck out of there before you get sussed out as a bigger joker than he is.

"We're not making good enough time to go to the first ones on my list, so we need to get off the junction before Hanger Lane. Where are we?"
"I don't know. I can't read the map."
"What do you mean you can't read the map? Anyone can read a map," I say.
"My eyes aren't what they were."
"You said you had twenty twenty vision."
"Yeah, well they've gone off in the last two years. I need glasses."

I recognise Hanger Lane gyratory and make a snap decision to go round and back. I'm sure we'll be able to get off on the left. Wrong. Someone's had some Bright Traffic System idea. Now we're trying to recover from a mistake on a mistake. It all becomes a blur.

We're totally lost, I think. Park in some void and check the name in the A to Z. Actually we're not too far out. This is the Acton/Park Royal area. Am I overreacting, or is this really grim? Not only is this unrelieved industrial estate real estate but although we should have been able to get there quite simply, it was a no-entry and now we're in the grip of some time-freezing traffic jam in a road we never wanted to be in in the first place and also totally inexplicable until quarter of an hour later when you can see the road works. Then we have to get into Acton Lane and get round the back. At least we can park. Who else would want to?

"I'm not coming with you, I'm too fat."
"You don't have to. The fact that you're here is enough."

I approach. No open loading bay. Just an armoured roller shutter and an entryphone. It says "Press 1 if Making Deliveries". That'll do.
"I've got a White Label."
Somebody comes to the door. A young bloke with very short hair. T-shirt and jeans but worryingly smart.
"What sort of music is it?"
"Err, lets call it "leftfield".
"Umm. We can't really do anything with one-offs just like that. We only do label deals. But I'll pass it on to the Labels Manager".
Labels Manager? What happened to all the desperate alcoholics of '91 and '94 who would pounce on you as if you might be the last thing they'd ever get?

Well at least I didn't crap out on the first call. Fortunately we can get to the next one by turning off a side road.

"I need a piss," says Telephone Girl. So do I. They don't tell you that you're going to need to go in places where you can't see a toilet when they write articles about how to start a record label in Computer Music, do they?

I go up to the door. It doesn't say what it should.
"I'm looking for Caroline Records."
"They moved two years ago," the entryphone replies.
"Do you know where?"
"No, somewhere in the Park Royal Estate."
Interesting logo on the door, a bit dreamy with a crescent moon and stars, well.......
"What do you do?"
"We sell sportswear."

Back to the car.
"I've gone in the bottle. You could go behind that pile of rubble round the side there."
No I couldn't. There's loads of people going past all the time. We're not on Rannoch Moor.
"What's this bottle?"
"It's a proper piss bottle for taking urine samples. I got if off my father. It's a family heirloom."
"Well how did you do it?"
"Do it? I just went in the back and Did It."
So I go in the back and try to crouch, so that it's out of sight. Unfortunately, it's quite hard to get it out of sight.
"I just put it up under my skirt," she says.
She's got a long skirt on. I have to bend down rather hard, my chin seems to be catching on the headrests of the front seats. So there I am, bent double behind these seats with my hands lowered around my crutch and a straining expression on my face. A car goes by and slows down as it passes. The driver gives me a long look full of suspicion and contempt. Never mind. I feel great now. I open the door and lower the bottle and pour the contents carefully into the gutter.

Once more, Telephone Girl has saved me. So remember the Piss Bottle.

Two more times around Acton Lane before we move towards Willesden, getting lost in somewhere called Craven Park and so the day goes on.
"Look, twenty years ago. I would have helped you schmooze these guys, but I'm just not up to it now."
"Look, its all right. I just need the company, that's all."
More dodgy parking, dodgy reversing, going round the same place three times. Kensal Road, Ladbroke Grove, give up on going to Fulham, back towards Acton and then finally some place in Hackney where I get to talk to the cleaner: some mention of "Labels Manager".

By the end of the day, all I've managed to achieve is to hand deliver 5 dem copies to places where they wouldn't listen to things on the spot and been seen in 2 places where I played it and they said:
"We don't do this kind of stuff."

What is "this kind of stuff?" That's just it. We're not going for a market. We just want to prat about in a studio til we've got something that sounds good to us and then get it out to the public who can either buy it or not. Somewhere out in the world There Are 400 People who would pay for this. We've done it before and this is just as good. I got into doing Dance Records because I wanted to say "Up Yours" to A&R men who think it's their duty as gatekeepers of the "music industry" to stop people like me from reaching the public. But now there are "Labels Managers". Great.

I am exhausted. I may have to do something different next. For now, a visit to the off-licence seems rather important.