Updated: Jun 22
Mark O’Shaugnessy ©
I’ve written before about my digging escapades overseas but some of the most incredible discoveries I’ve had have been right here in the UK. One late-summer Saturday afternoon three years ago, I was working away in our Bath store when a family of three came up to the counter and asked to speak to the ‘proprietor’. Ancient usage, but hey-ho. “That’ll be me,” I said. “Do you buy records?” they asked. I’m always tempted to give a clever-dick answer at this point, especially when the questioner is standing in a shop with around 10,000 records in it, but, I bit my lip and said, “Yes, we do.” At that point, a scruffy carrier bag was produced and handed over to me. A quick rummage inside revealed five or six very nice condition and highly saleable 70s rock LPs. Nothing special jumped out, just good, clean shop stock. I asked whether there were any more and they said: “Yes, around 150, maybe 200.” I normally ask people to bring this kind of quantity into the shop for me to look at, but they were either unwilling or unable to, so I took the address and we made plans for me to go over there the following Monday AM. I’ll emphasise again that they were seemingly normal, regular folk – nothing they said or did made me think otherwise. My partner-in-crime on this jaunt was my middle son, Theo - hi Theo...! So, off we went early that very next Monday morning, beautiful day – clear sunshine, perfect excavation conditions. The address was simply ‘The Old House’, followed by the postcode. Weird that, I thought…we soon arrived into a medium-sized village in Gloucestershire. The postcode was spot-on, but where was The Old House, we wondered? We looked up. OMG. The Old House was actually a stately home, it must have been set in acres and acres of land; it was visible from miles around and we hadn't spotted it…der! The driveway from the main road up to the house must have been almost half a mile, through two sets of huge gates to arrive at a massive, oak-panelled double door which dwarfed us both. Now I was really mystified. The grounds were absolutely and totally immaculately kept, acre after acre. We rang the bell, Addams Family-style, and after two or three minutes, the butler opened the door and he actually said 'yesssss'.“We’re here to view the record collection,” I squeaked. The door was then shut in our faces as the butler announced that he would go and fetch the ‘Master(!)’. After a few minutes, the door reopened and in the doorway stood the completely unremarkable young man who’d visited me in my store with his family. Friends, this house must have had 25 bedrooms, five floors, three kitchens, seven or eight reception rooms, four different wings… it even had its own chapel! Vintage Bentley in the driveway, mandatory Land Rover next to it, what looked like a Harley Davidson chopper keeping them company - amazing to see such ostentatiousness... We were led into the main reception room and then, as instructed, we started to climb the stairs, soooooo many stairs. Up and up we went, I thought it was never going to end. Passing several (empty) suits of armour on the way, faded paintings of long-dead gentry all over every single inch of wall space, beautiful figurines and artwork at every turn – we stared in utter disbelief. This was definitely the weirdest place I’d ever bought a collection, just so unexpected! So, I hear you cry what about these records? Well, as often happens in these situations, the owner had vastly underestimated the count and there were actually between 1,500 and 2,000 LPs in that music room – along with state-of-the-art hi-fi equipment, cellos, double basses, a grand piano, pro-standard monitor speakers (several pairs), even an actual vintage mixing console and God only knows what else – my mind was well and truly blown. The wordless staff walked in and out while we weasled away in the dusty and airless room. The records were absolutely excellent – a plethora of beautiful UK folk, some highly desirable Prog, several Psyche LPs I’d never seen before and lots more – extremely good condition in general, too. I had to pinch myself to check this was really happening, this was amongst the Top 10 best record collections I’d ever viewed! A deal was struck and we loaded the records into my bulging camper van. The butler showed us to the door and the scruffy Master grunted a brief farewell. We set off back to Somerset with our chins still scraping along the floor behind us… incredible! Mark O’Shaughnessy is the owner of Bath record shop Resolution Records and has been a professional record dealer since 1993.