“Tallbird Records” .. the Maria Harris interview

‘Tallbird Records’ Interview with Maria Harris ..

I only discovered that Chesterfield had a brand new record shop late last year, having heard not too long before of the demise of the long established Hudsons operation, where I had worked in the early 1960s as record buyer on the stall in the middle of the covered Market Hall. That was before opening my own “Some Kinda Mushroom” on Newbold Road, selling both new and second-hand vinyl, and specialising in the newly emerging ‘Progressive Rock”, Blues, Folk and Jazz.

I don’t think that my particular ‘market’ affected the ‘mainstream’ clientele that Hudsons had a monopoly on, and we co-existed side by side for many years in what was probably the ‘high water mark’ for record sales, followed by a rise in popularity for the new CD format, and just as quickly, a decline over the next three decades.
So, it’s now very pleasing to see a thriving record shop in town again, with its finger firmly on the button of the prevailing zeitgeist, and concentrating on good old vinyl too. DMcP

DMcP .. When did you open the shop?
MH .. October 4th 2013

DMcP .. Did you consider any other names for the shop ?
MH .. Yes, loads! It was going to be Spire Records for a while (for obvious reasons) but there are so many businesses in town with Spire in their name that it seemed a little unimaginative. There were literally dozens of other names in the running – “Abbazappa” was a strong contender until I discovered that I hadn’t invented the term and that there was another record shop of that name already. Tallbird was the last name I thought of and it just clicked – everyone in the family liked it, I sketched out a logo idea, my father designed it properly and our brand was born! I am needless to say a tall bird (5ft 10 and a half), hence the name.
DMcP .. “Abbazappa” would have tied your ‘image’ firmly to the 60s wouldn’t it !

DMcP .. Why did you choose Chesterfield?
MH .. Because Chesterfield is where we’ve lived for nearly 9 years, and because there were no other record shops in town after the demise of Hudsons and HMV/

DMcP .. Were you confident that your ‘mostly vinyl’ policy would be a success ?
MH .. No, I wasn’t confident about anything tbh. I hoped it would be and was extremely pleasantly surprised at just how much of a demand there was in town, and that demand continues to grow I’m pleased to say.

DMcP .. What are your own musical tastes? Give me ten artists or bands whose music you would take to a desert island
MH .. I love the NY punk and new wave scene, 80s indie, electronic music, as well as classic rock and pop – I have very broad tastes! 10 Desert Island artists would be: Blondie, Bowie, Sex Pistols, Beatles, Smiths, Joni Mitchell, Kraftwerk, Talking Heads, the entire Motown back catalogue, and the complete works of Bacharach & David.
DMcP .. We’re from different generations, but there’s only one in there that I couldn’t live with, and that’s David Bowie .. along with Queen, he’s one of my ‘mental blocks’ I’m afraid.
DMcP .. The conventional ‘Record Shop’ format of the past 30-40 years, with CDs as the mainstay, is now redundant, Bookshops are in decline, and Newsagents are beginning to feel the ‘winds of change’ .. do you see the renewed interest in vinyl being sustainable for another, say, 20 years or so ?
MH .. Good question. What goes up must come down. When the decline in vinyl sales will be again I wouldn’t like to forecast but it is inevitable – hopefully long after I’ve retired!

DMcP .. Are you very often offered second hand copies of albums by these bands from the 1960s and 70s .. Pink Floyd, Free, Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Family, The Who, Small Faces, Kinks, Joe Cocker, John Mayall, Mott The Hoople, Yes, Genesis, Strawbs, etc. ? All of whom (and many more) appeared here in Chesterfield during those two decades ..
MH .. Yes, but not nearly as often as I’m offered records by James Last, Nana Mouskouri, Brass & Military Bands, Perry Como and Jim Reeves, unfortunately!
DMcP .. I wouldn’t stock them, and after a while they stopped coming in .. luckily there was someone else who would take them and so I was ‘let off the hook’, but I sympathise.

DMcP .. Do you still get albums offered to you with the price labels on from Hudsons or ‘Some Kinda Mushroom’ ?
MH .. Yes, I’ve had lots of those. I don’t know what glue Hudson’s had on their stickers but it was very strong! I’ve also had 7″ records in card sleeves with the Hudsons stamp on it.

DMcP .. Do you have ambitions to take on a larger shop, or expand into other towns ?
MH .. I would like larger premises but I’m not sure if I’d be able to afford them in the town centre. It would be great to combine a record shop with say a café or some other business. If I was 10 years younger I might consider empire-building but I don’t think I have the energy required to manage two shops!.

DMcP .. Looking at your enterprising website and considering your ‘live’ concert promotions , what other ‘extra curricular’ activities or initiatives are you planning for ‘TALLBIRD’ in the future ?
MH .. I’d really like to get Chesterfield back on the ‘happening’ live music circuit, ie: attract more up and coming or happening acts to the town but I haven’t really figured out how to go about it or even whether there is sufficient demand for it in town. I’d like to put out more records on the Tallbird label, but let’s see how this first release goes…
DMcP .. I’m sure there’s a demand, and Real Time is a great venue, but there’s no doubt it’s a time consuming operation, and can be stressful at times too.

DMcP .. What are your other interests, outside of music ?
MH .. Reading, current affairs, films, my family.

Thanks very much Maria, for the interview, and from the population of the town for the provision of another worthy addition to ‘The Record Emporiums of Chesterfield’ ..