That WAS Emtertainment part 4… no, really, it IS the end this time.

It is, with a heavy heart, that this time really was the last time I’d ever step foot in a That’s Entertainment. I know, I sort-of jumped to conclusions a few weeks ago when I wrote that initial post after I knew they were closing, and unfortunately, I sort-of pre-empted everything I wanted to write here.

Anyway, a week ago, after visiting the store on Bank Holiday Monday, I reported that I finally knew the closing day, and that would be this coming Sunday. Luckily, this also coincided with a week off work. No, nothing to do with my feet this time, no, just an actual week off. Legally booked and everything.

This would give me the opportunity to visit the store twice more. Saturday was one of the days.

As mentioned previously, the prices went down to 50% off earlier in the week. This would be an occasion for me to fill my boots with yet more cheap sleeveless CDs.

But first, the bus ride. One of those odd moments where I actually LIKED talking to a complete strange. It was weird. As before, I took the 36 bus, as it drops me off in Stockton town centre, pretty much outside the afore-mentioned shop. A guy got on at Billingham, and sat next to me. Nothing unusual about that. I’m on a bus. It happens. Normally, my earphones clearly wedged in my ears is enough to deter most people from talking to me. Or rather, they’re wedged so far in there that I can’t hear anything they say. This time, however, they either weren’t in right, or it was at a quiet part of the song, when I heard him speak..

“Going shopping then?”, he asked, in a jolly, Saturday morning manner.

“Sort of, I’m off to get some CDs.”. I explained that TE was closing, and he seemed genuinely surprised. Not in that “I don’t know what you’re talking about” way either. He seemed genuine. We got talking, and he explained he collected too, and used to come down to Hartlepool, to the Other Record Shop, but hadn’t been for years. I broke the sad news that the owner had died, and that it was pretty much a ticket store anyway. He asked if I go to many gigs. I replied in the negative, but the last one that I saw was Chris Rea.

“Oh yes, didn’t he do Stainsby Girls?” I could have hugged him at that point. It wasn’t one of his bigger hits, but it’s by far my favourite song of his. Certainly not the first song you’d expect to come up in a random bus journey conversation.

Before I knew it, my new friend got off the bus, and I felt slightly empty, knowing that there really was someone out there with similar interests to me, and that our paths will never, ever cross again. It was the first time, and probably the last in my entire life where my record collecting was genuinely interesting to someone, and not “The bald bloke with the glasses is talking at me, I must look at the wall”. Sigh.

Anyhoooo, back to record collecting, and before I knew it, I was alighting the 36, and making my way to the shops. Of course, my first stop was the “sleeveless” table.

This time, they had split the boxes. You could still buy some full boxes for £5, but they were also doing bags of them, rather like what they did at Hull that time, for £1.50. I picked three bags up, along with many other bits and pieces.

The reason why I picked the bags up, is that I decided that these would be more fun to “unbag” in a live Facebook video, and it would go on for less time than doing an entire box. After all, I could surely come back down on Monday and pick up a box or two, especially, as I was off this week.

Well. Monday didn’t happen, and neither did Tuesday. Memory escapes me why, but I’m going to hazard a guess at the weather. Out of all of the weeks I could have picked off, I picked the one with Arctic temperatures, more fog than a vaping convention, and an overall assumption that Winter would never end. Just like the weather, my heart was grey at the possibility of never stepping foot in another one of those stores again.

Judging by the elimination of the previous two days, I hope you’ve all reached the conclusion that something happened on Wednesday. I had to get up early, as Wednesday was the day of my weekly foot scraping (yes, that’s still going on), which had concluded by about 9:30. I returned home, and caught some of the athletics. After all, it’s the Commonwealth games.

After 9 minutes of heady excitement, watching Jamaica win their first medal in the women’s steeplechase, I decided that athletics was too exciting for a Wednesday morning, and I needed something to lower my adrenaline levels, and what could be better than a mind-numbing ride to Stockton, on the 36. And, mind numbing it was, as my headphones kept playing up.

I arrived in Stockton to find a depressing sight. All of the sleeveless CDs were gone. Not a single one in the shop. A third of the shop was now empty, with the exception of children, running around in the vast open space, as if they’d never seen an empty shop before. Ugh. It was horrible.

I scoured the shelves, prowling, like the last weak buzzard, pecking at the final bits of decaying flesh left on the carcass of a once mighty buffalo. The last remnant of something tasteful through the shelf upon shelf chick flicks and Owen Wilson DVDs….

Did I do badly?

Assuming the time on the receipt was correct, I exited the store at 2PM. There was still time to get one of the many buses to Middlesbrough, and hope for miracles that they found an entire sack of sleeveless discs underneath the floorboards….

No. My word. I thought there were slim pickings at the Stockton one. Middlesbrough was even worse. The music had almost entirely dried up. There were multiples of almost every DVD. Blu-rays were pretty much sold out, and naturally, sleeveless stock was gone entirely here too. There were three things I purchased…

SENNA – Already have it on DVD, two-disc edition, but I really like it. Worth upgrading to blu-ray.

ALAN PARTRIDGE – ALPHA PAPA – I’ve already seen it. Wasn’t amazing, possibly worth a second watch though.

ROCK OF AGES – Never seen it. Might be something I’d like. Plus, the DVD case is all purple and glitttery. Ahem.

So, there we have it. At 14:52, on 11th April 2018, a chapter of my life really did end. As I said, in my earlier posts, I sort-of jumped the gun when I said there would be no more (I didn’t know when they were closing when I wrote that), but this time I mean it. It closes for good in less than two days.

I don’t know what I’m going to do for music now. HMV are soulless, as John mentioned in the comments. Charity shops don’t have the same appeal they once did. I’m genuinely sick of looking through 250 granny CDs to find one CD I’d consider, only to find I already have it in triplicate.

So, as a homage to That’s Entertainment, here is a spreadsheet including all of the CDs I’ve bought from both of the stores since they announced their closure. There’s no way to tell which ones I’ve bought outright, and which ones came as part of the sleeveless stock bundles. This chapter of my life will close with nobody, except me, knowing if I actually wanted those S Club 7 CDs…

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1AFtpPiafbPpOM7btZmlKAT9vcxmJ4kxCAAgR85O8kRM

Please note, that whilst wholesome, the above spreadsheet does not live up to my usual level of care and attention, with many missing years and catalogue numbers, and possibly incorrect titles too. I won’t be updating the above spreadsheet any further, but my catalogur will eventually get the complete information entered into it.

The end. That’s Entertainment… August 2011 – April 2018.

That’s Entertainment – the end is nigh(er)

Yes, I understand that previous blog post was possibly the worst one I’ve ever written. I sort-of cobbled it together from bits of a blog post I wrote at the beginning of the month, and it didn’t really work, so I’ll keep you up to date with the real-time goings on as a customer of dying high street shop “that’s entertainment”.

Following on from my previous post, I can confirm that the last day will be 15th April, a mere week ‘n’ a half from now. That’s when the last barcode will scan, and my heart will sink lower than… than… oh, I can’t even think of a dirty euphanism for that. I’m losing my touch. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

I’m sure you’re all sick of me whitterng on about this store now. After all, to most [people, it’s just a bloody record / DVD store, but to me, it was more than that. It was a place where music got a second chance. All of those compilations that never got sold, ended up there. All of those CDs and DVDs that lost their cases ended up there, and a good couple of them ended up in my collection.

Anyway, as the bell tolls ever nearer, I’ve taken the opportunity to visit the store again, not one, but twice this week.

Saturday loomed, and after publishing that diabolically bad post on Friday, I thought I’d give the store one more look. At this time, I didn’t know what the closing date was going to be, so I was all about trying to find out when this was.

Instead of boring you all with the details of getting there like I did in the last post, I’ll just say that nothing much had changed. Everything in the Stockton store was still 25% off. and all of the shelves had been “compressed” so only half of the shelves were filled. This also means that they’d emptied their shelves of the “padding” CD cases. These were the empty boxes they used to make the shelves look a bit more full than what they actually were. It turns out they were selling these for £1 a box, containing approximately 160. I’d have picked one up there and then, except getting them back home would have been impossible, so I gave them a miss. I did get a couple of more sleeveless CDs, but nothig to write home about. I was going to go along to the Middlesbrough store too, but Accomplice texted me, and offered the suggestion of a Maccy D’s.

No contest. He picked me up, food was acquired, and that was it for Saturday, except for diagnosing a fault with Accomplice’s PC, and, oc course, a curry.

Sunday was Easter, so nothing was done on this day, except for cataloguing the CDs I’d bought on Saturday, and a run out with Accomplice to a computer shop in Newcastle. It was closed. Back home, more cataloguing!

Bank Holiday Monday came. I’d been thinking of some ways to get one of these boxes of cases home. Eventually, I asked Accomplice if he’d run through me to Stockton. He agreed, and I’m still shocked about this. I suppose there’s very little to do on Bank Holiday Mondays, so I suppose it wasn’t that much of a surprise.

Petrol was purchased from a service station, along with a sausage sarnie that had been sat under a heat lamp for an indeterminate amount of time. This was to become important later on.
Of course, Accomplice driving me to Stockton wasn’t without compromise. Instead of parking in the multi storey car park attached to the shopping centre, he insisted on parking in the outdoor car park, even though I’d already said I’d pay for parking, and it was hoying down with rain. Apparently “walking in the rain is what I got for wanting to come here”. Accomplice occasionally pulls illogical “dick moves”, and I don’t think I’ll ever know why.

I headed to the store, and picked up a box of cases. They also had some of their sleevelss stock, wrapped up and in boxes, for £10 each. Expecting to pay £11, imagine my surprise when it rang in at £5.50 – I didn’t realise that the discount had changed from 25% to 50%. Wahey! I did an unboxing video on facebook. It didn’t go well, as my connection kept dropping, for some unknown reason. Needless today, by part 3, I just recorded it and stuck it on Facebook afterwords. From now on, I think I’ll just stick to recording them and putting them on Youtube. Far less hassle.
Accomplice also went on the hunt for a computer store that might have been open on Easter Monday, eventually settling on Falcon Computers, in Sunderland. another Maccy D’s was suggested. It then became clear that something in my belly didn’t quite feel right. My guts were hurting just a little bit. Enough to knock back a portion of large fries from Maccy D’s, but not enough to attempt a Chicken :eg End.

I got back, went to bed. Got up at about 7, and went out to the Mill House, and despite it being a free bar, I could only knock back a couple. I just wasn’t myself at all. I got back in the house, and felt shivery, despite the heating being set to Volcano. Ugh.

Bed, and thankfully, after 10 hours sleep, I woke up, right as rain, which is quite apt, as all it has done for the past three days is rain constantly. Lovely. But, at least there were no lasting effects from my date with sausage related gut-rot. I feared…. the wurst.

Anyhoo. My clear obsession with a certain shop will come to a grinding and shuddering halt in less than two weeks. This will no doubt run into “Part Four”, so watch this space…. Or come back in two weeks when you’ll be greeted with eerie silence as I think of something to talk about.

That Was Entertainment pt.2… And “Now 4”

Ok, so maybe that last update wasn’t the last time Id visit a “That’s Entertainment” store. If you’ve not been following the blog, you won’t have known that this chain of cheap-arse record stores is “contemplating its future” on the high street. Well, that’s how their blurb stuck ot the front of the counter puts it anyway. The stores have already stopped selling “tech” products, such as mobile phones, tablets, etc. and are no longer accepting new stock.

Anyway, enough about the inevitable. A few weeks ago, I thought I’d take one last tour of the Stockton store. This was one of the better ones in the area for cheap CDs. They always had a large selection of the 49p CDs that I would crave.

After all of my years searching through these boxes, I found plenty, but nothingm I would consider “gold standard”. A diamond in the rough, as it were. Something told me, days before, that I must go to this store. I’m not really a believer in fate, or anything like that, but something bugged me for the entire week, telling me to go, even to the point where I would lie awake, waiting for Saturay to tick by.

Anyway, Friday night came, and I did a few “humorous” live broadcasts on Facebook. It was more of a test for something I have planned. I basically drank beer and played shit songs for about an hour. After the videos completed, I purposely stayed sober. I only had a couple of cans, and that was during the live things I did. Something was tugging at my mind that I just had to go to this store.

I awoke early on Saturday. Thinkfully, despite there being an accumulation of snow on the paths, the roads were clear, meaning that the buses were running from Hartlepool to Stockton. This is a two-leg journey, and the firt leg saw me get off at the town centre. A person, who seemed to have a habit of spitting, told me all about the wellies he qwas wearing, as they stop him from slipping over. It was a riveting conversation, and the 36 bus couldn’t come soon enough.

A normally dull bus ride was brightened by the sight of the local areas covered in snow. It was a surprisingly pretty sight, considering how desparate Teesside looks on your average day. Huge snow drifts stood at the side of the Greatham road – the likes of which we’ve never seen since Boxing Day 1995, and certainly not at the start of March, when the daffodils are meant to be poking though.

I arrive in Stockton, and I get off the bus. There was only one shop I was interested in. Normally, I’d head off to the charity shops, but my radar was firmly fixed on That’s Entertainment. My first glance was at the 30+ boxes of “sleeveless” CDs placed in the centre of the shop. My eyes lit up. It was like Christmas. My heart sank, however, when I realised they were still 49p each. Bugger.

I wouldn’t lie if I said I was a tad disappointed. The Middlesbrough store was going through the exact same turmoil, and they’d reduced their sleeveless stock to 10p.

I started going through them. Some average ones, some unknown ones that could be classics. Mostly filler and classical CDs that I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole. I was on to about the 3rd of 4th box, when I pulled out a CD. My heart stopped.

This wasn’t just any CD. This was one of the rarest CDs going. Namely “Now That’s What I call Music! 4”

For the uninitiated (I got the right word this time), “Now, That’s What I Call Music” is a thrice-yearly collection of chart hits and occasionally, exclusive remixes, that continue to be released to this day. At the time of typing, we’re up to “Now 99”. If you want a time capsule of 80s / 90s / 00s / 10s music, you can’t go wrong than picking up a few of these.

Way back in 1984, Now 4 came out on what was, at the time, the obscure CD format. Tapes and vinyl were, of course, the go-to choice, and CDs were some type of weird luxury that only rich people can afford. This pretty much lasted until the 90s, so a CD, back in 1984 was a clear rarity.

The “Now 4” CD does appear on ebay, but you’re looking at hundreds of pounds. Even Discogs, which is usually a little more sensible with the price, had the latest one selling for around £250, and here I was, holding it for 49p. Cor!

Of course, every story has a downside, and this one is that it’s “sleeveless” – there’s no case for it, so I have the bare CD in a plastic wallet. That probably knocks something like 90% off the value, but it proves it’s out there, and for those lucky bastards that do have a boxed copy, that’s one more out of the equation – yours probably just got that little more valuable! Saying that, for a CD to survive that long, especially without its case, is nothing short of miraculous.

Fast forward to the present day (You’ll probably be reading this on Good Friday), and I think that’s me done with “That’s Entertainment” for ever. Maybe I’ll have a trip down there tomorrow, depending on what services the buses are running, but seeing as I’ve bought approximately 250, that might take some time…

Sixteen days off and what do you get…?

Another year older, and no longer in debt.

Yes, for the first time ever, I booked myself two weeks’ holiday, and tonight is the last night so I thought it’d be fun to share with you what happened. Fun, being the loosest word I can use in this phrase.

Originally, I took the week off on the anniversary of my birth. Unfortunately, that day also co-incided with a trip to the eye infirmary, so this year, my birthday was literally a complete write-off.

And really, I can only think of one thing to type about, and that’s a rather interesting visit to Stockton. OK, not interesting for most people, but for me, it ended up getting lost in the suburbs of the afore-mentioned Teesside town, and thank god it wasn’t raining.

So, let me take you back a couple of weeks. I left work early November, with the thought of two weeks full of charity shop shoppin’ and more CDs than you can possibly imagine. I have two main places to visit when I go to Stockton. the High Street, and the Daisy Chain charity shop, located on the outskirts of town, within view of the A19.

The morning started great. I literally caught the bus to Hartlepool’s glorious town centre with seconds to spare. If my little legs hadn’t carried me any quicker, I’d have missed it. And that would have been shite.

Right, so, anyway. Long story short, Teesside bus ticket purchased, and I get to Stockton nice and early. There’s plenty of time for me to start raiding the charity shops, and I did indeed pick up a fair haul. “Tyne Bargains”, a 2nd hand shop on the High Street also saw a fair chunk of my money. £3 for pretty much my own body weight in CDs. A couple from other assorted charity shops, and a highly disappointing visit to the newly opened “That’s Entertainment” One thing that the festive season always brings, is a drought on the “49p” CDs. Those are the ones that don’t have cases, and are literally a pot-luck of stuff. Completely randon, and I’ve picked up some absolute classics, though I’m sure I’ve rambled on about those before.

Most of the charity shops were plundered, except one, which lies on the outskirts of the town. It’s more like a charity warehouse to be fair, and all of the CDs are 5 for £1.

Daisy Chain charity shop in Portrack Lane, Stockton.
Countless amounts of CDs. Of course, I’ve visited this shop on a number of occasions, and have plundered it for everything that it’s worth. But, you never know, if you somehow stumble accross this photo and/or shop, you might find something worthwhile.

If I remember, I’ll remove that caption. but look at them. Look at all of those CDs. I didn’t even look at the records.

I successfully plundered the shop, and decided to get the bus back to Middlesbrough. Again, perfect timing saw the No. 13 bus to Middlesbrough turn up. Perfect!

Well, I thought we were going to Middlesbrough. Nope. All of the times I’ve caught the bus back home from Middlesbrough, I’ve learned that the 13 stops in the bus staation, but not in the direction I was travelling. As the stops went by, it dawned on me we weren’t going to Middlesbrough, but deeper into native territory. I rang the bell, and got off, knowing I didn’t have a clue where I was. Google maps wasn’t much help. I waited at te bus stop across the road, and noticed there wasn’t any timetable or stop number on this bus stop. What if the 13 didn’t even stop here? Only one thing to do, and that was backtrack.

I walked down by what I hoped was the right road, to see an old lady stood at the bus stop.

“Are you looking for the 13, love?” she says to me…

“Er, I think so”. I then explain my predicament in many less words than what I’ve used here.

“Ohhh, it’s always bloody late. I’ve got to be at the doctors for half three, and….” I’d zoned out at this point. All I wanted was to head back to the bloody High Street, where I knew were I was.

“eeeh, well, I’m going to walk down and catch the 59… That’ll get me as far as St James’s…” I’d zoned out again. I offered to walk down with the old lady as she was currently my only link between getting home, or dying lonely in a strange town. I’m not sure if she warmed to the idea. After all, an out-of-towner walking with an old lady to the bus stop, what could possibly go wrong?

We’d walked about 100 yards down the road, she’d informed me to look out in case the 13 mysteriously turned up… and guess what, just at that point, it did. The next 20 seconds saw me comically running back up to the bus stop, frantically waving my hand for the driver to stop. I get on, it was only the same bloody bus driver who’d took me there in the first place. He must have thought I was a right bloody weirdo, with my bag full of CDs, running back up to the bus stop.

The bus reaches Stockton High Street, but I know this will take me to the bus station.. Everyone except me gets off. The driver asks me where I’m going. In a questionable tone, I say Middlesbrough Bus Station. He then takes the bus out of service, and takes me there directly, as if I had a 46-seat limousine to myself for the next 20 minutes. A quick walk around Middlesbrough later, in the search of an LED light bulb, and I headed home, into the sunset….

Of course, if this was the highlight of the two weeks, that’d have been pretty dismal, but this was the easiest to blog about. After all….

Blog on the tyne is all mine, all mine

For those of you who follow me on Facebook can’t have failed to notice that Rob, one of my 3 readers, has been begging me to do a review of a song. Any song. It sounded like a simple challenge, which the more I thought of it, the harder it got. Songs which I’d never heard for years came flooding back. “oooh, Maybe I should review Sinead Lohan’s ‘What Ever it Takes’… again”. Ohhh, how about “Wash Your Face In My Sink” by The Dream Warriors? Nope, nobody’s ever heard of it, and it’s garbage anyway.

With every facebook post, Rob would add another comment asking me to do it, , and each time, another slew of ideas would come flashing through my mind, blocking everything else out, meaning I’d be running through “Susanna” by The Art Company, and I’d suddenly forget how to breathe. Or something.

I gave up. I wasn’t going to be able to choose a song. It was never going to happen. Therefore, after a couple of comments on Facebook, it was time to let Rob choose a song or two…

Rob: Love it. But PLEASE do a record review!
Me: You know, I can’t decide which one to review. Here’s my music collection, choose a few.

A few moments went by…

Rob: It’s HUGE!

I switched off the webcam, and gave him the correct link to my music collection. Within a few moments, we had choices…

Ok Zig & Zag Them Girls Them Girls
Paul Gascoigne Fog On The Tyne
Bill & Ben Flobbadance

Judging by the title of this entry, I hope you can guess which one I went with.

And so, last night, I went to do a video A walk home from the offy last night filled my head full of ideas. Unfortunately my microphone is knacked, the one in the camera is guff, and I’m sure I can just as well communicate what I was going to say in the video, in a more textual format. Plus, I’m a shitty-arse when it comes to copyright infringement, so a blog entry means I don’t have to rip the song off. Woohoo, and all that. So, with the formalities out of the way, let’s get down to it.

In 1972, Geordie folk-rock group Lindisfarne released a tribute to their home town in the form of a song, the aptly named “Fog on the Tyne”. Despite lyrics about signing on the dole, it pretty much became the band’s anthem, alongside “Meet Me On the Corner”. They would continue to have other hits through the 70s and 80s.

Fast forward to 1990. the world was gripped by Italia 90. The world cup, in other words. Gazza would be forever remembered for getting a yellow card, then bursting into tears during the match against West Germany, which meant he’d miss the final if England made it that far. Suddenly, the country had a hero. A footballer with emotion. His lacrimations were all in vain anyway, as we didn’t reach the final, and finished 4th. Oh well.

Now, I don’t know the reasons WHY this record got comissioned, I’m sure, that if it wasn’t for that yellow card, I wouldn’t be holding this single right now. Gazza was a Geordie, Lindisfarne were Geordies [citation needed], and what way to combine the two than to have them “sing” together on a record. Well.

I’ve actually owned a copy of this song since Xmas 1991. Back then, supermarkets weren’t commonplace. Certainly not as commonplace as they were now. After visiting my cousin Julie, who was living in Stockton at the time, we went to the “Somerville Hypermarket” (the greatest store for the way you live today… I’m so sad I still remember the radio jingle for it). This place was massive, and it was the first time I’d been to somewhere that sold everything you could think of. I remember being in the record section with my aunt Rose, and her picking up a tape for my uncle Jimmy, thinking he would like it. It was “The Hit Pack“. I couldn’t fault the logic at the time. There were a couple of 60s/70s songs on there, either re-released or covered by another band. “Fog On The Tyne” being one of those. There were other songs that wouldn’t have been up Uncle Jimmy’s alleyway… Deee-Lite? the Charlatans? My word, even the slightest mention of “Cubik” by 808 State would have sent his hearing aid into a frenzied panic of whistling.

Xmas time came, and I received a copy of this album. Hurrah! Maybe it was that actual same tape? I don’t know. I’m not bothered. I was happy to have a good copy of “Good Morning Britain” by Aztec Camera. The Gazza song is also on the tape version, but it rarely got played, and the song, for me, disappeared into obscurity.

Whilst in a charity shop in Stockton earlier this year, I picked up a copy. TEN WHOLE PENNIES. I got it home, only to find it had a crack right through the centre. TEN WHOLE PENNIES IN THE BIN. Luckily, during another charity shop dive, I picked up a copy for 40p, and that’s how I ended up with a vinyl copy of this staggering turd.

The cover features a shell-suited Gazza, with a pair of headphones apparently screaming into a microphone. the back of the cover features Gazza again, in a different shell suit, surrounded by the band, with the Tyne bridge as a backdrop. The record label is “Best Records”. I’ve not seen anything else by that record label, so whether it was set up just for that particular record, I do not know.

It says a lot when the people who mixed it wish to remain anonymous. The cover states “Mixed by BB and M”. Clearly, two people didn’t want this record on their CV.

So, the tune itself. Take a classic local song, slap a synthesized drumbeat / bassline over it and get a famous footballer to rap (or rather, speak) over the top of it, and you’ve pretty much got the song. Naturally, some words were replaced, the section about signing on the dole was replaced with Gazza “setting his sights on go-go-go-goals. The entire verse about urination was omitted from the new version.

the B-side is an uninteresting instrumental. the only thing missing is Gazza’s “Vocals”.

So, in conclusion, this song is like having a rock-hard shit. 3 minutes, 42 seconds of sheer, unbearable pain, followed by insurmountable relief when it’s all over.

Judge for yourselves…