canâ€™t st p the Music 25 years of The Record Factory
2 canâ€™t stop the Music
First published in September 2011 by Your Story In A Book Ltd, 22 Roxburgh Road, Paisley, PA2 0UG, Scotland. Tel: 01505 816980 www.yourstoryinabook.co.uk The author retains the sole copyright to his or her contributions to the book and has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without permission in writing from the Your Story In A Book Ltd.
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1 - A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME
5 - MIKE’S BLOBBY BET ROW
3 - MOVIN’ ON UP
7 - For the record – what they say about Mike
2 - CHARTING PROGRESS
4 - PIRATE MIKE MAKES WAVES ON THE AIR
6- MY PAL PAOLO
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WHERE IT ALL STARTED: Mike Dillon’s first record shop in Johnston Street, Paisley.
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A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME T he taxi driver drums his fingers against the steering wheel to the beat of the song coming through the car speakers. It’s a quiet night and Mike Dillon is parked up in Johnston Street, Paisley waiting patiently for the taxi radio to crackle into life with instructions to pick up his next hire. He’s been waiting a long time and boredom is starting to set in. Thank goodness the glove compartment is jam-packed with cassette tapes filled with his favourite tracks. After all, music has played a huge part in his life and not just for the listening pleasure it has given him.
Mike used to be a record shop owner up in the big city of Glasgow and for years he also entertained the crowds in pubs and clubs all over the west of Scotland as a DJ in the guise of super-cool DJ, Mike McKay. But that was back then and now Mike is making his living driving taxis. He looks out the windscreen, across the cobbled street and surveys the row of tenements in front of him. There are shops on the ground floor of the old buildings and lots of flats above the shops. Then his eyes come upon a For Sale sign above one of the shops that used to be a hairdresser’s.
Suddenly the thought comes to him - he’d open a record shop again and that empty shop across the road would be the ideal location. That was 25 years ago and Mike has turned his idea that night into a very successful reality. He bought these premises and a couple of months later, in October 1986, opened The Record Factory, at 3 Johnston Street. Today, the beat still goes on for Mike as he sells records and CDs to customers around the globe from his business, which is still based in his home town of Paisley. Mike takes up the story: ‘When I saw the For Sale sign above the
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THE BOSS: Mike Dillon photographed on the opening of his Record Factory shop in Paisley, in October 1986.
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shop, I decided there and then that I wanted that shop. ‘I used to have a record shop, called Sleeves, on Dumbarton Road, Glasgow and then I went into wholesaling records, but that turned out to be a financial disaster for me. ‘But I still had ambitions to open a record store in my home town and I thought this was a good site for a shop. I was fairly confident I could make it work because we were in an era when sales of vinyl records and cassettes were at its height. Sales of
‘When you think of a factory, you think of some big place, but the irony of it was that our shop was tiny.’ the shiny, new compact discs were also starting to take off and people were eager to replace their old favourite vinyl LPs with the newfangled format.’ The next thing Mike had to decide on was a name for his new venture. He says: ‘I was thinking I needed to come up with a name no one
else had. It was just one of those things that came into my head and it seemed The Record Factory was the right name for my shop. ‘When you think of a factory, you think of some big place, but the irony of it was that our shop was tiny.’ Mike re-mortgaged his flat to raise the £18,000 to buy the shop, which
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MUSIc cRITIc: Mike had a good relationship with the local paper, the Paisley Daily Express and he ended writing record reviews on their music pages. was owned by hairdresser Charlie Galbraith and negotiated a £10,000 overdraft from the local branch of the TSB. He was ready to rock ’n’ roll. Mike continues: ‘The opening of The Record Factory was four weeks late, as we had some problems with the title deeds to the premises and in the end the launch was pretty lowkey. All I did was take an advert out in the local newspaper, the Paisley Daily Express and on a Wednesday morning, open the doors to the music fans of the world - well, Paisley, anyway. ‘The shop staff was a girl, Gillian who worked part-time and me. I had known her when she worked as a dispatcher in the taxi company and she had a great personality and attitude when she was dealing with people.
‘She was exactly what I needed. ‘It was very small premises only about 11 feet across by 30 feet long. We didn’t even have a loo in the shop and we had to go out the front door and up a tenement close next door to use an outside toilet. By God, it was freezing in the winter and more often
than not, the window was broken. ‘Some people may have thought I was mad opening a record shop in Paisley as the town already had another eight stores selling records and CDs. But I was confident I could be different and better than the rest and make a go of my new venture.’ Mike did his market research by going on spying missions to see what the opposition was like and what he could do better. He also asked people he knew what they liked and didn’t like about the record shops in the town. The first record to be bought from The Record Factory was the classic Fleetwood Mac album, Rumours. And one of Mike’s early customers, Wallace Burt is still coming into his shop to buy CDs 25 years later. Wallace says: “I was an avid music
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one of the first: Wallace Burt was one of The Record Factory’s first customers and 25 years on, he’s still buying music from MIke. Dillon. Here’s Wallace with the first record he bought at the shop - Alone Again Or, by The Damned.
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At first, my intention was to make The Record Factory a shop that only sold albums, as I wanted to have a quality shop selling quality music for the discerning music lover. collector and I would be in Mike’s shop almost every second day. I would spend every penny I had on records and CDs. “Before The Record Factory opened, I was buying my records from Boots and Woolworths, but it was great having another record shop in the town. “I bought my first CD single from The Record Factory - The Damned track, Alone Again Or.’ Wallace adds: ‘I now have a music collection of around 6500 CDs and another 6000 vinyl records, so you could say I became a regular in Mike’s shop.’ ‘What has made Mike’s record stores so popular over the years has been the great staff he has had, their musical knowledge and the fantastic level of service they provide.” Mike continues: ‘I was elated when I opened the shop, as it had
been my dream for a long time. At first, my intention was to make The Record Factory a shop that only sold albums, as I wanted to have a quality shop selling quality music for the discerning music lover. ‘However, those lofty ambitions were soon to disappear as customers kept asking for singles. And like all good businesses, we just had to give the customer what they wanted.’ It wasn’t all plain sailing at the start, as Mike’s bank manager was keeping a close eye on how the shop was doing. Takings would be deposited at the bank every Monday and Friday, but between these days cheques for buying stock and other expenses would have to be honoured. Says Mike: ‘One midweek we were £23 over our £10,000 overdraft limit and the bank manager sent one of his tellers down to the shop to ask for the £23 out the till. The young teller he
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YOU KINNEY BEAT IT : Fern Kinney’s Groove Me was a best- seller for Mike in the early years of The Record Factory. had sent was embarrassed by having to walk into the shop and ask for the 23 quid. ‘After this happening another couple of times, I decided that it had to stop and I marched over to the bank and demanded to see the manager and told him it wasn’t on.’ Although Mike loved the idea of having a shop that sold only albums he couldn’t ignore the demand for singles coming from his new and
growing band of customers. Mike explains: ‘Paisley had a thriving club scene in the Eighties and DJs who were always looking for the latest sounds to play started coming into the shop asking if I could get them disco tracks. ‘I had a good reputation from my previous shop, Sleeves for being able to get this kind of music and I knew what went down well on the dancefloor as I’d also been a DJ
myself. ‘When one DJ started coming into the shop, it wasn’t long before the rest started to follow and it just mushroomed. The Record Factory became the place to be if you wanted to hear and buy the latest disco and dancefloor tracks – particularly if you wanted to get your hands on imported records.’ Once the word got round that the DJs were coming to the shop to buy
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their records, the people going to the clubs started to come in as well. Mike says: ‘I wasn’t expecting that to happen and I was surprised at how quickly the shop became so popular and successful. The DJs were coming to The Record Factory from all over the west of Scotland and I supplied record to jocks from as far afield as Inverness.’ Amazingly, a record that never made the UK Top 40 became a huge
hit with the record-buying public in Paisley. Fern Kinney re-released her 1979 disco track, Groove Me, in 1987 and it became the best-selling 12-inch single in The Record Factory’s 25year history. Mike explains: ‘It was the dancefloor filler of its day. Put it on the turntable and the reaction from the crowd was unbelievable. Once the DJs heard it, they snapped it up and then there was an avalanche of people coming in to buy the
record. ‘And it wasn’t a short-lived success. We sold more than 500 copies of Groove Me and it just kept selling over a two-year period. Everyone who went to the dancing in Paisley came into the shop to buy that record. ‘That was the power of the local discos and clubs that a song that didn’t even make the charts although it should have - was such a huge hit in Paisley.’
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POPPING IN: When The Record Factory became a chart shop, Mike began to get visits from artists promoting their newly-released records. Sandie Shaw, above, and Pat Kane from Hue and Cry, above right, were two of the first.
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he Record Factory got a real boost to business early in 1987 when Mike was given chart shop status. This meant every record Mike sold counted towards the eagerlyawaited Top 40 radio programme on a Sunday evening on Radio 1 and of course, a Top Ten slot meant a better chance of an appearance on Top of the Pops TV show, on a Thursday night. Mike explains: ‘Being a chart shop means you are the Holy Grail for record companies and they were now desperate for me to promote and sell their particular artists’ records. It was
also great from a pounds and pennies perspective, as we became a priority to get special discounts when we bought in records from the labels. ‘The record company reps were never away from the shop and there was a constant stream of freebies coming my way with posters, promo materials, artist’s T-shirts, tour jackets, framed silver and gold discs, free concert tickets, vouchers for wine merchants and bottles of booze as gifts from the reps trying to get me to push their particular acts. ‘I could have been at a gig almost every night of the week with the amount of free concert tickets I was offered and I would hand them out
to other shopkeepers in Johnston Street.’ The other bonus of being a chart shop is that The Record Factory would get personal appearances from artists promoting their latest single. The first visit Mike had at his shop turned out to be from a British musical icon – Sandie Shaw. And he didn’t even know she was coming. Mike says: ‘One morning I heard the door opening and thought it was just another customer. When I looked up from where I was standing behind the counter, I could see it was one of the few female record company reps at the time and there was a woman standing behind her.
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USA here i come: Mike saw the sights of Boston when he used his travel voucher prize for having the best window display to go to America.
‘My prize was a £500 travel voucher and I used it to go to Boston in the USA.
‘The rep walks up to the counter and says - Hi Mike, I’d like to introduce you to Sandie Shaw. ‘Well, you could have knocked me down with a 12inch white label promo record. I was gobsmacked. Here was one of the great British female singers of all time and she was standing right in front of me in my wee record shop, in Paisley. ‘This was someone I had watched win the Eurovision Song Contest and had seen
on Ready Steady Go and Top of the Pops and she wants to say hello to me. ‘That was about all she said, though. Sandie Shaw seemed very shy and after the initial pleasantries had been exchanged, the rep took over the conversation and the singer drifted to the back of the shop. ‘That’s when she started drawing doodles on the sleeves of her latest single, Nothing Less Than Brilliant. She
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drew on about half a dozen copies and handed them to me. I reckon Sandie Shaw was a bit shy and didn’t really want to be in the shop and get involved with all the schmoozing that went on between record companies and chart shops. ‘I sold the singles she had doodled on at the normal price, and I often wonder how much they would fetch on eBay these days.’ Hue and Cry’s Pat Kane has a reputation of being a political leftwing hard-liner. But he still knew
how to play the record promotion game. Mike explains: ‘Pat Kane came into my shop one day armed with the gift of a bottle of whisky for me and he stayed for quite a while chatting about their new single, Ordinary Angel. He was another surprise visitor, but it was no surprise that I enjoyed drinking the amber nectar he had given me. ‘But while the record labels were plying me with freebies and
gifts, I was also doing the business for them. In 1988 I won a Phonogram competition for having the best window display with a satellite dish I had borrowed from a local TV shop. ‘My prize was a £500 travel voucher and I used it to go to Boston in the USA. It just gets better and better!’ But Mike’s entrepreneurial spirit got him into trouble with the people running the team he has supported since he was a boy - St Mirren FC. In 1987, St Mirren won the Scottish Cup and a local company, Jukebox
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A REAL SAINT: Mike has been a lifelong fan of St Mirren FC and as his business prospered, he sponsored the ball boys at the clubâ€™s Love Street stadium.
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BAcK TO ScHOOL : Mike sponsored his old school’s football team
Productions had recorded and released the obligatory Cup Final record, which was a re-working of When The Saints Go Marching In, with new lyrics. The deal was that Jukebox would sell the 5000 records pressed to the club who would then retail them to the fans. The people running St Mirren decided that no one but the club would sell the record, despite Mike’s pleas for a stock of the 7-inch vinyl single to sell from The Record Factory. Not to be beaten by this intransigence from St Mirren, Mike heard Jukebox had a couple of hundred spare records over the 5000 St Mirren were due to be given. He
approached the company and agreed a deal to buy records from them. The day after St Mirren lifted the trophy at Hampden Park, the team were parading the cup around their then Love Street stadium to thousands of cheering fans. Mike set himself up in the stadium car park, opened the boot of his car and started selling the record to fans. It wasn’t long before Mike had to slam shut the boot and high-tail it out of the stadium after seeing an irate St Mirren general manager, Jackie Copland running towards him shouting something about calling the police. By the end of the 80s The Record Factory was going from strength
to strength due to the still highlypopular disco music scene in Paisley and the chart shop status. Mike says: ‘Both these aspects worked well since I would be given promo copies of records before they were officially released and there would be a queue of DJs at the door desperate to be first to get their hands on a record and get it on their turntable before anyone else. Just like all other record shops, we sold our promo copies of records and there was no shortage of takers to snap them up. ‘I also had an immensely proud moment in 1988 when I was asked if I would like to sponsor the St Aelred’s School football team. I had gone to
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the nameâ€™s dillon... Mike took part in a photoshoot for his local paper promoting a competition relating to a Bond movie.
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St Aelred’s, in Glenburn, Paisley, had left without a single academic qualification and here I was now, running a successful business and in a position to sponsor the school football team. Over the past 25 years Mike has been involved in many sponsorship and charitable activities in his local community. The Record Factory also sponsored the Linwood High School girl’s football team and the ballboys at St Mirren, along with taking trackside advertising at the team’s home ground. And Mike sponsored one of St Mirren’s first-team players, Jamie Fullarton for a season.
He has also donated countless raffle prizes to charitable events and newspaper competitions. He even dressed up as James Bond for a photograph in the Paisley Daily Express to promote a contest the paper was running with prizes provided by The Record Factory on the back of a new 007 movie. ‘I don’t know if I ever really sold that many extra records or CDs out of all the sponsorship I’ve been involved in, but I wanted to support my local football team and when we were doing well, I wanted to put something back into the community.’
‘I wanted to support my local football team and when we were doing well, I wanted to put something back into the community’
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MORE ROOM: In 1990, Mike moved The Record Factory to new premises round the corner from his original shop. This new store was six times the size.
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movin’ on up
arly in 1990 Mike realised his business had outgrown its present location and he went looking for bigger premises. He didn’t have to look far, because just 100 yards round the corner at 48 Causeyside Street there was an empty shop for sale, which he bought for £100,000. ‘It was six times the size of the shop in Johnston Street and was ideal to cope with the growth in the business,’ says Mike. ‘We now had a good-sized area out front for display, storage area at the back, a kitchen and joy of joys, an inside toilet. ‘The extra space meant we weren’t also bumping into each other
and standing on each other’s toes trying to serve the customers. I bet the customers were glad as well as sometimes when the old shop was busy on a Saturday, they were packed in like sardines. ‘I had to shift thousands of records and CDs across the road to the new shop, so I filled the boot of my car and drove for a few seconds to The Record Factory’s new home. It took 20 trips mind you and a couple of my regular customers came down that day to help me move.’ Mike adds: ‘One of the reasons we had become so successful was the relationship we had built up with our customers. We treated them the way we would want to be treated as a
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birthday boy: Mike’s staff made sure the world knew when he was celebrating his Fiftieth birthday with posters in the shop window.
customer ourselves. ‘We also made sure we knew what their tastes in music were and when something was released I thought they would like, I would soon let them know it was available. ‘By the early 90s, the growth of the business meant I was also able to employ more people with three full-time and one part-time members of staff.’
‘When customers came in to see him he spoke to them, signed record sleeves, took their money and rang the sale on the till’ More artists were quickly beating a path to The Record Factory to promote their new releases. ‘Some of the personal appearances
by artists in the new shop were very memorable,’ says Mike. ‘We had this soul singer, Kenny Thomas come to the shop to promote his new single,
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SOUL TRADER : When soul singer, Kenny Thomas came to The Record Factory on a promotional visit he got behind the counter and served the customers. Tender Love. ‘But he didn’t just turn up to shake a few hands and mutter a few pleasantries. He got his sleeves rolled up, came behind the counter and asked to be shown how the till worked. ‘When customers came in to see him, he spoke to them, signed record sleeves, took their money, rang the sale up on the till and put the record
in a bag for the customer. He was a joy to have in the shop that day and the fans loved him.’ However, not all artists’s visits were as successful, as Mike explains ruefully: ‘We had a singer Caron Wheeler who had been with the Soul to Soul band and was promoting a solo single on RCA called, Don’t Quit. ‘There was a good crowd waiting
for her, but she comes into the shop half-an-hour late, storms into the back shop telling me that she wasn’t going to sign any autographs or pose for photos with fans. ‘I was raging at her attitude. I turned to the rep and these were my exact words - well, what the f**k is she doing here? I told the rep to get the singer out of the shop. ‘There were still about 30 customers
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. . . G n i o G
DISAPPOInTInG: Caron Wheeler
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! e n o G
hanging about and, just like me, they were angry and disappointed. So, we took a dozen of her 12-inch singles out on the pavement and set fire to them. ‘We lit the paper sleeves of the records with a disposable lighter and watched the black plastic melt on to the pavement.’ Mike continues: ‘However, that incident was an exception and we did have some fantastic personal appearances, which saw the shop packed with fans. One of the most successful was when Hollyoaks heartthrob actor, Will Mellor came to The Record Factory to promote his single, which was a remake of the Leo Sayer
hit, When I Need You. ‘We decided to make the personal appearance at 3.30pm - just in time for all the teenage girls coming out of Castlehead High School, in Paisley. ‘There were more than 200 adoring female fans waiting for Will to come out of the back shop. It was unbelievable. The girls were queued round the inside of the shop and then outside down the street. ‘As well as giving everyone an autograph, Will gave each and everyone of the girls a kiss. Some of the girls got their kiss from Will and then went to the back of the queue to get another smacker.’
LIGHT MY fIRE: The visit of Caron Wheeler to The Record Factory left Mike and fans raging . Here he reenacts setting fire to her records outside the shop.
HOT LIPS: Will Mellor went down a storm with the teenage girls he gave a kiss to when he visited The Record Factory.
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piRate MiKe MaKes Waves on the aiR M IKE got back behind the record decks in 1990 and this time it was to be a presenter with Paisley Local Radio, which went on air for short periods with a special licence. But Mike soon lived up to the rock ’n’ roll ideology and became a pirate radio DJ broadcasting from an empty flat in a Paisley high-rise block. Mike says: ‘Two guys from Paisley - Robert and Joe Markie - came into the shop and asked if I wanted to do a show on their K-oss FM pirate radio station. ‘They were broadcasting on 100.5 and 103.5 FM from an empty flat in
one the Foxbar high flats and were building up a big listener base. They were incredibly successful for an operation like theirs and people as far away as Dunfermline were picking up their signal and getting in touch with the station to say how much they liked the shows. ‘I jumped at the chance and DJ Mike McKay was once again spinning the discs. Every Monday night I was broadcasting my favourite tracks to anyone who wanted to listen - and it appeared there were plenty who had their radios tuned in. ‘Goodness knows what the residents in the Heriot Court flats
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FEELING CHIPPER: When Mike was a presenter on the Q96 radio station he interviewed Dan McCafferty, top right, who played with the band Nazareth, right. Mike shared a bag of chips with McCafferty during the interview.
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‘He says he knows I’ve bee been broadcasting illegally on K-oss FM pirate radio station’ thought was going on with people coming in and out the high rise every night with bundles of records and cassette tapes in their arms. ‘I genuinely believe the broadcasting giant that is Radio Clyde were beginning to get worried about the increase in popularity of K-oss FM. We were playing the music the people wanted to hear and the DJs had a bit of style never taking themselves too seriously. ‘I was having a great time and it was quite exciting sneaking in and out of the high flats to do my show. I had always wanted to be a radio DJ and here I was fulfilling that ambition.’ But after a couple of months being a radio pirate, Mike had to hang up his cutlass and headphones after getting a visit from a serious-looking man from the Radio Authority. ‘One day I was behind the counter and in walks this guy who asks for a quiet word with me,’ explains Mike. ‘He introduces himself as Mr Jones from the Radio Authority and says that he knows I’ve been illegally broadcasting on the K-oss FM pirate radio station.
‘Of course, I denied all knowledge of such a thing until he pulls out photographs of me walking out of Heriot Court carrying a box of records and he tells me they also have recordings of a DJ broadcasting, which matches my voice perfectly. ‘I was speechless and then he offered me a deal that if a stopped broadcasting, the matter would be closed, but if I carried on I would be prosecuted. I decided to accept his offer and my career as a pirate DJ came swiftly to an end.’ Later on in 1992, Mike went legit as a broadcaster to become a
shareholder and presenter on the new local radio station in Paisley, Q96. He also held the position of Head of Music at the station. It was a great period in Mike’s life as he explains: ‘I broadcast on Q96 for four years doing a show of 60s music on a Sunday between noon and 2pm. One of my proudest moments was when someone told they had been at the famous Barras market, in Glasgow and my show was being played on all the radios there on a Sunday afternoon. ‘I also presented a rock music show
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at ease: Mike put Scots singing star, Lulu at ease when he was due to interview her for Q96. He told her that he wasnâ€™t interested in talking about her personal life, but only her singing career.
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on a Tuesday between 8pm and 10pm and a new releases and classic tracks show on a Friday between 5.45pm and 8pm. ‘I also used to have the artists in for interviews on these shows and one of the best nights was when Dan McCafferty, the lead singer of Nazareth came in. He brought a big bag of chips into the studio, so we shared the chips while we did the interview and had a great laugh. ‘Lulu was another great interview, which was due to take place shortly after it was announced she was to divorce her then husband, John Frieda. Ironically, the single she was promoting was called, Independence. ‘Before we went on air I told her I wasn’t interested in her personal life and only wanted to talk to her about her singing career. She appreciated that, became very relaxed about the whole thing and gave me a great interview.’ Mike adds: ‘The thought of interviewing Maggie Bell, the lead singer of Stone the Crows scared the hell out of me. She had the reputation of being a fiercesome lady and to make sure I knew my stuff, I did a lot of research into her life and career. The last thing I wanted was the legendary Maggie Bell chastising me for getting something wrong. ‘I was very, very nervous when she came into the Q96 studio, but the interview turned out fine and I think she was quietly impressed
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a bell-ter: When Mike heard he was to interview singer, Maggie Bell he was very nervous because of her fiercesome reputation. But the pair got on well and Mike broadcast a great interview on Q96.
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adam fine fellow: Mike enjoyed interviewing Adam Faith. that I knew my stuff and had done my homework on her. We got on so well that she posed for a photograph with me for the local paper and gave me tickets for a gig she was playing in Glasgow the next night.’ Another famous pop music icon from the Sixties Mike interviewed was Adam Faith who had agreed to come in to the station in Lady Lane, Paisley for a quick ten-minute interview. Mike recalls: ‘Sometimes when you are interviewing someone it’s pretty straightforward and you ask a question, they answer it and that’s as
far as it goes. Other times you get on well with the person you’re speaking to and the interview is much, much better. ‘Speaking to Adam Faith was one of
stayed for half-an-hour. ‘At the end of the interview he asked if I could get him a taxi, so he could get back to Glasgow. I’d got on that well with him I told him to forget about taxis because I’d give him a lift. All the way up to the city we chatted about music and different radio stations over the years. ‘He was a fantastic guy and sadly, he died in 2003 and is no longer with us. ‘Being involved with Q96 was great for The Record Factory as we supplied all the records for the station and me being on the radio certainly upped the profile of the shop.’
‘We just seemed to hit it off and it was just like two mates sitting in a pub chatting away’ the latter cases. We seemed to hit it off and it was just like two mates sitting in a pub chatting away. He came away with some great stories that night and instead of a ten-minute interview, he
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MIKE’S BLOBBY BET ROW I n the run-up to Christmas 1993, Mike made the national papers when he was banned by bookies William Hill and Coral from placing a £1000 bet on Mr Blobby being the Christmas Number One in the pop charts. And it was Mike’s bid to place the big bet that led to all bookies in the UK refusing to take any more wagers on the Christmas Number One. He stood to make £3000 if they
had taken his bet as the odds were 3-1 with the other contender for the Festive top spot being the Take That single, Babe. Mike explains: ‘Mr Blobby had been Number One the week before, but had been knocked off the top spot by Take That. But I knew the pink rubber man’s self-titled song was going to make a return to the top of the charts. ‘I was confident because the
NOT BLOBBY LIKELY: Mike caused a stir when bookmakers William Hill aand Coral refused to take his £1000 bet that Mr Blobby would be the Christmas Number One in 1993.
industry-only midweek chart - which was only supposed to be known to industry insiders, although I had good contacts among those in the know - indicated the record would go back to Number One. I had heard on the grapevine that Woolworths had ordered huge amounts of the single in the run-up to Christmas and Mr Blobby appeared on the popular Noel Edmond’s House Party Saturday night TV show every week.
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PAPER BOY: Mike made the pages of the Daily Record newspaper with the story, left, about his row with William Hill and Coral over the Mr Blobby Christmas Number One bet. The pink rubber man kept Take That, below, off the festive chart top spot.
‘Trying to place such a large bet obviously aroused suspicion and my wager was turned down by the two bookies. But what they didn’t know was that several days earlier, along with a friend of mine, I managed to place £200 of other bets at different bookmaker’s shops. At the time, Mike told the Daily Record: ‘It’s just not fair. I’ve had to put up with selling the terrible record and hearing it on the radio.’ As Mike has already alluded to, customer service played a big part in the success of The Record Factory. Two members of staff in particular played a major role in building that
success. Graham Millar had a very broad taste in music and the more obscure the better. When he used to walk into The Record Factory as a teenager, Mike would groan. But that was before Mike realised he would be able to use the lad’s extensive music knowledge to the shop’s advantage. Mike explains: ‘Graham would come into the shop and I would say to myself - oh no, here’s that guy with the weird taste in music. He was always asking for albums of obscure acts that would be very difficult to get a hold of. ‘But when I advertised for a new
member of staff and Graham applied, I gave him the job right away because he really did know his stuff. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of indie bands and the American music scene and he put this wisdom to good use in the shop when he was dealing with customers. ‘Another great member of staff I had was Sue Craig who was a very good singer and was in a band called, Charlie Don’t Surf. Sue was always smiling and had a good word for everyone. She was a genuinely nice person and all the customers loved her. ‘She later got married, had kids
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STAff Of LEGEnD: The customer service from Record Factory staff is legendary. But tragedy struck when Sue Craig, left, died in a car crash. Pictured next to her is Graham Millar who had a great musical knowledge.
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‘It was the saddest time in the history of The Record Factory - Sue was a gem and we miss her’ and stopped working at The Record Factory, but tragically she died in a car crash. Although no one looks forward to a funeral, Sue’s was especially hard for me to go to and it was the worst funeral I’ve ever been to. It’s terrible she was taken at such a young age, leaving a grieving husband and young children. It was the saddest time in the history of The Record Factory - Sue was a gem and we miss her terribly.’ Mike continues: ‘People like Graham and Sue were central to the success of The Record Factory and although I was the main man, they and others who have worked for me, have been central to our success. ‘People were made to feel welcome when they walked through the doors of the shop and we would get Christmas cards from customers and some would even drop in wee gifts for us over the Festive period. We were seen as friends, not just people who sold records and CDs.’ By the mid-90s Mike could see a problem looming on the horizon with supermarkets selling videos and CDs to shoppers at less than what he could buy them wholesale. It had a real impact on his business and he could see sales start to dip. Mike realised he couldn’t compete against the big multi-nationals, so he had to adapt to the market and move into wholesaling as well as retailing
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NAME CHANGE: In 2006 Mike changed the name of his shop to Apollo Music - after the Greek and Roman God of music. through the shop. Says Mike: ‘Over the years I had made lots of contacts in the industry both in the UK and overseas, so I started buying CDs in bulk from Germany and Holland where I was getting a better price. ‘As well as selling to customers who came into The Record Factory shop, I was now supplying other independent record stores everywhere from Orkney to North East England. ‘After a few years, I was doing more
business in the wholesale market than in retail from the shop. By the time we got into the new millennium the wholesale side of the business was subsidising the shop.’ And if the supermarkets moving into the home entertainment market wasn’t enough, along came the phenomenon of internet shopping. Once people got used to the idea of giving their credit card details on the internet, Mike faced another huge challenge. People’s shopping habits when it came to music changed as
more and more bought their CDs online. Mike explains: ‘The internet companies had no problem undercutting retailers like me and it didn’t take them long to suss out that by basing their virtual record stores out of the Channel Island of Jersey, they could charge customers even less, as they didn’t need to pay VAT on orders under £18. ‘Of course, they found a way round the £18 limit. If a customer’s order was more than that £18, it was split
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ROCKIN’ ALL OVER THE WORLD: Mike sends CDs to all corners of the globe through his internet business based at his Paisley shop.
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into several orders - all under that figure. This was the death knell for many independent record shops as we couldn’t compete with not having to charge customers VAT.’ Once again it was a case of having to adapt to survive, or in Mike’s case more like if you can’t beat them - join them. ‘I didn’t have a choice if I wanted to stay in business,’ he says. ‘In 2003 I started selling CDs and vinyl records from our eBay shop, Amazon and
Facebook. Mike was able to keep the retail side of his business going thanks to the wholesale and internet wings of The Record Factory. In 2006, he realised the shop needed a revamp and as well as a lick of paint to freshen up the place, he also chose a new name – Apollo Music, named after the Greek and Roman God of music. He explains: ‘The shop was looking tired and it needed refurbished to brighten it up a bit. I also took the opportunity to change the name hoping that it would give the retail side a lift with the re-launch. ‘The Record Factory name had served me well, even if it did cause some confusion to a customer or two.
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A woman in her sixties came in one day and asked for a record that I didn’t have in stock. I told her that I could order it, but it wouldn’t be available for a few days. ‘She then asked could I not go through the back and make a copy for her. The wee soul thought because we were called The Record Factory, we made the record on the premises.’ As time went on it became even more apparent to Mike that if he was to survive he would have to make a real go of his internet sales business. ‘I sourced CDs and vinyl records from all over the world using the contacts I had built up over the years,’ he says. ‘And I was now not only serving the Buddies of Paisley, but I was sending to customers all over the world as well. ‘I’ve supplied to our internet customers in America, Europe, Australia, Belize, Asia, Africa, South America, the Falkland Islands
and even Tibet. The beauty of our operation now is that with the internet shop you can do business even when you are sleeping, as people in many different time zones around the globe order CDs from us. ‘Our strength is that we can source unusual or hard-to-come-by albums that people can’t buy in their supermarket. I will source the albums people want to have in their collection. ‘It’s a bit like having a crystal ball though when I am buying in our stock, as I have to guess what people will want before they even realise it.” Mike has sold about five times as many CDs online as he has in the shop since he started his internet business. Little wonder you see piles of padded bags everywhere waiting to be filled and despatched from Apollo Music, in Causeyside Street to all corners of the globe. Internet sales now account for 80 per cent of Mike’s business.
‘It’s a bit like having a crystal ball though when I am buying in our stock’
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BAGS OF BUSINESS ACUMEN: MIke has developed a successful internet business and sends CDs around the world in the ubiquitous Jiffy bag.
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ME AND MY MATE: Paolo Nutini was a regular in Mikeâ€™s shop as a teenager and when he launched his first album, came back to the store to play an acoustic set.
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GOOD TASTE: Mike knew Paolo Nutini had good taste in music from the CDs the singer would buy from his shop. Paolo even bought a compilation set of skiffle music.
MY PAL PAOLO
aolo Nutini may be one of the hottest rock and pop acts to come out of Scotland for many a long year, but his musical education owes more than just a little to Mike Dillon and The Record Factory. As a teenager Paolo would be a regular visitor to Mike’s Causeyside Street shop to spend his pocket money on the latest CDs. And the music he was buying undoubtedly influenced the youngster and gave him inspiration as a singer and songwriter in the making. ‘I remember Paolo being a regular in the shop,’ says Mike. ‘At first I
thought he was just another teenager who was very much into their music. It wasn’t until much later that someone told me that he was a bit of a singer, although I didn’t realise just how much of a talent he was. ‘I knew he had a good taste in music from what he was buying in the shop and we were on nodding terms if I ever saw him around the town. ‘But it wasn’t until one of the reps from Warner Brothers told me they had signed a boy from Paisley and his name was Paolo Nutini did I realise that Paolo was heading for the big time.’
Even after the massive success of Paolo’s first album, These Streets, the Paisley-born singer would still visit Mike’s shop to buy CDs. Mike explains: ‘Not long after These Streets hit the charts, Paolo came into the shop and bought a box set of skiffle music. It was unusual that someone of his age should want to listen to skiffle music, which was popular in the 50s and 60s. ‘But I wasn’t really surprised that Paolo would buy the box set because I knew he had an open mind to all different kinds of music. I think he takes his influences when he’s writing songs from many different
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proud possession: MIke with a platinum disc of Paolo Nutini’s These Streets album. music styles and I’m sure I can detect a skiffle influence in his follow-up album, Sunny Side Up.’ One of Paolo’s personal appearances at Mike’s shop to promote the These Streets album also led to the biggest crowd ever turning up to see an artist at The Record Factory. Mike takes up the story: ‘It was in July 2006 and I had asked Warner’s if Paolo could do a personal
‘ I’d never had an artist come to the shop out of normal opening hours. I was really worried that hardly anyone would turn up to see Paolo’ appearance at the shop. They said that was OK, but because of his tight schedule, the only time he could make it to Paisley was at 8pm. ‘I wasn’t sure that would work as I’d never had an artist come to the
shop to meet fans out of normal opening hours. I wasn’t sure I would get a good turnout at that time of the night, but I reluctantly agreed. ‘At ten minutes to eight the shop was almost empty and I was really
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worried that hardly anyone would turn up to see Paolo. And what made it more important for the event to be a success was some big-wigs from Warners were going to be turning up at the shop as well. ‘But by the time eight o’clock came around the place was heaving with fans who had turned up in their droves as if out of nowhere. We couldn’t squeeze another person inside the shop and the people were
queuing up outside the shop and spilling on to the road. We even had a couple of cops turn up to see what the commotion was all about. Mike adds: ‘It was the busiest personal appearance I ever had and when Paolo started playing an acoustic set perched on top of the shop counter, the atmosphere was fantastic. ‘The fans outside the shop who couldn’t get in went into The George
pub next door and took chairs out on to the pavement to stand on so they could see in through the window. ‘There were more than 200 people at the shop that night and everyone warmed to Paolo who played a good few songs with two of his backing band – a lead guitarist on acoustic guitar and a bass player playing through one of those tiny practice amps. ‘Even after he had finished playing,
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n’t s a h c usi m e h lly t d and u f k n ‘Tha stoppe ly, the ful e p o h just t a e b on s e o g n.’ o d n a
Paolo hung around and we didn’t get out of the shop until 10.30pm that night.’ The suits from Warner’s were so impressed by what went on that night they later presented Mike with the platinum disc for Paolo’s These Streets album. ‘I’ve had lots of silver gold and platinum discs given to me over the years, but that one for Paolo’s album is my proudest possession.’ Mike, now 60 years young, sums up the last 25 years of providing the music to the people from both his Paisley shops. ‘It’s been exciting, challenging and like a never-ending roller coaster ride,’ he says. ‘I’ve had to adapt to survive, but that’s the name of the game and thankfully the music hasn’t stopped and hopefully, the beat just goes on and on.’
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MATT BURTON is sales director for music wholesalers, Mozo Media and has dealt with Mike for many years. He says: ‘Mike Dillon is a legend in the music retail industry and is a larger-than-life character. He’s one of the old school, he loves his music and is passionate about selling music to people. ‘Mike always tells it like it is and when I first came across him I was quite fearful of him. I’m English and Mike always played the angry Jock perfectly. He’s still an angry Scotsman, but in a nice way now. He’s one of the most genuine guys I know.’ Matt adds: ‘He taught me a valuable lesson and that is not to tell little white lies to retailers when you mess up a delivery of stock. We mistakenly hadn’t sent out an order to Mike and he came on the phone asking what had happened. ‘I told him that the order had been despatched and there must be a problem with the delivery company. As soon as he was off the phone, I quickly made sure the order went out. ‘But when the order did eventually arrive at Mike’s shop, the date on the invoice was the day Mike had phoned to complain. I was rumbled. ‘Well, he came on the phone and didn’t stop shouting at me for ten minutes. I decided that you are better just to tell the truth as you will always get found out - especially by Mike Dillon.’
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Gavin Simpson was the rep that brought Will Mellor to The Record Factory for the now-famous personal appearance that had the teenage girls queuing up for a kiss from the Hollyoaks-star-turned pop singer. Gavin describes how Mike Dillon is viewed by people in the record industry: ‘Mike is very different from
any other record dealer in Scotland as he is very business orientated. ‘He is a champion for the independent record shop and is always haranguing record companies for better deals. But at the same time he is very eager to work with the record companies to bring the best of the new music to his customers.’
Gavin added: ‘There were a few reps who would be a bit scared when they were visiting Mike’s shop because he was very forthright and had a lot to say for himself. But I have to say that 99 per cent of the time, Mike would be right and his passion for music is legendary.’
For the record – what they say about MikE
Brendan Cameron worked as a rep for the EMI and CBS record labels and was a regular in The Record Factory. He says: ‘Mike Dillon is a larger than life character in the record business. ‘He always has very strong opinions about the business, but not everybody agrees with him. However, at the same time he is very well respected. ‘Mike certainly knows what he is talking about, but because of the politics of the record companies not everybody listens to him. I have the highest regard for Mike.’
Andrew Ferrans is a successful production manager for television outside broadcasts and he owes his career to Mike Dillon along with the thousands of records and CDs in his collection. ‘Mike hadn’t long opened his shop in Johnston Street and I went in on spec to see what it was like. Straight away I could see that Mike was very knowledgeable, had a passion for music and knew what his customers wanted,’ says Andrew ‘He wasn’t just running a business selling records and it became clear that music was a big part of his life. ‘Mike introduced me to lots of different new music and he certainly increased the quality and quantity of my record collection.
Gill Brown was a re p for I was also a DJ in pubs at the time RCA Records. She says : ‘Mike and he made sure I wasn’t missing has a very respected sta nding in out on any new records that were the sales and marketing side of becoming popular.’ th e re co rd bu sin es s. Andrew added: ‘When Mike was ‘His knowledge of mus at the Q96 radio station he invited ic and the industry is second to me in to help him out as a general none. You went to him if you dogsbody. I soon learned new skills weren’t sure about something an at Q96 and I was able to do sound d he would always sort you engineer work at the station. out with some good advice. ‘I was working as a computer consultant repairing printers at the ‘He always stands up fo r time and through working at Q96 I himself against the big guys in met someone who got me into TV retail and he takes no pr isoners. outside broadcasts, which is what There’s certainly nothin g wrong I’m now doing for a living. with that and he alway s te lls it ‘I wouldn’t be doing what I’m like it is. doing today if it wasn’t for Mike ‘Meet Mike once and he is getting me a start at Q96. unforgettable, meet him ‘I can’t really say a bad word for again and he just adds to that Mike. He’s outrageous, strong. He has willed and an all-round good guy.’ a heart of gold and is absolutely genuine.’
Published on Dec 9, 2011