Stopped by a Tokyo institution the other night, Big Love Records, an independent record shop located in a nondescript apartment building in the backstreets of très chic Harajuku. Big Love Records is more than a record shop, it’s a gallery, an underground label, it’s a fashion brand, a cafe and bar that serves premium coffee and beer-on-tap to patrons and provides Tokyo not only with an amazing curation of new music but with events, art, fashion, pop-ups and tie-ups, and just cool lifestyle. It’s beyond a central cultural resource for Tokyo, but also for the world.
So it’s no surprise that you’d meet cool people there. And Yuji was that for sure. We both walked out at closing time with records in our hands and I couldn’t help but stop him on the stairs and ask what he scored. He pulls out Shane McGowan and the Pope’s “The Snake” from 1994 and Surprise Chef’s “Education & Recreation” released this year. Yuji shared with me that he’d had the Shane MacGowan record years ago but lost it in a move and was getting this reissue (buying records a 2nd or 3rd time is a common thing in this world.) Then I shared the story of how I saw and met Shane McGowan back in the late 90’s at the Boulder Theatre where he was playing a show. If memory serves me right, the amazing local band Devotcha was the opening act. They played their set, perhaps their entire song list at the time, and were ready to pass the stage to McGowan, who however was still his tour bus refusing to go on stage until he was more properly fueled with more booze and drugs. My dear friend Mike Hammil who had booked him at the theater was frantically searching for any illicit substances to coerce him onto stage. It was quite a scene.
Finally, after Devotchka had perhaps gone through a few of their songs once more, and McGowan was properly appeased, he staggered onto stage and to the mic which, for the rest of the night, would be the only thing to keep him standing upright, he seemed to hold onto for dear life the entire show, and waved in the wind like a flag to flag pole. But I tell ya, it was majestic, like the stars and stripes with fireworks on the fourth of July. You couldn’t make out so much as a syllable of what he said between each song, but as he played heavy rockers, sing-along anthems, alongside the Irish lullabies, he was a sight I will never forget. It was a beautiful shiny little prism I was looking into, not fully grasping how it worked exactly, but in awe by its beauty.
So… cool Yuji here, with his impeccable taste in excellent music (Give “The Snake” a listen) and I had a nice long chat. He shared with me that he runs an amazing-looking cafe in Meguro called Sic (I have to go!), also that he rides a custom Yamaha SR400, and he was rocking some pretty cool duds too, this supremely cool coat by wtaps. Just as I was about to leave, I said I wanted to take a quick selfie with my score, and before I even pulled it out of the bag, he says “Paul’s Boutique?” having spotted me in the shop, then mentioning he had the original. Record stores and the people you meet there are so cool. We have to connect again, Yuji!
Shane MacGowan And The Popes – The Snake
Label: ZTT – 4509-98104-1
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Style: Folk Rock
Surprise Chef – Education & Recreation
Label: Big Crown Records – BC126-LP
Format: Vinyl, LP, Limited Edition, Smoke & Wine
Released: Oct 14, 2022
Genre: Jazz, Funk / Soul
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