Every music-lover knows that there are few pleasures to rival visiting a good second-hand record store.
Which is why any listener worth their salt should get to Oxfam, which on any given week will have 2,000-plus vinyl records, plus CDs, and books of sheet music and music biographies.
We met volunteer Rowland Cleverley, one of the Oxfam’s national specialists on music and vinyl, and who volunteers at the Bedford and Olney, to find out the high notes and highlights of his role.
He said: “The aim is to make this a proper record store, not a charity shop that also sells music.
“I’m a music nut - I love vinyl, I still buy it, and if I’m going to do something I’m going to do it properly.
“I’m in the Olney store twice a week, and Bedford one day a week, but I’ll also do work from home, checking the condition of every piece of vinyl, and researching the value of old records we’ve got into stock.
“Sometimes you’ll get something foreign and really exotic in, and the only way to research is by going online when all you have is the number on the sleeve. You can find out a lot online, but of course the people who run the websites don’t necessarily file the information in an obvious way so you have to think like they do.”
The Olney store opened just under a decade ago, and the music section has become a huge part of the store since Rowland joined the team after moving to Olney six years ago.
The £18,000-worth of sales at the Olney store last year made up approximately a quarter of the store’s revenue, whereas most charity shops get less than a tenth of their takings from music.
But of course most stores don’t have such a wide selection that there are dedicated sections for classical, folk and world music.
Rowland added: “Rock and pop are the two biggest sellers, and we sell a lot of classical records, although they probably get better prices online.
“Some albums take a while to sell, but they all sell eventually and we’ve got the space.”
Rowland’s musical CV
“My first single would’ve been in 1966, a Rolling Stones single for my brother. My first album for myself was American Pie when I was 13.
“Then my first gig was 1973 - Slade at Colston Hall, Bristol. I was 14 years old and it was just exciting. The only way I could get there was for my parents to drive me, and for them to be waiting outside when I got out to take me home.
“It was so exciting. Noddy Holder could be quite crude on stage, you never knew what he was going to say. I was there, just a teenager on my own, wondering what he’d come out with or ask the audience to do. I suppose that feeling of excitement never left me.
“I still go to gigs - at least one every few months, but sometimes several in just a week or two. We went to the Kate Bush gigs in Hammersmith a few weeks ago, two shows including the opening night, and it was something else. Her LP Aerial is still my favourite album.”
Rowland’s most memorable sale:
“Last year we sold a Gary Numan vinyl 45” We Are Glass for £550.
“Oxfam has a warehouse in Milton Keynes, and until recently about 90 shops in the area used to send them all the stuff they couldn’t sell or didn’t know how to sell. It’s mostly clothing but there are records too, and most charity shops haven’t got a clue how to sell music.
“There was always fantastic stuff - the first time I went in I got about £800-worth of stuff to sell in one weekend. That taught me to look carefully.
“When I got the Gary Numan single home I realised it was green vinyl. When I did some research I found that there were only three green vinyl copies issued, and this was the lost copy. We put it up for sale, advertised the price, and a guy drove over from Witney to buy it.
“We could have sold it online, but instead the guy came to see us, and I learned the whole story of the single too, including the sole yellow vinyl copy; no one knows where it is and they’ve only seen pictures of.
“And of course it made £550 for the shop.”
Be a part of the Oxfam music community:
As part of Oxjam the Bedford Oxfam store is holding a Kate Bush vinyl day on Saturday, October 25.
The store will be playing four of her albums, and Rowland has donated one of his programmes from her recent tour to be auctioned off.
Oxfam are also looking for music and vinyl specialists to join the team at stores across the region. Training will be available. If you are interested call 01908 213768.