If you are a music lover and you live in Stoke Newington, it's a
pretty safe assumption that you have been to Totem records on Church Street. If you
haven't, then you must go there now. Well, go on then.
It is, in fact, the only second-hand record shop in the area that specialises in such a
broad range of music, and Tony, the owner, has a simple policy: 'I want people to come
into the shop for a particular style of music and find their section well stocked and well
looked after'. Wonderful, just how I like my bars.
Italian-born Tony first came to England as a boy in the musical golden year of 1967, when
his parents lived here for a year before going back to Italy. It was long enough to leave
a lasting impression: 'London was like an amazing kaleidoscope compared to the then, very
grey and conservative Milan'. To Tony, London equalled music and he would remember this
several years later.
Back in Italy, he spent his teens knocking about in a punk band trying to kick-start a
music scene (they were it, basically) in a desperately conventional and musically backward
city. He was getting more and more frustrated that punk wasn't changing things like it
promised. He had to get out and there was only one place he wanted to go. He arrived in
the UK at the start of the 1980s and eventually ended up working in his ideal job,
Reckless Records. For the uninitiated, Reckless Records is an institution, run by and for
music lovers. Tony worked next to many future 'movers and shakers' like Patrick Forge and
the boys from Coldcut. In fact, Tony says it is rumoured that Nick Hornby based High
Fidelity around Reckless Records: 'there are painfully close observations of what it was
After 10 years there, he'd gone as far as he could and he felt he had learnt enough to go
it alone. After a bit of planning and saving, he opened Totem. Seven years later and it's
still going strong, although 'the days of good quality, second-hand records being in
plentiful supply, are over'. Why? 'They get scratched, broken, stored and forgotten
Is there any music Tony can't stand? 'I believe that if someone has bothered to commit
their music on to plastic, there must be something good in it. I'll always give it a
listen.' He won't say whether he's heard Victoria Beckham's latest.
And, of course, I had to ask him the all-important question, what sells the best? ' I can
definitely say that Stoke Newington people are funky people. They like a party.' Slightly
- that's like saying that nuns like the odd prayer! I tried to pin him down on his Top 5
records, as in High Fidelity, but he wasn't having any of it. 'It changes every day, but I
do have a great passion for Reggae.' What, like Shaggy? That's when he punched me.
You get the feeling that Tony absolutely loves music, which is what you want really, just
like you want a doorman to love doors. 'I get more excited by coming across something I
haven't heard before, than actually making a sale.' Bless him, and long live Totem. Make
sure you check it out next time you're up that way.
Also, if you are in a band and you have some CDs to sell, then Tony will gladly stock them
and he will put you on the Internet site as well. Get to it, cats, and join the likes of
the fantastic Monkey Island, Monsoon Basoon (haven't heard 'em yet) and the Sweet Things,
who are brilliant, in an Only Ones / Strokes kind of way. You can see the Sweet Things
live at Bull and Gate, Kentish Town-17 October - and at the Hope and Anchor, Islington-15
November. Also, check out 'La Brasserie de Martyrs' at Ryans-27 Sep and at the Bodrum - 5
Oct. It's like a mad collective of creativity and cabaret. I haven't been yet but I'm told
it's great, and it's got to be better than Emmerdale, at the end of the day.
Remember to keep sending your demos and letters, as I get a bit bored since my cellmate
Totem Records website is on www.totemrecords.com
Those inventive fellas at the Auld Shillelagh are building
on the success of their Frank Sinatra evenings. On the second Sunday of every month they
will be staging 'Music from the Green Room (for actors and actresses who are resting)',
presented by Glenda, while on the third Sunday of every month they will be running 'Peel
me a Grape - music from a woman's mind at four in the morning.'No, we don't understand it
either, but if you want to find out more about what will no doubt be an innovative series
of performances, contact David Knight at the Shillelagh. David will also be mine host for
Frank's Fireworks Party. Yes, Frank's back!
Barracuda (125 SN Church St)
tel 020 7923 7488
Blush (8 Cazenove Road)
tel 020 7923 9202
Booths (71-73 SN Church Sf)
tel 020 7923 9332
Free Thursday and Sundays DJ Basement Stax Fridays and Saturdays guest DJ
Ryans Bar (181 SN Church)
tel 020 7275 7807
Vortex (139-141 SN Church St)
tel 020 7254 6516