Back To The Phuture: Remembering Phuture Records

I found Phuture Records in the pages of the Boy`s Own fanzine – “acid house`s village newspaper” – a copy of which I`d picked up in a rival shop, Flying. I`d seen the store’s ad – a face and 12” illuminated in the image`s otherwise darkness  – positioned conveniently opposite the charts – The Sound Of Spring. This was the 1990 issue with the boy in the big work boots on the front. The magazine`s musical recommendations ranged from the heartbroken house of Satoshi Tomiie`s And I Loved You to the reggae-meets-country of Papa Winnie`s Rootsie & Boopsie. I didn’t know it then but around half of the selections were either produced, remixed, or bootlegged, by the fanzine`s friends and extended family. I wouldn’t say I was completely clueless, but I was definitely still learning the musical ropes, and my way around London’s specialist record shops. I`d go clubbing on Friday night – at this point, usually to The Yellow Book in Covent Garden – and then do a circuit of the West End stores the next day. Playing my plunder at my girlfriend`s pad in Tulse Hill, as the two of us readied ourselves to head back out. 

I`d usually start at Flying, because they at least recognized me there. I`d always be armed with a long list of “wants” – tunes cribbed from interviews and articles in Time Out, The Face, ID, and Boy`s Own of course. I`d pause before entering the shop, to take a last look at this list and attempt to memorize it – not wanting to produce the piece of paper from my pocket and look like even more of a plum. I`d go straight to the racks, trying not to attract any attention, blend in, and then wait for the counter to be quiet. Taking over a couple of 12s for cover. Trouble was that a ton of these “balearic” titles hadn’t yet been released. Some of them were still only at the planning stage. Pals promising remixes on sweat-soaked, strobe-lit, strawberry-smoked, dance-floors. Depending on who you were, and the mood of the staff at that moment, you could be mercilessly pulled up. 

Buying records, for me, back then, really was research. I`d been out of town from `86 and until the autumn of `89 – although I had spent the summer of `88 at Nicky Holloway`s Trip. I was well aware that I`d kind of missed the boat, and I was making up for lost time. I really, really, wanted to understand this thing. I used to think that the records, especially the old balearic classics, served as “badges” – proof that you`d “been there” – when the truth was I hadn`t. Maybe by tracking down the tunes I was thinking that I could pretend, or perhaps just better imagine what it was like to party at Future and The Fitness Centre. Be locked-in at Streatham`s Project Club. Anyhow it became an obsession. I`d find a fair amount of these old sides in Trax, on Greek Street, just up from Groove Records – where I once spent my money on electro and hip hop. I`d hit Trax last, late Saturday afternoon, when the shop would often be empty of customers, certainly no crowd. The rush for that week’s new releases well over. From a handful of racks labelled Balearic I`d gather European “Maxis” by bands such as A Split Second and Stretch. Oscar would spot me, a man on a mission, come over and suggest a load more. 

One thing that I was definitely doing was trying own the soundtrack to “the night before”. From Flying and Kazoo to Ophelia, The Raid, and Yellow Book, I didn’t have much of an idea of what any of the records were. There were no cameras in clubs then, so the music, the vinyl and sleeves, served as snapshots, a sonic scrapbook of acid house adventures – “scrapes and capers” – keepsakes, and memory cues. On the way to work, with headphones and a mixtape on, I`d discovered that some of these records could, unassisted, induce a significant buzz. I`d be waiting for a bus when a piano or vocal would send a warm, warm, feeling from the base of my spine to the top of my neck, down my arms and legs, to my fingers and toes, take the roof of my head clean off. I`d have to stop to catch my breath.  

On the journey from Flying to Trax I`d visit Phuture. Travel, via the Circle or District Line, from High Street Kensington to the far end of The Kings Road. Phuture was located in The Garage, which seemed to be a similar set up to Kensington`s indoor market, with the warehouse-like space given over to small shops and the odd cafe. There was a pub nearby where I`d compare my purchases with the guy behind the bar. The first time I went Phuture I had no idea where it was and had to do a full lap of the gaff. Obviously once I`d spotted it I nonchalantly strolled right on by, making as if I had a different destination in mind, bought a beer, re-checked my list, and then “casually” about turned. The shop then was more of a stall, “open plan”, with only a few shelves and limited stock to flick through, basically nowhere to hide. You were sort of straight in and straight at the counter. Consequently I had to be a lot more on the ball, and do my darnedest to appear clued-up. I wouldn’t have been well-dressed, I simply didn’t have the dough – so it was a long, long, shot, and I seriously fucking doubt that I carried it off. Most of the stuff that I found in Phuture were white labels, or bootlegs: Terry Farley`s take on The Farm’s Stepping Stone, Fluke`s Joni, Frazier Chorus` Cloud Eight, Sinead O`Connor`s I Am Stretched On Your Grave – the OG with the Funky Drummer break, not the one with The Smiths in. There were Heavenly promos by Saint Etienne, and Sly & Lovechild – both remixed by Andrew Weatherall, both of which I was super chuffed with, having got a firm “No mate” at Flying. 

Then there was Balearic Beats Volume 2 – a three track 12 of a dubious nature that  featured a DMC mix of Sister Sledge and Mr. Mister – big upstairs at Busby`s – flipped by Babakoto`s Just To Get By*. It was this piece of bongo`d, conga`d, hand-clapped, faux brassed, pop go-go-not-go-go, that was actually bouncing away when I first walked into the shop. It was something I`d heard, not twelve hours prior, while dancing off my nut. Yeah it was cheesy, but there I was spine tingling again, which meant I had to have it. While the record was spinning into its camp chorus, with a chemical courage that came out of nowhere I accosted Steve Lee, who was in mid conversation, and demanded a copy. Steve looked at me – semi-spangled, shoulder length barnet, striped top bearing spliff blims, my beaten up Converse – then at the chap he`d been chatting to. Something unsaid passed between them, followed by “Sorry. Last one. It`s gone.”**

*First played, I think, by Roger Beard, upstairs at Spectrum / Land Of OZ
**A few weeks later, during a weekend in Manchester, I bought a copy from Moonboots in Eastern Bloc. 

Phuture Records Boys Own Ad

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