“Mavis Slater – or ‘Mave’ as we call her – is a face familiar to generations of music-lovin’ Yeovilfolk. She’s like our favourite aunt or something.
“Mave is Mutter Slater’s mum – you know, that bloke from Stackridge -but we all know her as the lady who, over the years, has sold us some of our best-loved, most treasured records and CDs. She’s part of our landscape, our musical lineage. Everyone round here who ever played in a band owes her big-time – everyone! – she’s our accidental muse, the woman who provided the coal that fuelled our respective fires. Just ask Polly Harvey, or Mark Wilson from The Mob, or Tim Goldsworthy of Mo’ Wax/DFA infamy, or Wayne and Bruce from The Pineapple Thief: everyone knows and loves Mave. We all owe her an unspoken debt.
“Now in her mid-eighties, Mavis is the engine that underpins Acorn Records, its beating heart. Chris Lowe might pretend to run the shop, but we all know who really pulls the strings! Two, three times a week Mave is there, busy behind the counter. And whenever we see her the years melt away.
“I first consciously encountered her in the mid-70s back when she worked in Radio House, Princes Street. It was an oddly cool shop: old school TVs, stereos and radiograms in the front; albums, singles and listening-booths at the back. Stockhausen albums were stacked up next to Baker-Gurvitz Army and the Edgar Broughton Band: a vinylspotter’s wet-dream. To us snotty-nosed rural kids, Mave was “that funny lady”, the one who’d make an insightful and deliciously sarky remark when you waved some crappy album under her nose and demanded she played it. She was both knowledgeable and knowing, street-smart and a good laugh; in retrospect, Mave must’ve had the patience of a saint, dealing with all us cocky, annoying, hyperhormonal teenagers conducting our uncool teenage transactions in the shop, but never actually buying anything. Though, actually…
“I bought Neu ‘75 and Zappa’s One Size Fits All on the same day in a Radio House sale from Mave. Still have the same copies. Still adore them.
“A couple of years later, we would pile into Radio House every Saturday and rummage through the box of Punk seven-inches, elbowing each other out the way to get at the good stuff. I heard Donna Summer’s I Feel Love for the first time in one of the Radio House listening-booths. They were painted black, scuffed and decorated with the torn remains of promotional stickers and labels. Moroder’s sequencers pumped away on the tinny-sounding little speakers and my friend Ken said, “This is the future, man. One day, all records will sound like this. This and Kraftwerk…” And I nodded in sagely-uncool teenage agreement.
Ah, those listening-booths! People used to get pissed-up in them on tinnies, pee in them, throw up, cop off and even, sometimes, try and have a surreptitious quickie. It’s true: Mave told me she once caught a couple at it.
“Rewind briefly back to the mid-70s and a couple of hippies – Rob Bacon and Chris Lowe – hit town after finishing college in London and open a tiny, cupboard-sized record-shop down the road from Radio House called Acorn. Man, I lived in there too: boxes and boxes of Duul, Can, Nektar, Hawkwind, Kraan, everything you can imagine… most days of the week, I yo-yo’d between Acorn and Radio House. Good times, man. Great times.
“So, when Radio House shut in the late 70s and Acorn moved to larger (more modern!) premises down by the bus-station in Glovers Walk, Yeovil, they poached Mave and the three of them headed off into local record-retail legend and the pages of Last Shop Standing. Rob’s sadly no longer with us – and, man, I sooo miss his acerbic wit and his opinions on Country Joe & The Fish, Dylan, etc – but Mave and the boys, well, they should be proud: they’ve seen them all off over the years: Our Price and Virgin and HMV and WH Smiths and….
“You know, I didn’t realise until half a lifetime later that Mave had worked in the record-department of WH Smiths back in the 60s, so I probably bought Monkees singles and Gerry Anderson EPs off her before I knew her. And I bet IX Tab almost certainly bought his Orbital and Coil albums from Mave in Acorn in the 80s and 90s.
“We all owe her a debt.
“Sometimes, it’s the smallest of things that change us, the little things that set events and subtle transformations in motion.
“We’re all ripples in a pond. But the ripples that quietly emanated from Mavis went much further and touched far more of us than she could ever realise or know. Sure, she didn’t make the great music that we bought, but she fed our dreams – helped enable us.
“It’s time to acknowledge that debt, though I don’t think that I – or any of us – could ever pay it back in full. Mavis has enriched us in ways that it’s difficult to quantify or describe. Just by being there, just by being Mavis.
“For years I wondered where it came from, all that music. Mavis is like a conduit, I guess – a Portal – the music flows out through her, into her son, into the world, into us…
“But where did it come from, the music? And where will it go?
“Well, wherever we let it take us, right?
“Mave, this is some love back. From all of us to you.”
HACKER FARM, YEOVIL, JANUARY 2013
BURLINGTON (from UHF CD)
BLUEBEAM (from the Outer Church compilation on Front and Follow)