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The vinyl countdown

FOURTEEN years after he was name-checked in Shakermaker, Peter Howard – alias Mr Sifter – still gets fans turning up at the shop he runs on Fog Lane in the Manchester suburb of Didsbury.

“We get them coming from all over, and they say, where else is there to go in Burnage? You have a hard time thinking of anywhere,” he says as he quickly bags up a couple of country singles for an old bloke who’s parked on a double yellow outside.

Howard scraped together the initial stock for the shop by placing want ads in local newspapers and shop windows and trawling through house clearances and charity shops. Unfortunately, as the time came to move in, there wasn’t quite enough to fill out the place and so he made the heart-breaking decision to include his own personal collection of some 600 albums in the stock.

“I was as sick as a pig,” says a now resigned Howard, “but I thought to myself, I’ll dedicate the next few years to getting them back, one by one.”

And how did that work out for you?

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Babylon Original Soundtrack by Various Artists (EMI)

IT WAS Barry Norman, smug doyen of the comfy press junket and arch purveyor of bitter, misanthropic and slightly rightwing movie reviews, who first brought Babylon to my attention – though I’ve no recollection what drivel the miserable old sod spouted about Franco Rosso’s gritty tale of disaffected Sarf London youth when he reviewed the film on Film 80.

I was more than likely on the lookout for some idiotic new sci-fi movie but in the end it was the clip which accompanied Norman’s no-doubt nonsensical views on Babylon which transported me to another world entirely; a world every bit as strange, exotic and alien as Altair, Vulcan or Tattooine – and it seemed, as a chubby, unfashionable 14-year-old with a bad haircut, sitting in the familial living room in a Dark Ages village miles from anywhere, one I would be as likely to ever visit.

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