Every great music city has a Mecca.
In London it was Rough Trade, in New York it’s Bleeker Street Records.
In Edinburgh it was Ripping Records.
But on Saturday 26th November that Mecca closes for the final time. John Richardson is retiring.
I was particularly privileged to have an ‘insiders’ relationship with Ripping, because my mate, then sister’s boyfriend and not long after, Brother in Law, was the second Lieutenant, Nik Sutherland.
It was a privilege indeed because it gave me access to quite a few guest list tickets. Had I have been greedy enough I suppose I could have been out in Edinburgh’s music scene every night of the week but that would have been wrong. You can only ask for so many favours. (Don’t get my wrong I bought plenty too.)
Every time I popped in, Nik or John would bung me a promo disc saying “you might like this” and back in the record rep days w hen there were thousands of T shirts on the go, I’d often be the recipient of Nik’s cast offs.
I have a few to this day.
It all started for me as a student in the late 1970’s. In those days John took care of proceedings downstairs and Nik ran the record exchange upstairs. It was, in a way, the predecessor to e-Bay. Hundreds of (mainly) punk singles put on display by their owners at their stated “buy now” price for which Ripping took a commission. I was an avid collector of Stranglers singles and purchased most of them at Ripping and then, when I was at my poorest, ironically when I’d started my first real job, I sold them there at a significant premium.
It was good business.
Ripping was cool, if a little scary. John and Nik (and Davey) took no shit from anyone (including me) and there were plenty of wee bampots that used to hang around there, so there was always the chance of something kicking off, but it was cool as fuck and I was anything but cool, so it gave me a bit of swagger and second hand street cred, to be associated by marriage.
As my kids grew up they were able to pretty much guarantee themselves T in the Park Tickets and that was great too.
But mostly what I loved about Ripping was that it was just a cultural hang out where you could talk music for hours with John and Nik. I was always made welcome and could chat round and about the busy comings and goings of the place.
It was, of course, part of its own micro-economy of The Bridges where local traders helped each other out.
One story I loved was when the girl from the shoe shop told Nik and John that she’s had a customer in that morning. Let’s just say she wasn’t the most sophisticated Fifer in Fife.
She’d come in looking for long lace up boots that had a certain role.
“Huv yae goat any ae thae shaggin’ bits?” was her query.
Of course it was tough. Always tough. The other Record Shop in Cockburn Street was cheaper. HMV muscled in on the ticket scene. TicketScotland threatened to become a monopoly. Ripping never had the buying clout to compete and it seemed to me from about 1990 they hardly sold any music.
It was tickets that became its game and slowly but surely an idiosyncratic website emerged that was an Aladdin’s Cave of musical treasure. I’m sure John will join me in thanking the venues that resolutely refused to cut Ripping out of the musical ecosystem of Edinburgh and allowed them to continue to make a living and be THE place in Scotland to buy your tickets.
The buses to Glasgow (predominatly to Barrowlands in my experience, but most likely that hell hole that was the SECC too) were the stuff of legend. One night Nik would be on his way to a death metal gig, the next a boy band and sometimes to bands he actually wanted to see.
Thanks John and Nik and Davy.
It was fucking brilliant.