Dead Parrott Records finds a new perch in downtown Barrie (8 photos)
“You’ll have diehard collectors who have serious collections, but they need that icing on the cake – and then you’ll have someone who’s just going to buy a regular Billy Joel album,” says owner Paul Russell
From Picadilly Circus in London’s West End to Ottawa Street in Windsor and now Dunlop Street West in Barrie, Paul Russell has shared his passion for music for nearly four decades.
The Briton, along with his wife Mary Burley, owns Dead Parrott Records, a second-hand record store which celebrated its grand opening in downtown Barrie on Saturday after the couple closed their thriving shop in Windsor and moved back at the place Burley has always called home.
“We just got back March 1 and have spent the last five weeks getting the place ready,” Burley says, telling BarrieToday the store had already been “pretty busy” since opening just two hours prior. “The Windsor store was very successful, but I wanted to come home, so here we are back in Barrie. I’m very excited about it.”
Russell, who has quite possibly forgotten more about music than most people will ever know, began working at Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus and Kensington’s High Street in London’s West End from 1985 until the late 1980s. 1990s. He has now brought this knowledge, along with a significant amount of musical memorabilia, to the shop in downtown Barrie.
“We always wanted to make it a record store that I wanted to go into and want to come back to,” he says. “For me, the mood and everything on the walls is almost as important as the music. We’ve been to record stores that have nothing at all.
“We wanted to create a store with a soul,” says Burley. “We find here, and in Windsor, that when people walk in, a lot of people get up and look around and say ‘wow’. There is so much to see.
Everything on the wall has a story, says Russell BarrieToday, pointing to a large Led Zeppelin sign on the wall near reception. The sign, which was made by the Piccadilly Tower Records store’s in-house art department, is the only one of its kind in the world, he says.
“A guy in Windsor came to me all the time offering money for it… (but) it’s not for sale. It is a topic of discussion and it is irreplaceable.
From rock to pop, jazz to blues to classical, Russell and Burley do their best to offer a bit of each genre to every type of music lover. — as well as some unique offerings, according to Russell, are often hard to find in Canada.
“Because of my connections to England, knowing what records came out in Europe that didn’t come out here or different versions, I bring a lot of things from Europe,” he says, adding that these albums are not generally not in Canada. “You’ll get your regular Elton John albums, but you’ll also find things you won’t find in your general record stores, because I go out and look for them.”
Russell says that although he started offering new vinyl in his Windsor store, because he was getting used collections of this quality, the cost of new vinyl started to climb.
“For a one-man band, it didn’t make sense,” he says. “Everyone was doing it. There’s a Sunrise (Records) in every city… and I found people who came would prefer the originals. I still collect records.
“For me, you never know what records might bring me home at the end of the day. You can buy a new Beatles album that was made three years ago, or you can try to find one original from England or Germany from the 60s. This is what most true collectors want.
Russell also brings some select “new vinyl options,” which can be found near the front of the store, but says their focus is on high-quality used records.
“There’s a little label we brought in from England, KScope Records, which is run by old friends of mine in the music business there and does progressive rock… (and are) new vinyl,” he says.
With thousands of used records lined up on the shelves, Russell takes pride in the fact that he cleans each record and checks for any issues before it hits the shelf.
“I make sure everything has an album cover and a protective sleeve…and I won’t sell scratched records. Sometimes scrapes will be fine — especially the old Beatles or Stones albums because at the time the vinyl was heavier and the grooves deeper — and the music is in the grooves. In the late 70’s they got leaner and softer…so you’ll find Bowie discs that are really wonky and the sliders mark and I won’t sell them.
With vinyl’s resurgence in popularity becoming more mainstream, Russell and Burley recount BarrieToday they are used to seeing all types of music lover walk through the doors of their old shop — and don’t expect anything different here in Barrie.
“You will have diehard collectors who have serious collections, but they need that icing on the cake — and then you’ll have someone who’s just going to buy a regular Billy Joel album,” he says.
“One of the first fellows here today found something — it was not an expensive record — but he said he was looking for it…and he was absolutely shocked we got it,” Burley adds. “It’s also exciting to find things that probably won’t be in another store.”
Creating an experience, they say, is just as important as what they sell.
“It’s the natural thing to do. I want this to be a store I want to come back to. That was the main thing,” admits Russell. “I want them to get that wow factor and hopefully find something they were looking for, or even walk away with something they weren’t looking for but love and that happens a lot.”
Dead Parrott Records is located at 70 Dunlop St. W.