We took Walter Trout record shopping and here's what happened
One record store, one bluesman and £50: what could go wrong?
Ambient techno is not the most obvious soundtrack for record shopping with blues guitarist Walter Trout, a man whose on-stage guitar pyrotechnics and off-stage antics – the latter culminating in his near-death from liver failure in 2013 – genuinely warrant the epithet ‘legendary’. Still, that’s what’s on the stereo at Sister Ray on Berwick Street in Soho, and Trout is nothing if not game.
“Pet Shop Boys and Soft Cell,” he says, pretending to rifle excitedly through the synth-pop section. “That’s the real me.” Suddenly he’s distracted by something even more mouth-watering. “Now for some krautrock,” he jokes, heading for the 70s German proto-electronica section. “A little Tangerine Dream, maybe…”
Trout is on good form today – very good, in fact, for a man who almost died. Far from the emaciated, harried figure circa 2014, he looks robust, swaggering about the shop in his hooded black anorak like Liam Gallagher’s friendly uncle from New Jersey.
While some people who’ve cheated death retreat into themselves, Trout couldn’t be more open, embracing every experience with almost childlike glee. Take today’s Record Store Challenge, for which he has been given £50 to spend on his vinyl of choice. He couldn’t be more engaged. Gags in which he feigns interest in unlikely genres aside, he’s not going to waste a single penny on anything but music of the finest vintage.
“There’s a Ray Charles album I’d love to find,” he says, his gregarious bark clearly audible over the shop’s somnolent electronica, as he eagerly flicks through the pioneering American singer/composer’s records. And, despite its relative rarity, there is a copy. He seems quite moved.
“My god, there it is.”
He clutches lovingly The Genius Sings The Blues and reminisces about life in white suburbia – Ocean City, New Jersey – in the 50s, where his parents were fans of Charles as well as BB King, John Lee Hooker, John Coltrane and Mississippi John Hurt. His father would take him to black jazz clubs in Atlantic City, his mother escorted him to concerts by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald.
“It’s going to be hard to get through this,” he says, continuing his story, misty-eyed. “They had this album, and I remember walking in one day and one of the songs was playing, and my mum was crying. I said: ‘What’s the matter, mum?’ I was about five years old. She said: ‘That song…’ I haven’t seen the album since.”