Three-minute shot to a dinosaur's heart

Jake Howard is single-minded when it comes to records, says Rosie Milla rd
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Everyone's got one. Yours might be in the attic; mine is in the cellar. It includes Gilbert O'Sullivan's "No Matter How I Try", "Armed Forces" by Elvis Costello and, of course, "Parallel Lines", with Debbie Harry's dark roots and those wonderful g reen lace-up boots on the cover. I wouldn't dream of throwing out my record collection.

Jake Howard, a self-confessed vinyl freak, says:"When I admit how much I love singles, some people just look at me with a glazed stare. But there's a hard core who know what I'm talking about."

Jake doesn't look like an anorak. Described by various acquaintances as "the best-looking man in London", he is 36 years old, wears clothes from Gap and spends his time simulating marble and other special effects in people's houses. However, Jake lives in west London without so much as a radio to his name, let alone a tape recorder or CD player. His sound system consists of an old Technics SL-DD33 record player, which he spins every morning before going to work.

"I've only got about 1,000 singles, and 1,500 albums," he says. "Nothing that would impress Mike Read [the former Radio 1 DJ famed for his vast record collection]. But I listen to them every day."

He pulls one from a cardboard box crammed with about two hundred. "Look at this!" he cries, passionately. "It's `Sorry (I Ran The Whole Way Home)', by the Impalas. They probably never released an album, but this is enough. Brilliant." He stands up and puts it on the player. "I started collecting when I was about 13. I'd come down from the North to visit my dad, who lived in London, and I started buying records. It was just so brilliant. I realised I loved singles, short songs. And I never bothered getting any other sort of equipment."

"He's rather internalised," says a friend, Rioridh Macdonald. "Very charming, but rather self-obsessed. That's what true collectors are like, aren't they? Don't need anything else. I think he's just happy with life and his collection." Jake turns up the volume on the Impalas. "That's a hit," he enthuses. "A three-minute shot to the heart."

Doesn't he find the brevity somewhat irritating? "Well, there you are," he says, recognising I am not a fellow traveller. "I like getting up to change records. It's fun. It's part of the excitement." What about using those players that allow you to stackup singles? "No way!" he screeches. "If there's one warp, the whole stack is ruined. Even with albums, I never play more than one track at one time."

Getting up for about the eighth time in half an hour, Jake puts on "Double Shot of My Baby's Love" by the Swinging Medallions. As the record begins, its crispy crackle endows it with an odd sort of immediacy. Jake grasps its paper sleeve and waves it with delight.

"I bought it about three years ago, second hand. I couldn't resist the title. I mean, the excitement of coming back with something like this." He sounds as though he's 13 again, visiting his dad in London. "It was a real find. I'm the Quentin Tarantino of the singles world; I specialise in knowing all about 45s, who made them, produced them, appeared on them."

His flatmate comes into the room. She appears oblivious to the glaring unhipness of the Swinging Medallions. "Do I mind living without a CD player?" she asks. "I don't have a choice. It's a dictatorship here." She walks out again.

"Well, my `Beat the intro' parties are very popular," he counters, putting the player's needle gently on to Frankie Valli's "The Proud One". "People go off the deep end when I play something they haven't heard for 10 years. Everyone starts shouting the title at once. And I hand out chocolates for prizes."

OK, I brag. Try me out. "This is one of my favourite `getting dressed to' tracks, before I go out in the evening." What, here in the sitting room? "Oh yes," he replies casually. "I bring all my clothes down to listen to records. It's an important part ofthe going-out process." The record begins. I have no idea what it is. Something by Queen? The Jam?

"Patrice Rusher. `Forget Me Not'. Early Eighties disco," he says. We sit listening to the record. Around us lie hundreds of singles, "Jake Howard" written, rather teenage-ishly, in biro on their centres.

"I know I'm a dinosaur," says their owner. "But I'm happy to be one. In 20 years' time, I don't know if I'll still be buying. But I'll still be listening."

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