I’ve mentioned AKA Books and Comics many times before on this blog and how it played a crucial part in shaping Glasgow, and indeed, Scotland’s comic scene in a legacy that last today. What I’ve mentioned maybe in passing is the short-lived AKA 2 shop in the West End which lasted from 1986 til 86 before it was finally dragged out behind the bins and shot.
There’s little evidence the place existed but here’s an AKA advert from the 1985 Albacon (Glasgow’s then annual science fiction convention) programme booklet.
Based near the then new SECC in Finnieston the shop were it to exist now would be in the heart of the most arguably thriving part of Glasgow and certainly one which is the most active. It is a great location in 2020 but in 1985 Finnieston was a burnt out post-industrial husk and even though it was near Kelvingrove Art Gallery and the West End it didn’t bring the trade all concerned hoped but it was cheap rent, plus it meant Pete Root (one of AKA’s owners) could vanish to the shop merrily bagging and pricing to his hearts content.
The building was shared with Bob Shaw who was a major figure in Glasgow’s SF scene, and had co-owned what became Futureshock on the Woodlands Road. Bob by this point had his finger in many, many pies so used the upstairs part as an office/workspace and indeed, I’d often be there til late producing badges or helping in putting together magazines, or whatever Del-Boyesque scheme he’d got going this week. Truth is Pete was no fan of Bob, neither were the other owners John McShane and Bob Napier, but needs must and Bob did actually bring people to the shop in his own odd little way.
The shop was huge. It is in the same location where the Sandyford Surgery exists today, so you can see the attraction in the building. Downstairs was also cold as there was no central heating, so gloves and a scarf were often essential during the winter months as it’d get cold and you’d hardly be chasing after customers. It’d be a moment of dread if asked to go up and take some stuff for the shop but I’d often go up as it’d be nearer home plus I could pretend I was cool hanging around the West End. So things ticked over for a while then one night while making badges one of the lads was making a cup of tea and discovered something which was there was a false wall built into the kitchen area. Behind this false wall was a room. After some fiddling the door was prised open wide enought to see what was in the small, dark room.
On the floor was a mattress, some bedding and pointing down at the mattress was a clunky old video camera, with some more what looked like clothes and a box ot small cupboard just visible. The quick realisation was obvious that here was Bob’s homemade porn studio. We knew he’d ‘indulged’ in porn films as one of our group had the misfortune of seeing one but we never thought we’d actually stumble across the place of production. This brought up a dilemma as Pete and John had to know because this was dodgy, but we all sat on it working out I suppose if we were old and mature enought to deal with it. At the same time some dubious people were turning up to the shop, plus one day Bob was involved in a fight with a visitor upstairs so things were clearly more than just a dodgy businessman pushing his luck so Pete and John were told. After that the shop whimpered on bleeding money until the plug was finally pulled and Pete returned to the Virginia Galleries to bag and price to his hearts content while John’s liquid lunches would often last days.
As an idea it was ahead of its time by 30 years. I currently live not far from that location in buildings which used to be disintegrating tenements but are now bright newish flats, and the area which then used to be full of bookies and dubious pubs are now full of gastropubs and boutique shops selling all manner of things to a mix of relatively wealthy yuppies and students from Glasgow University. A shop there now would clean up. Not so in 1985. As for Bob he’s still around somewhere, and though AKA as a shop is now long gone what AKA2 taught everyone was not to overstretch themselves by creating a money pit with a pornographer. In fact the death of AKA2 pushed AKA into what I think was it’s strongest, most influential period from 1986 to 1990 as it soldified what it was while bringing on board customers who in some cases shaped the face of comic books to this day.
More of that another time though.