October 2004 was a grim month for pop obsessives and record collectors, especially those who had come of age in the seventies and eighties. In the space of ten days we lost three great navigators of the backroads, byways and ditches: John Peel, Dave Godin - the man who coined the term Northern Soul - and, Stateside, Greg Shaw. Some philanthropist should have corralled their collections and pop ephemera and created one beautiful library.
Shaw was, in his way, just as important as Peel. He was a fanboy with means. To precis his CV, he created the first pop fanzine (Mojo Navigator, later Who Put The Bomp), put Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus on the printed page for the first time, started the Pebbles compilation series, and was America's premier salesman for Glam, Punk and Powerpop - a genre he named. He created an independent label and distribution company in the seventies - Bomp - giving succour to the Ramones, and a home to Iggy Pop and the Flamin' Groovies. He also knew his parameters. When Michael Stipe showed up with his tape looking for a deal, Shaw sent him away, telling him to go to a major - Bomp wasn't right for him.
While Greg's record collection was rumoured to number a million items, Suzy reckons "I knew the size well, as it was I who had the shelves built for them and arranged for the space in the warehouse. There were probably a maximum of about 150,000. He often just wanted the record and had no particular interest in whether it could be played or not." Taking up almost as much room was an index card system that listed "every rock record that he owned, heard about, or suspected existed. He was a historian first and foremost, and wanted it to be a life's work that would survive as a reference for generations to come. It was his obsession and although few people know it, the project probably took up more of his life than any other venture in terms of sheer hours."
Beyond the printed word, he was behind the Legendary Masters series of compilations, produced during a stint at United Artists - Shaw was as conversant in Fats Domino and Ricky Nelson as he was in Ramones and Raspberries. Then in the early eighties he was the secret compiler of the multi-volume Pebbles series, sonically imperfect bootlegs of obscure 60s garage punk which unearthed now-open secrets like the Litter's Action Woman for the first time. In look and feel, Pebbles was widely imitated on series like Highs In The Mid Sixties and Back From The Grave; the lo-grade pressings inadvertently galvanized new re-issue labels such as Bam Caruso, who issued the Craig's R&B freakout I Must Be Mad on their first Rubble album in pristine quality, eighteen months after Shaw had alerted the world to its primitive power. As he had with Who Put The Bomp, Greg Shaw started a whole underground industry.