As a youth in Saigon’s Chinatown of the 1960s and ’70s, Paul Au was greatly affected by American “hippie” culture and Rock and Roll. He was smuggled into Hong Kong in 1974 to escape the South Vietnamese military draft. At first living in rooftop squats, he started to trade used vinyl records on the streets of Kowloon, and finally established an underground reputation for his eclectic blend and unending supply of recorded music.
“I am glad whenever I can find a book to lighten the burden of my Hong Kong ignorance, and Andrew Guthrie’s tiny book about Sham Shui Po’s vinyl fanatic Paul Au Tak Shing and his record store Paul’s Records does a splendid job in this regard. It combines local and regional history, rock biography, pop archaeology, 70s nostalgia and vinyl fan talk to give a vivid and surprisingly profound picture of Hong Kong’s development over the last forty years.
… Guthrie’s book succeeds in offering a meaningful description of Hong Kong history, attitudes and politics from the time of Paul’s arrival to the present day. Even more remarkable is that it does so without really trying. Thus, the story of Paul’s flight to Hong Kong, for example, provides a memorable picture of the city’s place in Southeast Asia and of the complicated and widespread kinship networks which connect the different Chinese communities in Southern China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the wider world.
… Where more general histories frequently end up relating meaningless generalities which are forgotten as soon as read, the story of Paul and his store leave an imprint on the mind, much like the pressing on a piece of vinyl. I can therefore recommend this tiny, pretty book to anyone who wants to understand Hong Kong a little better. And if you are a vinyl nerd, you’ll love it anyway.” – Cha: An Asian Literary Journal
Andrew Guthrie was interviewed by Natalie Tso on Radio Taiwan International. Listen online here.
“Paul’s Records solidifies Andrew Guthrie’s status as the most perceptive, and astute, observer of the lingering appeal of recording and cassette culture in post-colonial Hong Kong. His book combines a quirky sensibility with impeccable musical taste, and can be read as both a historical account and a lyrical paean to a distinctive mode of listening. Paul’s Records is augmented by an eloquent coterie of photographs whose layout is as significant as their content.” – Giorgio Biancorosso, Associate Professor, Department of Music, The University of Hong Kong
“Paul is a loyal vinyl collector and I admire his dedication. His collection of vinyl LPs is beyond words. He’s like a vinyl madman who hasn’t even had the time to listen to them all.” – Uncle Ray Cordeiro MBE, RTHK Radio 3
“The photographer and the collector have much in common. An obsessive nature helps propel both towards their goals. But knowing the world by possessing it, through photography or physical acquisition, is of course a doomed enterprise. What you can do however is create your own world, which is what both the photographer and the collector does – beginning with fascination, leading to exploration and appreciation, and then knowledge, judgement and finally action. Photographer Andrew S. Guthrie brings a collector’s deep appreciation to the world of Paul Record’s in Hong Kong’s Sham Shui Po district. Combining anthropological objectivity with a poetic sensibility, Guthrie both creates and reveals a world. An objective documentation of this extraordinary place, and the story of Paul Au Tak-shing, the man who created it (beginning in wartime Saigon), would in itself be worthy and supremely satisfying. Yet Guthrie invests his documentation with his own deep affinity for vinyl, and a companionable appreciation of life in one of Hong Kong’s oldest and toughest neighbourhoods. Paul’s Records is a gift to Hong Kong and to anyone who wants to know more about the unique worlds that thrive in its crowded spaces.” – Greg Girard, author of City of Darkness: Life In Kowloon Walled City