One used record store: £300K, no offers
A seemingly nondescript little doglegged cut-through just north of Soho, linking Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, Hanway Street is the sort of alley that has always given central London its character. It’s a mess of scaffolding and construction at the moment, with a big hole where something’s been torn down and something grander will no doubt be erected.
For me Hanway Street was aways notable for its musical associations. In the early 1970s there was the office of John Abbey’s Blues & Soul magazine, which I read principally for the magnificently obsessive columns published under the name of Dave Godin. The same building was also the headquarters of the magazine’s associated record labels, Contempo and Mojo, whose catalogues included such names as Oscar Toney Jr, Doris Duke and Timmy Thomas. I’m pretty sure I did my first interview with the great Mable John on those premises. More recently there have been JB’s Records, a collectors’ vinyl-only shop which closed a couple of months back and is now a place where you can get your eyebrows plaited or your nether regions waxed, and On the Beat, a shop selling vinyl of all types along with old music magazines and books.
You might have read in the last few days about On the Beat, whose proprietor has put it up for sale on eBay, at a buy-now price of £300,000 with a guaranteed 10-year lease on the premises. I stopped by there today, and he told me that if a buyer isn’t found by the end of January, the shop will close.
For old times’ sake, I dropped a tenner on a copy of Joe Tex’s “A Mother’s Prayer”, a 1973 B-side on the Dial label that US radio disc jockeys preferred to the designated A-side, “I Gotcha”. It’s one of my favourites of Tex’s sermons, and I think I might have heard it for the first time when it was part of the repertoire of Kokomo, the great English pub-soul band. Anyway, the copy I found in On the Beat looks unplayed, which is more than you can say about the UK Mercury version already in my collection (or the rather battered one that some kind soul has uploaded on to YouTube).
It would certainly be welcome if a buyer stepped forward. But these places are disappearing, one by one. Maybe we were just lucky to have them for so long.