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.
Earlier this year I noticed Bleecker Bob’s near Washington Sq awaiting a similar fate.
That’s sad to hear. A real landmark of NYC in the ’70s.
A subject very dear to my heart, bringing to mind retired bandleader Harry Hayes who ran a wonderful 2 floor record shop in North End Rd just down from the old Nashville. The ground floor pop/rock record sales he left in the hands of a few young assistants while he himself was behind the counter in the basement playing jazz discs and enjoying exchanges regular customers.In the early 80s as a fledgling musician I learnt all kinds of things from him including the fact that notes in the bass clef could be read as an alto sax part just by changing the clef. I will never forget a Saturday morning in 1982 when I came in and he said simply: ‘Just listen to the the harmonica on this!’ It was a new single by Stevie Wonder called ‘That Girl’ arguably one of the best vehicles ever conceived for one of best ever chromatic harmonica solos ever played. It changed my life … and inspired my you tube harmonica video ‘I’m Old Fashioned’ shot a few years ago in one of the last surviving record shops in downtown Johannesburg – Kohinoor Records – with the blessing of it’s owner, the legendary Rashid Vally who produced many of Abdullah Ibrahim’s early albums when he was still Dollar Brand.
How on earth did I never know about Harry Hayes’s shop? Infuriating. His name has been coming up in research I’ve been doing into the life of saxophonist/racing driver Buddy Featherstonhaugh.
I read about this some days ago, and it brought a genuine ache to my heart. Perhaps I’m a Luddite, wallowing in the nostalgia of yesteryear, but the thought that these hallowed places where one can browse, lose oneself in the music, and indeed discover new artists are all but gone forever is almost too much to bear. I remember my joy at discovering the gigantic Amoeba records in San Francisco when I toured the States, but it was the independent R.E.Cords in Sadler Gate, Derby that had the most profound effect on me. i cannot overstate the important part it played in me becoming the musician I am today, a 35 year professional career behind me (and hopefully some years yet in front!) It is where I discovered influences, where I religiously pored over the sleevenotes to find, for example which other albums Tommy Bolin had played on, thereby discovering Billy Cobham’s breathtaking drumming, the revelation of Trapeze after researching a certain Gelenn Hughes who popped up on Deep Purple’s ‘Burn’. This was my education, and an affordable one, as their second-hand section was second to none. I can’t imagine an adolescence without it. The good news is, though R.E.Cords has gone , another one-time shopper like me has kept it open, and it remains a wonderful subterranean oasis of vinyl and CD beneath the streets of Derby, all these years on. It is the way of the world I fear, that they will soon be dust, but oh, how we will miss them when they are gone. If I had that kind of money, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.
R.E.Cords was started and run, as I’m sure you know, by the great David Milton, who also ran the Blue Note club in Derby. He was the first person, as far as I know… no, I’m going to save that story, because it deserves a piece all to itself. Anyway, he and his wife Delia have lived for many years in Sydney, where he runs music pubs. It’s too long since I’ve seen him.
Richard, as usual, you impress me! A piece on David and the shop would be most welcome, should you find the time. The Blue Note…memories of Roger Chapman’s Shortlist, and many more…
Go on Richard, put that £300 grand in – you know you want to… there needs to be a place in central London where consenting adults can safely conjoin the name of Kokomo and the concept of greatness
I was also rather glad you name-checked Kokomo..I remember travelling up to Glasgow to see them when they were promoting their second offering ‘Rise n Shine’ -what a superb display of British musicianship at its finest they were.