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A record shop life


Going for a Song

The history of the British music scene from the 1950s onwards can be told through the story of the nation’s record shops, which is exactly what Garth Cartwright does in Going for a Song, his newly published survey of the retail outlets that drew fans and musicians to their specialist stock and thereby shaped the evolution of the music in all its forms.

Whether it was John Mayall buying blues 78s at a shop in Manchester’s Marsden Square, David Bowie buying Bob Dylan’s first album in the folk department of Dobell’s on Charing Cross Road, Mick Taylor buying B. B. King’s Live at the Regal at Transat Imports in a basement on Lisle Street, or Joe Strummer hearing Vince Taylor’s “Brand New Cadillac” at Ted Carroll’s original Rock On stall in the Golborne Road market, these were the places where enthusiasms were incubated and encouraged.

For a few months in 1964-65 I had a Saturday job in the basement record department of a TV rental shop in central Nottingham, using the shop’s main deck to listen to imported Blue Note albums which I’d been allowed to order but no one wanted to buy (that Christmas, Jim Reeves was outselling Eric Dolphy by about 1,000 to one). But the places I haunted as a customer were a second-hand stall in the covered market, where I bought my first jazz LPs from a rather doleful man who travelled in each day from Grantham, and a West Indian record shop near the bus station, where the sleeve of Jimmy McGriff’s I Got a Woman hung in the window and they stocked Prince Buster 45s on the Blue Beat label.

Those are the things that stay with you. On trips to London I bought an imported Mar-Keys 45 on Stax at Transat, My Name Is Albert Ayler at Dobell’s and an album by Shinichi Yuize, the koto master, at the achingly cool One Stop on South Molton Street. After I’d moved to London I spent more hours at Collet’s on New Oxford Street (run by Ray Smith and Gill Cook) than anywhere else, with occasional trips to Golborne Road and to Peckings’ tiny Studio 1 ska shop in Askew Road, Shepherds Bush. Nowadays it’s mostly the excellent Ray’s Jazz Shop in Foyle’s, sometimes Sister Ray in Berwick Street and Sounds of the Universe on Broadwick Street, and occasionally — not often enough — Honest Jon’s on Portobello Road.

I miss the little independent soul and oldies shops clustered in Hanway Street, a doglegged alley off Oxford Street, and, at the other end of the scale, Tower Records on Piccadilly Circus, with its amazing stock: the primary haunt of what David Hepworth named “the 50 quid man”, the sort of consumer who — growing into middle age with a bit of disposable income — would drop in for a new CD and pick up a couple more that filled gaps in his collection. I miss Dobell’s and James Asman’s on New Row for their sometimes cranky character. In New York I miss Village Oldies, later Bleecker Bob’s; the fabulous Colony Records on the corner of Broadway and West 52nd Street, which closed in 2012 after 64 years; and a more recent casualty, the adventurous Other Music on East 4th Street.

A great record shop sometimes requires a form of negotiation that doesn’t apply widely in the world of retail: the need for customers to prove themselves worthy of making a purchase. The first time I encountered that phenomenon was in Dobell’s, when I bought the Ayler album and was brusquely informed by a tall man with a beard that “the guy can’t play”. That was 50-odd years ago. The most recent time was last year, in House of Oldies on Carmine Street in Greenwich Village, where I kept my head down while the owner frightened off a customer who had bothered him with requests that revealed what he clearly saw as an unacceptable ignorance of doo-wop music.

One of the most memorable record-store visits, back in 1970, was to the great R&B producer Bobby Robinson’s shop at its original location on 125th Street and 8th Avenue in Harlem, opposite the Apollo Theatre. Charlie Gillett and I spotted the dust-covered boxes of 78s on high shelves, undisturbed for more than a decade. Another was to buy Northern Soul singles at Selectadisc on Arkwright Street in Nottingham — a street of vibrant working-class character since completed obliterated by urban development — and being transfixed by the beauty of the proprietor’s wife while handing over the cash for bootlegged copies of the Fuller Brothers’ “Time’s A Wasting” and Moses Smith’s “The Girl Across the Street” at the urging of my pal Dave Milton, who ran his own shop in Derby.

I could go on. Couldn’t we all, when it comes to record shops? More to the point, Garth Cartwright’s book is a wonderful guide to many of the places I’ve mentioned, and to the the people who brought them to life, from such well known figures as Doug Dobell, Ted Carroll and Geoff Travis to the more obscure characters like the Levy family of Whitechapel, Lee Gopthal of Musicland, Rita and Benny Isen of R&B Records in Stamford Hill, Laurie Krieger of Harlequin, Barry Class of the Disci chain and the mysterious Brian Abrams, whom I first encountered at his original Record & Tape Exchange in the Goldhawk Road in 1970, when he was on his way to creating a little empire based on eccentric employment policies and journalists’ review copies.

Cartwright goes right back to 1894 and the opening in Cardiff of Spillers, which survives today as the world’s oldest record shop, and tells the stories of projects that had a significant lifespan, like HMV and Virgin, and those that didn’t, like the Vogue label’s record shop on Charing Cross Road and the Chelsea Drugstore on the King’s Road. He goes outside London to include much-loved places such as the Epstein family’s NEMS emporium in Liverpool, Birmingham’s Diskery, Pete Russell’s Hot Record Store in Plymouth, Barry’s Record Rendezvous in Manchester and Eric Rose’s Music Inn in Nottingham, which hopes to celebrate its centenary next year. He’s done his research and talked to lots of people, both surviving proprietors and their customers (which makes me wish the book had an index).

At the end of Cartwright’s engrossing and hugely valuable survey we arrive at the rather less optimistic era of the vinyl revival and the annual Record Store Day, which the author views with a degree of scepticism. As he points out, the number of independent record shops in Britain tumbled from 948 to 408 between 2003 and 2007, and the recovery is struggling to stabilise itself. But as long as recorded music is available in a physical form there will be successors to those who helped so many of us to follow our ears wherever they led. They deserve this fine book.

* Going for a Song is published by Flood Gallery (£12.99).

59 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thomas Carroll #

    Erm…. wasn’t it David Hepworth who coined the phrase « the 50 quid man”?

    April 13, 2018
    • You’re right. Just checked with Tim. He wrote a piece about it for the Guardian, after Hepworth coined the term. Will correct now. Thanks.

      April 13, 2018
      • Thomas Carroll #

        You’re welcome. Very much enjoy your writing btw

        April 13, 2018
  2. Stephen Barrett #

    Fab read Richard, I remember the Nottingham shop!.Pete Russel’s Hot Record Store was the first Plymouth building I ventured into……

    April 13, 2018
  3. John Ralph #

    Ah…The siren call of a great record or book shop is hard to resist.Back in the day for me it was Henry’s Record Shop in St Mary’s Street Southampton that drew me under it’s spell. The shop was a goldmine of Jazz and Film Soundtracks, and seemed to stock every record in existence. The icing on the cake was the owner’s young nephew being given the freedom to stock newly released American imports such as the Elektra and Vanguard labels.
    Having bought the first two Love albums at the shop, I duly got my hands on their third and finest album ‘ Forever Changes’ on the day it was released. Now, a little bit older, I have just treated myself to the 50th anniversary Vinyl/CD box-set…..Sadly, not at Henry’s, but at another worthy emporium Square Records in Wimborne. The Beat Goes On…..

    April 13, 2018
    • Paul Crowe #

      One of the great records indeed, John, but is that pack worth £50/60 ?

      April 13, 2018
  4. I remember “The Man Shop in Roehampton – a fashion clothes shop that had a small area selling records – not impressive. But the owners let customers browse the comprehensive record catalogues (imports as well) and order what you wanted – The Impressions were introduced into my life long before they hit the record shops.

    April 13, 2018
  5. Richard Harris #

    City Radio in Cardiff in the early 1960s. “For all your jazz records in Wales and the West”. Managed by a guy who chain smoked French cigarettes and tapped finger rim shots on the counter to the tracks he eventually deigned to play, while making “popping” sounds to Paul Chamber’s bass. THIS I thought was incredibly hip. And still do. They had.a listening “room” with a single Quad speaker that I upset a jar of Brylcream over. But, he did flog me a “returned” LP of “Giant Steps” and that kind of changed my life. They were like Universities.

    Lovely piece again that struck a lot of chords.

    April 13, 2018
  6. Geoffrey Cannon #

    Once again Richard a wonderful column. Thank you. I got my enthusiasm for US rock (East as well as West Coast) at One Stop. It was great getting the US LPs with their thicker covers. All the best as ever Geoffrey

    April 13, 2018
  7. I read this review of Coltrane’s “Live in Seattle” written by some guy called R Williams, went to Dobell’s on Charing Cross Road and was abused by the staff and called “Richard’s little poodle” – they disapproved of this diversion from modern jazz. I still listen to the record although flipping the record halfway through a track still rankles.

    April 13, 2018
  8. That was a great read Richard. I remember there were three in Skipton when I was growing up, Woods, Phillips and Ramsbottoms, and by the age of 14 I knew my way around the racks in all three. Only Philips survives now and that’s mainly an electrical shop with a tiny selection of CDs, no better than a supermarket. I still can’t pass a second hand one without going in for a browse, if only to see what they’re charging for Who vinyl so I can see what my stuff is worth. I used to check out those shops in Hanway Street during my lunch hours. I was pleased at Omnibus to be able to distribute a book called Last Shop Standing by Graham Jones, a sales rep for an independent record distributor, which is full of great tales like the one of yours where the proprietor snootily dismisses an ill-informed customer.

    April 13, 2018
  9. This excellent-sounding book would be too bittersweet a read for me. I’m often tempted to sport a pair of horse’s eye-blinkers when I walk through certain parts of London these days, given how many seemingly indelible pillars of the city have disappeared. Ray’s Jazz Shop, with its double doors and eccentric ‘jazz name’ news-clippings on the wall – ”Colonel Al Haig” – and the deeply-missed Bob Glass and Ray Smith behind the counter; Dobell’s behind The Mousetrap; Mole Jazz and the late, great Ed Dipple; the two Vinyl Experience branches; Rhythm Records; Intoxica; Sounds That Swing; the Rough Trade basement in Neal’s Yard…all long gone. Then suddenly last year, Harold Moores Records! Erased and replaced by a generic clothing boutique. I mustn’t get started on London’s book shops. This is why I moved to Scotland.

    April 13, 2018
    • ….Just realised I meant ‘two entrances’ at Ray’s, not ‘double doors’.

      April 14, 2018
    • John Evans #

      I’m sorry to hear that Harold Moores has gone, although it had been looking increasingly anomalous. When they did a bit of refurbishment a few years ago one of the staff told me that the owner was well aware that he was swimming against the tide. The shop lost some of its appeal for me after shelves and shelves of secondhand jazz LPs suddenly disappeared, having been sold to a single foreign buyer (from China, I think).

      April 14, 2018
    • I remember Ed Dipple calling me down to his basement lair in King’s Cross one day in the ’80s and asking me if I had a copy of the first issue of Eric Dolphy’s ‘Last Date’. I had indeed. Well, Ed said, he had a Japanese collector who wanted it. He offered me £150 and a mint copy of the reissue. Done. £150 was a pretty fair sum of money in those days.

      April 14, 2018
    • Art Wood #

      Just a note, Sounds That Swing is still in rude health

      April 23, 2018
      • Excellent news!!! Whereabouts is it based now?

        April 24, 2018
      • ….Actually, I’ve just seen that it’s in Parkway, Camden! Thank you so much for letting me know, Art!
        Ages ago I saw that it was no longer in Inverness Street, then someone told me it had closed down. Evidently I was misinformed. Shall pay the shop a visit next time I’m in London. Glad to see that one shop from that gloomy list still lives on!

        April 24, 2018
      • I see the name has changed to No Hit Records :^)

        April 24, 2018
  10. Quentin Bryar #

    Marvellous. Never forget the guy in the original Rough Trade auditioning me for worthiness to buy Sly Stone’s There’s A Riot Goin’ On. “You do realise that’s a very serious record, I hope?”
    Dobell’s could be quite intimidating as a youngster. But Ray was lovely even if he thought you were wrong about a record.

    April 13, 2018
    • saverio pechini #

      Dobell’s staff’s gruffness was legendary . I experienced it while buying Coltrane’s Live at Village Vanguard Again and Alan Skidmore’s TCB (sticker on back cover) . For some reason they made me feel like a persona non grata .At Collett’s they were more amicable ( and Incus , FMP ,Bead records galore).

      April 14, 2018
  11. Tim Millin #

    I worked in Brian Abrams Record and Tape Exchange empire for six years in the eighties. I’m not the man to write the book, but someone should, there are many stories to be told and eccentric isn’t the word.

    April 13, 2018
    • So I hear. The paragraphs in the book on the subject of Record & Tape Exchange are worth reading.

      April 13, 2018
  12. GTRSLNGR #

    Speaking as a Yank who’s dealt with many a US independent record shop from both sides of the counter let me say I miss the days when .. yes .. in many cases you had to earn the respect of the individual(s) behind the counter ( guilty as charged ) but once you had you were opened up to an entire world of music you might of not discovered otherwise . A couple of personal memories . The woodwind player I was gigging with back in the early 70’s turning me on to the Paul Winter Consort’s ‘ Icarus ‘ album so we could learn the title track . Falling head over heels for the guitar player ( Ralph Towner ) as well as the band ( in essence ‘ Oregon ‘ ) I headed over to my local record store of which I was part of the inner sanctum to buy the PWC album which is when the owner turned me on to Oregon .. Ralph’s first solo album .. and hence my long standing love affair with all things ECM . At another shop where the owner was a hard core Prog fan specializing in UK and European imports I was introduced to a plethora of bands ( PFM etc ) I’d never heard of .. while at another specializing in Jazz .. well … I’m guessing you can imagine the effect he had on my collection as well as musical education .. and yet another who’s stock consisted solely of Classical .. All because the person(s) behind the counter knew his or her stuff and was ready and willing to share and inform . A model I based my short but fruitful experience behind the counter on

    But the best part was when I’d go in to buy one thing .. and come out with that along with something else I’d never even considered .. just because the staff knew my tastes and could pull things out that were off my radar . As an example .. thats how I was introduced to Ry Cooder

    So yeah .. give me a human being behind the counter who I can interact with over Amazon , and Internet opinions any day

    April 13, 2018
  13. dave heasman #

    Mann’s Music Shop in Colchester had a 10″ LP rack. They’d stapled a cardboard sign – “10” Pop” to the sleeve of a record they’d bought in by mistake and never expected to sell – Johnny Burnette and the Rock n Roll Trio.
    I ordered Ooh Poo Pah Do from them, and, later, Ezzthetics.

    Another shop in the same street mainly sold hifi, but I found the 45 of Sister Sadie in there.

    Dobells was intimidating. I took 2 records into the booth – Basie’s ’62 Kansas City 7 and Bill Doggett’s “3006 people danced”. Bought the Doggett, got serious glaring.

    April 13, 2018
  14. Peter Zec #

    Was talking on Twitter about Soho record stores and someone sent me a map of historic shops

    April 13, 2018
  15. Paul Crowe #

    Dublin calling ! Another great piece, Richard, which chimes with my own experience as a young lad rooting around town’s independent music shops – inevitably and sadly, nearly all gone – inspired by such as John Peel and Alexis Korner. That’s how I fell for the catalogues of Elektra, Stax, Atlantic, Tamla, Island etc.

    April 13, 2018
  16. My first visit to Dobell’s was with Robert Wyatt, then Ellidge, in 1961 when I was 15. On the way to see Monk and Blakey at the Festival Hall. Bought 10 inch Miles on Esquire, Monk EP and Blakey Big Band LP with Coltrane. Later worked near there and spent many lunchtimes in there buying, listening and just being there. Often bumped into those playing at Ronnie’s round the corner – a memorable one with Doug and Bud Freeman.

    April 13, 2018
    • I think you’ve won the prize for the year’s best bit of name-dropping with eight months to go…

      April 14, 2018
  17. Anthony Riley #


    Lovely writing.

    Selectadisc became something of a training ground for people who went on to work in the music industry: Andy Ferguson and Jon Briley are 2 that come to mind, and I ended up at Motown and MCA.

    Brian Selby, and his gorgeous wife, Dorothy were the two you mentioned. He also set up Black Magic records, and actually managed to put a couple of singles in the top 30, even though he may not have owned the rights.

    Regards Tony Riley

    Sent from my iPhone


    April 13, 2018
    • Were you on Arkwright Street, Tony, or later?

      April 13, 2018
      • Tony Riley #

        Much later: Bridlesmith Gate and Market Street between July 1980 and September 1981, when I landed a job in the charts compilation department at Record Business magazine, until it closed, then on to Motown as its UK publicist at RCA for 4 years.

        I did shop at Arkwright Street while it was open, and at the shop behind the Theatre Royal, which was my favourite hangout.

        April 14, 2018
    • The shop at the back of the Theatre Royal would be Nequest’s, wouldn’t it? An old-school place that nevertheless had an interesting stock. I bought Coltrane’s ‘Kulu Se Mama’ there.

      April 14, 2018
      • Tony Riley #

        That was yet another branch of Selectadisc when I shopped there. Brian must have bought that other shop.

        He was very enterprising.

        Started off as a coal miner.
        Had a stall at Mansfield market.
        At one time, had 3 shops in Market Street, and ppened a couple in Berwick Street in Soho.
        He bought the AdLib club in the Lace Market and turned it into The Garage, which was very successful for a few years. He even opened a restaurant.

        Sadly, it all went. My theory was that a whole generation of Trent Poly students just stopped buying records, and switched to downloading music.

        Sadly, Brian passed away a few years back.

        April 14, 2018
  18. Bet it doesn’t mention the Rediffusion branch in New Milton high street, hipsters! The nice lady behind the desk might not have known her Basie from her Bassey, but her dogged determination to track down (e.g.) Heavy Jelly “Chewn In” certainly satisfied my 14-year old cravings 🙂

    April 13, 2018
  19. Richard Harris #

    I used to go around the Welsh valleys looking for dust coated record shops when I was c 16. In one in Ponypridd I found the Jimmy Reed 45 (Top Rank) of “Found Love/Going by the River pt 1”. My then/first girlfriend (a Ms Twigg) promptly sat on it on the train ride back home to Newport and cracked the lead in.. It played but with a click. From then on Jimmy Reed has always had a “click”.

    April 13, 2018
  20. Philip Putnam #

    Richard, Birdland in Sydney carries an amazing stock and has sourced me anything I’ve asked for. Look ’em up online and see. And yes, I too used Collets and Ray’s, visit when I’m in London, and wish I’d kept the Blue Note 10 inchers I bought in the 50’s from that shop in Walthamstow and that original Machine Gun in the sacking sleeve that was on the wall at Ray’s before I bought it. Happy Listening.

    April 13, 2018
    • Philip Putnam #

      Oops I mean Dobell’s not Collets’s. Where I strolled past with a work colleague one lunchtime as Charlie Watts and his wife walked out. He and Terry said hello and I was introduced. Turned out Charlie worked with Terry before he picked up the drumsticks full time.

      April 14, 2018
  21. Great piece and I look forward to reading the book. Here in Scotland we had Bruce’s Records and Listen (with infamously snobbish staff). First time I went to London I searched out Dobell’s after reading about Dylan playing there on his first time in London. I bought a S/H Slim Gaillard album I still have with a Dobell’s sticker on the back cover.

    April 13, 2018
  22. Steve Goldsmith #

    Its depressing the way vintage vinyl collecting has become unaffordable, with too many copies of U2 and Boomtown Rats pressings. Don’t forget the record stalls under the flyover at Portobello Road,on a Saturday. The only place to buy Roky Erickson 45s, and many white label test pressings at reasonable prices.I wonder what has happened to all the second hand vinyl stock which seems to have disappeared along with the shops, perhaps the vinyl has been melted down to build stealth bombers.

    April 13, 2018
  23. Bob Meyrick #

    Ah, Selectadisc! While in my final year at the University of Nottingham I lived in a house on Portland Road, about a 10 minute walk from the Goldsmith Street branch of Selectadisc. This was where I bought my first ECM albums – Ralph Towner’s “Diary”, Gary Burton Quintet’s “Ring”, Pat Metheny’s “Bright Size Life”.

    Also around this time BBC Radio Nottingham had a music programme called “Extravaganza”, and I remember one Tuesday evening edition of the show, when a certain Richard Williams was a guest, playing some of his favourite new releases. These included Weather Report’s “Mysterious Traveller”, and I’m fairly sure the track played was “American Tango”. I’d read about Weather Report in Melody Maker, but this was the first time I’d heard them. I had to buy this LP! Luckily Selectadisc was only a short walk away…

    April 13, 2018
  24. geoffn #

    The cover image of the the book is a tad misleading, at least about jazz record stores. For many years the clientele were overwhelmingly male and middle-aged. The staff at Mole Records at Kings Cross used to gaze at their customers riffling waist height through vinyl and would liken it to working in a public urinal.

    Windows in the Central Arcade in Newcastle was the major shop in the north-east, with generous sit-down listening booths. Saxophonist Lance Liddell of the excellent blog worked there in its heyday.

    April 14, 2018
  25. There wasn’t much to boast about growing up in Northampton – John Lever’s was about it – but occasional trips to Hanway Street before London concerts made up for that a little. Later on for me it was mainly Red House Records in Cambridge (plus, if dim memory serves, a stall on the market there and a jazz shop in King Street); and then in London the original Rough Trade and Honest Jon’s (when Nick Coleman was often behind the counter).

    April 14, 2018
  26. George Foster #

    Among the reminiscences of records bought, we shouldn’t overlook the friendships made among the record shops. Dobell’s (and associated watering holes) was a meeting point for a remarkable network of people: musicians -the legendary, the famous, the now-forgotten – anarchists, actors, artists, bankers, crane-drivers, dancers, dockers, doctors, eminent professors, headmasters, journalists, poets, policemen, politicians, schoolkids still in uniform, union leaders, writers galore (not to mention some distinctly dodgy Soho characters.)

    As a student and later teacher, I worked part-time in the 2 Dobell’s shops in the late 60s and early 70s. Friday afternoons were an amazing time in the basement of 77 Charing Cross Road and in the Cottage (the out of hours club across the road) in the Avenue (now the site of a fire station) and especially in the Two Brewers in Seven Dials nearby. The talk was mainly about jazz but could and did switch to politics or literature or beer in what was defined by John Kendall as a “Jazz Freemasonry”. I reckon I learned more at the Dobell’s Friday sessions than at University.

    April 14, 2018
  27. Mike Jones #

    Didn’t know about the Arkright St Selectadisc. There was one in Leicester for a while in a basement on, I think, Cank St that sold US cut outs by the box load. My early 80s haunt was the Market Street branch in Nottingham. There were very few jazz records, either because they didn’t think it worth stocking them, or quite likely that most back catalogue had been long deleted. There were only a couple of Coltrane LP’s and so without having any idea where to start, I took the plunge with ‘Impressions’. If you had to write a cheque it had to be made payable not to Selectadisc but to ‘Brian Selby’.

    Thanks for the review, the book is definitely on my list along with the recent Val Wilmer reissue

    April 14, 2018
  28. Sedat Nemli #

    I haven’t seen the book yet but sincerely hope that it mentions The Record Album in Brighton, with its great vinyl collection of soundtracks, musicals and other rarities, run since decades by a true gentleman of the old school George Ginn.

    April 14, 2018
  29. Sedat Nemli #

    And on another note, the old Virgin Records store at Brighton’s Clocktower, was also a great source for rock and jazz in the ’70’s, as well as being a fun place to hang out. I in fact remember my very first purchase there in 1974, John Coltrane’s “Africa Brass Vol. 2”. Long demolished, the site is now home to a nondescript Boots.

    April 14, 2018
  30. I remember a time when Tindersticks singer Stuart Staples worked at Rough Trade Covent Garden, whilst organist/pianist Dave Boulter worked at Rhythm Records near Camden Lock. Staples was the originator of the well-known ”Ffftrade” greeting when you phoned the shop.

    April 14, 2018
  31. John Evans #

    During his student days in wartime Oxford, Philip Larkin used to buy jazz records at Russell’s and Acott’s (two music shops that later merged into one business called Russell Acott in Oxford High Street). That was where I bought my copy of ‘Ascension’, one of the Coltrane albums that the middle-aged Larkin panned in his Telegraph reviews. Russell Acott was Larkin’s nearest record shop when he was a visiting fellow at All Souls in1970/71.

    April 14, 2018
  32. jamessidewinder33 #

    The Museum of Soho blog.did a very interesting feature on Soho record shops for”Record store day” 2015.
    Chelsea Space also published a 21 page booklet about Dobells with one of those great “LP spine” bags on the cover. Wish I’d kept a few of those!
    Great photos.and very interesting text brought back many happy memories.

    April 15, 2018
    • Saverio Pechini #

      I still have one

      April 15, 2018
  33. tonydudleyevans #

    A particular memory of Tower Records in Piccadilly is over-hearing a request for Cage’s 4’33. Clearly the customer had no idea of what 4’33 really is, but the employee behind the counter did. He tried to explain why there there couldn’t be a recording, but eventually suggested that the customer go home and sit and meditate for 4’33. The customer just didn’t get it and went away looking very confused.

    April 15, 2018
  34. Colin Harper #

    I have a friend who worked for Caroline Music in Belfast in the 70s (a small chain with a main branch in Anne Street). It was a hub of activity for years. My friend, Kyle Leitch, often has more-or-less good-natured spats to this day with Terri Hooley (the much celebrated and bio-pic-ed owner of Good Vibrations store/label a few streets away) about who the real ‘Godfather of Punk’ in the city was. In terms of pure numbers, Kyle would tell you he sold many times more punk records than Tel. Anyway… one good story from that period involved a boutique owner next door to Caroline. For a few weeks, every so often, Kyle and the staff who make references to a hotly tipped forthcoming album by a fictional artiste to this chap – a would-be hipster who knew nothing about music. After a while, a mock-up album cover ‘by’ said artiste – Vince Woodstock, or whoever – would appear in Caroline’s window and the boutique man would come in say “I’ll have the Vince Woodstock album!” – at which point the truth would be revealed. This set-up and denouement was successfully repeated many times.

    April 16, 2018
  35. Many thanks for your generous, perceptive review, Richard. Being a niche book on a tiny publisher I’m not expecting a lot of coverage – even with Stewart Lee writing the foreword not a single broadsheet has considered reviewing! – thus I really appreciate a writer of your stature finding the time to read and write about GFAS. The comments thread here is highly entertaining too – so many people have had great engagements with specific record shops over the last century. If I update GFAS I will include some. That said, I refrained from contacting you for an interview – even tho i quote you (from this blog) on Transat – simply because I had too much material. First draft was 180,000 words and so plenty had to be cut, including a lovely piece by John Broven on buying R&B 78s in Eastbourne in the 1950s. Funnily enough, just today I got a FB message from someone who claims to have met the founder of Transat at the Barbican’s It Came From Memphis concert series – he was asked to accompany an elderly gentleman to the tube and in discussion on Stax the chap began telling of how he used to write to US labels to get records at the end of the ’50s/early ’60s and Stax offered to supply him with 45s to sell. He was studying accounting at the time thus the 2 mornings a week opening hours! I call it a “creation myth” in the book but it seems like it was true!

    April 26, 2018
  36. Tony Riley #

    It would be great to read all 180,000 words – maybe on a website.

    April 26, 2018
  37. steve siciliano #

    as a native new Yorker,bleeker bob was a con artist,and he sold horribly scratched LPS at really high prices…I preferred king karol,colony,and tower records ,on w.4th street&broadway-the 2nd floor jazz&blues dept was a great hang! plus,why go to bleeker bobs,when all he sold was really crappy punk garbage?ditto for other music….I need imagination,fire,&chops in the music I buy!

    May 10, 2018

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