Picture Gallery

Record shopping in London 1976

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Check out a fantastic collection of photos showing London’s West End during the hot summer of 1976, including some favourite record shopping haunts, such as Oxford Street  (HMV pictured above), Berwick Street and Soho. More photos below…

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Dominion Theatre on Tottenham Court Road. Virgin Megastore would later open on the corner of Oxford Street and TCR (click to enlarge)

Soho-Berwick-Street-1976-KH1

Berwick Street in Soho, home to many record shops past and present (Mr. CD, Selectadisc, Sister Ray etc.). Features on the cover of Oasis’ (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? (click to enlarge)

Regent-Street-1976-KH

The Piccadilly Circus end of Regent St. Tower Records would open a massive flagship store just to the left of shot in 1985 but alas, it closed in 2009 (click to enlarge)


Check out more of these superb photos via Flashbak.com

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49 responses to Record shopping in London 1976

  1. KevinK says:

    The original Virgin Megastore was in New Oxford Street in the 70s – effectively “behind” the Dominion in the second picture. The one on the corner of OS/TCR came later.

  2. Colonel Parker says:

    I loved Tower Records on Piccadilly Circus – I bought so many nice things there – a pitty it closed.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      I used to get the tube from Earls Court to Piccadilly and you could go straight into Tower from the tube station. Didn’t even have to go to street level! Brilliant.

      • Kevin says:

        Paul, the Tower Piccadilly store opened in July 1986 (I was part of the opening crew). The company opened a smaller store in Ken High Street at the end of ’85.

        It was great working there (although the hours were long and the pay lousy) and Tower did specialist music in depth better than anyone else in the country.

  3. chris says:

    The first time I visited London in ’96 (well, first real time was in ’79, but I was just a kid then), I was amazed at the number of record stores there. A year later, my friend (who lived there) and I did the business of going to all the shops on Berwick street as well as some other second hand stores. One thing I loved was the bargain basement at MVE (quite a few locations to choose from!) – thanks to 50p or a 1 pound a record (or less), I would always come back to the U.S. with lots of vinyl. Last time I was there in 2012, those locations were pretty much a shadow of their former selves. :-(

  4. Straker says:

    Great pics. Most of the record shops in central London I’ve spent the best part of 30 years patronising are now gone. Shopped in the HMV Oxford Circus from the year it opened right up until the very day they brought the shutters down. Sister Ray, Fopp and the souless HMV Bond Street are about all that’s left these days. Very sad……

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Very sad. Reckless Records in Berwick street isn’t bad.

    • Kevin says:

      Rough Trade East just off Brick Lane is awesome Straker.

      There are still loads of smaller shops around the capital – in fact a new one, Turnstyle Records, in Streatham, South London opened just 12 days ago.

  5. Straker says:

    Yep, they had a ton of my money in the late eighties/early nineties as well. I assumed when the Islington one shut that the Berwick street one had as well.

    Remember being starstuck seeing Kim Wilde browsing for 12″s (steady….) in the singles department of Tower Records Piccadilly in the 80s, the same time I picked up a Japanese cinema mag to see pictures of a new upcoming movie…Robocop. Ahh,,,memories…

    • Straker says:

      Troll off.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      The Berwick St Reckless *did* shut actually. It became something else for a few years, but then came back again as Reckless Records. Some kind of brand reboot. I think it’s the only one.

  6. Shane says:

    Oh those memories.
    I lived in London for a short time in the previous decade, and the thing I loved the most was finally being able to go to Virgin and HMV, or any store, on a Monday and see the new released first hand instead of seeing on the hit list chart the next week, or having to find them online or whatever. For someone who had only been able to find proper music as imports when visiting big cities, this was a dream come true. I would try to finish work early on monday evening and hop trot to Virgin in Tot Ct Rd, take notes on prices, then whisk off to HMV down the street and then decide where to buy, also because they did not always have the same stock. Those were the days. :)

  7. Luke says:

    I worked at Tower Piccadilly 1991-’92. What a blast. We had the best imports section and consequently we were getting into the American bands of the day before their records came out in the UK. I saw Pearl Jam play the Borderline in March ’92 which I think was their first gig outside the States. We had many great in-stores and loads of musicians would come in CD shopping. I have a scrapbook full of autographs from the likes of The Black Crowes, Joe Satriani and Flava Flav to name a few. Neil Tennant came in the week the Discography CD came out. It was the first CD we ever charged £15 for and I gave him a hard time over it because being a compilation they hadn’t had to even set foot in the studio to make it. We closed an hour early one night so Michael Jackson could go shopping and the manager picked me to take him around the store. A very surreal experience.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Nice memories. That was the era I was shopping in there quite a bit. Remember buying my Japanese CD of John Barry’s “Ipcress Film” soundtrack for £26 I think it was, on the ‘half landing’ bit between basement and ground floor. I was skint in those days but still paid over £20 for one CD! :) Loved the imports. Tower had Paul Weller’s first solo album on Pony Canyon ages before the UK release.

      • trash says:

        Paul – I was going to mention the Paul Weller import (can’t believe someone beat me to it!). I used to frequent the Virgin Megastore (they used to have a great cafe too), HMV Oxford circus and Tower Piccadilly very regularly as I live in London. The import section of Tower was particularly good (picked up lots of YMO stuff there) AND in particular I recall buying Paul Weller’s first solo album (as you say on Pony Canyon) from there too. I eyed it with suspicion for quite a while because I could not understand why it was available on import and not even mentioned as being due a domestic release. Also it wasn’t cheap :-)
        Of course I succumbed and never regretted it (it is actually a superior version to the domestic release imho).
        Never regretted the hours I spent browsing through the CDs and vinyl in those (and the smaller shops in Berwick street – I lived just off Berwick street for a couple of years in the late 90s).
        Oh and I’m jealous of the guy who spotted Kim Wilde vinyl browsing – I was in love with her at that age :-)

    • Kevin says:

      Funnily enough the same thing happened to me – I worked at Tower 1986 – 88 and Jacko came into the store to do some midnight shopping just before his Wembley Stadium gigs in September(?) ’88. He was taller than I expected, but much odder. Bought mostly audiobooks on cassette, if I remember correctly.

      Just before one of his Wembley Arena gigs, Prince and band came in for a signing. Complete madness!

      Oddly enough, the biggest crowd we had for an in-store at Tower when I was there was for Sam Fox! The smallest was for Tony Bennett – he took it very graciously, though.

      • zack says:

        don’t know why I am replying to this, it seems irrelevant now but i was there at the sam fox signing. Was a massive fan at the age of 7, my sisters surprised me by taking me there. I was gutted the photos they took of me with her didn’t come out :(… do you remember the exact date? I think it was 1988

  8. Chris says:

    Did a semester of university in London in Autumn 1988 (Acid House, Bros, SAW, Camden Palace, the Harp Club, HITS-FM, the musical memories ingrained forever). Took the Tube at least twice a week from Chelsea to Oxford Street and spent hours at the HMV and Virgin Megastore. I remember they had a CD pressing plant in the basement level of Virgin and were pressing an early Peter Gabriel CD during one visit. The men in the white haz-mat suits would slide a finished disc out a slot from the clean room and you could buy it, literally, hot off the press.
    Thanks for dredging up the good memories, Paul.
    Cheers!

  9. Straker says:

    Saw Prince, Sheila E and The Revolution (?) at the HMV Oxford Street in the late eighties with all the attendant madness in the streets outside and then the last act I saw the month it closed was Olly Murs (by accident I hasten to add!). The contrast between those two spanning decades sums something up, of which I’m not entirely sure…….

    Anybody remember the name of that record shop just near Raymond Revue Bar, also gone now? Name was “something something” ie the same thing twice IIRC but I can’t remember what. Had a small room upstairs full of pretty obscure indie vinyl as well as the crammed downstairs and staffed by a couple of curmudgeonly old folk I seem to remember. Opposite the sex cinema – Was it Cheapo Cheapo Records?

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Yes Cheapo Cheapo. Had all that white racking that held CDs. They had loads of videos too I seem to remember with Jazz and Classical at the back.

      • trash says:

        Crikey – Cheapo Cheapo, That’s a name I have not heard in a while.

        Used to go there on occasion to try and find the rare gem amongst all the crud (almost literally as someone else has noted!).

        There was also Mister CD on Berwick street for a while.

      • Kevin says:

        Cheapo Cheapo was where all the hacks from Sounds, NME and MM used to offload all their promos and freebies.

    • Joe says:

      I was there that day too, I think I seen Prine the night before in Wembley.I lived in London for two years I am From Ireland, thanks for reminding me

    • Tania says:

      Hi, i was there at the Prince signing. Prince and i exchanged gifts, its was after everyone thought he had gone and just the band left. He came back onto the platform to say hello and signed a few albums for me in exchange for something! Where you still there. I would so of loved to have a picture of us but it was the good old days B4 mobiles! He was beautiful.

  10. Eric says:

    I want that world back, please.

  11. SimonP says:

    I used to see so many CDs I wanted in Tower Records, but refused to buy them because they had slots cut into the cases and inserts!

    • Kevin says:

      SimonP – that was often a requirement at that time. Tower used to carry a lot of “parallels” (ie stock transferred from US or Japanese stores to London ones) and the record companies often made us drill holes in, or cut, the sleeves and booklets as a condition for stocking them.

  12. Roel Glas says:

    On a different note, where’s the traffic. Ah, the days of strolling down the street without bumping into 1000’s of people.

  13. Brian C says:

    Yes Cheapo Cheapo was the one – a small shop but absolutely crammed with stuff – vinyl, CDs, videos, DVDs – even cassettes. Many a good bargain I nabbed in there ! Happy days !

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      You always got filthy in that shop though. A washing of the hands was a necessity afterwards! As for health and safety / fire regulations – forget it!

  14. Daniel H. says:

    Those were the days…! During my 3 month stay in London I lived near Highgate and used to go to a small but fine store called Terrapin Trucking Co., Crouch End. Bought the Derek & The Dominos CD-Box there (and a lot more).

  15. Straker says:

    An old record shop near me closed down a couple of years ago and the new owners had all the old vinyl to clear out before they could renovate. They hired a skip and by the end of the day it was full to overflowing with 7″s, 12″s, LPs, Cassettes and more. They set up a little table and a sign: “FREE – Please help yourselves”. A few of us crate-diggers had a go at searching through and some got a few gems before the heavens opened and soaked the lot! This was less than two years ago so it just goes to show that even with vinyl having a minor resurgence most folk still regard it as rubbish to be binned.

  16. chris says:

    I don’t know if it’s still there, but there was this one store right in around Chinatown in London that always had some gems, especially promo 1 track VHS music video tapes. But yeah….the MVE on Berwick street had a great bargain basement. There’s also a location near Notting Hill Gate that’s pretty decent too.

    Has digital really killed off the physical format? I mean, years ago the industry kept saying that CDs would kill off vinyl, but it was still pressed up – not so much in the U.S. (well, it was, but not in large quantities) but rather in the UK. With the resurgence in vinyl, I wonder if any of these stores will make a comeback.

  17. Straker says:

    M&VE – Surliest staff in the world. Customers are a bloody inconvenience to them!

  18. Shane says:

    The stores that sell vinyl outside of the UK do so at prohibitive prices and I barely see anyone actually picking them up.

    • DJ Control says:

      Yep $40 and up for an lp in Australia. Led Zep 2lp box sets $68. It’s almost like they buy from Amazon and double the price.

  19. Brent says:

    For those interested (who don’t already know of its existence) this is an interesting nostalgic record store website..
    http://www.britishrecordshoparchive.org/

  20. Deano says:

    Whilst somewhat agreeing with Strakers comments on MV&E staff, their shops are still a treasure chest for those of us still collecting physical. Real shame that the Berwick Street store has now closed, but the Notting Hill and Grenwich stores are still worth the trip.

    Would really like to find a decent up-to-date source for good record shops around the country – i’m often finding myself randomly visiting cities and towns so would be good to have the lowdown. Alternatively, it would be good to understand whether there are any record collector havens outside of London so that I can plan a trip.

    Might be a good idea for a future article Paul.
    Keep up the good work.

  21. Zongadude says:

    I went to London for the first time last year. Visited HMV in Oxford St, and Berwick St. While Sister Ray and the likes were great (I found a numbered 1968 mono White Album for £ 100), I couldn’t believe how un-interesting and small the HMV store was. I had heard so much good stories about it…
    Reading what you all have to say about it tells me I came in London way too late… :(

    • Straker says:

      That’s the Bond Street store even though it is on Oxford Street, the one you’re thinking of shut January 2014 and was the massive one near Oxford Circus. It’s now a sports shop, as if Oxford Street needed another one of those!

      • Zongadude says:

        Thanks for the clarification.
        Oh yes, London needs another sports shop…. and more of those “famous brand” stores (I won’t name them)…. Of course, it’s the same stores and brands that are in every major cities. (Paris, Rome, etc…). But you don’t want to disappoint the over-rich tourist by giving him something he’s not used to see, do you ? :(
        The fact is that nowadays every major city center in Europe looks the same and provides the same outlets and stores. What’s the point of going to a foreign country ? One has to go to Camden to feel like “being in England” and not in New York or Luxemburg City.

  22. Scottie says:

    Mines a more recent story. I went into the Tower Records store in Piccadilly (I think at the time it had become Virgin or possibly Zavvi !!) I’d purchased a Watts At Scotts by Charlie Watts in there and was looking for some older Charlie releases also. The guy on the counter said that was the only Charlie release they had but he went on to say if I catch the tube up to Oxford Circus and go down into the basement of HMV they have a Jazz section where I likely will find some Charlie releases. Off I go and sure enough I found Long Ago & Far Away and Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project, great finds. The best find however was actually meeting Charlie Watts who happened to be in the HMV Oxford Street store on this rainy Tuesday afternoon around 2-3pm ish. I couldn’t believe it. I walked around him several times before I plucked up the courage to ask him. He responded very politely he was, and we had an amazing discussion on the Stones for maybe 10 minutes. Thank You Charlie if you happen to read this. You made my day and my trip to London the most memorable.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Great story. I saw Charlie myself once, just in the street looking dapper in a suit around the corner from Saville Row. This was about mid-90s I think. I didn’t go up to him though, but cool to see someone *that* famous :)

  23. Eric says:

    here in the US only the large indy record shops remain, such as Amoeba.

  24. Scottie says:

    Thanks Paul, yes he was wearing an immaculate suit and I recall very shiny burgundy colour shoes. Very dapper ! I knew it was him and I just had to say hi !

    Eric, Amoeba is a great store, I was just there in May and spent 3 hours browsing and buying and still went back the following day. There’s so much to see and you really do have to look closely for the smaller items tucked away in slide out draws for example boxes of Apple label 7″ singles from the 70’s…I went crazy in there!

  25. Gary Russell says:

    That Chinatown store was Steve’s Sounds, a mecca for promo CD singles too

    • tomvox says:

      Steves Sounds was always a great place for promo discs often before the official release date. I picked up my copy of The Beatles White Album on CD with the cover number of (I think) 174. I’ve never seen any lower than that.

  26. Jim Horan says:

    cool! Here in the USA, my parents took my family to the UK in the summer of ’76, and I vividly remember going into this HMV, and being a huge Beatles fan at the time, and only 13 or so, I remember buying a Beatles lp on Odeon or some such….of course a few years later when i was REALLY into music my head would’ve exploded! Thanks for the memory!!!

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