BillF

Mole Jazz on BBC Radio 3

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At 9.15 pm on Saturday 6 December Radio 3 presents Between the Ears: Mole Jazz. Widow Leni Dipple remembers her husband Ed, the former owner of Mole jazz, a tiny specialist record shop situated near King's Cross station.

Ed was a very good friend of mine from university days and I certainly won't miss this. I know we have a number of former Mole customers on the board who will be interested.

Edited by BillF

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Should be interesting.

Back in the late 70s/early 80s when I was first getting to know jazz I regularly made the treck to Mole (King's Cross Station was my route back to the frozen north Midlands). I picked up import copies of things like 'Miles Smiles' and 'My Funny Valentine' there at a time when only a fraction of the Miles catalogue was domestically available in the UK.

Hard to imagine now!

Edited by Bev Stapleton

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Mole was a very nice shop. There was ALWAYS too much to buy there. And also it was only a short walk up the Euston Road to Sterns. And there was ALWAYS too much to buy there, too! My trips to London, fortunately reasonably frequent and paid for by the office, always ended up with me carrying a huge weight of LPs, K7s and CDs back on the train. Amazing how quickly you can look through a couple of shops when you've got a train to catch :)

I was served by Leni on a few occasions (well, I think it must have been she) and she seemed to know a good bit about Soul Jazz. Now THAT'S unusual!

MG

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Fabulous - won't miss this. I remember Ed from the store - it was only a 10 minute walk from College so I was a regular at their first location in Kings Cross in the late 70s/early 80s (and also the later place across the road). Still have one of Ed's mail order flyers (maybe his first?) from when he operated from home and I even bought a Miles Davis twofer from that list. Quite a lot of my LP collection came from Mole.

Talking of that first store, although they vacated it many years ago (before moving across the road) until recently the 'Mole Jazz' banner above the store was quite visible, which must have caused quite a bit of confusion over the years. I wonder if that block of buildings has been demolished for redevelopment yet?

Edited by sidewinder

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I picked up import copies of things like 'Miles Smiles' and 'My Funny Valentine' there at a time when only a fraction of the Miles catalogue was domestically available in the UK.

Remember that situation well. Hence my 70s Italian pressing of 'The Sorcerer' !

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Still have one of Ed's mail order flyers (maybe his first?) from when he operated from home and I even bought a Miles Davis twofer from that list. Quite a lot of my LP collection came from Mole.

Yes, I'd forgotten that they operated a mail order business. I started buying from them by mail order in about 1977, because expenses-paid trips to London in those days were most infrequent. They did good business in Muse Soul Jazz LPs with me.

MG

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The store must have opened around 1978 - I think that second-hand list was from about 1976. It even has a Tubby Hayes Fontana on it for a crazy £3 ! I only noticed that 30 years later. ;)

Most of my perusing in Mole in the early days as a poor student was in the deletions rack. A good time to pop in was New Year when they used to have a crazy sale with people scrambling to get into the store and get the best bargains.

Used to drool over at the Japanese rack with the latest King and Toshiba imports but they were beyond me at the time. In later years I graduated to the 'collectors' bins upstairs in the 'new' location but there were also lots of good things to find in the regular vinyl racks.

Edited by sidewinder

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I have fond memories of Ed and his Mole Jazz. Cost me a small fortune...

Mole went downhill fast after his death.

Edited by J.A.W.

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This 'article' I found (an old one - as it refers to the 'old' Rays store pre-Foyles) might be of interest:

"Originally sited on the island block between Gray's Inn Road and Pentonville Road, it was within spitting distance of Kings Cross mainline station.

This was quite a large shop and had row upon row of albums split up into all the different genres of jazz you could think of. As it was a mere cigarette smoking distance from my workplace at the time, nearly every other lunch hour (remember them?) was spent in the shop searching for Gilles Peterson's 'Jazz With Attitude' playlists.

The Pentonville Road shop was subject to the eagle eyes of property developersand it closed before the days of home PCs (never mind the Internet and mp3s). So whilst the block has been boarded up for 10 years awaiting the Channel Tunnel Rail Link redevelopment windfall, Mole tunnelled under Gray's Inn Road to relocate at No. 311. The old shop still has a banner announcing the news of the move, which is looking very bedraggled now. The banner doesn't cover up the original logo of a Mole cartoon character on the shop sign happily blowing his sax on a mound of freshly dug earth.

With the move to 311, Mole (the cartoon character) put on a little weight and the shop's character also changed. The CDs that we looked down upon in the old shop as 'upstarts' took prominence. The new shop that was much smaller and vinyl addicts got sent upstairs to the unloved first floor for a much-reduced selection.

Whilst you can't stop progress, it was never the same. The staff remained as helpful and as knowledgeable as ever but like policemen, they seemed to get very young.

Due to their incredible knowledge, I was always in awe of the staff. Due to its location next to a mainline train termini, jazzheads from all over the country would visit the shop and spend serious amounts on all jazz variants. My few quid spent on the 'Second-hand Fusion' section over the last 20 years may have helped, but never matched the extremes of serious collectors from early jazz blues to Japanese Blue Note import collectors (these vinyl treasures weighed nearly as must as they cost).

I suppose until recently, their main competition was Ray's Jazz that was just off Shaftsbury Avenue. This is another shop that had served the jazz community for decades that closed down in the Internet/MP3 era. Thankfully, Ray's found a new home nearby on the first floor at Foyles book shop on Charing Cross Road.

Similarly, Mole Jazz moved from its Kings Cross base soon after Ray's. The new home was also on the 1st Floor, above Classical Music specialist Harold Moores. However, this proved to be only a stopgap before the end. It was only the other week one of the staff was playing Miles Davis' 'Bitches Brew' so there was no let up in appreciation of the music, but the black plastic bags didn't have the trade mark Mole logo printed on them anymore and the record purchasing experience was much the worse for that."

Edited by sidewinder

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Thanks for posting that.

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Those black plastic bags were GREAT! Very sturdy. You could get a lot of LPs in them and the handles wouldn't break before you got them home.

MG

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The last time I visited them was at their Pentonville Road shop. I left with a suitcase full of LPs :) Must have been in the 1980s...

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Mole went downhill fast after his death.

That is true - although it remained a very good shop right into the 1990s it was at its best in the earlier years in the first, pre-CD era location.

I was always amazed at the way people came from all over Europe and beyond to stock up at Mole. From the way they checked out the LP racks you could also tell that, by and large, they really knew their stuff.

Edited by sidewinder

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Those black plastic bags were GREAT! Very sturdy. You could get a lot of LPs in them and the handles wouldn't break before you got them home.

MG

I think I've still got a couple of them. :lol:

Didn't stop me from ripping the handles though by cramming too many LPs into them. They were strong but not quite strong enough !

Edited by sidewinder

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Mole went downhill fast after his death.

That is true - although it remained a very good shop right into the 1990s it was at its best in the earlier years in the first, pre-CD era location.

I was always amazed at the way people came from all over Europe and beyond to stock up at Mole. From the way they checked out the LP racks you could also tell that, by and large, they really knew their stuff.

During the ED era they started a wholesale operation. After his death it continued for a while but then deteriorated badly. I'm sure I am not the only person/label left holding the bag. I know my friend Bruno at Okka lost a bundle. To some extent this was my fault 'cause I recommended them by my past experience. Martin Davidson tried to make things right and I was (probably) ok, but Bruno bit a big one.

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Most of my vinyl collection came from Mole too.

Their first shop was in Baker Street (not called Mole though). Graham Griffiths was the person responible for all those Japanese imports we snapped up eagerly. Graham went on to work with Import Music Services when Polygram closed their import division. Last time I saw Graham some years ago he wasn't too well.

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Their first shop was in Baker Street (not called Mole though).

Yes - 'All Change Records'. Only called in there a couple of times. Didn't it run in parallel with the Mole shop for a short time? I seem to recall the Baker St operation closed down around 1979-ish.

Edited by sidewinder

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Their first shop was in Baker Street (not called Mole though).

Yes - 'All Change Records'. Only called in there a couple of times. Didn't it run in parallel with the Mole shop for a short time? I seem to recall the Baker St operation closed down around 1979-ish.

That's it, All Change Records. I seem to recall it was in the basement. I remember my first visit, it was chock full of some remarkable cut-outs from the US. I don't remember if it ran in parallel with Mole.

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I was always amazed at the way people came from all over Europe and beyond to stock up at Mole. From the way they checked out the LP racks you could also tell that, by and large, they really knew their stuff.

I guess I was one of them (maybe we did cross paths there, who knows ...).

I seem to have missed the "early" Mole days as I did not become aware of Mole's until 1986 or so and did buy one or two items from them via mail order. But from 1993 until 2000 I made numerous visits to Mole's as I made a point of including a 1-2 day stopover on the way back to the Ramsgate ferry or the Eurotunnel each time on my trip back from those 40s/50s music weekenders I attended over there. In a pinch aven a half-day (afternoon) halt in London would suffice to make the rounds at Mole's (combing through ALL bins), Ray's AND possibly the Compendium bookstore before beating it towards the Dartford flyover before the evening rushhour traffic out of London set in. ;)

It wasn't rare for me to leave the shop with some 50 LPs or so, so a good deal of my collection came from Mole too, and I can confirm what MG said about the plastic bags (I also must have some of them somewhere).

As for their selection deterioration, I cannot realy confirm that. The first time I was there in 1993 they still were in what must have been the original shop (and the prices did look a bit steep to me even for ordinary 70s reissues), but the next time I made it to London they had moved a few blocks on, and though you clearly could see what was "ex-auction" (which was sometimes priced a bit steeply), their vinyl bins always held lots of fairly priced or downright cheap goodies in clean condition for me (but I was and am more into swing and West Coast than Blue Note and Impulse first pressings anyway). To me at least it seemed like their prices had gone down overall vs. my first visit.

It must have been in 1995 when I really hit the big time there. Mole Jazz had opened a second shop across the street because (as the staff told me) they had gotten such a huge amount of secondhand records in stock that their shop simply could not hold them (must have been the time when many seasoned collectors went the CD route wholesale). At any rate, they had that shop only for a time and the day I was there they had started downmarking EVERYTHING in the store. While I combed through all the bins from A to Z I was starting to get afraid I'd overtake the staff busy with reducing the prices but he told me smilingly not to worry as he'd mark everything else down at checkout and that I'd sure had come in the right place at the right time. That day I definitely felt like in vinyl heaven!

Too bad I didn't have enough time to check through the racks and racks of 78s too.

Though in retrospect (and seeing what was/is possible on eBay) I have to admit I sometimes bid far too steeply on their auction lists I found shopping at Mole Jazz always very enjoable right up to the last time I was there in 2000.

Too bad the page is now turned; Mole Jazz looked like a worthy successor to DOBELL's shop to me (which I was lucky enough to check out in 1975/76/77 but with a school student's budget you could only afford a few select items each time ;)).

And there were other legendary places as well. I remember marveling at the astonishing selection of music books at the BLOOMSBURY BOOK SHOP around 1976/77 as well, and of course at that time I was totally unaware of the fact that John Chilton was a seminal figure in British jazz. In fact I did buy from them through mail order later on but with limited funds missed out on a few now rare items. I recall inquiring about the newly published "To Bird With Love" book and receiving a handwritten card from Theresa Chilton saying verbatim "We can order it for you but the price is 56 pounds - UGH!!"

By the time I next got to London in 1993 both shops were long gone and now Mole and the Compendium Book Shop (IMO a decent successor to the Bloomsbury Book Shop) are long gone too.

Amazon makes up for a lot of that loss these days but it still is a pity.

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dd06_11.JPG

Little me came to the UK in 97 but I was able to catch Mole's last years where I was a regular downstairs and upstairs (I still have a few books from there). As far as I know in the end they were acquired by distributors New Note, and Mole is now a shop in eBay. (I was a couple of times at Harold Moore's upstairs and it was really sad).

Won't miss the programme, thanks for the heads up.

F

PS I may have a bag somewhere, too...

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Thanks for putting up that logo, Fer. Was there ever a better one for a shop?

Someone should make a smiley out of it.

MG

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I seem to have missed the "early" Mole days as I did not become aware of Mole's until 1986 or so and did buy one or two items from them via mail order. But from 1993 until 2000 I made numerous visits to Mole's

I saw a fair bit of the place in the early days and more occasionally in the mid/late-80s. Only really frequented it again once I was back from N. America in 1997-ish, when they had relocated and vinyl was starting to be 2nd-fiddle to CDs (by this time I had started to get interested in vinyl again after some years dominated by CDs). On my first few visits the auction lists were still up and running and I put a couple of optimistic bids in - totally unsuccessfully. Around the end of the decade though it used to be common to see 'auction quality/rarity' LPs in the 'Collectors' bins upstairs, including a sprinkling of decent Blue Note Liberties/NY USAs at reasonable price and the occasional Brit Jazz gem (for example I picked up Frank Ricotti's CBS album this way - an unexpected delight). Those last few years in the 2nd location were without doubt the best years for good finds - when most people were more interested in CDs.

Some of the nicest finds for me were upstairs in the ancient overhead racks, where the non-modern jazz stuff was placed (and lingered for years and years collecting dust). Stashes of Herman, Basie, Ellington etc. Although the stuff was incredibly dusty (a copy of 'Jazz Wave' 2LP on Blue Note had me sneezing for weeks - but, heck, it was £2 !) those items could be bought for incredibly little money. They also had a turntable with amp and speakers upstairs but eventually the needle was nackered and it was never replaced. Great times ! :rsmile:

Edited by sidewinder

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Someone should make a smiley out of it.

Definitely !

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