A Lark Ascending

Last Shop Standing (Whatever happened to record shops?)

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41S6h8DawKL._SL500_AA240_.jpg

Written by one of the people who run Proper Music (yes, yes, I know...) who worked his way from a market stall and has seen the changing fortunes of the record market.

The first bit describes his career in record shops and managing bands. But the heart is just a 2008 tour round the independent shops he has dealt with all his life. A fun read for his affectionate defence of the little shops, especially when it's a shop you've used...but also enlightening about why the record shops have closed so quickly (and E-bay, Amazon and downloading are only part of the story...he's scathing about the treatment of independents by the record companies).

He's not a natural writer - it can be a bit stilted and the 'funny stories' are often not that funny. But if you spent as much time in UK record shops as I did up to a few years back, you'll enjoy this.

Published by Proper so not hard to find!

***************

Side question.

Someone - might have been BillF or Sidewinder - mentioned in the last few days not being able to find the relocated Dobells when it left its main base.

It made me think of a shop I recall from the early 80s (maybe even very late 70s) that stood in the Covent Garden area about one or two roads parallel to Charing Cross Road. It looked very modern with quite spartan walls. The front room had jazz records on sale, the back had folk records. I can recall seeing lots of Andrew Hill and Bobby Hutcherson Blue Note imports there - too expensive for me to take a chance on though later I regreted it (and later still was pleased as the music appeared on CD).

Was this the relocated Dobells or somewhere else?

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That place parallel to Charing Cross could have been a branch of 'Honest Jon's'. If it's the place I'm thinking of, it was on St Martin's Lane I think, South of Oxford St and not far from Covent Garden. Used to walk past it on a daily basis. Can't recall a folk section in there but the jazz was definitely in the front bit.

There was also the original 'Rays' which was on Shaftesbury Ave - that one had folk and blues downstairs, jazz on the ground floor.

I don't recall the original 'Dobells' location but I have a feeling it was on Charing Cross Road, opposite side to Foyles.

JohnS will likely have the answers to all of this !

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This is interesting. I used to frequent the Camden Town shop shown in the photo regularly. The Covent Garden branch seems to have been managed by the founder of 'Wire' - bought a few blue label Blue Notes from that store, possibly served by the man himself.

I seem to recall that it didn't last - no doubt a victim of the early 80s recession, brutal in London.

Honest Jon's

Edited by sidewinder

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That place parallel to Charing Cross could have been a branch of 'Honest Jon's'. If it's the place I'm thinking of, it was on St Martin's Lane I think, South of Oxford St and not far from Covent Garden. Used to walk past it on a daily basis. Can't recall a folk section in there but the jazz was definitely in the front bit.

There was also the original 'Rays' which was on Shaftesbury Ave - that one had folk and blues downstairs, jazz on the ground floor.

I don't recall the original 'Dobells' location but I have a feeling it was on Charing Cross Road, opposite side to Foyles.

JohnS will likely have the answers to all of this !

Could have been Honest Jons - though for some reason I'd have expected a more modern name!

I recall the original Rays very well - in its latter days it too had a good folk/blues/country section down a spiral staircase in the basement.

I went into the original Dobells a few times during its latter days. It was on CCR but I can't recall if it was above or below Cambridge Circus. Did it have two separate shops right next to one another - I might be wrong, but I seem to recall the folk stuff being separate from the jazz. I still have a John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris LP with a Dobells sticker on it.

Going back to the book, there are a couple of pictures of MG's favourite haunt, Spillers in the book. I've not yet got to Wales in the text.

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I'm racking my brain as to where exactly this 'Honest Jon's' shop was. It was on a pedestrianised - possibly cobbled (Neal St?) - street I think so not St Martins Lane - definitely Covent Garden (it was already filling up with trendy stores selling designer soaps and antiques and the like). It was on a route I used to take as a quick pedestrian short cut up to Bloomsbury. I can certainly picture the shop - woodwork painted in a bright red I think. Not a very big store - but I remember the Sun Ra and Blue Note LPs in their racks. Certainly lots of avant garde stuff in there (most of which was a bit lost on me at the time).

Remember being suprised when the place opened up and passing it the first time, not expecting to see a jazz outlet in this area. All part of the original 'Covent Garden Re-development' I guess.

folk/blues/country section down a spiral staircase in the basement.

As I recall, getting down that staircase safely after a couple of pints could be problematic !

Edited by sidewinder

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I hope that Mole Jazz gets a chapter of its own!!

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I'm racking my brain as to where exactly this 'Honest Jon's' shop was. It was on a pedestrianised - possibly cobbled - street I think so not St Martins Lane - definitely Covent Garden (it was already filling up with trendy stores selling designer soaps and antiques and the like). It was on a route I used to take as a quick pedestrian short cut up to Bloomsbury. I can certainly picture the shop - woodwork painted in a bright red I think. Not a very big store - but I remember the Sun Ra and Blue Note LPs in their racks. Certainly lots of avant garde stuff in there (most of which was a bit lost on me at the time).

Remember being suprised when the place opened up and passing it the first time, not expecting to see a jazz outlet in this area. All part of the original 'Covent Garden Re-development' I guess.

folk/blues/country section down a spiral staircase in the basement.

As I recall, getting down that staircase safely after a couple of pints could be problematic !

Wasn't there an Honest John's shop on Portobello Road, with a jazz section in the basement?

(Edit) Oops, that must be their current shop. Got several beautiful records there in the 1980s.

Edited by J.A.W.

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41S6h8DawKL._SL500_AA240_.jpg

Written by one of the people who run Proper Music (yes, yes, I know...) who worked his way from a market stall and has seen the changing fortunes of the record market.

The first bit describes his career in record shops and managing bands. But the heart is just a 2008 tour round the independent shops he has dealt with all his life. A fun read for his affectionate defence of the little shops, especially when it's a shop you've used...but also enlightening about why the record shops have closed so quickly (and E-bay, Amazon and downloading are only part of the story...he's scathing about the treatment of independents by the record companies).

He's not a natural writer - it can be a bit stilted and the 'funny stories' are often not that funny. But if you spent as much time in UK record shops as I did up to a few years back, you'll enjoy this.

Published by Proper so not hard to find!

***************

Side question.

Someone - might have been BillF or Sidewinder - mentioned in the last few days not being able to find the relocated Dobells when it left its main base.

It made me think of a shop I recall from the early 80s (maybe even very late 70s) that stood in the Covent Garden area about one or two roads parallel to Charing Cross Road. It looked very modern with quite spartan walls. The front room had jazz records on sale, the back had folk records. I can recall seeing lots of Andrew Hill and Bobby Hutcherson Blue Note imports there - too expensive for me to take a chance on though later I regreted it (and later still was pleased as the music appeared on CD).

Was this the relocated Dobells or somewhere else?

When Dobell's relocated, it moved to Tower Street - a side street off the eastern side of Charing Cross Road ( Dobells was on the western side of CCR, the same side as Foyles but lower down ). The location was quite near The Ivy and also, I believe, the theatre where The Mousetrap played for many years. The 'new' Dobell's was a sort of corner location. Not sure it could really be described as 'modern' but I believe it did have white walls. And lets face it, any shop would look modern in comparison with the old Dobell's! The jazz was in the front of the shop, the folk and blues at the back, so it probably was the one you remember. Last time I was there I think it had become a shop selling beads.

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Wasn't there an Honest John's shop on Portobello Road, with a jazz section in the basement?

Yes - It's still there. Last time I was in though the jazz was moved onto the ground floor with the rest of the LPs. Still a very good store for new jazz LPs and CDs, reggae etc. and friendly too - also excellent mail order. I remember being in there around 2004 with the jazz down below so they must have moved it all upstairs after that (the second hand selection was very much reduced on my last few trips).

They may well be operating their record label (Candi Staton etc.) from the basement these days, perhaps?

Edited by sidewinder

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I'm racking my brain as to where exactly this 'Honest Jon's' shop was. It was on a pedestrianised - possibly cobbled (Neal St?) - street I think so not St Martins Lane - definitely Covent Garden (it was already filling up with trendy stores selling designer soaps and antiques and the like). It was on a route I used to take as a quick pedestrian short cut up to Bloomsbury. I can certainly picture the shop - woodwork painted in a bright red I think. Not a very big store - but I remember the Sun Ra and Blue Note LPs in their racks. Certainly lots of avant garde stuff in there (most of which was a bit lost on me at the time).

Remember being suprised when the place opened up and passing it the first time, not expecting to see a jazz outlet in this area. All part of the original 'Covent Garden Re-development' I guess.

folk/blues/country section down a spiral staircase in the basement.

As I recall, getting down that staircase safely after a couple of pints could be problematic !

I'm almost certain it was St Martin's Lane.

Rooting around on Google I noticed that a shop I recall seeing that only sold recordings from shows and musicals still seems to be functioning.

There also used to a shop selling only opera recordings next door to the Coliseum (why is that so hard to spell?) and a recall a large classical only shop on the Strand just opposite Charing Cross Station. Do they still exist?

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Talking of now-lost record shops, I still miss a nice local store in Exeter (Gandy St) that had 2 unique claims in terms of jazz LP emporiums. One - it was reputedly haunted by a poltergeist. Two - right under one of the jazz LPs racks there was a preserved section of Roman Road (under glass) that the store owners showed me once !

img_3812-exeter-gandy-street-300x200.jpg

Edited by sidewinder

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That place parallel to Charing Cross could have been a branch of 'Honest Jon's'. If it's the place I'm thinking of, it was on St Martin's Lane I think, South of Oxford St and not far from Covent Garden. Used to walk past it on a daily basis. Can't recall a folk section in there but the jazz was definitely in the front bit.

There was also the original 'Rays' which was on Shaftesbury Ave - that one had folk and blues downstairs, jazz on the ground floor.

I don't recall the original 'Dobells' location but I have a feeling it was on Charing Cross Road, opposite side to Foyles.

JohnS will likely have the answers to all of this !

I don't recall Honest Jon's being near Charing Cross Road. I think the original shop was in Camden and then became Rhythm Records when HJ's opened in Portobello Road. Ray's was originally in New Oxford Street, just along from Imhof's ( anyone remember them? ). It then moved to Charing Cross Road, just up from Foyles, in a modern block before moving to Shaftesbury Avenue ( and subsequently Foyles ).

I've obviously spent too much time in London record shops!

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Yeah, that Honest Jon's 'out-station' was definitely Covent Garden, not Charing Cross. Sort of off the beaten track.

I remember the Rhythm Records in the original Honest Jon's Camden location. In fact I happened to pop in there when it turned out they were having their closing down sale around 4/5 years ago (happened to be in the area by chance). It was real sad to see those old racks with just a few LPs left - especially so if you remember the racks as they were stacked with jazz and reggae vinyl back around the 1980 timeframe.

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Talking of now-lost record shops, I still miss a nice local store in Exeter (Gandy St) that had 2 unique claims in terms of jazz LP emporiums. One - it was reputedly haunted by a poltergeist.

Ghost of Miles?

Re the rest of the discussion, I never came across Honest John's, visited the original Dobells in Charing Cross Road scores of times between 1957 and the move (in the early 80s?) to Covent Garden, where, as I've related, I bought one record before they closed. :(

img_3812-exeter-gandy-street-300x200.jpg

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I hope that Mole Jazz gets a chapter of its own!!

Somebody should write a book about that place !

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I hope that Mole Jazz gets a chapter of its own!!

Somebody should write a book about that place !

Well, at least Radio 3 has covered them. (Leni Dipple's reminiscences on her late husband.)

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One of the sad stories mentioned by several different owners in the book is of being sold chart CDs by the record companies for £9 when the local supermarket was selling them for £6. So the independent owners would take a trolley to the supermarket, buy up all the stock at £6 so they could sell it for £7. Still cheaper than buying direct from the company.

Reminds me of a conversation I had with the chap who used to run Music Matters in Bath - he was saying he was getting to the point where he would no longer stock Blue Note releases because he was constantly undercut by the likes of Fopp and the never ending sales in HMV.

There's a nice tale from Threshold Records in Cobham (owned by the Moody Blues) which refuses to stock mainstream chart CDs and X-Factor type things. The owner takes pleasure when a rep asks how many copies of the new Kylie CD he wants in replying 'None'.

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I hope that Mole Jazz gets a chapter of its own!!

Somebody should write a book about that place !

It gets mentioned in the frighteningly long lately-departed list at the front of the book.

The writer's career has been mainly in the rock area so I doubt if Mole will figure highly. I'll let you know if it gets mentioned.

Actually, I was thinking that between us we could probably write a book about London's lost jazz record shops. The only problem would be that we're the only people who would want to read it.

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I hope that Mole Jazz gets a chapter of its own!!

Somebody should write a book about that place !

Well, at least Radio 3 has covered them. (Leni Dipple's reminiscences on her late husband.)

Fortunately, I recorded that.

National Sound Archives apparently also has Ed Dipple's audio reminiscences on Mole Jazz on file - anyone been able to get access to these? I'd love to hear them.

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Actually, I was thinking that between us we could probably write a book about London's lost jazz record shops. The only problem would be that we're the only people who would want to read it.

:lol:

You're probably right.

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Here is the fate of the shop in Newquay, Cornwall I bought my first record ('Question', The Moody Blues) in back in 1970. It used to be a music shop (instruments, music paper etc) that also sold records. I still can't see how they got a piano in there, let alone several!

3624934507c111f3d9e1c0ac0efb98239ccbd6dfed0a420311b035da6698b8820df11e63.jpg

I took that one back in April this year. That area is now one of the tackiest bits of Newquay. Here's a close up from the web:

1226659_2b110ec6.jpg

Maybe someone else bought a Who record there back in the day!

Edited by Bev Stapleton

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The relocated Dobells was in Tower Street (or maybe Road). Just off Charing Cross Road, below Cambridge Circus. The theatre showing the Mousetrap was at the Charing Cross Road end, with St Martins Lane at the other.

I remember Honest Jons St Martins lane shop well. You could often find a treasure or three in there. A bonus was that it was generally run by Anthony Wood, an unsung good guy. Founded Wire magazine, put on gigs, Bill Dixon being a special memory. He still does I believe.

Those were the days! Rays (and previously Colletts), Mole, Honest Jon's. It's no wonder it isn't worth a trip to London any more.

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I hope that Mole Jazz gets a chapter of its own!!

Somebody should write a book about that place !

It gets mentioned in the frighteningly long lately-departed list at the front of the book.

The writer's career has been mainly in the rock area so I doubt if Mole will figure highly. I'll let you know if it gets mentioned.

Actually, I was thinking that between us we could probably write a book about London's lost jazz record shops. The only problem would be that we're the only people who would want to read it.

It's also highly likely that we were in the same few record shops at the same time back in the day - without realising it. I was the one that looked like George Clooney!

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National Sound Archives apparently also has Ed Dipple's audio reminiscences on Mole Jazz on file - anyone been able to get access to these? I'd love to hear them.

That's the first I've heard of these since he told me he'd recently recorded them. Sadly, this was when he knew he hadn't long to go.

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I remember Honest Jons St Martins lane shop well. You could often find a treasure or three in there.

So it was on St Martin's Lane ! It had to be I guess - as that was my most direct route. Mind playing tricks..

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