Sunday 17 October 2010

For the record

We were more concerned with keeping Britain tidy than saving the planet in the 70s; when buying singles as a kid, the bedenimed hired hand on the other side of the counter would never ask if you wanted a bag. On the contrary, they insisted you had a carrier bag in which you took your freshly acquired black plastic off the premises. And as long as you disposed of it carefully and didn't try and smother a baby's head with it, then all was well with the world. Only thing was, I never disposed of mine. Carefully or otherwise. That's why, all these years later, I've got a bag in the bottom of my wardrobe stuffed with the bloody things - it's like a poor man's Russian dolls.

It's all very sad really (on more than one level, I know) but in the few short years since I first went unchaperoned into a record shop (OK, it was 1972) we've all but lost vinyl completely (black, coloured, shaped) and with it, artwork, gatefold sleeves, picture sleeves, Dansettes, radiograms, turntables, 8-track cartridges, blank cassettes, musicassettes, mini discs. Hell, the record shop itself is going through the death throes. It's no wonder, therefore, that Medd Towers could rival The Smithsonian when it comes to rock and roll relics. But I digress. Back to the bags.

I couldn't possibly put them all up here; what few readers have got this far (and, if you have, I'm guessing you are male and of a certain age) can have a shufty at this selection and see if these bygone artifacts ring any bells.

These are a couple of Richard Branson's early paper efforts. It's not Barney Bubbles, but they have a certain charm nevertheless. Although the term nerd had yet to be coined I suspected from an early age that this side of collecting was probably putting me in a party of one. I could however comfort myself with the fact that I wasn't cross referencing the bag to the record. Though I seem to remember The Motors were housed in one of the Virgin bags.

The Pendulum, Berwick's and Andy's Records are throwbacks to another world: small provincial record shops in small provincial towns.

Ditto this trio from Grantham. The Play Inn was way ahead of its time with a snack bar and amusements and would soon devour any pubescent's meagre pocket money in the blink of an eye.

And who can forget Boots and Woolies? Singles 40p, albums £2.10. It wa
s never cool to be seen in there, but sometimes you couldn't help yourself.
The rest are just a small selection
I acquired on my travels; most if not all will be long since gone. In the case of IT Records in Lurgan, it was blown to pieces during the troubles. The Harlequin and Small Wonder were picked up on forays into the capital; in the case of Small Wonder it would have been a Patrik Fitzgerald or Desperate Bicycles single, probably. Real Indie.
So there you have it. Coming here must be like like lying on the shrink's couch. These bags have been part of my past for thirty plus years. And no, I don't want to talk about my mother.


  1. Yes John this is sad BUT what fun to find these ephemera and display them . Wonderful!

  2. Very nice John, you should open a little museum. The only bag that I deliberately kept hold of was from Sheffield's FON. But I'm pretty sure it's gone missing.

  3. My God Medd, this is akin to my grandad's hoarding of the Irish Independent newspaper from 1922 to his departure in 1999. Can you remember what record(s) you bought in IT records in Lurgan? Ray.

  4. G - You're right, of course. To some people they're just a pile of old plastic bags. Hang on a minute, they are just a pile of old plastic bags.

    A - My head feels like a museum most days. And it's open 24/7.

  5. Brilliant stuff, it's the Woolies and Boots ones that are giving me the Proustian rush. I remember the Boots one had a slightly grainy feel to it compared to the other ones, and it was terminally unhip, sporting that Marc Bolan type figure well into the 80s.

  6. R - Your grandad was a fine man. Yes, I do remember (but I guess that doesn't surprise you?) It was the debut album by London pub rockers The Count Bishops. and it was 1977. I'd abandoned the annual family pilgrimage to Roscommon and hopped on the bus (Gus) to war torn Lurgan. Elvis died while I was there (thus giving me the perfect alibi) and Way On Down was played on the radio a lot. Well, you did ask.

  7. T - I shall have to award you a bonus point for that: yes it was grainy (you'd have picked it out blindfolded) and heavier than most - then again, it had to hold triple albums like Macca's Wings Over America (which weighed a bloody ton).

  8. Great collection. 'Proustian Rush' very apt term!
    Sad when you look at High Streets now, particularly Grantham's, all Charity Shops and 'To Let' signs and the odd bit of Heritage nonsense. There's still Brian's vinyl stall there on Saturday Market though and next to my jewellery stall on Stamford Market on Fridays!

  9. The Woolies and Boots are a real slice of time-tunnel vision. Local to us were...

    Downtown Discount: picture of a girl with flouncy Farah flicks.

    Kelleys Records: shop name arched around the sound hole of a guitar, with strings used as a stave. Kelley's also doubled up as TV rental shop.

    Adrians (always had ad's in the music mags): bright orange.

    Am I right in thinking W H Smiths, despatched albums in the dreaded budget line 'Fame' label bags?

    PS watch out for some Woolies, Boots related retromania from me tomorrow

    PPS word veri = thundro. That's my super hero name sorted then

  10. You're not chucking them out I hope.

  11. Superb stuff, thanks for the memories.

    About the only time I gained any upmanship points during sixth form was by having a bag from Shades (legendary Soho Metal outlet) for my textbooks. That was from a purchase of the Misfits Die, Die My Darling 12". The records I still have, the bags however all gone.

  12. Elvis died while you were in Lurgan, eh? Guess that firmly eliminates one of the conspiracy theories, although I do remember you went missing for about 3 hours that night. Nobody I've spoken to seems to know where? Can't believe a record shop owner in Lurgan had The Count Bishops on his shelf. And I am delighted to spot a chink in your encyclopedic knowledge (or probably you were just singing to yourself)but the song is called Way Down. No 'on'. One nil to me. Only wish Liverpool could grab a similar result.

  13. brilliant stuff, wish I had kept some of mine from long disappeared shops now.

  14. Excellent post. Like most the Boots's and Woolies's bags are the most memorable. At my school it was the done thing to carry around a physcobilly live album called Stomping at The Club Foot in a Pride's Records bag.
    And Finkin Street in Grantham always makes me laugh, the home of Cockney philosophers.

  15. Superb collection!

    As for using Woolies and Boots for record purchases...
    I bought my copy of Black Sabbath's Heaven & Hell upon release from Boots in was the only place that had a copy on that particular day or so I claimed at the time.

  16. Great stuff... the Boots one brings so many memories back... Peter Frampton Comes Alive arrived home in one of those... along with lots of other lps... today you struggle to find anywhere on the High Street selling CDs - if HMV goes that'll be it really won't it.

  17. John, although I don't know you just seeing this makes me so happy that you are on the planet. You should really catalogue more of them. Great stories behind the pictures too.

  18. I came to this late - after seeing your comment on Monkey Picks. I'd love to know if you have one from Parrot Records, an independent with stores around East Anglia. The logo was a cartoon parrot smoking (probably too un-PC now). I worked full-time in one of the branches for over three years and you know, I never kept a bloody bag. Not that I want one - but it'd make me smile to think there might be one somewhere...

  19. C - Sorry, no. I do have a Robin Records one; my best friend used to live on the Newmarket Road - I spent many summers in that neck of the woods. We used to drink in The Wild Man. When it was still wild; I went back a few years ago and it had been tamed, somewhat.