I was 14, it was the summer of 1979 and my dad took me to London for the day to shop for records!
We took the ferry from Cork to Wales and a coach to London. We were supposed to arrive late at night, book into a hotel and then get up early for a days’ shopping – the poor coach driver took a wrong turn as a result of road works so we ended up pulling into London at 5 am
…there was no point booking into a hotel so we just grabbed a breakfast and wandered the streets until the shops opened.
We went to London quite simply because the music stores there were incredible – there was “nothing like that here“, just a few limited shops (Eason’s, Lee Records and Woolworths) with a tiny selection of records.
I’ll never forget that scorching summer’s day with my poor dad standing patiently at the door of HMV and Virgin as I spent hour after hour browsing these mega-stores, shelf by shelf. I can still remember the excitement in those stores – packed with possibility, undiscovered gems, fabulous artwork ..it was theatre.
I eventually purchased over 20 records, rare items, bargains and basically music that I just couldn’t buy in Ireland.
Another memory of that day was the huge amount of women walking around London wearing no bras!! It must have been fashionable but I had never seen the likes of it before and I can promise you it made a big impression on this impressionable 14 year old … between the lack of sleep, the intense heat and the “scenery”, I remember feeling quite dizzy!
As we know Ireland gradually caught up with London and even in Cork we ended up with Golden Discs, HMV and Virgin. My own love for music resulted in me opening my own stores …the dream of a 14 year old!
Despite all of our progress and advances in technology we are very close to a situation where there will be “nothing like that here” and even worse “nothing like that there” – HMV are nearly gone and the others are not far behind (I sold my stores a number of years back and the crew that bought them have since gone out of business).
We can thank unsustainable rents, record companies who handed their Top sellers at big discounts to supermarkets, record companies who switched to digital technology that it couldn’t manage and music stores who lost their passion for music, for where we have ended up today.
That incredible feeling of browsing for magic in the shelves of music stores was one of the special things in my life that has brought me so much pleasure..
Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion