This was the Daddio of record shops. HMV 363 Oxford Street, London in the late 1950’s:
The shop plays a part in The Beatles story. HMV, which was then part of EMI, had a small recording studio that members of the public could record songs for their sweethearts. In February 1962 Brian Epstein was in London doing the rounds of the London record companies trying (unsuccessfully) to get a record deal for the boys. He stopped at HMV Records at 363 Oxford Street to get some acetate discs made from the (unsuccessful) reel-to-reel Decca demo. The disc-cutter was Jim Foy who mentioned the group to publisher Sid Colman who in turn mentioned them to George Martin at E.M.I.’s studios in Abbey Road NW8. George gave The Beatles a recording test some months later and the rest is history.
The original HMV shop burnt down in 1937 to be rebuilt and reopened 2 years later on 8th May 1939. Sir Thomas Beecham, the famous conductor, opened the store. Here is his speech and photos of the fire.
The original shop was opened in 1921 by Sir Edward Elgar (who also opened Abbey Road Studios ten years later)
The shop closed down on April 2000. A certain George Martin was there to send it on its way with a Blue Plaque.
There are not that many prominent women in the history of recorded sound. Indeed there are not that many women working in recording studios even today. Boffins and creatives have tended to have the odd Y chromosone or two. The recording studio can be like a gang hut. A step from Lord of the Flies in one direction and a hop and a skip from a soldering iron in the other. Not a place for a lady then….at least that was what the head of Decca Recording Studios in London thought in the late 1950’s. When recording enthusiast Delia Derbyshire applied for a job, she was told unequivocably that Decca did not employ women in their recording studios. (An executive from Decca Records would also famously turn down The Beatles a couple of years later as they thought guitar bands were on the way out…..)
Like The Beatles, Delia was not one to be put off easily. She landed herself a job at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1962 and went on to create some of the most experimental music of the 1960’s and in doing so turned the recording studio itself into a star. The workshop is best known for having created the most famous theme music on British TV, Doctor Who. But there was way more to its story and that of Delia Derbyshire, one of its central characters.
In 1966, she founded a music entity/pop group called Unit Delta Plus with fellow Radiophonic Workshop member Brian Hodgson and EMS founder Peter Zinovieff. This organisation pre-dated the British Electrical Foundation by 15 years and Kraftwerk by 4 years and was a vehicle to create and promote electronic music. They played at The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave at which The Beatles’ “Carnival of Light” had its only public performance in 1967. Delia also helped set up the Kaleidophon studio in Camden Town with Hodson and fellow electronic musician David Vorhaus. The studio produced electronic music for various London theatres and, in 1968, the three founders made an album as the band White Noise.
Here is part one of an excellent radio documentary about Delia with appropriate images (you can find the other parts on youtube)
And here is a fascinating snippet of Delia playing the tape machines:
And finally here is Electric Storm by White Noise.
It is very sad to learn of the death of Jet Harris who was early bass guitarist with Cliff Richard and The Shadows. He’s been credited with both introducing the first electric bass guitar into the UK and with coming up with the name of The Shadows when Cliff’s band had to change their name from The Drifters because there was an American band with the same name. He left the group in 1962 citing both musical and personal differences with other members of The Shadows but went on to make some extraordinary sounding and extremely popular records including this one “Diamonds” which sat atop the UK charts for 6 weeks in 1963.
Jet lived a very rock’n’roll lifestyle and suffered well documented battles with depression and alcohol. He continued to tour and make records until recently and in 2010 was recently awarded an MBE in recognition of his services to music. Jet Harris was 71 years old.