THE SAD DEMISE OF THE CHRISTCHURCH RECORD SHOP
"There's nothing as glamorous to me as a record store." Paul McCartney.
Like some species of native bird the extinction of the record shop (known as ‘record bars in the 60’s and 70’s) in Christchurch has been a gradual one, a lamentable trend not unique to ‘The Garden City’. This micro extinction process over the pass two to three decades for this city has two main root causes: downloading of music and the dominance of retail giants like The Warehouse.
The advent of file-sharing has also spelt the death of many an overseas record-shop as has the ability of the major retailers to secure a major chunk of the top twenty sellers at prices that undercut the smaller ‘stand-alone’ retailer. In 2008 approximately 1 in 4 independent music retailers in the United Kingdom closed (99% of the so-called Top Twenty in the U.K is now downloaded) The first ten years of this century saw 7,000 U.S record shops biting the dust.
The figures in N.Z are rather stark. Recorded music sales in 2003 were running at around $120 million per annum but had dropped dramatically to $80 million last year.
In post earth-quake #2 Christchurch (2011) the number of independent record shops sits at a precarious five with a question mark still remaining over four of these. Galaxy Records , Selwyn Street and Radar are all in premises hit badly by the quake. The week before the second quake ‘Evil Genius’ opened a shop in Lyttelton. The timing and location could not have been worse. I hope they all make a Lazarus like resurrections.
It wasn’t always this way of course. There were far happier times in town and around the suburbs for the retailers that could truly be called a Record Shop.
At one stage record shops abounded Christchurch, matched by an equally vibrant pub music scene. Link at The Blenheim Road, Friar Tuck, The Newz (Bon Marche) at The Aranui, Splash Alley at The Hillsborough, The Narcs at The Adams Apple Night Club, Gladstone, Hillsborough etc. I mean who can forget Doodles Night Club?
Even the now largely defunct Fendalton shops boasted a second hand record shop in the mid seventies called Rhapsody.
There was a big enough market in Christchurch for the established department stores like Farmers, DIC, Beaths, Haywrights etc to also have their own record departments. To give you an idea of their scope, in 1975 Haywrights had record departments operating out of Gloucester St, Northlands, Upper Riccarton and Sydenham.
The Christchurch Hi-Fi shops (1960-1985) all similarly dabbled in records to some degree. Sedley Wells, Amalgamated Tele-Hire, Milligans Radio, Ashley Keith, Hi-Fi House, Ritchies Radio and even Wigram Radio’s had records for sale.
Home-grown dedicated record shops like The Record Factory, Echo, Soundwaves, Roundabout all expanded from the original flagship shop to have branches all over town. In 1985 The Record Factory could boast four local outlets.
The list of Christchurch record shops (1970-2000) is quiet extensive, many of which occupied buildings which have sadly now met similar fates as their former tenants.
Arcade Music Shop (McKenzie and Willis Arcade, 120 Hereford) Were around for at least the entire 1970’s.
Aquarius (126 Cashel Street) Beginning of 70’s.
Bateman Records (Oram Ave, New Brighton)Their original shop in Brighton became Spins and Needles. They moved to Brighton Mall in 1985. They had a shop called Batemans Audio at 248 High Street as well.
Bobs Record Shop (378 Worcester Street) About for a couple of years in the early 80’s.
Canterbury Music Centre (Cnr Cashel and High) Were into mostly 2nd hand as well as comics etc. Middish 1990’s.
Compact (105 Riccarton Road) Came and went in the late 80’s.
Discount Records (110 Gloucester St) Refer Soundwaves.
Dizzy Limits (High Street) Tim there, who went on to work at Galaxy, dabbled in music as well as clothing 1991ish.
ECHO Records (High Street amongst other places) In 1988 Echo had three shops 239 High, 386 Colombo and 18 New Regent Street. By 1995 Colombo and New Regent had closed but they had a branch in Barrington Park Mall not forgetting High Street occupied 243 (records and video) 239 (compact discs) 237 (2nd hand) Taken over by Real Groovy.
Electric City Music a.k.a ECM (117 Cashel Street) Refer HMV
EMI (731 Colombo Street) One of the first genuine dedicated record shop in Christchurch. The manager in the late 60’s was Patricia Columbus – sister of Ray. Lea Shepherd, sister of Roger also worked there at one stage. Roy Montgomery, Pin Group/Shallows etc was also an employee. The shop was once tagged with the words “Roy Division” a reference to The Pin Groups moody sound, a la Joy Division and its singer/guitarist. Another muso that got behind the counter at EMI was Mike 'Johnny Velox' (and The Vauxhalls) They had a 2nd shop at 129 Cashel Street in the mid 70’s.
Galaxy Records (Gloucester Arcade, then High Street etc) Started in 1987 by Nick Lorite who had something to do with Rhapsody in Welington in the 90's. Nick basically re-branded the Record Joynt. Nick sold to Tony Green who was drummer for The Heamogoblins & Dave Imlay took over from him in 1993.
Gandas Record and Music Centre (391 Main South Road, Hornby) Started in early 80’s.
Golden Disc Record Bar (84A Hereford Street and 380 Worchester Street) Once had two shops in the mid 80’s.
Grunt Records (800 Colombo) Part record shop, part t-shirt shop run by John Rae around 1989.
Hi-Fi Records (6 New Regent Street) Around in the mid 70’s. Better known later on as Hi-Fi House.
Hootin’ Records (45 New Brighton Mall) refer Record World.
Hornby Records (Hornby Mall) In the mall for over 20 years beginning in the late 70’s.
Lawtons Books and Records (Church Corner Mall) About in the 80’s.
Marconi’s (Bush Inn Centre and New Brighton Mall) Started as music and videos/DVD’s in mid to late 90’s.
Millers Plaza Record Centre (163 Tuam Street) Short lived shop in mid 70’s.
Mikes Place (McKenzie and Willis Arcade) Run by Mike McNabb for at least a decade starting in the mid 70’s. Footnote: In the sixties McKenzie and Willis were major players in what was called ‘recordings and gramophones.’
The Mousetrap (43 Bealey Ave) Better known as Mousetrap Records the Carlton corner shop was run by John Ford for over twenty years approx 1970-1996(?) specialising in 2nd hand. He ended-up in at 568 Barbadoes Street. The end of the record meant the end of his business which was one of the longest lasting. Fab shop(s)
The Music Box (83 Cathedral Square) One of the original ‘record bars’ started in the mid sixties and lasted in the square for 15 odd years.
Palladium Records (232 Manchester Street) Around in the late 80’s.
Radar Records (85 Cashel Street Mall) Started 1984 by Ross Middlemiss and Brian Reidy who are both still there. well were until the Feb 2011 struck. No sign of the them re-opening.
Real Groovy (High then Tuam x 2) Had ambitions to conquer N.Z. Sadly it all ended in tears. Both Christchurch and Wellington branches have now closed. Paul Huggins from Christchurch now runs Rough Peel Records in Wellington. Auckland has has it's ups and downs.
The Record Bin (110 Gloucester St) In existence for a few years in the late 70’s.
Record Factory (637 Colombo Street) Opened in 1973. In their hey-day in the mid 80’s they had four shops. 637 and 719 Colombo, 103 Riccarton Road and 79 New Brighton Mall. Their second shop to open was in The Plaza Arcade.
The Record Joynt (by Savoy in Cathedral Square in what became Atlantis Market) Operated from Gas Building for approximately a decade starting mid 70’s till 1987 when the owner Brett Heaney (sic) sold out to Nick Lorite who re-branded the place Galaxy. Brett has been spotted in Pennylane recently so he's still about town.
The Record Room (South City Centre, 555 Colombo Street) Started and manned for a long-time by Rod Mitchell from 1969 till 2005. Rod came onboard in the 90's. One of the pioneering record shops in Christchurch, specialising in classical and jazz. They opened in early 1960’s from a shop at 123 Cashel then moved to Colombo St.
Record World New Brighton (45 New Brighton Mall) Started in the mid 80’s and then became Hootin’.
Renaissance Records (236 High Street) On the scene in the mid 70’s.
Rhapsody Records (208 Fendalton Road) Had a lifespan of a few years in the mid 70’s selling second-hand.
Riverside Traders (50 Oxford Tce, near Durham) Opened in 1975. Definitely had Christchurch’s largest selection of second hand vinyl at one point. This was Darryl Calcott of Echo's fame first store. He started Riverside with Bernie McLean, Richard Sinke and Lester Todd who went on to purchase Dux De Lux in 1980.
Round-About-Records (Papanui) At their zenith in the late 80’s they had three shops; Main North Road, Northlands, Main South Road and even still had three operating in 1995 i.e. Northlands, Papanui and Village Gate Mall in Merivale.
Sounds (Cashel Street etc) Refer HMV.
Soundwaves (‘The Barn’ New Brighton, Merivale Mall) Opened in 1978 in The Brighton Mall then the only place you could shop on a Saturday. They had a branch in Merivale Mall and a separate shop called Discount Records in the city which sold second-hand as well as new. The owner was Peter Sheppard who is now sadly dead, his wife Sally is still alive and lives in Westport. Many of the Sheppard family were involved with the day to day running of the three shops. As far as I can tell Merivale was the last to close.
Sound Scene: Were in Linwood Mall in the mid 90’s.
Soundz Great (New Brighton Mall) Mid to late 90’s.
Spins and Needles (New Brighton Mall) Refer Batemans.
Rockabilly Records (227 High Street, Corner Lichfield and High)In existence for some years in the early 90’s starting in Shades Arcade. Tim Shaw was the guy there and was into computers last time I saw him.
Selwyn Street Traders (Selwyn Street) Been on the scene for over 25 years. Building kaput in 2011 earthquake and there the story ends.
Tandys (High Street) Wellington based retailer with shops through-out N.Z. Lasted about five years from approx 1995.
Trax Music (Linwood Mall) Been around for ages.
University Book Shop Records; Run by Tony Peake who sadly died recently in South Australia. One of the first shops to champion alternative and dance music, import directly. Later Steve Birss who was in the bands Throw, Dolphin and also worked at Echo, Pennylane took over Tony’s mantle at UBS. Robert McGlaughlin also worked there for a good many years and Mike Williams (a.k.a Johnny Velox of The Vauxhalls) also worked along side Tony in the late 70's.
Uptown Sound (376 Riccarton Road) Church Corner in mid 90’s.
Village Music (Avonhead Mall) Came and went in the 90’s.
World Record International (129 Cashel) The original EMI? 129 was a record shop of some kind for ages.
And no article of this nature would be complete without mentioning the record-shops that have been about in the last decade:
Asylum Records (Lichfield Street) Dance music shop approx 2006-2008
Bunker Records (Basement on Lichfield Street) Located next to Licker Lounge the appropriately named dance music specialists were about for a couple of years around the turn of the century.
The CD Stores (Every major shopping centre) Crashed and burned. Probably only lasting contribution here in Christchurch was Bic Runga worked in their Triange Centre Store.
Constant Force Records (High Street) Trance & Dance Music specialists one door down from Galaxy. Closed 2004. Ben now lives in Aussie and is into high finance.
Marbecks (Franchises in Barrington, Merivale, Riccarton Malls) Once a bastion of alternative music in N.Z, at one stage the proud parents of the most wonderous record shop in the land, now left battling it out with The Warehouse for their share of the Lady Gaga and Hayley Westenra market. Brings tears to ones eyes.
Pennylane (Colombo Street) Has rapidly grown into a local institution and seems to go from strength to strength. As at publication of this post – the last man standing for vinyl addicts and local band promotion. A beacon of hope having expanded to a 2nd shop on Riccarton Road in 2012.
Spin Records (Poplar Lane) Dance/DJ records outfit about for a couple of years around 2007.
It was at The Music Box I purchased my first record ‘Deep Purple in Rock’ for the princely sum of $6.50. The year was 1971 and yes I still have it.
At The Record Factory I managed to grab the autographs of the original line-up of Split Enz in 1977 promoting their album Second Thoughts. By then the price of an album had climbed to $7.99 remembering records were considered a luxury item at the time and taxed at 40% duty.
Buying The Damned from Tony Peake upstairs at The University Book Shop out of a box on the counter temptingly labelled ‘Imports’. I liked the cover. Still do.
Beginning introduced to a life-long addiction to Frank Zappa at the small shop in Whitcoulls Arcade which I never did find the name of.
I could probably name you every place I purchased a given record, and I have over 500.
I can’t ever remember an unpleasant experience or felt I was being ripped-off, except for perhaps for Adam and The Ants. What was going through my mind at the time? Surely the guy selling me the album could have seen I was wasn’t retaining my full mental facilities?
Record Shops were and still remain at the heart of youth culture, a big part of my life now I’ve hit fifty. Travel anywhere in the world and you’ll learn more about the country you are visiting in a record shop than any pub.
Fascinating places where the extremes like punk co-exist with the mundane like country rock, old meets new. Microcosms of New Zealand society, changing anthropological environments full of treasures for those that care to overturn rocks.
Nowadays it’s far too easy but way-less interesting to go ‘on-line’ than to actually hunt-out, actively pursue music the old fashioned way.
The purchase of an album or single at a record shop, its inherent eclectic ‘hands-on’ nature is something more deliberate and communal, opening you up to the world of music way more than any web site ever can or will.
In short it is way more fun and interesting experience.
Without exception the owners of these establishments had a musical knowledge second to none. From the next bands to tour or the latest trend in NME those behind the counters at Record Shops were and remain stoically fonts of knowledge, trivia sponges. The staff invariably loved their jobs, the chance to get paid to do something they were into. It was, still is, the owners and their staff at these independents that got/get to say what music goes on the racks, not some record executive or head-office in Auckland. It was these staff that told you “If you like this X artist you’ll love Y” or “Did you know M from the band C has a solo album out which we can get in from overseas?”Then the child-like excitement as you then waited for the record to arrive. In comparison the faceless software that is iTunes offers nothing of intrinsic value. Zero customer service. Zero consumer experience. Just an intangible ‘thing’ called an MP3 left on your hard-drive.
Record Shops will always remain the bastion of the music lover, manned by music lovers.
With each loss of an independent record shop there is a loss felt in the Christchurch music scene. Independent record shops remain the bedrock independent bands. They promote bands the super-market outlets wouldn’t touch, provide a place where you can put-up a poster, look at what’s happening all in one cozy location. New artists need the nurturing environments of shops like say Galaxy to expose their music to a sympathetic audience.
So what of the future of the remaining Christchurch Record Shops?
Remembering our ‘breeding population’ is hovering at around five? Half what existed ten years ago, one third of those 20 years ago.
Do you want to see computers replacing racks like the grey pages from a George Orwell novel? Music outside the digital format ceasing to exist, the word ‘album’ dies in popular vernacular? It all seems rather ghastly.
Everyone who is reading this lament has a role to play in preserving those remaining Christchurch Record Shops.
Continuing to shop there is the simple remedy.
Do what I did and get your kids record vouchers for birthdays/Christmas so too they can experience the wonders of a real record shop.
Get your records out and play them!
Vinyl will always remain the best musical artefact there is.
Worldwide sales of vinyl have climbed 20 per cent for the last three years running.
Long live the independent record shop where-ever they may exist.
Note: For a true nostalgia trip check-out my Gallery of Christchurch Record Shop Adverts/Articles. If you can contribute in any way to this record (no pun intended) by all means send me an email. I’ve no doubt missed a few shops along the line. It would be nice have a definitive record, more photos of actual shops. Contact email is on the home page in case you missed it.
Thanks to the following for their contributions: Katherine Forward, Tim Baird, Jennifer Kipfer, Crew at Pennylane, Rob Mayes.