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Belfast. it felt like a pretty bohemian, enticing, esoteric place - not unlike the place in the Hi Fidelity film. It was run by one Kyle Leitch, who later went into record distribution and national singles buying for Woolworths during the 80s's. Kyle's now a good pal and we have endless fun discussing his role as the 'real' 'Godfather of Punk' in Belfast. Local character Terri Hooley - who ran the Good Vibrations shop/label in Belfast from the late '70s onwards - has more or less made a career out of being 'the Godfather of Punk'. And the very best of luck to him (in fact, there's a biopic on him currently being filmed). The irony is that - as Tel well knows - Kyle was running a record shop selling huge volumes of punk records two years before he was! Caroline Music probably sold three times as many Good Vibes label singles as the Good Vibes shop itself did (I can only recall being in the shop once in that era - it was a bit off the beaten track, and quite forbidding to a kid!). But truth should never get in the way of a good bit of mythologising. As for me, I never bought punk records at all! I think reissues/imports by Jethro Tull and Arlo Guthrie would have been my earliest purchases...Colin H

I would say that Caroline Records was the first shop in Belfast with both a wide selction of music and a knowledgeable staff. I remember buying 'Tonight's the Night' and 'Nils Lofgren' on the same day; memorable because I couldn't usually afford to buy 2 LPs on the same day. Oh how I miss independent record shops with staff who could introduce you to bands/singers you hadn't heard before. Wezz

(Aug 2, 2013) Anonymous said:I think you will find that your facts are incorrect on this!

Keith M. 'Many memories and records bought. Great staff that went onto dr Roberts. Angus and the guy that looked like Ricky Skaggs . Bought many records in diff locations. The street down near north street that became a rip off Tshirt shop. Recall buying the doors and new order there in 84.' ( May 22, 2016)

Name Malcolm Emery Comment: Just found this and what memories...bought Zeps first album there, Blackfoot marauder and stray Saturday morning pictures all same day in August 1981, 16 years old and starting my record collection. Made many happy trips to Caroline Music. Thanks for preserving. ( Sept 30, 2016).

Name Andy Boyd Comment:...need to correct Colin on the above, as it's not factually right....Kyle didn't run the shop, he only worked in the latter stages of Caroline Music in Ann St. Long before Kyle, the shop was owned by Lawrence John, and was run by Robin Brown, and Jerry Lang, now a U105 presenter, who both went on to run excellent shops of their own...Robin owned Dr Roberts, and Jerry owned Musique in Bangor...another person who worked there was Ivan Martin. (April 17, 2017).

Comment
All you guys know your music better than me , but the Caroline Music I remember was in Ann street Belfast and owned by partners John Keenan and Joe Burns.Wonderful shop, and wonderful engaged staff as the earlier chap said they introduced you to various genres of music.Was in Belfast yesterday hats off to HMV for battling on against market trends and mid covid.
Name
Kevin Gallagher
(2020)


Comment
Just came across this today. I may be able to help a little. I myself bought the Caroline Music shop at 57 Ann St. Belfast in 1976 from Lawrence John Downey. It was the era of Free Radio Caroline, the famous pirate radio station broadcasting from a ship. I was working for him at the time running a little wholesale, selling T.V. advertised records and tapes eg. K-Tel label, NOW 1, NOW 2, NOW 3, Arcade etc. We worked out of a room on the 2nd floor of 57 Ann St. He was buying a drink off-sales in Newtownards and decided to sell Caroline music. It was the era of the highest interest rates since pre-war years. Bank base rate was 15%, average mortgage rates were 17%, business loans, like the one I took out to buy the business, were 21 and 22%. Gerry and Robin and Kyle and Paul Mills were working with Lawrence at the time and I continued to employ them, making Gerry Lang my first manager at that site. We grew up in the age of The Undertones and Stiff Little Fingers and The Sex Pistols. The guys working and running Caroline Music were the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic bunch of guys in Belfast. Great decent lads and some more joined the team, including Stephen and Trevor and Leon, when the additional branches opened. They made Caroline Music the go-to destination for current music. They made it the legend it became and is still. For a long time 57 Ann St was the regular Saturday afternoon destination for every Punk and Mohican in Belfast and further afield. All you music lovers who supported Caroline Music week after week were the other magic ingredient. About a year later Paul Morrison, who owned the Bogart men's shop next door at 59 Ann St., wanted to sell his business. He was moving to America to open a restaurant. I agreed with Paul that I and my cousin John Keenan would buy Bogart. In later years Bogart expanded with other shops called Keen Jeans, Reflex, Gazzini, The Liquidation Shop, Bacall, The Designer Shop, LQ. Se Gorman, my brother-in-law, joined myself and John Keenan in opening Gazzini in Cornmarket and Reflex in Donegall Place. He ran those units. Eventually I sold my interest in Bogart to my partner John Keenan and he continues owning and running Bogart to this day, 27/08/22. Caroline Music went on to open more branches in Lower Garfield St. Belfast and Donegall Place Belfast. The original shop at 57 Ann St was, in later years, relocated further up to number 10 Ann Street, a larger and more central site. That move freed up number 57 and myself and John Keenan expanded Bogart into number 57 which doubled it's size. I eventually sold the Caroline Music business to Mervyn Solomon of Solomon and Peres at Mallusk outside Belfast. They were one of the two largest record and tape wholesalers in Northern Ireland. They also owned The Gramaphone Shop in Donegall Square North, Belfast. They expanded into a number of towns using the Caroline Music brand. Mervyn's son Richard ran those new shops. To all who were part of the story, I keep you all in my prayers. by Joe Burns (2022)


Comment
Update to my previous post a few hours back 27/08/22
I forgot to mention Keith (Thompson), sorry Keith. When Keith joined the crew he fitted in like a glove. He already knew everyone because he was always in the 57 Ann St shop most days and frequently for hours at a time. He was a good customer as well as everyone's friend. It was the obvious thing to give him a job and he worked out great. Nice guy.
by Joe Burns



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