Collets were more famous for their bookshops, but they did sell records at a few of their premises over the years. Dealing mainly in jazz, folk, blues and world music they had, as indicated in the flyer on the left, a shop in New Oxford Street and also the basement of a bookshop in the Charing Cross Road. During the 1970's, they moved to bigger premises in Charing Cross Road, close to the Astoria. The record department was located in the basement and besides the usual folk, jazz and blues music on indie labels, they also had a section on eastern European music and loads of world stuff. The staff were incredibly knowledgeable. There was a fire there around 1979 in what I seem to remember as suspicious circumstances and unfortunately, the shop never reopened. Comment: Shamus Dark
Dave Peabody blues musician worked at Collets. Also Alan Bush of Tpoic records and the Workers Music Assoication.
Bert Jansch Interview
How did you come to record your legendary first album?
Well there used to be a London record shop in New Oxford Street called Collett's, which sold all sorts - jazz, folk and blues, there was a book shop there as well, which was run by Jill Cook and Ray... ah, I can't remember Ray's second name but he's still got a record shop near Shaftesbury Avenue called Ray's Jazz Shop. Jill was head of the folk section and ran a few clubs herself, if you wanted to know anything about clubs or singers or wanted to contact someone from that scene, that was the place you'd go. It was through her that I met Bill Leader. Bill was a field recorder, recordist or whatever who was working for Transatlantic records at the time.
A number of points to add. When New Oxford Street was re-developed, the Jazz and Folk Record Shop moved to Shaftesbury Avenue. Collets had several other places which were mainly bookshops – Collets London Bookshop (politics) and Penguin Bookshop (both on Charing Cross Road), Chinese Gallery (opposite British Museum), International Bookshop - the “new” one by the Astoria. This had relocated from Museum Street. The Folk music went to the basement of the new store but not the jazz – that stayed with Ray Smith, Bob Glass and I to become Ray’s Jazz Shop. When the record shop was in New Oxford Street, Ray ran the jazz in the basement. Noel Norris worked part time and I recall he and Ray used to shoot Russian Melodiya 78s with an air rifle in the back storeroom, shellac exploding everywhere. Ray’s favourite was a 78 called “I’m In Love With My Tractor”. For more about Ray (and Collets Jazz) see Rays Jazz on Cargo Collective website. The upstairs Folk Dept. was very important in the 50s and 60s in the development of British Folk music, with many visitors and musicians hanging out there. Bill Leader worked there and it was run by Gill Cook with Hans Fried. Piers Harker joined later. Bob Glass (married to country blues singer Jo Ann Kelly) worked in both folk & jazz sections. When Bob Dylan was based in London in 1962 he struck up a friendship with Martin Carthy, a frequent visitor to Collets, and Hans met Dylan on several occasions. Dylan apparently told him of a planned BBC TV performance (Evan Jones’ play “The Madhouse on Castle Street”) that he was in. Dylan was supposed to be the lead part, but that went to David Warner, Dylan singing some songs for it and having a brief part. Hans recorded the songs from his TV and these were featured on a later BBC documentary. It was during this time that Dylan recorded, as Blind Boy Grunt, for Doug Dobell’s ‘77’ label with friends Eric Von Schmidt and Richard Farina. Comment: Mathew Wright.
Re Jill/Gill Cook who ran the folk department and was the mother of Bert Jansch's first child Richard. A small correction. I have several letters in my possession from her to Bert Jansch concerning Richard showing that the spelling she used was Gill. Heather Jansch.
(Nov 3, 2014) Anonymous said:john larmour was my father and had the shop in charing cross road in the fifties there he took the blues legends to play when they were in london big bill broonzy was one l remember the shop a small ( even for a child ) space down the rickety stairs to the bins of records and the music playing flag like
(Sept 23, 2013) Jonathan Hill said:I used to hang out a lot in Collett's in Shaftesbury Ave. in the mid '70s. A very pleasant lady called Gill said to me " Have a listen to this, you'll love it! It's really bad taste!" I did, I do, it was (in the best way possible). I have been a fan of 5 Hand Reel ever since. She knew the stuff I bought, and she also had a pretty good idea when I was skint and when I was flush I think! So, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify...... shuvvit!
(May 28, 2013) Arie Euwijk said:I'm sure "..a bloke called Hans" is Hans Fried
(June 10, 2012) Charles Topham said:I had the priveledge of working saturday's at the old shop and then three to four days a week in the basement shop which was much smaller. It was a real blast working with people like Jill Cook, Piers Harker and Bob Glass..they taught me everything i know about really listening to music and their knowledge was beyond price.
It was fantastic because I met so many people there, Charlie Watts, John Peel, Joe Boyd, Eddie Campbell and so many other people, one favourite memory is hanging out with Slim Galliard who was such a sweet guy !! I often think about my days there, and I miss them. To Bob, Jill, Piers and Ray...always a place in my heart for you. The Commies were awful !!! :-)
(April 29, 2015) started shopping for records in Soho in the late 60's. I joined the trade in the early 70's as a delivery driver for Continental record distributors in Dean Street. The worked in the stock room making up orders and packing records. I moved to Collects's fold records in New Oxfrod Street in the mide 70's, selling over the counter. Shortly after, we were forced to move, to Shaftsbury avenue/Monmouth street. The in the ealry 80's the Folk shop moved into Collet'e international in Charing Cross Road. Thsi department closed in the late 80's. Comment: Piers Harker.
(September 17, 2015) Entertaining stuff, and I love the image of Ray Smith shooting Russian 78s with an air-rifle, but isn't it Collett's (two t's)? Comment: Mike Butler.
Hans Fried 'I worked in Collet's Record Shop in the folk department from mid May 1964 when I was 20 to May 1976. Gillian
Cook did less and less in the folk department. We had the skilled assistance from Tony Russell for a year. We then got the wonderful help from the devoted Piers Harker. Many famous pop stars were customers. George Harrison bought loads of Indian Classical music from me. I loved working there. It was a folk Mecca. Hans ( June 22, 2016).
Name Stephen Gammond Comment: Does anyone have any posters or images of Collets record store that they would let use in a film I am making about Davey graham, Alexis Korner met bill leader there prior to them recording anji so I would love some 'coverage'. cheers steve (May 2, 2017)
Hylda Simms folk musician worked here.
In her book "All in the Downs" Shirley Collins says (page 69) that she worked in Collets bookshop on Haverstock Hill. The poet Edgell Rickword also worked there.
The fire took place on 6th July 1989.
I was there within an hour of the event.
I studied cover notes that accompanied vinyl recordings on the Soviet Melodiga and Czech Supraphon labels at the shop on Charing Cross Road called Collets’ run by a communist family and trust.
In 1960 Bill began supplementing his income – or, perhaps more accurately, subsidising his interest in recording – by managing a folk and jazz specialist record shop, Collet’s, in New Oxford Street. The shop was one of several Collet’s bookshops and two record shops owned by a left-wing publishing house of the same name, associated with the British Communist Party. This one would become a key meeting place, and occasional postal address, for folk musicians in London during the coming decade.
Gramophone 1959 donation Action Records Preston
Review London Spy 70's
Time Out 1968
Image (Kevin Renton/Matthew Wright)
Bill Carey Looks At The London Jazz Disc Jazz Scene. Image Mick Brocking
Collets Feb 2014
Extract from 'Scorcha' Skins, Suedes and Styles From The Street 1967-73
Extract from 'Roots, Radicals And Rockers'. Billy Bragg
Extract notes from CD box set Tranatlantic. David Wells
Bill Leader: The Man Who Paid The Pipers (Extract )
While Topic Records would never get involved in putting out records by TV personalities, Nathan ‘Nat’ Joseph, a Cambridge graduate, theatre and cabaret enthusiast and budding entrepreneur had no such foibles. Bill recalls their meeting one day in 1962, in Collet’s record shop:
This little fellow with a squeaky voice came in and tried to sell me some records he’d got the rights to, from America, called Live With Love – three albums of sex education which he thought were going to be a sure-fire winner. And I seem to remember he had an EP on how to give up smoking. I remember he rang the press agent in charge of getting the smoking EP off the ground and gave him such a mouthful of abuse it quite made my hair stand on end. He then suggested that maybe I should like to help him produce some records. Recently returned from a post-university year in America, Nat had come up with the idea of using 90 day credit to import various spoken-word recordings into Britain, including a language tuition series, while using 30 day credit to sell the records on to retailers. Based on the notion that the British public would be hugely interested in three subjects – the Queen (not known to be looking for a record deal), money (not an easy concept on record) and sex – he had settled on the third of these as a winning idea to kick off a record label. He had, in fact, not licensed but recorded Live With Love, with one Dr Eustace Chesser, using a pseudonym, to become the first three albums on his own label, Transatlantic Records.
Aram Khachaturian Composer at Collets 1970's
Image John Low
Image John Low