EMG had much the same booths as The Gramophone Exchange. The only snag was that the shop was so small. These two shops usually provided what I needed, but most times I would make it down to the more palatial HMV premises. All record booths, being small with doors that shut tightly to keep the noise in, were very uncomfortable after 15 minutes or so, but HMV’s were the most hazardous. Theirs had another factor, an odd, electrical sort of smell which made you feel ill. On every visit I was glad to get out and would occasionally commit the unforgivable, leaving before hearing all I wanted. EMG moved north of Oxford Street (Newman Street), then south to Soho Square as the record-buying scene changed radically. Now they aren’t even there! Neither is The Gramophone Exchange, though the name still exists in Betterton Street between Covent Garden and Shaftesbury Avenue, not far from its first home.
Name: David Murphy
Comment: I encountered EMG when it occupied a corner office-like entrance of a modern block in the north east corner of Soho Square in about 1970. I was desperate to obtain one of those lavish two-LP gatefold albums issued by the German "Yellow Label" DGG in the Hans Werner Henze series I think. Everything was behind the counter. A middle-aged assistant dressed in a white laboratory coat took my order, and I am not sure whether you had to leave a deposit. I was told it would take two weeks. The phone call enquiry was cursory. When I picked the record up I was beaming (of course!) but was puzzled by the clinical efficiency of the EMG "shop" - clearly it was more than that - perhaps an antiseptic conveyer of worlds of fantasy, or a sterile spaceship travelling through a universe of music which I as a mid-teen was barely starting to discover. That dichotomy has always stuck with me from that day! Still got the record.
Name: Tony Seaton
Comment: EMG published a wonderful monthly review newsletter to its subscribers: 'The Monthly Letter'. They managed to review a huge proportion of the classical recordings released each month, and, since they were not dependent on any advertising revenue, could sometimes be quite scathing when they found fault either in a performance, or in the technical quality of a recording.
Records had to make a certain grade under their scoring system to become regular stock items, the only exceptions being if a recording was of particular historic importance - a transcription of some rarer Toscanini performance, or a couple of compilations of Caruso recordings, for example. They were always happy to order ANYTHING at customer request. Their mail order service was legendary, as was their no-quibble approach to replacing the odd duff pressing, should one slip through the net.
Each year they also published their catalogue: The Art of Record Buying. Only records which had received good reviews in The Monthly Letter, and were still available made The Art. Every entry in The Art also referenced the past issue of The Monthly Letter in which it had been reviewed. Typically, they tried to cater for the less affluent listener as well, listing at least one 'budget' record of a work, where they could find one they deemed satisfactory.
I recall 1980 was their 50th anniversary year, celebrated by naming the end-of-1979 issue of The Art 'The Golden Art of Record Buying'.
Very sadly, halfway through that year, with ageing proprietors and falling sales, EMG announced its closure (voluntary liquidation). The end of an era.
Name: Nigel Hawkes
Comment: Warmly remembered in their final years (1966 to 1980) by a young record buyer feeling his way, who appreciated their sometimes quirky and terse reviews but which were highly respected. For some reason, which even now I cannot fully analyse, I didn't really like the Gramophone, even acknowledging their erudition; but preferred EMG and Audio Record Review (which later merged with Hi-Fi News).