THE ELTON JOHN INTERVIEW
"I did work in Musicland Records on Berwick Street on a Saturday with my friends, when I was Elton John and was successful in the early Seventies. People used to look at me as if to say ‘f*cking hell, what are you doing here?’ and I’d be selling them Soft Machine records.”
Reg and Bernie
Each week, the two would eagerly anticipate the newest American imports at Soho’s Musicland record store, using what little money they had to buy the latest recordings of everyone from Love to Leonard Cohen to Charles Lloyd and Paul Horn.
Bernie Taupin : Biography
Phil Vellender a customer in the 70's at Musicland recalls members of Led Zeppelin often in the shop .
He was always a genuine music obsessive. In the early 1970s, with his career in full, vertiginous flight, he incredibly found time to help out at a Soho record shop on a Saturday, manning the counter when the assistants went on their lunch break, selling albums by Leonard Cohen and Soft Machine to London's discerning rock fans: "Maybe they did recognise me," he frowns when I ask if London's discerning rock fans weren't a little disconcerted by finding Captain Fantastic on the till, "but I was just having a ball. Elton John Interview Guardian 2012.
My boyfriend (now husband) started work at Musicland in 1970. I do remember many times in the shop with him, Ian Brown and John Gillespie, the managers at the time. It was a favourite of many up and coming musicians of the time - Marc Bolan, David Bowie, and of course, Elton John, who all came in. Everybody wanted US imports, and so Patrick (my husband) learned nearly everything anyone wanted to know about the records. Emperor Rosko bought his records there, as did most of the DJs from the SoHo clubs of the time. Patrick then went on to work at One Stop in Dean Street..happy times! Comment: Stephanie Baggett.
I used to bunk college in Kingston on Thames and hang out at the branch there..The golden age of chart rigging, the manager there used to be easily bought to put a few extra ticks in the right places. It was also a major stockist of Reggae pre 45s and the local skins would come in and speedily select from a pile plonked on the counter....happy days. Comment: Mw Trading
I worked in several Musicland shops, including this one, mainly as Saturday boy as I was still at school. Anyone remember the white American bloke with dreadlocks who carried a lump of marijuana as big as a house brick around with him? I'm always ready for a Musicland chat! It was a fascinating organisation, and I worked in most of the shops, as well as the "HQ" at Music House. Never got to the Kingston branch though! (Or the "flagship" Berwick St. one.) Comment: Ian Hingle.
(May 24, 2014) Steve said:Both Ian and John moved to the U.S. late 70's John returned early 90's, sadly passing away 10 years later. Ian is believed to be in Atlanta GA. Anyone with info about Ian please post
(Apr 15, 2014) Anonymous said:I worked in several Musiclands - mainly in North End Rd. Fulham. Never made it to Berwick St. though - that was for the big boys!
(Apr 12, 2014) Max said:I designed one of the interiors and Elton John helped me paint!Some might remember the black windows with a large keyhole to look into the shop.Ggot my first MC5 import there!Woner what happened to Ian John
(Feb 25, 2014) Mark Wilkinson said:I'd hitch up the M4 with some pals and maybe see a band at The Marquee in the evening…The Nice usually! But afternoons were spent roaming round the import shops. Musicland was always the first port of call…a sanctuary. I never saw Elton behind the till there but Marc Bolan walked in once, as did Jeff Dexter - after zooming around Soho on his monkey bike, mopping up the latest US imports for his DJ spot at Middle Earth Club.
One Stop Records in South Molten St. was pretty good too - but didn't have the ambience of Musicland which was (by common consent) the creme de la creme of record shops…the best I ever remember. US imports were around 59/6 (less than £3) but that was a significant chunk of the paper round savings back then! The cardboard was thicker and the vinyl heavier. They smelt different to UK records too:) Or maybe that was the patchouli oil that infused the racks!
I don't think mail order had started to any great degree. Maybe Branson had hatched a plan for Virgin to go that route by then and was well on his way to his first zillion. Imagine a world with no Amazon, nothing to be had at the touch of a button - no downloads or crowd-funding, no shared experience in the ether. Just waiting to tell your mates on Monday morning at school about the latest album you'd bought on import by some band called - oh I dunno - 'The Electric Prunes' say or maybe 'Ultimate Spinach' - any band with a fruit and veg related name had to be worth checking out surely! And you could check them all out at Musicland! Happy daze - days of golden mayonnaise:)
(Oct 24, 2013) Anonymous said:Yes musicland part of Trojan records and then owned by the Ali family
(Mar 25, 2013) Rockdoc said:My two favourite record shops in the sixties were Musicland in Berwick Street and One Stop in South Moulton Street. I'd visit Musicland several times a week. I bought my "Strictly Personal" and "Trout Mask Replica" albums there and was advised by the knowledgeable salesperson (I regret never asking their names) to listen to Neil Young's first LP when it first came in. "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere" had come in at the same time and it sounded so completely different from the first album. So I bought both! Neil autographed my "Neil Young" album in 1996.
(May 3, 2012) Mad dog said:Musicland owned by the Ali family jim Ali went on toown bargain records in portobello rd
(Dec 27, 2014) I managed the store after the last manager. Comment: Richard Broden.
(Jan 28, 2015) I remember going to an allnight club at the Lyceum after Middle Earth had closed down in Covent Garden and Chalk Farm to wait until Musicland opened in the morning so I could buy the fabulous Trout Mask Replics by the Captain (on import naturally!). Comment: Clive Gutteridge.
" I used to sell Prince Buster records when I worked in a record shop. A long time before I was famous!" Elton John Mojo November 2016
A Rainbow In Curved Air
As a schoolboy before I was 18, I had so many weekend, early morning, holiday and such stuff jobs that you wouldn't have time to hear about them all. Books, meats, papers, labouring, shops, road sweeping, hot dogs, clerking, just gimme the money. I can do that. One of the jobs was working for a really cool record shop called Musicland. Mostly in Ealing Broadway, but sometimes also in Berwick Street, in the West End. I heard so much good, new exciting music right in the middle of such an exciting time. I hope I made my friends jealous. And I was allowed to buy from the shop at a big discount.
The fact that they sold US imports at a time when very few places did was worth so many cool points, and boy did I deposit some points in the cool bank. Some of the stuff I listened to, and bought, I still listen to - not from the original vinyl (way too scratched and worn by now), but the medium is not the message. Either I am seriously shallow, or the music has stood the test of time. You choose - but I know what I like, and this does the job.
Musicland was my favourite record shop back in 1968 when I was a mere lad. I bought quite a few American imports (which cost 59 & 6) including "Appletree Theatre"," Lumpy Gravy" the first Soft Machine etc. etc. Didn`t have much left from my wages after buying one of these "expensive" records!
I've read a lot of inaccuracies in the above comments. I started working (on Saturdays and during my school holidays) for Musicland in 1965. Initially at 13 High Road, Willesden, NW10 with Fred Parsons. I latterly worked at 42 Willesden Lane, NW6, and by 1966 I was at 230 Potobello Road with Barry Creasy, and occasionally at 53 Watling Avenue, Burnt Oak with Alan Firth. I the helped with the opening of 44 Berwick Street, managed by Fred Parsons. Soon after, he and the other 4 directors (Lee Gopthal, Alan Firth, Jim Flynn and Barry Creasy) were based in the new Head Office at Music House, 12 Neasden Lane. Firth became the day-to-day boss of the Musicland chain, and Creasy took care of the wholesale operation supplying discs to many juke-box operators. Flynn and Parsons moved to 37 Soho Square to run B&C Records, and just before I left school, I had a spell during the Easter holidays back at 44 Berwick Street, which was then managed by Dave Thomas. Elton John was an occasional customer, more so, after John Gillespie took over as manager, when Elton would serve customers on Saturdays. Danny Baker, a young lad, also became a Saturday help. I left school and joined the company to become Alan Firth's assistant at Music House, co-ordinating the stock between all branches, and the suppliers (record companies). I occasionally went to different branches, as holiday-relief manager. Trojan was set up a a joint venture between Beat & Commercial Records ltd (Musicland's parent company) & Island Records, with whom we shared the Neasden Lane premises. The Pop-Reggae scene took off and by getting Johnny Arthey to add string arrangements to some reggae tunes, and with an old-school 'plugger' Clive Crawley, there were Chart hits for Bob & Marcia, Pioneers, Jimmy Cliff, Nicky Thomas and others. By 1972, the profits from the retail chain were supporting the B&C and subsidiary labels, and the pop retail arm was sold off to Syed Ali's Scene & Heard chain. Alan Firth went onto become Sales Manager at A&M. I quit, and went o work for RCA firstly as a salesman, and then to the Promotion Department, as a 'plugger.' Towards the end of my time at RCA, Lee Gopthal arrived as A&R Manager. The side of the retail operation that sold ska, Blue Beat and reggae had guys like Webster Shrowder, Desmond Bryan and his brother Syl, Joe Sinclair, and several others who became movers & shakers in that side of the industry.
I began working at Musicland 13 High Rd Willesden NW10 in Nov 1965. I worked weekends at various branches inc Portobello Rd, Berwick St, Burnt Oak, Kilburn (both shops), Hounslow, Fulham, etc. In 1969, I began at Head Office, Music House, 12 Neasden Lane, initially as Stock Co-Ordinator, effectively becoming Buyer for the entire chain (pop division), working under director Alan Firth, We operated a 'Central -Buying' operation' as no branch manager was permitted to order stock from the record companies, directly. We were disc suppliers to most major juke-box operators; we exported to Europe; we did mail order, and much else.
Hi, I opened Musicland in 1967 with Fred Parsons. I was made manager after a month, Fred went on to manage the rest of the Musicland chain with the rest of the directors. At that time One stop was the top import record shop in the west end and we set out to make Musicland Berwick Street the premier no 1 record and import shop which we did. Our customers were serious record collectors and many stars, regulars were Jimi Hendrix, Bee Gees, Eric Clapton, Incredible string band, Donovan, Pink Floyd to name just a few. It was a exciting time to work in Soho the people were fantastic. 1968 John and Ian joined after me and I went on to work in the music industry and run my own company Spartan Records
I also stopped off at Musicland in Berwick Street my favourite record shop. Along with Simons Stable in Portobello Road. Musicland always had loads of American imports and you could listen to them in the shop. I brought the new H .P. Lovecraft L.P. And asked the guy who was serving if he’d stick a dozen copies through the magazine for a few moments before agreeing to take a dozen copies if reviewed his new album in out next edition. He handed me a copy of empty Sky. The shop assistant was Elton John, earning a few bob on the side prior to the full-time launch of his career with the release of Lady Samantha a few months later. Time Out
Fact. One late Friday or Saturday morning in the early summer of 1969, I was walking down Berwick Street W1, when I bumped into an office boy friend from Denmark St called Reg Dwight and I asked him where he was going, he told me he had a part time job in a record store called Musicland, at 44 Berwick Street W1 and I went in with him to have a quick Look around.
I went on to be a failed Rock Star but a fairly successful Photographer and Reg Dwight went on to be a Mega Star, known as Sir Elton John🤩