Rock On opened for business in August 1971 operating out of a flea market at 93 Golborne Rd at the unfashionable end of London's Portobello Road market. Ted Carroll, the proprietor was a rock'n'roll and blues fan who also co-managed Thin Lizzy and so the stall was only open at weekends. Prior to opening day, stock consisted of a bunch of previously owned 45's, 78's and LPs that had been dredged up from thrift stores in the seedier parts of various cities in America, Ireland, England and Scotland. This was augmented by 1800 factory fresh London label 45s that were discovered in the loft of Thin Lizzy's Irish record distributors in Dublin a week before opening. This haul, which was purchased by Ted at a knock-down price, was the end result of a week of cherry-picking through about 20,000 original '50's and '60's deleted London 45s.
The London label 45s put Rock On firmly on the map from day One as they included such rarities as 'All The Time' by Werly Fairburn modestly priced at £2 'Down Yonder We Go Ballin' by Smiley Lewis (£2) and 'Ballroom Baby' (£2) by Dick Lory, as well as dozens of copies of London releases by Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Ray Sharpe, Rosie & The Originals, Rod Bernard, The Ronettes, Crystals, James Brown, Solomon Burke, Ike & Tina Turner, Love, The Turtles, The Association and The Critters
Within a week of opening, Ted would be greeted by a queue of expectant customers each morning as he arrived to open for business. He soon noticed that his customers included such 'faces' as Jimmy Page, Lemmy from Hawkwind, ex-Pretty Thing Twink and many other denizens of the Rock World, all of whom rubbed shoulders nonchalantly with mini-bus loads of Welsh teddy boys and aging French 'Blouson Noir'.
Brian Eno came by to check the place out, but didn't buy anything, Lenny Kay was intrigued and delighted to purchase a copy of his Link Cromwell 'Crazy like a Fox' single on London in the punk rock section for 40p. Joe Strummer spent the summer of '72 vainly searching for an original 45 of 'Junco Partner'. Malcolm McLaren purchased wholesale quantities of US rock'n'roll reissues for his Let It Rock boutique in the Kings Road, Jimmy Page came by to fill gaps in his collection of Sun 45s and Phil Lynott after a visit, wrote about Rock On in 'The Rocker'. In 1974 Malcolm McLaren would drop by regularly with Paul Cook and Steve Jones looking for material for their new group and would buy Yardbirds, Animals and Monkees 45s. By now Rock On was becoming a tourist attraction having been featured in several write ups in the Music Papers.
Other customers over the years have included Bob Dylan, and various members of The Cramps, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Los Lobos, Sir Douglas Quintet, Madness, The Clash, The Human League, Primal Scream, The Rockingbirds, The Gorillas, The Fall to drop just a few names. To read more click here
I did visit Golborne Road which was found right down at the end of the flee market, it had room for about four people and a very small selection to browse. It was more of have you got this record in stock and they would go and seek it outback. Comment:Leon Parker
In the Madness film 'Take It Or leave It' Rock On Shop gets an airing in 1981.
Joe Strummer brought a copy of 'Brand New Cadillac' from Galborne Road which he later went ot record with the Clash.
I opened ROCK ON RECORDS in a tiny 6' x 6'stall in the back of a flea market at 93 Golborne Road on Saturday 24th August 1971. My opening stock included 1800 45s on the London American label. These helped put the ROCK ON stall on the map immediately as these records, all in mint condition, included multiple titles by Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Ray Sharp, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Everly Brothers, Fats Domino, Ronettes, Ike & Tina Turner, James Brown, Eddie Cochran, The Crystals, Freddie Cannon, etc,etc. In addition, there was a handful of even rarer titles by Alvadean Coker, Smiley Lewis, Werly Fairburn, Lavern Baker, Love, Darlene Love, The Nightcrawlers, Link Cromwell [Lenny Kaye], Little Hank and others! After just a few weeks, I would have a queue of about a dozen punters, waiting for me to open at 9.00AM on a Saturday morning. In addition I had quite a few titles on the original Sun record label, also 78s, a few great LPs [ Pretty Things 1st UK LP £3], about 100 US oldies 45s and a few hundred second-hand UK 45s. In September 1974, I opened a second stall in Soho Market aand then in August 1975, Barry Appleby and I opened Rock On Records at no 3 Kentish Town Road, right next to Camden Town Tube Station. I then started Ace / Chiswick Records and eventually in about 1979, I sold the Golborne Rd stall to Rockin Rex for 200 US rock'n'roll reissues. Happy Days!!!!
Rare shot outside 93 Golborne Road where Rock On was at the back of the ground floor. Picture shows Diz Watson & His Backdoor Men playing outside. Photo Brian Nevill
Extract from book opposite