Sounds on Tape did not last very long, possibly because it had a rival just a few doors down by the name of Sounds Groovy. Has there ever been a better name for a record shop? Not only that but it remains my model of what a perfect record shop should be. It out flanked Sounds on Tape by pretty much selling the same range of cassettes that they did but also stocked a vast selection of vinyl of every genre you can think of. That is why I have brought you here in 1975. The shop was at the height of its powers and it was my go to source for all things vinyl, as it was for every other vinyl junkie in town. I would leaf through racks and racks of weird and wonderful looking albums that I would love to have heard just based on their sleeve designs alone. I would also haunt the comedy racks, aspiring to collections of Goon Show, Monty Python & Round The Horne albums and wondering who Hoffnung and Cheech & Chong were. That was partly the label obsessive in me again. There was something about spoken word on a record and the sight of the BBC logo on a record label that held a strange magic.
Even more so than Sounds on Tape, Sounds Groovy always had eye catching window displays. For some reason, promotional campaigns for Eric Clapton’s EC Was Here and CSN’s CSN are particularly etched on my memory. And hearing those weird looking records that I mentioned earlier was not out of the question either. Opposite the counter was a padded bench with a few sets of headphones hanging above it. Here you could ask to listen to anything and they would play it for you. They did not seem to mind in the least if you did not then go on to purchase anything. My early record collection was bolstered significantly by purchases from Sounds Groovy but in the context of all this available weirdness, my main memory of something I first asked to listen to and then did indeed purchase may seem somewhat pedestrian. All I can say is, I was 12 years old, so shoot me! And also that it was, in its way, a quite remarkable record.
In the early part of 1976, Abba’s Fernando was everywhere. It proved to be the band’s third UK number 1 but only their fourth hit of any real size, having suffered something of a fallow period immediately after their breakthrough with Waterloo two years earlier. Four hits in, it therefore seemed rather strange that their record label would choose to release a Greatest Hits set. The album had actually been released in Sweden some months previously (without Fernando) but even more bizarre than releasing a hits record so early in the band’s career was the extraordinary and frankly terrifying artwork in which it was packaged.