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In the early seventies I used to buy Sounds and New Musical Express to find out the gen on my favourite bands of the time which included Hawkwind and German rock bands such as Amon Duul II, Faust, Neu, Can and Kraftwerk as well as other left field conglomerations such as Gong and the like. Around the same time a certain Mr Richard Branson was selling records , reputedly from the boot of his mini. Soon after this adverts appeared in the above publications for Virgin Mail Order, so it was possible to get decent imported music , cheaply. Branson seemed to have a love of music, and helped the fans get decent new music at reasonable prices.
Then came the shops and record label, I can't remember which came first. The record label caused a commotion because the initial adverts carried a photograph of a pregnant naked girl. Also to coincide with the initial releases they said they would produce a budget line of albums at 48p (the price of a single then) the first of which was the excellent "Faust Tapes". The label's success was assured by one of it's initial releases Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells". The only other 48p album in the series was a reissue of Gong's "Camembert Electrique", possibly a sign of things to come (i.e. unfulfilled promise).
Then as Virgin expanded, shops began to open all over. These were fine, but eventually were bought sold and became "Our Price", the chain we all love to hate. However Virgin kept a few bigger shops which became the megastores we have today.
So we have a record chain born out of love of music, should be record buyer heaven . What went wrong?
Well Virgin became a world eating corporation (Trains, Planes , Insurance), the antithesis of the music culture which effectively created Virgin.
And today we have big, shops, big prices and mobile phones.
The Virgin shops of today provide exactly the same facilities as HMV and Our Price. They sell CDs and artificially high prices, have a distinctive corporate image , also have a video / DVD / Computer games section. Virgin also sell mobile phones, whereas HMV do not. Music is now just another product to sell for Virgin.
They provide product for the Hear'say crowd and the casual buyer, but God help you if you want anything out of the ordinary , then you can expect to pay up to 20 GBP for a single CD. Also everything is geared to shifting current product and maximising profit.
It is unfortunate that Virgin have lost their way, however the spirit does live on in the independent record shops (we have Reflex, RPM and Spin in Newcastle), and you can still get your out the ordinary music from these sources.
Basically if you love music support your local record shop, and avoid these like the plague. They provide nothing that you couldn't get at your local supermarket or Woolworths. Incidentally , I once read that Woolworths sell one in three of all CDs sold in the UK.
Very true and sad, the biggest crime has to be the massive dance section, but no punk? insead punk and metal is lumped together in an area half the size of the dance section in the side corner, very sad.
peterkinxl5 17.02.2005 16:10
Once upon a time-I used to shop in Virgin in Bull St, Birmingham. They had very good stock, staff who knew what they were on about and reasonable prices. That was a long time ago 1981/82 and sadly it's all changed to what you said in your review...
Local independents are cetainly a better bet.
tartanprincess80 25.08.2001 11:43
Interesting review, I agree, prices can be a little on the steep side.