DJ / Quizmaster

Robinson’s Records in the 70s

If you ever went to Manchester in the 1970s then visiting Robinson’s Records was a definate must, I met up with the owners Arthur & Edna Robinson just recently and was reminicing about the place,
But before you read Arthur’s memories of the shop, here are a few memories from old customers and staff…….
The story of how Robinson’s Records Manchester, England,
came about.;-Robinson’s Records – 2011

Wow! Robinsons Records, we used to come in from Ashton and it always was the last stop before home. Used to buy Johnny Winter US import albums, the smell was great, could only ever afford one at a time, if I had a time machine I’d go back and buy them again and again, a real time of discovery for me still at school and those 70’s classics were only a few years old back then when Johnny was like some wild albino alien blues playing god to me….in the best sense. Last record I bought was upstairs when there was a lonely couple of stacks of LP’s next to DIY stuff! When we used to walk downstairs it was almost like walking into 70’s New York a million miles away from the Manchester streets and those records, god knows how they got them, were like nuggets of dreams…magic!!

Artefact added on 27-05-2011.
Flannel says: Yup Robbies on the other side of Black Friars Bridge (?) did have a smell all of it’s own, a mix of freshly printed sleeves, vinyl and a faint whiff of stale tobacco (or was that the clientele). Used to buy albums there, Buzzcocks’ first springs to mind but not singles as they didn’t seem to stock that many of ’em. The old Virgin shop was the place to buy singles.

ghetto88 says: Yes it was in the cellar and the smell was as you say…..mostly albums though, the Paperchase just off St Ann’s Square was another good record shop, once again down some stairs! Good times when you’re in your early teens and finding out there’s this alternative world called music.

Phil_B says: My most vivid memory of Robinsons is that you had to walk through a greasy spoon cafe to get into the shop and if you were carrying any bags big enough to fit records into, they would take your bags off you (in between serving chip butties to bus drivers) and give you a raffle ticket. Inside, spread over two floors, there was a huge number of LPs, many of which were US-imported cut-outs and deletions.

You had to wade through tons of country LPs and easy listening LPs to find the good stuff but there were good selections of rare jazz, soul, doo-wop and even surf music at various times. I vividly remember a ginger cat was resident in the shop and would stroll in a leisurely manner across the racks of LPs while you browsed.

There was also a singles bar where I recall buying punk and new wave singles back in 77/78. Other people remember large baskets full of UK-pressed 60s reggae singles at 10 pence each but I have to take their word for that.

Towards the end, there was a period when a DIY shop occupied the same space as the record shop. Each time you went in, there would be more space devoted to curtains and carpets and less space given over to records. Eventually, the records disappeared altogether and I believe the DIY shop is now long gone too.

Graham says: They had some great sections of vinyl such as, Dragster Records (Just car noises) ,Belly Dancing ,Exotica and soundtrack stuff were all well stocked, got so much treasure from that shop, Including the Italian soundtrack to the Spanish zombie film The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue”.. They did a good line in film and band posters ,there was almost a separate film department at the back of the shop ,and of coarse the big ginger cat that always seemed to sit on the records that you needed to browse.

graham says: oops didn’t see the other post about the cinema book shop ,but that’s a confirm . Full set of John Carpenter sound tracks on vinyl. would cost a pretty penny these days.

1963 says: Left there with bags of cheap reggae 12’s back in the day!
I’d totally forgotten about this place

Phil_B says: I’m glad someone else remembers the ginger cat – would’ve thought I’d imagined it otherwise.

A Langan says: yes lots of reggae 12″ inch singles for 10p each bought loads of them. also they had loads of 7″ inch singles with loads of speedball “no survivors” 7″ I sold the copy I got for 25p its worth a bit more than that now

Mark Shaw says: I used to work at Robinsons Records 78/79 on the singles bar, many happy memories. Flannel you couldn’t be further from the truth about the singles stock, it was HUGE! Rare Records couldn’t even compete, Robinsons had excellent connections in the States, and imported shedloads of allsorts every week. I’ll have to dig out some catalogues and scan some examples, and post ’em. Also it’d be great if we could get Mike who was the singles bar manager, to put some of his memories on here, he worked there from beginning to end, still workin’ as a dj
now as then, can’t remember his moniker at the mo, but I’ll put a link to his site when it comes back to me. Funnily enough, can’t remember the moggy!

Foz says: hi mark….would that be mike prince you are talking about..?
mark shaw says: Thanks Foz, fr’ joggin’ me old memoreee !
A Langan says: there was a cat deffo
Flannel says: “Flannel you couldn’t be further from the truth about the singles stock, it was HUGE! ”
I’m sure it was and I do remember the singles bar fondly Mark, I just think I had weird taste in singles and most of the stuff I was into in the late 70’s was hard enough to get at the best of times !

Foz says: hello again mark…..mike prince was the dj at the wishing well club when my first band “the change” had a residency there back in 79, our paths crossed again in 2008 when “the change” and “fast cars” got together again for a 30 year reunion gig…we had him as the dj on the night….our paths crossed again about a year later when we got involved in an exhibition at Salford museum and art gallery celebrating Salford music over the past 50 years….I have some pics from this event which I may upload at some point.

The following note has been sent by Arthur Robinson, it brings back many good memories working mainly in the singles department, now when people say ‘don’t give up your day job’, well that was my ‘day job’ and was the best job I ever had.

Hi, to everybody who remembers Robinson’s Records on Blackfriars Street, Manchester, England.
I have put Manchester in the address but actually we were just over the river Irwell , which separates Manchester from Salford,   My wife Edna and I Arthur Robinson owned the business, We originally started with our first shop in Patricroft, Eccles, approx: six miles from M/cr, It was in 1960 when we bought this building which was an old fish and chip shop; and with help from our friends we ripped out all the fittings, and turned into a record shop, calling it the Disc Centre. We also lived on the premises with our young family.
A short while later we opened our second shop, at the Eccles Railway Station, then approx: two years later we bought the old Royle and Leesons pet shop in Queen Street, Eccles, and in doing so we closed the shop near the Station. This shop we called The Music Box, A young lady called Doreen Buck, started work for us in the Station shop, and moved into the Music Box, she worked with us for 21 years, more about Doreen later.
As time went by we opened two more shops one on Broad St, Salford, and the other in Lower Broughton Road, Salford., Later on I went into partnership with a guy called Hector Gedhall, whilst Edna ran the original shops,  The partnership expanded quite rapidly with four shops in Manchester, six in Blackpool, one in Liverpool, one in Leeds. One in Sheffield.
It was in 1979 when the partnership business ceased to trade, Edna and I still had three shops, when we decided to expand again, this time just the two of us, and we took the premises on Blackfriars Street, which we opened at first on the ground floor, and then later on we extended down into the basement area. We had another young  lady called Kath Roberts, who used to work for us in the early partnership days, and afterwards, she became our supervisor at Blackfriars St, she carried on working for us for 34 years. Some of you might remember her?
The other person who stayed with us for 21 years was Marmalade ! our Ginger Tom, I say he was a person, because believe me he was as human as any human being I ever new, a fantastic pet, who never left the shop, he would sit many times near both our front, and back doors, sometimes went to look outside, but never wandered there. Many customers asked where Marmalade was before even looking at the records. For some he was part of their journey to Robinson’s Record’s.
It was during this time I decided to go to America, so as to buy records from there,  I went to New York, only to find out that the places I needed to buy from where in New Jersey, and Long Island, this was the start of us really going into the collectors market, because our choice in America was fantastic, I along with Edna sometimes, started to go to America every 3 to 4  months.
The rest is history, because we built the shop up to what we thought was one of the best record collectors shops in England, it spoke for itself we had people writing to us from overseas, even from America ! Looking to see if we had the records they wanted. We had many Fan Clubs throughout England coming to us, asking us to see if we could find the records that they all wanted, I think luck was on our side because we managed to fulfil many of there requests, and finished up with a very loyal customer base.
I also have to mention the many staff (too many to name them all) that worked for us during that period, Edna and I agree that we had some very good , loyal staff, who became part of our extended family, and at this point we would once again like to thank them ALL, for their help in making Robinson’s Records a major part in not only our lives, but our customers as well.
It was in 1981 when we realised that our Record business was about to come to an end, what with the big changes in the music industry,  Punk in England, Gospel in America, and of course the major factor was that of the Dollar dropping so far against the English pound, it just made it impossible for us to carry on. It was at this point we made plans to close Robinson’s Record’s, and open our new retail venture, that being our D, I, Y store  “Hang Em and Bang Em” in the same building, which later also incorporated  Robinson’s Picture Gallery.
We did however manage to sell the remaining records to a business friend  of ours John from London, who not only kept it running, but also re-employed Doreen Buck to manage it for him ,unfortunately he passed away two years later, then Doreen  bought the business, and she ran it for two years more before deciding to retire. We ourselves are now retired, and thankfully still enjoying our lives to-gether.  Once again we would like to say Thank you to all and everybody who knew us during that fantastic time.
P.S. We would like to thank Mike Prince, for the opportunity to post on this site. we know he enjoyed his days working for, and with us.

Comments on: "Robinson’s Records in the 70s" (18)

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  2. Alan Whiting said:

    I remember buying a few Sandie Shaw Lp’s and some Cliff Richard ep’s on a reissued 12″ format imported from Holland back in the late 70’s. It would be great to revisit those distant memories .

  3. Vincent Jones said:

    Not sure if I’ve got the right place reading the reminisces above…but I’m sure it was Robinsons that I used to buy my LPs. Remember going to see Commander Cody at the Stoneground in 1973 then going to Robinsons and buying a couple of their LPs. Of course they were American cutouts and dirt cheap…plus you couldn’t get them anywhere else. I also recall talking to a staff member about them who’d also been to the concert who had been thinking of buying them…I’m sure he was the owner’s son. The bulk of my purchases were James Brown imports early to mid 70s…again fantastic selection of import cutouts not available anywhere else. A few years later I was reading an interview with Mick Hucknell talking about his record collecting pre fame… he got all his James Brown imports from Robinsons.

  4. Hi Mike, I worked at Robinson’s Records when you were managing the singles bar. I remember working with you at least once in your bar.

    It was around 1976. I worked there for about 2-3 years, I think. I got £3 for a Saturday, increased to £4 after a year or so. I remember really liking Kath who often manned the till. I think it was months after I started working that I took any money home as I spent my earnings on vinyl records. I think I got 33% discount.

    I occasionally got driven to the Eccles or Patricroft shops by Arthur or Edna if they had a staff shortage.

    When I started in the Manchester branch I was trained by a lovely, bubbly, enthusiastic guy called Eric Leatherman.

    There was a young, tall, skinny lad who worked there who had a motorbike. I don’t remember his name though.

    Who was the chubby guy who worked in the basement and was a fervent collector of

    I lived with my parents in Worsley at the time, and I can see photos of you in the White Horse, Worsley, on your site: we lived on Crossfield Drive.

    After 2-3 years at Robinson’s Records I worked in the record department on the top floor of Kendal’s, next to the piano department for about a year. I got paid £7 for Saturday: a small fortune! 🙂

    Is Arthur Robinson still alive? (I see that your article is dated 2011.)

    • Hello Chris, well first of all the sad news…Arthur Robinson sadly died a few weeks ago, Edna and himself moved to New Zealand many years ago.
      Eric Leatherman worked with me at the Blackfriars branch for quite some time and I remember he was a big Pink Floyd fan.
      I thing the big lad downstairs in the soundtracks dept was called Ian but not 100%.

      I set up a Robinson’s Records Facebook page if you want to take a look.
      Is really nice of you to share your memories Chris.
      I don’t work at the White Horse anymore but still local at the Barton Arms, Worsley two evenings a week so if you are passing anytime please pop in and say Hello.

      • Hi Mike, I’m sorry to hear that Arthur has died. You’ve reminded me that Eric used to wear a denim jacket with a big, beautiful stitched Pink Floyd logo on the back. I’ve signed up to your Facebook group: thanks for setting it up! I now live in Woking, Surrey, and I only drive north once a year or so, but if I get chance I’ll pop along and say hi.

  5. Great memories – but what was the record shop further along called – across Deansgate and onto St Mary’s Way – anyone remember that one?

    • Was that Rare Records you are thinking of ?

    • Hi Tim, If you walked from Robinson’s Records and crossed over Deansgate there was a shop on the right called Lasky’s at one point and Hardman’s at another which sold vinyl records on the ground floor and hifi on the mezzanine level.
      Almost on the corner of St Anne’s Square was Paperchase: the records were in the basement.

  6. Robinsons records for me was the best record shop ever!
    I know, many Manchester musicians from just pre punk and afterwards during the 1970,s found inspiration there, I certainly did.
    It was an educational goldmine of what is perhaps now known as ..American mid sixties garage punk. I found countless records for pennies.
    A very important part of what made me want to be involved with Music…
    Long live Robinsons

  7. I worked there in the late 70’s, had a saturday job, often spent all my wages! They did indeed sell singles, they had the top 30 charts as well! We used to tally up the sales at the end of the day, then these were sent by post somewhere, towards the top 30: thats why it used to be every thursday, it took a few days to get the sales figures added up!

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