The day the music died ...

Sleeves record shop'Kirkcaldy
Sleeves record shop'Kirkcaldy
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With HMV set to close its Kirkcaldy shop, it leaves the town without a dedicated music outlet for the first time in decades. John Murray, Fife Free Press music correspondent, looks back to the glory days of Bruce’s records, Sleeve,s and listening booths in Edin Donaldson’s ...

As major chain HMV announces closures their one time biggest rival (Virgin) has gone completely.

When Sir Richard Branson sold his shops for £1 to the management it all looked optimistic as the new Zavvi also bought out all the liquidated Woolworths stock.

This lasted only a year amid the bigger demand for downloads, mail order and illegal file sharing trading music for free.

There is a choice of legal download sites for MP3s and giants like Amazon regularly discount new albums plus others offering imported CDs from Europe and the far east resulting in a 2007 court case where albums many at 25 per cent less than the UK High Street, were export only product and therefore were illegal here.

I say High Street retailers but where are they in Kirkcaldy?

Remember when Bruce Findlay one time manager of Simple Minds opened a branch of Bruce’s?

Next to the Post Office and the Tropicana (now Toro), the High Street shop was the cool place to be.

The Proclaimers were photographed on their US tour with the ‘I Found It at Bruce’s’ bags.

Those red bags were the cool accessory to be seen with as were the evolved black Sleeves bags from Whytescauseway. Woolworths sold millions of records, DVDs and CDs to the extent they bought out the distributors in 1986. Even as the CD generation kicked in they would retail the top 10 albums for just £3.99.

Charts

They had their own accurate chart too but by November 2008 the unthinkable administration kicked in. John Menzies (now WH Smith) had a huge record sales outlet upstairs to the extent that they became part of the secret ‘chart returns’ input meaning they influenced the chart positions.

Record reps cottoned on and ‘fed’ new releases to the store at no cost. Coloured vinyl, freebies like T shirts and picture discs where unloaded on sale at the minimum 99p meaning the ‘limited editions’ regularly charted.

How else would Tubeway Army (Are Friends Electric?) or The Cars (My Best Friends Girl) top the charts without their presence as a seven-inch picture disc?

Amid all this you could still buy vinyl from Edwin Donaldson, a High Street electrical store which featured listening booths.

Previews

Here the customers could ask to privately ‘preview’ a track in store from a perforated hardboard hood which you stepped in to. At the Port Brae end the Caithness Brothers electrical shop had individual booths downstairs where you could shut yourself in to hear a song before deciding.

Boots in the Mercat had a huge record section which at least outlasted their home brew section and Littlewoods had a sizeable vinyl section where New Look now resides.

Instruments

Mentiplays in the Arcade was, at one time, the only source of musical instruments.

Hi Energy in the Postings had an upfront line in DJ and club versions of the latest dance tracks. Stuart, who ran the miniscule shop for a corner unit within the ‘Knightsbridge’ section expanded successfully out to the main mall and more recently had outlets at Whytescauseway and the West End.

Forrester Bros. in St Clair Street had a wealth of vinyl and sheet music in a dark atmospheric music store along with valve radio receivers that sat high on a shelf.

Gavin Forrester had a wealth of music knowledge and kept quite a stock of records as well as the main source for sheet music in the town.

His aromatic pipe was part of the characteristic experience of browsing at his outlet opposite the Rio Cinema while his brother had a smaller unit retailing second hand LPs in the Olympia Arcade.