Skip to content

Sydney Record Stores of the Past

April 21, 2012

On Record Store Day I went record shopping in the city. This is something I have done for around twenty years, since the early 1990s when I was a teenager. Music was a magic door into another world for me in my early teenage years and my first explorations of the city on my own terms were through record stores.  I still navigate by them, even though they have all either moved or disappeared from their 1990s locations. The city for me today is a patchwork of what used to be, a mental map where past overlays present. This is a common feeling  for anyone who has known a city for any length in time: cities are by nature dynamic, and what is carries the shadow of what was.

Here is the invisible map of the record stores that I remember from the 1990s. There may be more, and others who are older than me could probably make a different map, so do comment and add your stories.

Red Eye Records 

The city record store I remember most fondly was Red Eye records when it was in the Tank Stream arcade, a dim, subterranean arcade which has now been replaced by a Coles Express supermarket. I came here for the first time when I was 13, excited to make contact with the physical objects which matched the music I heard on the radio. I could examine a My Bloody Valentine CD, or the Smudge 7″ of “I Don’t Want to be Grant McLennan”, even if the meagre funds allocated to me by my mother for whatever anodyne activity I said I was up to weren’t enough to buy them.

This is the place where I first discovered zines, and they thrilled me with their slapdash weirdness. It was the strangeness of the store – with its big bloodshot eye logo and the posters for bands I’d never heard of – that I came to absorb, even if I didn’t buy anything.

Red Eye existed in a number of locations in the Tank Stream arcade. It moved around the corner from the shop I first visited, and split into a shop for new music and a smaller secondhand shop across the arcade. Next to the secondhand shop was a tiled step at the edge of a bedraggled garden bed. If I was waiting for someone I’d sit here and watch people go in and out of the stores. I imagined these to be the most interesting people in the city.

Red Eye is still operating, and popular: it was full of people for Record Store Day.  After the Tank Stream Arcade was demolished it moved to another location on King St, and now has moved to York St. There is a secondhand Red Eye on Pitt st, but that store is closing soon.  Their album prices still end in their signature .98, so if I find a price sticker on one of my old CDs or records that ends in .98, I know where it came from.

The entrance to the Tank Stream Arcade, a photo from the City of Sydney archives.

Waterfront Records

I knew of Waterfront’s existence from their ads in the Drum Media. The ads ran alongside the gig guide and were densely handwritten with information about new releases as well as strange stories from the Weekly World News. I found the store just off George St, on Barlow St. I liked this for its resonance with Lou Barlow of Sebadoh and because it was an unassuming laneway slipped in beside  a 70s high rise: the McKell Building which I had never seen anyone enter or leave.

On Saturdays in 1990/1991 I had the job of escorting my sister to choir practise in Surry Hills, with strict instructions not to leave the building as it was a dangerous area. As soon as she went in to practice I took off, walking as fast as I could across to Waterfront. That it was forbidden for me to be there made it even more exciting. I saved up to buy band t-shirts from the display on the back wall – terrifying to me because it involved me talking to the people who worked in the store. I felt like a tiny mouse and imagined their cool, inner city lives with feelings of great inadequacy.

From “The Sell In” by Craig Mathieson, an uncredited image of Steve Stavrakis and Chris Dunn outside the George St/Barlow St Waterfront.

Waterfront moved to a much larger store on York st, and this store had a vast zine section where I sold many of my zines in the late 90s. Some of my records from this store still have the handwritten post-it note descriptions that were stuck to the covers, ephemera which then I barely noticed but now regard very fondly.

After some time digging in my cupboard, I found this Waterfront bag, from the days of it at 770 George St. The bloodshot eye on Red Eye’s bags was always a bit of a shock for me, I preferred the Waterfront cityscape. When I first started record shopping, seeing others walking around with bags from record stores made me feel like I was part of a secret club.

Waterfront closed in 2000. This, combined with the atmosphere of renovation in preparation for the Olympics, felt like the end of the Sydney I had grown to know. In the early 90s the city streets had many holes, deep excavated pits that were the result of developments that stalled in the 80s after the share market crash. As these began being filled in with developments, holes of a different kind started to appear, as record stores and bookstores began to be priced out of the city.

Waterfront still operates as an online store, with the same black and yellow cityscape as their banner.

Phantom Records.

Phantom, while not being a punk record store, seemed more punk to me, things were a bit looser there than they were at Red Eye or Waterfront. The store was on Pitt st, under the tracks of the monorail and up a short flight of stairs. Their slogan was “the big beat in the heart of the vinyl jungle”. I liked the sound of it, but it didn’t fit with how I envisaged Phantom, which was a jungle of boys with scruffy hair and scratchy guitars. I remember buying a copy of Crow’s first record “Sunburnt Throats and Happy Thunderclouds” there, from a pile of them being sold off cheaply. Phantom released this record and records by other great bands like Even as we Speak and The Hummingbirds, and multiple copies of these Phantom releases could often been found on the shelves. (A note here: Red Eye and Waterfront were also record labels as well as stores.)

My favourite memory of Phantom was seeing Lawnsmell play an instore in 1997. Lawnsmell were a Sydney punk band who I saw quite a number of times, they used to play a screamy punk cover of “Birthday” by the Sugarcubes which thrilled me.

Matt took this polaroid at the Lawnsmell show.

Phantom also published handwritten ads in the Drum Media, and would have periodic music auctions, where you would put in a silent bid on items listed in the catalogue. I made bids many times but only ever won one item, a Crime and City Solution 7″.

Phantom Records closed in 1998 and there is little trace of it now, apart from the occasional secondhand record discovery, where the label lives on:

An extensive history of Phantom records can be found here.

Pitt Street Record Zone

This is the name I’m giving to the two blocks south of Liverpool Street, which was once the secondhand record shopping strip. There is a second hand Red Eye Records there, but that was a later addition to the strip and is soon to close leaving only…


Lawson’s has been there for decades and remains pretty much as it always was, with its many layers of posters on the walls, including this old State Rail cautionary sign:

Lawsons is the last remaining of the string of Pitt St record stores, and for its longevity provides a final link to a past age of city record shopping.


Ashwoods, which moved to York St before closing down a few years ago, first started trading in 1932. Its Pitt St store, which closed in the early 2000s, was full of records all jumbled up with only rudimentary order, so to shop at Ashwoods was to search deeply through the history of recorded music. The records all had the trademark round edged square price stickers and the price scrawled in pencil on the record itself, perhaps to stop any pricetag switching. The store had a spiral staircase leading up to an less-used upper level, most of the action happened downstairs among the men (and it was usually men) flipping through records.

Ashwoods was an adventure, and as well as the records I found the sometimes irascible owner a great character. One time when I was browsing in the York St store, I listened to him hold forth on the topic of “why don’t we eat zoo animals” for quite some time.


On the corner of Goulburn St and Pitt St, across from what was once the Mandarin Club, was Martin’s, another secondhand record store which I liked most for the great importance given to cassettes on their awning:


Silver Rocket

In the above photo you can see some of the window of Enthusiasms, which previously was a store called Silver Rocket, although there wasn’t any link between the two stores as far as I know. Silver Rocket was more punk whereas Enthusiasms was more indie pop, and the first store to mark up 80s Australian records by bands such as the Laughing Clowns. This is when I noticed that these records, which I’d seen around my whole record shopping life, were suddenly becoming valuable. Another example of this happened recently, when I was looking for records released on Flying Nun for a zine I was writing about Dunedin. I remember secondhand Flying Nun records in abundance. There were many of them at shops like Enthusiasms, but then when I went to look for them in the remaining Sydney record stores, there were few to be found. Like my mental map of the city, I had failed to keep pace with the present.

Other Sydney record stores past:

Metropolis: This store was in the Mid City Centre, a shopping centre above a vast basement HMV. I only went there a few times before it closed down in the early 90s.

Virgin  Records: was also in Pitt St mall, a basement store where I saw an instore by Red Kross, having gone by myself in a daring early-teenage solo mission, and signed a petition for “We Want Moz in Oz”. This campaign also had bumper stickers, I stuck mine on my school folder.

Brashs: on Pitt St near the Greater Union cinemas, all completely disappeared now and a building site for a big tower. Brashs occasionally turns up in jokes made about the 90s or redundant retailers, for some reason.

On Record Store day this year I visited both Red Eyes, Mojo, and Lawsons. Then me and my record shopping friend paused on the corner of World Square, on the steps where two Coles employees were having a smoke break. We looked across the street at the CB hotel, a run down backpackers in a bedraggled 30s building, with a new white building shooting high up behind it, like a giant white spear. I realised we’d come to the end of the city record stores (we’re not into metal, so didn’t visit Utopia Records), although the ghosts of record stores past pulled at me. As if I looked for them they might be there. I wished they were.

162 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott K. permalink
    April 22, 2012 9:05 pm

    For the Melbournians who miss some amazing stores:

    Gaslight records.

    Au Go Go.

    Oh my god the hours wasted at these places. I’m so glad that Polyester are still there. Even if I don’t live in Melbourne anymore (I still visit frequently, and visit them every time).

    Enthusiasms –

    And yes. The Virgin on Bourke street also had a vibrant teenage culture surrounding it, and it’s near pop mecca qualities. But it was too expensive and refused to carry the more minor Melbourne recordings, virtually committing suicide in Melbourne at the time. HMV cut it’s own wrists in the same way.

    • Vanessa Berry permalink*
      April 26, 2012 3:46 pm

      Yes there were some great Melbourne record stores, I have fond memories of going on record store crawls in the city when I visited in the 90s. Missing Link, also. And there was even a goth record store in the late 90s, near the market, called something like Subterfuge, I can’t remember exactly.

      • zellie permalink
        July 9, 2012 8:36 pm

        OMGF, i forgot Greville Records. I lived for 20 years down the road and Warwick actually became a mate.

        Now I live in NSW and Music Farmers and Repressed are my favourites.

    • zellie permalink
      July 9, 2012 8:31 pm

      Er, Exposure!!! On Cotham Road, on the top of Glenferrie Road, I bought all my seminal Lydia Lunch there.

  2. April 26, 2012 12:15 pm

    I am originally from Melbourne but I loved your walking tour! The gaslight poster for its store was legendary. Every day they had a competition where you had to go in and do something, like ‘Who can stand kissing their partner the longest’. It was so entertaining.

    • Vanessa Berry permalink*
      April 26, 2012 5:49 pm

      I wonder if there is a list of all the competitions somewhere! That would be a fun list to read.

  3. April 26, 2012 1:49 pm

    What about Anthem Records and Robert & Eddie Kaleel’s shop (can’t think of the name!)

    I left Sydney in 1998, with 2000 records in tow. Now living in the US and my children are enjoying playing my choons!

    • Vanessa Berry permalink*
      April 26, 2012 5:51 pm

      I don’t think I went to Anthem, at least not that I can remember. I like that you were on first name basis with the owners of the other store! Maybe another reader can identify it.
      I love that your records travelled with you!

      • Peter permalink
        July 6, 2012 6:44 am

        Anthem was a great early eighties store that lost out to the Record Plant (Imperial Arcade) because of size. The baton was then passed to Red Eye by the mid eighties. These stores were similar in musical style – latest post-punk imports usually from the UK and experimental. Phantom had a more local focus and even had its own label. I always thought rockabilly with Phantom.

      • A different Peter permalink
        April 6, 2018 1:59 pm

        Anthem started out as a kiosk on the concourse of Town Hall station in around 1975. I bought Patti Smith’s Horses there as well as Syd Barrett’s Barrett. It later was swept along with the punk wave and moved somewhere above ground.

    • October 18, 2012 10:03 am

      Hey Vikki the store you are referring to is Soul Sense it mainly stocked R&B, hip hop, 80’s funk, soul etc etc. Anthem was down the alley way between Hoyts on George Street they had a lot of hip hop as well.

      • August 7, 2016 1:57 pm

        Soul Sense was my 2nd home. =(

      • August 22, 2016 9:34 pm

        Same!! It was owned by Freddie Mahinda and what was the other man’s name Joe??

      • jay hovah permalink
        January 13, 2017 9:45 am

        the owners of Soul sense were brothers Eddie and Robert i think? They then opened a shop in Bankstown and and Second Sould Sense in Parra. Joe (Islander guy???) ran Anthem records. He still DJ’s reggae nights around town.

    • Eddie Kaleel permalink
      November 17, 2020 8:38 pm

      Thanks for remembering my store, it’s been 16 years since I’ve closed , and I’m still bumping into people who recognise me at my current workplace at JBHIFI, where I’m music advisor for last 16 years. That’s 25 years of retail music , having had Soul Sense for 10 years

      • Mark Zilich permalink
        April 11, 2021 12:26 pm

        Hi Eddie,
        I don’t know if you’ll see this reply as this post is quite old. Just wanted to say that your shop was a blessing back in the day. I used to frequent it in the mid to late 90’s to pick up the latest hiphop and r&b CDs. Being an avid follower of the genre, it was hard to find many of the underground releases that were advertised in magazines like The Source. The larger stores like HMV only sold mainstream stock and the genre was nowhere as huge as it is today. Soul Sense always stocked what I needed and I believe you guys were ahead of your time. Didn’t one of you used to host a radio show on Friday afternoons that played some of the latest releases from the US? I think I remember this although I could be wrong. Thanks for bringing “urban” music to Sydney back in the days.

  4. Robyn St Clare permalink
    April 26, 2012 5:37 pm

    Great to trip down the dusty corridors of my brain and think of the old haunts…spent a lot of time in Phantom ;p thnx VB!

    • Vanessa Berry permalink*
      April 26, 2012 5:56 pm

      Hi Robyn! Lovely to hear from you, and yes I think you’d have plenty of record store stories to tell!

  5. Jon permalink
    April 26, 2012 7:49 pm

    On the electronic front there was Reach’n Records, run by DJ Sugar Ray on Crown St. Up the road a bit was Good Vibes (I think). Reach’n moves to downstairs at the corner of Crown & Oxford.
    Briefly there was Acetate records near Taylor Square, responsible for beinging DJ Roger Sanchez to Sydney for his first visit.

    Possibly still there is/was Central Station records. No where near central station on Oxford St.

    • Vanessa Berry permalink*
      April 27, 2012 8:33 am

      Central Station records is now the Oxford Art Factory, but the store is still going online – thanks for the filling in the electronic side of things! I went to Central Station a few times but I’m not an electronica or dance person so thanks for adding them.

      • Kit permalink
        April 27, 2012 5:38 pm

        Before moving to Oxford St, Central Station took up the entire double-fronted floor underneath what was Phantom at the time. Speaking of migratory shops, the ever-on-the-move Utopia probably deserves a mention…

  6. Georgia permalink
    April 26, 2012 11:42 pm

    Some great memories Vanessa! My friends and I used to catch the train into town after school in the early 90s to do a record store crawl around Waterfront, Red Eye and Phantom usually. Felt super daggy in our school uniforms but super cool that we were actually in the record stores. I remember Allison from Smudge working at Waterfront at one stage. Did you ever go to Half a Cow records on Glebe Point Road?

    • Vanessa Berry permalink*
      April 27, 2012 8:36 am

      I love that mix of feeling super daggy and super cool, which perhaps only comes when one is a teenager in school uniform!
      I did go to Half a Cow, yes, I thought about including it on my list but then I thought I’d stick strictly to the CBD area, as that’s where I visited on Record Store Day. I particularly loved the tiny Half a Cow, before it upsized and crossed the street. I bought a Meanines T-shirt there and plenty of zines – I liked that it was a bookstore as well, as that was/is my other love.

  7. May 13, 2012 6:34 pm

    awesome list, of course in the Pitt Street record zone was a shop known as ‘The Pitt’ which was even more of a mess than Ashwoods was. They had an extremely odd pricing policy where a $1 record was often priced at $9 and things that were normally expensive were often at knock down prices. One of the key things about record stores in those days was that the staff knew their stuff, they were often in bands or ran labels. However to a young me, I wasn’t aware of that. One day in 1989 I went into Phantom and asked the long haired young guy behind the counter about the new Hummingbirds single. He promised me it was coming. I went back every week and harangued this poor gent, not believing his promises and thinking to myself ‘What would he know?’. Of course, seeing him sing in front of the Hummingbirds that weekend put paid to that. Thanks Simon, the single did arrive!

  8. May 13, 2012 6:41 pm

    yeah, I still think of Phantom when walking past. They had so much cool stuff, and if you were poor you could pick up demo cassettes of unknown bands for a couple of bucks. Cash only, no eftpos.

  9. May 30, 2012 1:08 pm

    I bought a secondhand US pressing of the Sundays’ “Static and Silence” cd at the Red Eye Secondhand store on Pitt Street in 1998. I may have sold it on eBay since. There was also Disco City on Pitt Street near the Sydney Hilton, no prizes for guessing which genre they stocked. They had a big sign there “IF YOU STEAL FROM OUR STORE WE WILL CALL THE POLICE AND NOTIFY YOUR PARENTS” or something like that. That was around 1990 when I visited Sydney for the first time.

  10. Kate permalink
    July 5, 2012 6:00 pm

    I have very similar memories of record shopping in Brisbane in the late 80s/early 90s. Not as many awesome stores – trips to Sydney were always an opportunity to stock up on good stuff from Red Eye, etc. But how I remember the agonising bus ride home before you could listen to your latest purchase … hopefully with a gatefold sleeve. Thanks for churning up some great memories, and RIP Skinny’s!

  11. Kevin permalink
    July 5, 2012 6:10 pm

    I note that you amongst many failed to visit Timewarp records by the Town Hall in Druitt st. Just because they basically catered for “oldies” and went by the No Jazz, No Funk, No Disco…..there were always treasures lurking in the $ bins at the back and they extensive section of 45s from all eras, not to mention a huge collection of 60s garage, Psych & contemporary powerpop cds. Oh , I forgot to mention I worked there during the 90s as well

  12. Gina Monaco permalink
    July 5, 2012 7:19 pm

    half a cow at Glebe was also great….

  13. David Edgar permalink
    July 5, 2012 8:00 pm

    Then there was the Record Plant (I think?) located upstairs and up the back of some now non existent shopping mall off Pitt st. They had a great range of punk singles and albums and like the others the best and most expensive ones were plastered all over the walls. I remember forking out what seemed like all of my money at the time for a box set of the first 6 Sex Pistol singles from there.
    Thanks for the memories.

    • chierano permalink
      January 15, 2018 10:02 pm

      The Record Plant was my favourite. Imperial Arcade?

  14. King of Jamos permalink
    July 5, 2012 9:36 pm

    Wow what a trip down memory lane! I first went to Waterfront records when they were on York street and the QVB was still being renovated. It was like entering a war zone but nobody seemed to care much least of all Frank, Steve or Chris the guys that ran the store. The place was like somebodies lounge room where people just seemed to drop in.
    Although it’s not a record store you should give The Land Beyond Beyond on George St a mention. It’s owners were real excentrics they originally open the store to fund underground cinema.

  15. Jez permalink
    July 5, 2012 9:52 pm

    Wow, great trip down memory lane. In later years seeing Steph from Smudge working at Waterfront in York St, in earlier years rocking up to Phantom Records in Pitt st to get the free zines, Red Eye moving and moving again (and again), it’s a hard row to hoe nowadays. Looking forward to Repressed’s new digs and finally seeing a gig at Blackwire.

  16. July 5, 2012 10:01 pm

    This is a great trip down memory lane. Every time I went to Sydney in the early 90’s ( from Perth) I spent days scouring these shops finding all sorts of treasures that I couldn’t get hold off. I always loved the fact you coul walk into phantom buy a records ( in this case a died pretty 7 inch ) and then get Brett to sign it from behind the counter. Picked up a rare plimsouls album for 10 bucks from red eye plus a plundered 3 prong love beast t- shirt from waterfront! Compiling a history of late 80’s early 90’s handbills from Perth on for a bit of fun at the moment. David

  17. Vanessa Berry permalink*
    July 5, 2012 10:03 pm

    Thank you for your comments everyone, and for filling in some of the other stores that I didn’t know about – The Land Beyond Beyond I never went to, but I have heard of it, it has such a fantastic name! I don’t know that I ever went to Timewarp, I think because of the “oldies” perception that Kevin noted. I should have been more adventurous!
    I noted that Repressed Records are having their 10th birthday this week and have some birthday shows coming up at the Red Rattler this weekend. . .

    • Ken permalink
      June 23, 2013 4:49 pm

      Thanks for writing this article. Like you, I still navigate the city by past record shops, night clubs, and bars.

      These record shops of old always had dj spinning tunes or a big speaker out the front blaring music. Soul sence opposite George St cinema in the lane way had huge speakers placed on the pavement. They could usually be heard across George St at the cinemas and in Pitt St. Even though I did not like R & B I thought that this was well cool.

      Pitt St was a scary place for a kid in the 80’s. Those three records shops,(ash woods, lawson’s, and *****) were in an underdeveloped and derelict part of Pitt St. There was no Avillion Hotel or flashy shops at that time. There were only boarded up shops, disused buildings and strange characters that lurked round. This made the record hunting experience even more exciting.

      Some others:

      Disco City in Pitt St opposite the Hilton. It was big and run by Lance.

      Shop in Oxford Arcade owned by Johnny Vestax(Asian guy) opposite central station records

      Shop in arcade Opposite Australia square near Wynyard in the late 80’s – black music

      Oscar’s record bar chatswood. Near the old Chatswood library.

      Bird something or other records – jazz records between Wynyard and town hall stations

      There was a record store on William St for a while where the prostitutes would stand at night.

      Fat Beats records on Liverpool St next door to Hungry Jacks- hip hop.

      Rent a tape in Wallace Way Chatswood. You would pay a joining fee and then rent a tape as if it were a library, making sure you brought it back in 3 days time.

      When HMV Chatswood opened I used to buy imported records after school with money saved up. It was 1989 and the manager asked if I would like to spin some records each day after school. They had a raised dj booth over looking the store like in night club. As a 13 or 14 year old spinning records in a dj booth in the busiest record shop in Chatswood was a real adventure. I loved it.

      Thre were many more record shops in Sydney that I would like to remember. I hope others add more to this. Thank you to those that do and to the author of this article.

      • garagekings permalink
        June 20, 2015 2:08 pm

        re Oscars in Chatswood – that shop was owned by Phil Hunter, a 2UW pop DJ from the late 60s. I think I was there buying bargains during the week it finally closed, after being an irregular customer for yonks.

  18. July 5, 2012 11:09 pm

    Land Beyond Beyond was one of my haunts in the early 80s when Terry Brown first set up shop in the old Crystal Palace Arcade. He was more into old movie and tv memorabilia to start with, then migrated into comics and whatever else he was interested in. Terry was heavily involved in experimental music – soundscapes, and the like – so there’s that music connection anyway.

    Below LBB was Ava and Susan’s – a music store that specialised in film and theatre soundtracks. Their passion was 40s and 50s musicals but in the pre-net days it was the place to go for rare pressings of Phantom of the Paradise or Rocky Horror.

    I love the new Repressed Records store.

    • idiotproof67 permalink
      July 6, 2012 12:58 pm

      Wow, I also went to Terry’s shop when it was at The Crystal Palace, then down the road past the RSL. Bought most of all my comics & film mags from him. I was in there EVERY single week. Don’t really recall much vinyl in the shop, but did rent the occasional VHS from him. He was teh oen taht I descired a film to him
      The only music he ever had on in his shop was his own radio show that was on 2MBSFM, ‘Stalking the Nightmare’.

      Great article Vanessa…

      You were missing Joe & Alan’s shop Floppy Disk at Wynyard, Gordon’s Disco City, Metropolis, Good Groove, Phat Wax, Soul Sense, The Lounge Room, Rays Records & Recycled (Glebe), Soul Central, Warped in KX… and a few others that weren’t open for long like that punk one up on Broadway.

      • Gail West permalink
        June 13, 2016 10:25 am

        Did you actually know Joe and Alan from Floppy Disc?

      • idiotproof67 permalink
        July 4, 2016 11:52 pm

        Yes. Seeing as though I went there every week for many many years. I knew them as much as a regular customer would. After Alan passed away and when Floppy Disc closed I would see Joe around town, though haven’t seen him for years as I moved away. Alan could be moody and cranky at times (he put me onto Adrian Sherwood and On-U Sounds) but Joe was always a stand-up guy. DJ about town Ben Drayton was also an early fixture behind the counter back then. Good times every Thursday when Pee Wee Ferris, Tim Ritchie, Andy Glitre and all those type of people would be waiting for the boxes to be opened.

    • Moz permalink
      May 22, 2022 10:04 am

      I loved Ava & Susan’s! Used to stop in every time I went in to the city. I still have a collection of MGM musical soundtracks I bought there back in the 80’s!!!

      • David permalink
        May 23, 2022 9:48 pm

        Same here. The guys were a laugh and they has this young American/ Canadian girl there that they ribbed mercilessly. They were good days visiting Terry and John (who left after a few years) in the Land Beyond Beyond upstairs and Ava and Susan’s downstairs. The guys in A&R names elude me now because I’m not getting any younger but I remember looking them up years ago and they first moved to the Town Hall Arcade and then to the country as one of them had severe health issues. The business name was still registered to a country address but buggered if I remember where. They would be in their late 70s at least.

  19. Kim Reed permalink
    July 6, 2012 12:36 am

    Wonderful story, Vanessa. I remember driving from Parramatta to Sydney on Saturday mornings as early as the mid-70s. We’d park on Pitt Street and join fellow vinyl junkies in the search. When it came time to moved back to the States in 1989 it was Chris at Red Eye who I sold approximately 4, 000 albums to. Red Eye still has a great website to order from since I can’t make my weekly rounds. There were a few great shops in Parramatta as well, and one of them near the train station sold hundreds of new bootlegs (Little Feat, Stones, etc) for a few months.

  20. Brian permalink
    July 6, 2012 8:52 am

    Amazing article. It brought back so many find memories.

  21. July 6, 2012 10:52 am

    Wow Vanessa, reading your story takes me right back to my own teenage years in so many ways. Your descriptions of the stores and how you felt at the time – the tiny mouse in the inner city – is like my reading own memories put into words by someone else. Only for me the records and the decade are different – the early 80’s. I remember when my older brother first took me to The Record Plant in the Imperial Arcade. It was like opening a pandoras box! When I first got into records at about age 10 I would go to the local suburban store and buy singles. But you had to be quick because once they sold out they didn’t usually get more in – never mind hoping for a picture sleeve! So discovering these city stores blew my mind as they had back catalogue and cool import copies with the sleeves – yep mind blowing!

    I would spend an hour on the train on Saturday mornings, get off at Central and walk through Belmore Park to Pitt St and begin at Martins. Next was a place about where Lawsons is now which I think was called Pitt Book and Records (?). I remember once selling all 16 of my mint condition Kiss albums there for $1 each!!! Then Ashwoods – a jumbled mess as you mentioned but easy to spot interesting stuff in the windows. In those days Lawsons was actually around the corner, I think on Liverpool St but it has been in it’s current location for a very long time. (Funny how they alphabetise everything by the artists first name rather that surname. It’s like they were preparing us for iTunes!). Phantom – full of spiky studded punks and a little scary for this kid but lot’s of great import 7″s. There was a small second hand store around where the Redeye second hand shop is now but I don’t remember the name. Then there was a place further up called Zounds but that was a bit more mainstream I guess. Then I think up to the Record Plant which was amazing! I still have many things that I bought there. Then there was Redeye and back then the owner had long curly slightly greying hair. Then Utopia which in those days was a very tiny store in Martin Place. It was always too metal for me though they did have other stuff as well so it really couldn’t be left off the map. The last one that I can remember was a place called Chelsea Records which was like a combination of a JB store and one of those $10 CD stores that were around a few years ago. In the early 80’s they used to buy album box sets in bulk, break them up and sell the records individually at bargain prices. I got so many Beatle albums for about 4 or 5 bucks each which was like half price. (albums were generally $8.99 or $9.99 then). And something that seems funny to me now was, I discovered that in the back lane behind the store they would dump all the empty box set boxes and so one day I got my dad to drive in and we took a bunch of these boxes home! Loads of them! Beatles, Stones, Lennon. Why? It just seemed cool having all these record boxes in my room! And I still have the Stones one that my parents ended up keeping their Scrabble pieces in!

    They were exciting days as those stores were like a window into another world and pretty much the only way find anything that wasn’t completely mainstream. How things have changed…

  22. Robert permalink
    July 6, 2012 11:52 am

    Thanks Vanessa for a great read. Yes (mis)spent so much time in those haunts on Saturday mornings…..and I remember Anthem as being in the Town Hall station arcade (under the George St Bus stop opposite Town Hall) They used to paint their import record labels with a black circle, to hide some of the info….no doubt to get around some obscure import regulation.

    There was also one in the Menzies arcade between George and Pitt, one level up from George. I distinctly remember they managed to procure me a copy of Heavy Jelly\’s \”I Keep Singing that Same old Song\” when everyone else had failed….that must have been on 1971 or thereabouts


    • January 19, 2015 10:32 am

      Fantastic read Vanessa, I worked at Haymarket for most of the 70s, Payday lunchtimes were spent in most of these stores, Bootlegs from Martins, Got all My Frank Zappa/Mothers imports from Anthem Records, I remember they had a copy of the Dead Kennedy’s single Too Drunk To F&%k displayed in the window for a while.
      Sadly don’t have most of the Records anymore.

  23. Brett permalink
    July 6, 2012 5:25 pm

    I don’t know if this has been said, to many to read, but the Silver Rocket was punk orientated but they ended up selling more Reggae there than anything. Also I believe Silver Rocket is still going on line and sell more to the European market. Marik is the man.

  24. Colleen permalink
    July 8, 2012 10:40 pm

    White Light of course in the Tank Stream Arcade by Mark and Lee…ripping open the boxes in the back room before the singles ever made it to the racks…

  25. Samuel permalink
    July 12, 2012 3:29 pm

    Heya it’s Simon’s cousin Sam! Great article Vanessa, nice to imagine that a resurgent interest in vinyl collection and ‘corporeal’ (as opposed to digital..) music might keep the remaining shops alive. You might be interested to know that my father Al began and co-owned Anthem records in Town Hall Arcade. A little before your heyday it’s true, but Anthem was notably the first import record store in Sydney; importing the higher quality pressings and elaborate sleeve art of UK and US releases instead of the cheaply produced Sony/BMG releases licensed in Australia. Dad still has a treasure trove of vinyl under the house I would love to get my hands on one day, haha..

    • July 12, 2012 8:48 pm

      Hi Sam

      Interesting post! Perhaps you could ask your father why the labels had to be blacked out on the imports….? Spent a lot of time in Anthem, because of the better pressings and better covers.


      • September 10, 2012 12:16 pm

        labels had to be blacked out on imports because most of them were on Columbia Records in the US, which before 1990 was CBS here in Australia. Columbia was a separate label in Australia distributed by EMI, but began as an affiliate of Columbia US before they exited EMI for Philips in the early 1950s, then in 1956 released their artists in Australia under the Coronet label before changing to CBS in 1963. EMI kept the Columbia name and “magic notes” logo in Australia, but were reliant on artists sourced from Columbia UK (also part of EMI), independent US labels such as Cameo, Parkway, Gee, and its Australian roster (including country artists previously on Regal Zonophone). On the import records, people would be confused if the Columbia name was left in although they used the CBS logo because of the above.

  26. henry permalink
    July 13, 2012 10:42 pm

    great story Vanessa and certainly bought back heaps of memories from when I lived in Sydney, which was unitl recently. There were and are great record stores on the city fringes as well like Revolve & Pigeon Ground and I don’t think anyone mentioned one of the biggest record stores in the city, Utopia Records. I picked up heaps of cheap great eclectic vinyl there because most people only go there for rock and metal. Mojo and Time Warp were favourites as was Ashwoods up until about 10 years ago when anything decent seemed to be put straight on ebay.

  27. July 15, 2012 12:51 pm

    For those after record shops in Melbourne, there are still loads of them! Head into any shop and pick up a Digging Melbourne map, I think there are over 50 now that are all accessible by trains and trams. The vinyl scene in Melbourne is much healthier than Sydney’s, I was surprised about the lack of shops up there when I first visited.
    A few favourites in Melb:
    Heartland Records – maybe the best for new/repressed Indie/Alternative and Punk LPs.Loads of 45s also.
    Licorice Pie – solely vinyl. A great collection of all sorts and at very good prices I think.
    Polyester – great up-to-date Indie collection. Always my first port of call on RSD. Great classics, dance and Hip-hop collection too.

    I heard once that Melbourne has more record shops per person than any other city in the world haha. I live in the right place.

  28. Matthew R permalink
    October 12, 2012 8:11 am

    ‘I remember buying a copy of Crow’s first record “Sunburnt Throats and Happy Thunderclouds” there, from a pile of them being sold off cheaply.’ I did exactly the same thing! I still have it. I loved Waterfront’s hand written notes on adhesive labels. I have an Air Miami CD with at least three labels tiled together obscuring most of the cover art. Red Eye also made labels with short notes and they both overused the word ‘sophomore’. I used to find the staff in both shops intimidating. My mate and I were humiliated by one Red Eye staff member who corrected us on the pronunciation of The Durutti Column like some high school teacher [Found out years later we were right]. I also remember a display of 4AD [Pixies, Dead Can Dance] posters in Red Eye’s second hand store in the Tank Stream. I made the mistake of asking the girl behing the counter if I could buy one — no way! They were very rare, belonged to her and not for sale. I got a set of them in HMV a few weeks later. ‘I remember secondhand Flying Nun records in abundance. There were many of them at shops like Enthusiasms.’ Yep, I got a lot of Flying Nun stuff there incl. Straitjacket Fits ‘Hail’ LP only to find Dinosaur Jnr’s ‘Bug’ inside when I got home. I remember Anthem in Kent Street behind Hoyts cinema. My sister used to work in Town Hall Arcade and ordered stuff from them. I’m not sure if was same owners but I do remember the store closing and another Anthem opening up in the street next to the Metro Theatre [Central Street?]. I think it became more Soul/R’n’B orientated. There was also a record store in Bathurst Street [between George and Pitt]. I loved Half a Cow. They had a small store on then moved over the road. They used to stock loads of Simpson’s stuff [t-shirts, caps]. I loved their ads in the back pages of Drum Media. I went there one morning and the guy behind the counter was asleep. I had to wake him to get served. Metropolis in the early-90s was OK. They were well stocked with stuff coming out of UK at the time and had good imported t-shirts. Good memories.

    • July 25, 2022 9:11 pm

      A bit more on Silver Rocket..Marek and John together had the best unearthed range of vinyl, esp 70’s american underground music, great stuff you’d never heard of before. I turned all the Sydney records stores regularly and Silver Rocket was the best of all – great ambiance in this little store as both Marek and John were good guys who were driven by the music and the vinyl, and weren’t asshole traders. Everytime you went there you’d hear amazing music nuggets and artists and think “htf do they find these bands??” They were both master collectors and sourced beautiful, rare vinyl consistently. Stopping by there on a saturday afternoon was always an experience – they played so much mind-blowing music, I got a privileged education in underground music from them. It was a great little store, I still consider it the best one. Agree Brett, Marek is the man – he was always an expert in his field, one of the best plus a really great natured guy, never took himself too seriously. But I don’t agree they sold mainly reggae…I mean, if you were looking for some rare G.G. Allen discs, Silver Rocket was the place to go! They were punk, psychedelica and rare 60’s/70’s garage more than anything. Loved their store, it had the true essence of the inner city Sydney underground music scene and vinyl obsession. No doubt Marek is still trading somewhere, the man was born with vinyl in his blood!!

  29. October 18, 2012 10:00 am

    Hey there was also a second hand record store between Lawsons and Ashwoods on Pitt Street cant remember the name. Does anyone remember? It probably closed down in the late 90’s?

    • WILLIAM ROSS TYSON permalink
      December 25, 2012 6:43 pm


  30. Roy permalink
    October 27, 2012 8:15 pm

    What was the name of the record shop across from the old JOINT VENTURE Shop in the 80`s. It looked alot like the above photos of lawsons but Im sure it was something like The Subway or Underground Records. I bought my first Anti NO Where League Album from there.

  31. Vanessa Berry permalink*
    November 18, 2012 4:16 pm

    For Phantom Records fans, I found an online archive of their poster art:

  32. John Foy permalink
    December 6, 2012 12:02 am

    I bought my first 4 lp’s second-hand at Ashwoods, all on the same day: Led Zeppelin III, Paul & Linda McCartney Ram, Black Sabbath Vol 4 & Deep Purple Machine Head. Went back home on the train with my friends to suburban Oatley and played both sides of all four in a row – then looked at each other, ‘what now?’ – and played them all in a row again, several times. From then on it was weekly visits to all those places people have mentioned, spending every bit of pocket money I could earn on records – many of them chosen on the basis of the cover designs. When I had all the albums of a particular band, I started buying the mysterious plain wrapper albums of live concerts – bootlegs! In a pre-Internet world where bands didn’t tour Australia very often, it was the only way to experience thealive sound of many bands. Buying those lead me to tracking down a then newly-opened store called White Light as they stocked mostly bootlegs! They eventually went more legit with regular boafide imports – and I got the dream job of running their bootleg mail-order biz, with the occasional stint behind the counter – then came the revolution: the 1st Ramones lp, plus the early Stiff singles… Mark Taylor the owner closed the store for two weeks while we did a total re-fit and re-opened as a hardline Punk & Psych only store – Australia’s first. It was a recipe for disaster of course – too much too soon and we inevitably closed along with end of the first true punk era. A year or so later, entrepreneurial t-shirt printer Dare Jennings bought the dormant White Light stock and tracked down White Light’s staff: Lee Taylor & myself and together we started Phantom Records, with Dare as principal owner, Lee and I as lessor share-holders – and that’s how Phantom ran for a year or so before it changed shape and staff for all sorts of reasons. I ended up printing t-shirts for Dare and with his generous permission, using his premises at night to design and print posters, many for the early Phantom Record label releases – my first-ever record cover deign was for the Shy Impostors debut 45. Politics became difficult at Phantom Records – with perfect timing, ex-Anthem Records’ Chris Pepperell invited me on-board at his newly-opened Red Eye Records where I was eventually made a financial co-owner and eventually started The Red Eye Record Label out of the back room – ironically with my pay-out from my modest share of ownership of Phantom. So, it’s amazing what can come out of casually visiting a record store for the first time when you’re a young buck from the suburbs – a lifetime of adventure! I’m deeply indebted to Mark Taylor, Dare Jennings and Chris Pepperell for being such generous mentors and allowing it all to happen. I write this while sitting in New York, surrounded by used records and a portable Crosley record player – on a buying trip for pleasure and profit. Records – it’s a way of life! Thanks for reading… John Foy.

  33. Tiger68 permalink
    March 3, 2013 5:28 pm

    What a great nostalgic article and many great comments to follow!! I came to the Blue Mountains from Vic for holidays as a kid then lived in Katoomba from 1990 to 2004 and spent WAY too much time in the city scouring the shops and this article has brought back some great memories. I’m a huge fan of Utopia Records and have visited all their stores over the years. My first visit there at the age of 16 felt almost religious!! The most magnificent music store and you don’t have to be a purely metal fan to find some great stuff. Time Warp was also a fantastic store for fans of 70s style rock. The sort of stores you could literally spend hours browsing in. The bottom end of Pitt St used to take up the first half of my day! The feeling of anticipation walking down the hill from Central was fantastic. I remember a store nobody has mentioned just near Ashwoods and Lawsons called Shake, Rattle & Records. Not sure how long it was there but it wasn’t a long time!
    I’m coming to Sydney from Melbourne in a couple of weeks and am looking forward to a long day in the city despite the multitude of stores that are now gone. Between Lawsons, Redeye, Utopia and JB Hi Fi it will make for sore feet and may require a 2nd day!!
    Cheers to everyone:)

  34. Rodd permalink
    March 13, 2013 3:10 pm

    I know you’re a child of the 90’s however to the list of former great record stores I reach back to the early 80’s when Chelsea records down past Martin Pl in Pitt Street was operating. Open 7 days had a lot of close outs and great range of punk, new wave, ska etc along with pop and regular top 40 stuff. Crammed full of stock, it was one on my Sunday morning haunts as a kid when only a few record stores and bookshops were open in a pretty much deserted city centre. I felt like the city was my own as I wandered from shop to shop on a Sunday morning. It was my secret world, no one I knew, knew about. 🙂

  35. April 11, 2013 4:24 pm

    Thanks for this thread Vanessa – I’ve only just discovered it! I am still a hungry vinyl junkie prowling Sydney streets, grabbing wax wherever and whenever and, in various shops, talking that feverish teenage shit collectors and record nuts specialise in. First up, a shout out to the lovely Vera at Recycled Record, Glebe (and husband Lee with his shop in Campbell Parade, Bondi): We miss you and fresh African LPs and all those terrific El Chino T shirts. A quick digression: please, somebody, find Jamie Leonarder from the Mu Meson archives and have him describe the weird pleasure of being admitted to that freaky Armenian dude’s shop in Dulwich Hill. I only made it past the locked door once and was astounded at the owner’s genius in protecting ‘his’ belly dance albums by asking hundreds of dollars for every one of them. He’d get pretty snarkey when you questioned his pricing structure I can tell you. Whatever fetish mobilised him he easily trumps all other Sydney record shop owners for outright screaming lunacy. OTHER MEMORIES: Warped Records, oddly funky in the heart of hell, Kings Cross; Anthem and then Birdland in its Barrack Street incarnation (the most erudite conversations with Keiran, Ashley, and Chris about jazz, soul, the genius of John Zorn etc.) Earlier recollections: Anthem when it was in the Town Hall station, ’80s urbanity complete with subterranean rumble of trains below – imagining you were in NYC as you listened to those Sugarhill, Sleeping Bag or Tommy Boy 12s (‘Watch the Closing Doors’ by Interboro Rhythm Team seemed to be a bang on selection). Or was that a dream, times and tracks conflated to make Sydney more bearable? And perhaps the best record shop pairing of genuinely cool characters – Keiran and Peter Doyle at the later-edition Anthem, always spot on with their dry wit and canny tips. Big up also Tom & dear old/young JD as we remember the jazzy trip hop days of Good Groove in Crown Street. What about those fascinating conversations with brothers, Robert and Eddy at Soulsense? Describing Sydney clubland back in the day: stories of open-shirted 70s nights, funk and coke-snorting fools at joints with names like Flashez and Freddys. Whole afternoons spent with Alan (RIP) and Joe at Floppy Disc, listening/talking through the endless intricacies and pleasures of reggae and dub. I wonder what Al would have to say about the homophobic moronism of some contemporary dancehall if he was still with us (probably something more perceptive than me I suspect). NOWADAYS: a tip of the tone-arm to Steve Kulak and the team at Title doing a fine job slinging reissue vinyl in Crown Street and across the country in the ever expanding Title/Fuse empire; Papa Neville and his Record Crate, opened this year just across the road from the old Recycled site in Glebe Point Road, sending howling blues and boogie (from original disc and live bands) out into that genteel cafe strip; Mojo Record Bar (Nev’s old enterprise) with the dark and vital commingling of records and booze in its underground York Street lair; Redeye down the same street in their current spacious basement location with a rapidly growing vinyl reissue and second hand selection, catering to sensible youth who’ve rejected CDs forever and now look for ‘physical’ versions of their ridiculously eclectic MP3 collections; Lawsons in Pitt Street, yes Vanessa, still a link with the glory days of those record wonderlands Ashwoods and the fondly remembered Pitt, now just limping on – a hive of sad middle-aged, Willy Loman-esque men spending their lunch hours flicking through the detritus of 80s Ozpop (but hey, I found a cool Machito LP there the other week so you can still pluck gems out of the mud); Egg Records in Newtown, a gentle haven which has me exploring the zydeco bin before going to physio sessions up the road.

    There must be other places, but who wants to sound like a tedious old record collector?
    My vinyl map doesn’t stop growing and every garage sale, op shop or hipster barbers-cum-bike shop that parks a crate of discs in the front window has the ability to re-ignite my deep addiction to black plastic and carboard. Long may we shop…

    • Vera Ross permalink
      November 22, 2018 2:20 pm

      Hi Brent , thanks for your kind words .We still have an attic full of old stuff which I sell at a dribble on ebay , no energy or inclination to just dump it all .

      I was relieved to see your mention as I read through the many articles above , it seemed as if we barely existed to most punters.

      Over more than 3 decades we introduced many great sounds but obviously made little impact , probably lack of promotion but we certainly enjoyed the lifestyle and the many people who we met over the counter.

      Vera , (formerly) Recycled Records , Glebe.

  36. April 11, 2013 6:28 pm

    Story about record store owners Vera and Lee:

  37. April 11, 2013 9:16 pm

    Hello fellow groovers! Vanessa & Brent (and many others here) you’ve certainly brought many memories forefront… having begun my DJ life in 1982, I soon became a frequent visitor to the Ashwoods/Lawsons/Pitt St shops in search of the cast-off promotional records that most DJ’s sold to the 2nd hand stores (sometimes on their way home from the DJ meetings where they got them – shame, shame, shame!!). I always kept my promo’s for at least a few months in case they became ‘popular’ in the clubs where I played. You could always find something that someone else didnt want at those stores.
    I remember visiting Disco City in Pitt St (or was it Castlereagh) many many times, and being over the moon when I found an LP I’d heard when in London in 1972 by First Choice (Armed and Extremely Dangerous), which included the track “Smarty Pants” which had been top 10 in London when I was there, but no one in Australia had heard of it.
    The main stores I shopped at were Central Station (Oxford St), and sometimes Good Groove although their prices were always more than anywhere else and on my meagre DJ salary I needed to buy as much as possible, hence my visits to the low-end 2nd hand stores.
    As I moved away from disco & pop into the soul funk and R&B genres, I would often visit Soul Sense (Eddie, Freddie & Robert). Later on, Robert moved to Bankstown and started his own store called Soul City.
    I liked Mojo (in York St) for it’s obscure music collection and eleclectic blues music.
    There was another shop in York (or was it Kent) St whose name excapes me. The guy who ran the shop was a presenter at FM91.5 (before it became FM99.3, where I had and still have a radio show). He was a rough diamond of bloke who was mixed up with tow-truckers but loved his music. I remember providing the shop with huge hand-lettered posters of my top 20 singles & top 20 albums every month for quite a long time, which he displayed on the wall for customers to peruse.
    When Anthem (Keiran & Ashley) offered to sponsor FM91.5, the rough diamond chap refused to put my posters up any more because he thought my having Anthem as a radio sponsor was a conflict of interest!
    The other shop I loved visiting was Leo’s “Unsound” in the bowels of Town Hall Station. Many an obscure funk or reggae album was purchased there but I tried not to visit too often as I always spent more than I earned.
    Another place I loved was the 2nd hand shop under the escalators at Chatswood Station and Martin’s in the city was my favourite place to sell 2nd hand records.
    One time I was broke and a friend of mind set up a 2nd hand market outside Ashwoods in Pitt St on Sunday mornings. I sold nearly every picture disc I owned which I now regret, but I had to pay the rent! Ce la vie. Great memories!!

  38. Prince Andrew permalink
    April 12, 2013 1:50 pm

    Most stores I’d been to have been covered. The first import store I’d ever been to was The Record plant in 1979, Situated up the first escalator in a mall in Castlreagh St opposite David Jones. They had all the latest imports in everything not main stream including Reggae.
    There was another store in the City down near the Angel acrade. This use to display records in the front window and remember my curiosity being drawn with Albums by Stigvators, the Dickies and some guy called Elvis Costello. At that period of time he was pretty out there.
    Not sure but no one seems to have mentioned the Soundtrack shop located in the old Crystal arcade on George St but can’t remember what it was called. I went there as early as 1980 and they had an excellent selection of Sound tracks.
    Just a few doors up was the old Goulds Book arcade near the corner of Bathurst and George St. Amongst the many books they had were stacks of bootleg live LP’s by various bands from the period. Never seen any of them before or since and where they came from who knows?
    The other thing no one mentions are the attitudes of the people serving you at Record shops. Some were friendly, some were cold, some were damn rude or gave you attitude. I remember one dance music shop who’s staff all had attitudes like they had large parsnips permently stuck up their arse but tried to remain cool under the emense discomfort. Always found bad attitude by staff in a record shop odd but at the same time challenging and never let them get the best of me but always had a good laugh afterwards.
    These days I rarely go to record stores as am more tempted by the music available on the net plus sadly older life leaves you with more financial obligations and thus no money to spend much on recorsds. Still back in the day the record shops were our internet, that’s where we got a lot of info not just from the imported records but the magazines and papers they’d sell.

    • Steven Green permalink
      March 26, 2014 8:46 am

      Love your post. I remember Goulds very well. A huge store with no order to anything whatsoever. That made it a real challenge & part of the fun of exploration. Rude staff seemed to be the norm in many stores. “It’s Perahia, not Periah” is one memorable quote from a “superior” staff member. Another shop where the staff actually frightened me was Ava & Susans but boy they had some wonderful & exclusive soundtracks there. I too shop online but I do miss the fun of trawling though the racks & true excitement of finding that elusive single or LP. Great days indeed.

    • Bazza permalink
      September 6, 2020 11:30 am

      Angel Records in Angel Arcade was formerly Revolver Records. A pom by the name of Joe ran both. Bought a lot of stuff there, and Joe could get requests in. One memorable afternoon, going home from work early, I saw Joe putting up a scrolling message sign, “John Lennon dead” 9 Dec 80. I stood there a few minutes in silence.

      • Bazza permalink
        October 3, 2020 3:48 pm

        Joe Bulger was his name.

  39. July 12, 2013 10:12 am

    Great post – I too made lots of wonderful discoveries/purchases at the above stores. Anthem was where I made my first ‘real’ record purchases – I would have been in Yr 10 and had just heard a Young Marble Giants special on JJ – so went out and saw it displayed – bought that – Wire’s ‘154’ and Glaxo Babies LP. Life changing stuff.

    Record Plant was wonderful – it felt like some illicit den [well to me at that age!] – so many weird and wonderful treats – it was there that I scooped on the entire initial Flying Nun releases having seen The Chills on Donnie Sutherland’s Sound Unlimited. I asked at the shop and they directed me to a cardboard box at the back of the shop which just had all FN releases sitting in it! Jackpot.

    But Waterfront was my absolute fav – I became such a regular that Chris would smile as I walked in – pull a brown paper parcel out and name a price – no mention what was in it and I’d buy it cold – I recall the thrill of looking at the contents on the way home – usually having no idea at the time what I was looking at. Mostly 7″s – most of these are highly collectable now.

    While I’ve embraced new ways of finding music – I still love to remember these amazing stores about Sydney and I certainly miss them.

    The Pitt St strip of Ashwoods/Lawsons/The Pitt were essential – especially for the late night nonsense programming I did back in the day on 2SER – The Pitt offered 2 original Harry Partch records for $5 a piece – looked like Harry played them with a mallet a few times but nevertheless pure gold. The Pitt also had a stellar ‘other’ section which had all manner of weirdness – obscure exotica/spoken word/free jazz/cracked electronics. Many the time I recall it being like a time machine – emerging 3-4 hours later which felt like 5 minutes – fingers blackened by the dusty covers.

    Thanks Vanessa!

    • Vanessa Berry permalink*
      July 13, 2013 10:01 pm

      Thanks for your comment Paul, and speaking of missing things, I miss Paul’s Play Lunch! It was the highlight of my Mondays!

  40. August 2, 2013 5:27 am

    Brilliant article!!! Ive been haunting the record shops of Sydney since the early 70’s. had a look at the comments but nobody seems to have mentioned Time Warp. No great loss there. My taste in music is all over the place like a mad woman’s muesli- anyway one day I found at Time Warp a CD copy of a Super rare triple live album from the 70’s- Beck Bogert and Appice- previously only available for a short time as a Japanese import- however it was 60$- I hesitated ever so slightly at the price but thought I will never see this again- better buy it now. I went up to the service counter and handed over my cash to one of the well known figures there, he was eating a slice of mud cake at the time. After the transaction I think he may have grunted something at me which I assume to be some sort of salutation- so I grunted right back and left. When I got back to work I examined one of the Cds and found that he had given me a free smear of mud cake across one CD – which I thought was extraordinarily generous of him! Anyway I thought of licking it off but I used a lint free cloth instead. Seriously, that shops stock was overpriced and the staff could be quite rude and arrogant- but selling me such an exxy item in that way was way beyond the pale.

    • Brad permalink
      January 5, 2018 3:46 pm

      That wouldn’t have been Glen A. Baker would it? He owned Time Warp for a time, and it was originally known as Glen A. Baker’s Time Warp. I bought some classic albums from that store. Classic taste in music my friend, Beck, Bogert and Appice, I remember the album. Love Jeff Beck. Jan Hammer with Beck, recorded in Sydney at the old Horden Pav is a classic as well.

  41. August 10, 2013 12:17 am

    There was also Discovery Records, they were an amazing store. They started out in West Ryde but moved to Hornsby after their first year. They stayed in Hornsby for more than a decade. I used to go there and to Ashwoods once a week, normally not on the same day since I had no transport and they were in totally separate locations. I live in Canberra now but when I get a chance to go to Sydney I try to check out Lawsons. It is sad that so many of these stores have gone now. Thanks for the article. Cheers.

  42. September 20, 2013 8:27 am

    My husband did a lot of the graphic design for some of the releases you speak of, and his band ‘The Whole World’ was released on Phantom. They had a hit called ‘Vanity’ on rotation on JJJ for a while. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  43. September 26, 2013 11:52 am

    I stumbled upon one in the Brisbane Arcade off Church St, Parramatta recently. Quite cool.

  44. goflipp permalink
    October 1, 2013 1:59 am

    Wonderful article! We can all identify with those exciting trips to lower Pitt St etc. I especially loved Floppy Disk, Metroplis (because I had a big crush on the owner) & Red Eye of course. However, I followed pop bands like Pet Shop Boys, Cabaret Voltaire, Scritti Politti & The The.

  45. james permalink
    October 7, 2013 1:39 pm

    There was another down in the Pitt St Zone, It was called either ‘Saturn’ or ‘Jupiter’ down in a basement. I only bought a few records there, on my days of school:) during mid to late 80’s, but on one rainy day the sales girl took pity on me and shared her lunch with me while the thunderstorm raged on above us. Most of their stuff was bargain priced 2SM or 2MMM of the era, but there was a decent selection of punk and goth mixed in.

    Also, below the Strand arcade (198? ~ early 90’s) was ‘The Strand’. They had a collection like Red Eye, but more mainstream in volume too. Though, you could often find local pressings at very good prices, compared to the triple cost import at red eye. Hey, I was a school kid.

    Sad to see now, so many stores gone and so little vinyl left that is in good, quality listening condition. I just visited Lawsons for the first time in about 20 years and they have CD’s now; lot’s of them! Phantom looked like a Chinese take-away. I blame myself, the last time I was in there I asked for an album on CD.

    • juan mann permalink
      October 31, 2013 12:33 pm

      There was another down in the Pitt St Zone, It was called either ‘Saturn’ or ‘Jupiter’ down in a basement.

      …that was zounds.

  46. Michael Krilich permalink
    November 18, 2013 9:06 pm

    There must be a mention of Zounds in Pitt St near Bathurst St…down the stairs for latest at DISCOUNTED prices.

  47. Michael Krilich permalink
    November 18, 2013 9:09 pm

    OH…The PITT (Pitt St. next to Ashwoods)…if your house got broken into and records stolen …they often ended up here!!!

    • def permalink
      October 31, 2015 7:37 pm

      ha ha,remember it fondly michael,disco city street,my fave was the record plant, imperial arcade,cheers,bill 😉

  48. December 2, 2013 6:26 pm

    Nice moments at Sydney record stores.

  49. Bobcatbob permalink
    January 27, 2014 10:23 pm

    Like some forgotten dream I remember buying some ‘rare’ Beatles singles from a shop called Discontinued Records on one of my very first record-shop-Saturdays in Sydney around 1980-81. For the life of me I can’t remember where the place was, and I think it disappeared fairly soon afterwards. The singles were all tracks from the 1962 Decca auditions on coloured vinyl and in picture sleeves.

    Always remember that strange feeling walking around deserted parts of the city from one shop to another. Worth mentioning that although the Utopia dudes were all into the metal, they had a lot of good 60s stuff which I was into.

  50. Steven Green permalink
    March 25, 2014 8:17 am

    Your article has brought back many misty memories. I was born in 1950 so the 60’s were my start to music collecting. I used to haunt Ashwoods (I bought enough records there to finance the staff vacations) & Edels nearby for the new releases. I worked at Martins for a short while when it first opened & shopped at most of the other stores you mentioned.

    There was a store in Town Hall Station & I remember buying the Radio Birdman LP which had a bonus EP. Can’t remember the name for the life of me but that’s what happens when a child of the 60’s gets to his 60’s.

    We have lost so many great stores over the years & now it’s virtually all online. I know you can’t stop progress but when that time machine comes online i’m transporting back to Pitt Street for a does of nostalgia.

  51. Tony Clayton permalink
    April 25, 2014 1:18 pm

    I am loving the outpouring of memories from your article!

    Coming from Parramatta, I would catch the train to Town Hall, go to Anthem Records to see what was new & what was ‘coming soon’ then get back on the train & go home. If I had enough pocket money I’d pick up something, I got the first Simple Minds & Ultravox albums there.

    We used to follow the fortunes of the staff like they were celebrities …someone from Anthem went on to open the Record Plant so we all started going there instead.

    I did work experience at a strange import shop down towards the Quay called Peaches just so that I could hang out in the city all week & visit all the record shops. Work experience turned into a job & then Edels bought the shop so I ended up working for a chain store. They had a shop in Newtown that I worked at for a few weeks, it was the first time I’d been to Newtown & I thought it was the scariest place on earth for the first day.

    It is amazing to remember these shops, the people in them & the network that they created. Before Amazon developed an algorythm to suggest what else you might like, the record shop guys would spend so much time with you that they got to know your likes & always had something to suggest, sometimes quite passionately…

    Have a look at this from Sean O’Brien:

  52. Ian permalink
    June 8, 2014 6:18 am

    Wonderful thread that I just discovered and it’s has brought back a flood of memories so I thought I’d share what i can remember from those long ago days:
    My record collecting journey began around 1976/77 when a friend at school told me there were second hand record shops in the city that sold albums for 50c!! So I saved up my pocket money for a month (less than $5 a week) and went on my first quest.
    I will tell you about all the stores I remember from that first 10 years or so beginning in Lower Pitt & George Sts and working my way up to Wynyard.
    First store I discovered after catching the train to Central Station that first Saturday morning was in Pitt St and the store was called “Martins” and in the window were all these unheard of Beatles albums which I later found out were bootlegs! The place was full of them. I even sold my first ever lot of albums to Martins a few years later.. thinking I’d make at least $50 on 20 odd records – I was bitterly disappointed when I was offered $10 or so. I learned quick! Apart from the initial days I rarely bothered with “Martins” as I could never “connect” with the owners unlike most other places and they steadily went downhill with their stock. Are they still there??
    Next stop was “The Pitt” (never a more apt name!) again lots of boots but they had had no rhyme or reason to their layout in the store it seemed. Then next door I walked into record heaven… “Ashwoods”… too many stories and too many dollars spent and too many great records purchased there over the next 15 years or so. I miss it a lot. And as someone else mentioned, I too remember vaguely “Shake, Rattle & Records” just up from “Ashwoods”. Don’t think they were there too long. I also vaguely remember “Zounds”.
    Now back in that late 70’s period opposite Ashwoods was another record store (that no one’s mentioned) that was upstairs from street level via an outside wooden staircase. It was unique as it had the rarest of rare records – many albums were US imports still sealed and their singles collection was only accessible if you pleaded to be shown out the back were a treasure trove of rarities were kept. I think they had a mail auction business going. I can’t remember the name of the store but it was owned by quite an old gentleman (at least in his 60’s). Not long after he moved the shop to Parramatta (left side of Church St up near the river) and then sometime in the early 80’s he briefly had a shop in Concord West. He also had a stall at the early Sydney record fairs in the 80’s. Anyone know who I am talking about?
    A couple of doors up from him on that same side of Pitt St was the first location of “Lawsons”. A year or so later maybe 1978/9? They moved around the corner into Liverpool St and then eventually back into Pitt St where they still are today. I knew the owners quite well and would be there every payday for many years spending heaps and getting some amazing finds along the way.
    Next block up was “Phantom Records” which was too indie for my taste but I did buy a few records there over the years.
    Back around in George St was the Crystal Palace Arcade. Just inside on the right was a record shop which I can barely remember but I recall being there a few times and buying at least one album from them. Was it “Ava & Susans” before they moved into Town Hall Arcade? I do know that upstairs at the arcade was a bookstore/ comic book/film memorabilia place that I distinctly remembering purchasing a full set of “The Monkees” bubblegum cards from (which I still have!). Was this shop “The Land Beyond Beyond”? and if so did they eventually move across George St to just below the Hoyts cinemas in a shop that was down the end of this enormous long corridor? I think I bought some books there circa 1987/88. There was also for a short time another record store further down that block in George St towards Chinatown that had a lot of folk Import albums. I bought a few there again around 1987-89. Can’t recall its name.
    Just up from the Crystal Palace Arcade was the infamous “Goulds Book Arcade”. A random mess of books, magazines and records including, once again, a huge selection of $5 bootlegs! Never really liked the place as the owner wasn’t terribly amicable.
    Next stop was “Anthem Records” at Town Hall railway station. It was probably the smallest record shop I have ever been in. It was tight when more than a dozen people were all there! I can’t recall when I first visited them as I would always get off at Central railway and walk up Pitt St but someone probably told me about them so I went and checked them out. It was there I think I bought my first ever import.. an UK issue of The Beatles Hamburg tracks. Would have been late 70’s.
    “Timewarp” was the last major record shop I used to venture into when they opened next to Town Hall in 1988 (they were formally “The Record Plant”). Lots of great times and purchases there throughout the 90’s until lack of money and loss of interest in vinyl collecting saw me there less and less until they closed up and moved to the North Shore and eventually became an online store only. That was about it for my vinyl buying days.
    Continuing our journey through Sydney…There wasn’t any Second Hand shops after Town Hall heading towards the Quay (that I recall) till you reached the Pitt Street Mall and around Martin Place down to Australia Square.
    However the main stream record shops I remember being: Brashes (Pitt St) (was a Hoyts theatre before then.. met Paul McCartney there in 1993). Further down Pitt St was Palings (bought my first keyboard there early 80’s). Back around in George St during the 60’s and 70’s (at least till 1976ish) was Nicholsons (They started their business in the very same building in 1895 I believe!!). They were Sydney’s biggest record/sheet music/music instrument store at the time (I Bought my first ever record there.. The Monkees “I’m a Believer” in 1967!). Can’t remember when they closed but I think Palings (before they moved into Pitt St before finally closing forever). There might have been an Edels store nearby too in the 80’s.
    “The Record Plant” (1975 – 1988) was in the Imperial Arcade (became “Timewarp” in 1988). Spent many a Thursday night and Saturday morning in the darkly lit store but I got on real well with the owners and purchased heaps from them. Wonderful memories of this great import shop.
    In the Pitt St Mall next to The Strand Arcade in its very early days (circa 1977-79) just about where HMV and Metropolis eventually had shops was, for a very brief time, a stall (they were still building all the shops but allowed some stalls to run in the meantime) that sold ex radio station singles (6 or 7 for a $1). I would come away with a huge bag full every time I went there!
    “Chelsea Records” I think was next on the corner of King and Pitt Sts (across the road from the Tank Stream Arcade entrance). I had always wondered why I was able to pick up lots of rare New Zealand second hand singles at this shop when, just a few hours ago when doing some research on the net, I discovered the owner was a Kiwi! They didn’t last long – maybe a year or two (early/mid 80’s?). Lots of bargains and it would be packed at lunchtimes.
    Across the street in the Tank Stream Arcade was the best ever import record shop in Sydney – “Red Eye Records”. I believe Chris (the owner) had worked at “Anthem” before then. I was one of their first ever customers back in 1981? and spent many hours and dollars there over the years (in all their first three locations).
    Next to Martin Place (Opposite the GPO) was the little Angel Arcade (was it actually called “Angel Arcade” or did it have another name? as I thought that “Angel Arcade” was just a bit further down between George & Pitt before being demolished in the 90’s). This is where “Utopia” record shop sprang up circa 1979. In those days they were a fairly mainstream import shop (I bought an Elton John EP there!). I got many records there before they went heavy metal (I never went back after that). Now I know there was another record store in that same small arcade (running parallel with Martin Place). You came down the stairs from Martin Place and it was almost opposite next to the other entrance that went out into the laneway behind. It was mega small and I knew one of the staff members. Was this the very first “Utopia” and then it moved to the other end of the same arcade in much bigger premises? Wish my old memory was better!
    I recall there was another arcade that ran between George and Pitt Sts just past Martin Place heading North that I am sure was the actual “Angel Arcade”. Anyway that had a very small record shop in it that I think was mainly imports. I remember stumbling across it one lunchtime when it was having its closing down sale and I picked up a couple of fairly rare albums for bargain prices. This would have been circa 1979/80 probably. It may have been called “Angel Records”. Just now, while doing some research online, it seems a shop called “Revolver Records” was also in the Angel Arcade and the manager left it to form “Phantom Records” in 1978. I vaguely recall “Revolver” but I don’t remember anything about it.
    Only other interesting record stores between there and the quay was one on the corner of the lane next to Australia Square on Pitt St. It was the first ever import record store I walked into after “Anthem”. Someone mentioned “Peaches” and that might have been it but I have a feeling it had another name. Fairly large store that I ordered some US singles from.. forgot about them and then got a phone call months later saying they were waiting for me! They seemed to be affiliated with an American record store or something. Online research revealed it was put up for sale in Feb 1981. Vague memories now some 35 years later.
    Can’t recall any more record stores in Sydney in those mid 70’s to mid 80’s period. Last time I walked into a second hand record shop to buy stuff would have been circa 1990 when I was looking to stock my own record shop that I owned for a few years in Eastwood until the second hand vinyl industry practically disappeared overnight.
    Talking of suburban record stores of note. Apart form the old guy’s shop at Parramatta I mentioned earlier there was another great store in Parramatta about two or three blocks past the town hall on the same side around the corner. Was that “Discovery Records”? Might be the same person who ended up next to the railway station in the late 90’s I think? Anyway they were good. There was only one other suburban store I ever went to in my early days circa 1979 – 1981 and that was a shop in Hurstvile that was hidden down an alleyway near the railway station. They were incredible. It might have been “Discontinued Records”? (who also had a store in the city for a short period but I can’t recall where it was). They had most of their singles out the back and would bring whatever artist you requested out for you to look through and they had 1000’s. I spent a fortune there building up my singles collection. Nice people who ran it too.. maybe a husband and wife?
    Hope I haven’t bored you with my “Sydney Record Shop History” but once I started I couldn’t stop lol.

    • Vanessa Berry permalink*
      June 9, 2014 11:38 am

      Thanks Ian, you have a good memory! Martins stuck around for longer than a lot of the other Pitt Street stores – I took a photo of it in 2005 so it was still there then, but not for much longer after that. It’s part of the Irish pub now.

      • Ian permalink
        June 9, 2014 11:18 pm

        Thanks Vanessa. That initial location of “Utopia” was bugging me so with a bit more research I have discovered I was right and it wasn’t located at “Angel Arcade” but was in fact “Challis Arcade” and they did have two stores.. a real small one then they moved to the other end of the arcade into a much larger one. Seems they began there in 1979 and moved to Clarence St circa 1982/83?. Another record store I remembered was “Folkways” up on Oxford St in Paddington who lasted there from 1973 – 2009. The original owner founded the Larrikan record label.
        The locations of Utopia over the years were:
        10 Challis Arcade, Martin Place, 20sq metres
        22 Challis Arcade, Martin Place, 50sq metres
        52 Clarence St, 200sq metres
        636 George St, 300sq metres
        525 George St: 700sq metres
        233 Broadway, 700sq metres over two levels


    • Kit permalink
      June 19, 2014 4:02 pm

      The Land Beyond Beyond wasn’t opposite Hoyts, but on the next block down (so leave Hoyts, go past Greater Union and Village, then cross the road), down a long corridor on a block chock-a with second-hand bookshops and porn stores at the time, now almost all extinct. Mostly a comic shop, but with secondhand-vinyl racks, a room of psychotronic VHS for rent (membership involved a $100 deposit), and an age-restricted room for comics with sexy sexing in them. Also zines, art books, smatterings of movie memorabilia and old sci-fi paperbacks, etc… I miss it enormously and can smell it now!

      • idiotproof67 permalink
        July 11, 2014 7:05 pm

        The Land Beyond, Beyond was originally opposite Hoyts upstairs at The Crystal Palace Arcade at 590 George St. It opened in 1980. Terry moved down the road as the building was to be demolished circa 83.

    • Allan Kelb permalink
      June 19, 2014 8:53 pm

      That record shop opposite Ashwoods I am pretty sure was called Castles- yes it was run by an older bloke, who was quite a nice chap from memory- and he did indeed have a table at some of the early record fairs, I don’t know what happened to him, I guess he may no longer be with us. The guy who took over his shop in Parramatta was not a nice bloke at all- a greedy bastard basically.

    • Michael Davidson permalink
      September 28, 2016 10:42 pm

      The film memorabilia bookshop on the second floor of the Crystal Palace Arcade on George Street was the Anchor Movie Bookshop, owned and run by a guy called John Brink. It opened in 1974 until about 1981 when George Street was going through a bit of a transformation (not for the better).. They did open a smaller bookshop in the Hoyts Entertainment Centre across the road and moved there completely when the Crystal Palace Arcade was knocked down in 1981
      Bill Collins used to have book reviews for this shop when he was on Channel 7 in the 1970’s.
      I spent most of my pocket money there in the late 70’s .
      I think that The Land Beyond, Beyond did actually begin its life in the Crystal Palace Arcade about 1979 before moving across the road in George Street.
      Ava and Susan’s was indeed the record store on the ground floor. I remember the smell of the sea grass matting on the floor.
      I was in there one day when Jill Perryman brought in tea and biscuits for Barry and Brian, the owners.
      Those boys could find anything to do with soundtracks, Broadway show scores and nostalgia. They eventually moved across the road to the Town Hall Shopping Arcade and their shop was just across the way from Michael’s Music Room. One of the best record stores for those of us that collected Classical music and opera.


      • David permalink
        June 18, 2018 1:23 am

        I was there in early 1980 (February-April) when Terry and John (can’t remember his surname) opened the Land Beyond Beyond in the Crystal Arcade. Terry took it over a little while later for reasons lost to the mists of time. Sadly Terry died about two years ago after a career on late night radio which continued after he closed the shop. A really great guy. Lots of strange and funny conversations. He told me once about a bunch of sickos filming corpses at one of the Universities. I remember the Hoodoo Gurus having a photo shoot at LBB. Little Ruth(?) behind the counter who I am told was with Terry at the end. Ava and Susan’s was pretty fun too with the Barry and Brian and a young woman the guys constantly rudely teased (she was a yank or Canadian I think). I remember all of their faces but the girl’s name escapes me. I remember seeing Barry in the Town Hall store once.

  53. Keith Morris permalink
    August 11, 2014 6:49 pm

    I remember all of the above including Ava & Susans in Town Hall (and earlier near Central Street near Town Hall) and back in the sixties Palings Music Store opposite Wynyard in George Street and Nicholson’s Music Centre in George Street just up from Palings…good times.

  54. August 22, 2014 10:38 pm

    You know, i shopped at Enthusiasms for years and never had any idea that the guy running it was the lead singer of The Hummingbirds. How embarrassing. In the early 2000s the whole digital thing was having a dire impact on that kind of store and no doubt had a lot to do with the decimation of the entire area’s second hand shops. Lawson’s is still there, but that’s all that’s left — a lone record outlet surrounded by Korean grocery stores.

  55. November 11, 2014 10:52 pm

    The store people have referred to in the Angel Arcade circa 1978 was called Bullitt across from Kevin Junees sport store

    • Bobski permalink
      July 11, 2019 10:38 pm

      Not sure if anyone has mentioned this yet, but one of the stores along the Pitt St strip was called Castles – I still have a book of guitar tab w/ the sticker on it. Don Walker tells a funny story in his book Shots of how intimidating the owners were to him when he arrived in Sydney. Others I remember:

      The Record Plant – upstairs in the Imperial Arcade Pitt St (now swallowed up by the whole Centrepoint monstrosity. Metropolis was downstairs in the Mid-City Centre. I’m pretty sure Bird is still around, hidden upstairs in the old building next to Dymocks on George St.

      Kings St Newtown had a great shop late 80s-90s near the Sydney Uni end, I think it was near Coluzzis…

      Folkways on Oxford St was a stop.

      There was also Yesterday and Today at Parramatta – a good one; plus another further down toward the river that did good bootlegs. Does anyone know the name of the place opposite Parramatta Station that did imports and bootlegs…?

      • Steve permalink
        September 16, 2020 1:25 pm

        That was Collect Records. Great selection of 60s garage and psych

  56. julie permalink
    November 21, 2014 10:09 pm

    I want to know the name of the very small record shop on Kent St, Sydney, roughly behind Hoyts where, as a 18 year old in the mid 80’s,I bought a lot of Jazz vinyl.

    Reading a lot of the previous posts with details of many stores now lost nearly brought tears to my eyes – ah, the passage of time!

    • Greg permalink
      July 21, 2017 7:20 pm

      I agree, reading through these comments brings back a lot of memories.

      I think Anthem Records was on Kent St just behind Hoyts Cinemas for a while before it moved to a laneway just off George Street that was on the same block as Hoyts.

    • Bobski permalink
      September 17, 2020 12:50 am

      As Greg says, it was Anthem which sold jazz vinyl – it’s where i got my copy of Dexter Gordon’s Go

  57. John Hiles permalink
    November 25, 2014 10:17 pm

    Ian ,
    there was an import record shop in the Angel Arcade in the mid-late 70’s. Jules Normington ( later of Phantom worked there. I bought lots of records there as because of the exchange rate ( Aust . $ was higher than US $ ) they could import and sell US LPs for $6.99 which was the same price that top 40 shops all through Sydney sold local ( sonically inferior ) pressings for. I cant remember the name but I think one of the owners opened Dr What video store in Bondi Junction after wards.

    • Allan permalink
      November 26, 2014 6:35 pm

      Was that White Light records? Jules N, Lee Taylor ( he used to work at Mojo) and maybe a few other key figures in the Import record business in Sydney worked there

      • John Hiles permalink
        November 27, 2014 6:36 am

        No Allan , White Light and Ripple ( if that was the correct name-) were 2 different shops in 2 different arcades ( Tank Stream and Angel arcades respectively.) I went to both shops. Ripple was pre-punk times and sold general rock ( not pop so much) and lesser known rock bands. I bought LPs by the WHO , Stones , Roxy Music , Bowie etc. from Ripple . White Light sold more Ramones , New York Dolls , Television and other early punk type stuff. There are some earlier posts on this thread about White Light .

  58. John Hiles permalink
    November 25, 2014 10:29 pm

    I think the name of the store might have been Ripple Records . Somewhere deep in my past that name just came to me like a slow searching website you click on that just as you’re about to give up on and switch your computer off suddenly appears. How did that happen ?

  59. John Hiles permalink
    November 27, 2014 6:40 am

    To Julie ,
    I think the shop you describe could have been the first location of the jazz shop ‘Birdland ” later of a city centre arcade and then Barrack St. Wynyard. But I could be mistaken.

  60. Cicero permalink
    December 19, 2014 8:11 pm

    Good Groove ( r&b,hip hop,jazz ) , Reachn Records ( techno ), Central Station Records ( dance music all genres, hip hop ) , BPM Records ( specialised dance music ) & I dont remember the name of the one in the Cross on the corner of Bayswater Road & Kellet was where I spent my Saturdays.

    • Tony Clayton permalink
      December 19, 2014 9:59 pm

      Warped Records was in Bayswater Road. The owners, Gary & John, also had a long-term stall at Paddington Markets.

  61. February 19, 2015 10:04 pm

    Brilliant article!! But very sad. I am sounding like my grandparents, but like you when I was growing up the city was like a magical area of record stores. It was almost like a rite of passage to do the whole circuit. Now it’s a five minute trip to Red Eye or Lawsons. I used to also go to the “Glen A Baker Timewarp” store down from Town hall near where Red Eye is today, but I found it’s collectibles a little bit too “knowing” and commercial. It seems that most of these stores vanished “overnight” in the early part of the 21st century. True, you can find some of these products online, but for me it’s always been about the experience and JB Hifi doesn’t real do that for me 🙂

  62. Felix permalink
    March 2, 2015 4:17 pm

    I can remember all of these stores mentioned as well as a few others. This is all back when Sydney was a decent city to stroll around and check out regular haunts for rare and collectable music, decent recycled clothing, comics or collectable toys from the 60’s or 70’s etc. Nowadays it’s just a haphazard mess of boutiques and specialty shops that really aren’t all that special. I can remember spending hous in Ashwoods searching for some elusive record while the surly chain-smoking shop keeper kept an eye out for anyone swapping price tags. For a group of us it became a staple to go from store to store, criss-crossing the city streets tracking down things to fill the voids in your collection.

    Anyone remember when Utopia records was in the Challise Arcade off Martin Place then it moved to Clarence St. Since then it’s survived multiple moves and still exists now on King St. I can remember the 2 Red Eye stores in the old Tank Stream Arcade, and after we checked those out it was over to Glenn A Baker’s Time Warp just behind the QVB. Each store warranted at least a couple of hours each to go through rack after rack of records properly.

    If we had time we might stop for lunch and the we’d head down to what we termed “vinyl alley” in Liverpool St as there was Goulds, Ashwoods, Lawsons, Zoom, Martin’s and Silver Rocket all on the same strip. That was before Red Eye opened their 3rd store on that same street.

    So much of this is gone now as Sydney rents skyrocketed and the smaller retailers that subsisted on people who just filtered in occasionally, could no longer support themselves. Sydney then tore down all those out of the way arcades full of dusty comic stores and antique & curio shops and filled them with yet another pub or they built these god awful sterile looking units and filled them with uni students who mostly wouldn’t go record hunting unless you can guarantee them a croissant and a soy latte for their trouble.

    Serious music lovers used to spend the entire day hiking all over Sydney for this stuff and if you were lucky you’d head home with bags of old records and imports you couldn’t wait to hear. Now it can all be done in about 15 minutes. There’s no charm in Sydney anymore is just boring and sterile and too many people will never have a clue what they’re missing.

    • May 13, 2015 9:45 pm

      I hear you Felix. The two tank stream Red Eye record stores were emblematic of the variety of record shops in Sydney. You didn’t have to go to a place filled with Hipsters who have “Discovered” Leonard Cohen to buy records (that was Brashs ha,ha). Whilst we can access a lot of music over the net, nothing beats the spur of the moment buy because you thought the cover was cool or the price was too low not to take the risk.

  63. May 5, 2015 12:56 am

    The first stop on our trip to Australia in 1984 was to Susan and Ava to look for show albums not available in the U.S.

  64. Braz Cubas permalink
    July 3, 2015 1:07 pm

    What happened to Fiona and Clarissa from the Record Plant? I used to be in love with Clarissa.

    Was also in love with Alison Galloway from Smudge – first saw her in ’89 or ’90, tall, slender and red, wearing a Descendents t-shirt and 16 hole docs on the way to UNSW…my vision of perfection at the time.

  65. Indigo Waters permalink
    July 13, 2015 2:30 pm

    Lets not forget FOLKWAYS, Oxford St Paddington.

  66. John permalink
    August 21, 2015 2:13 pm

    “Navigating the city via record stores” I think I still do this – consciously and sub-consciously. What about Scratches records in City rd Newtown? I know every one of the stores and remember saving up for Sub Pop singles and Creation 12 inch ep’s, spending time when I should have been at UTS searching for The Moodists!!

    • David permalink
      October 18, 2015 10:27 pm

      Scratches was a cool little store with great second hand stock. I was dissappointed when it closed.

  67. Joe permalink
    January 1, 2016 11:19 pm

    Great article. Anthem in the concourse of Town Hall station was a great place to pick up imported LP’s and stuff you couldn’t pick up in your local record store. Started going there in 1973 and was a regular every pay day. Chris from Red Eye ran the place back then although he had a lot more hair in those days. Zounds in Pitt Street was a discount record store a bit like JB’s without the extras, Places like Ashwoods and Martins were a real adventure.

  68. January 12, 2016 7:15 pm

    Ridiculously happy to have found your blog . I too have fond remembrances of the invisible map of record stores in the city in the 90’s . Although our map , featured some comic shops too along with the record stores . Thanks for reminding me of some happy times 👍😊

  69. Paul permalink
    February 4, 2016 4:15 pm

    Loved Waterfront. I still have hundreds of records with their price tags on them! The Record Plant in Centre Point Arcade was also great but unfortunately one of the first to go. I bought heaps of Dead Kennedys albums and Sex Pistols bootlegs from there. Great article!!

  70. Leo permalink
    February 27, 2016 6:21 pm

    What a great article. Brought back memories of catching the train into the city and embarking on my Ashwoods, Martins and Red Eye record treks I would frequently take as a teen. Thanks for the photo’s especially.

  71. richard permalink
    April 1, 2016 8:14 am

    hi right next to lawsons was a shop called the pitt.. that was the best place to find the best and hardest to find vinyl.. it even had a back room where unopened un played albums were

  72. Baiba Thomas permalink
    October 1, 2016 9:25 pm

    It’s like we were all some sort of marching army in our school uniforms jigging school and visiting these record stores
    Great article!

  73. October 2, 2016 12:38 am

    Zounds Records was also well worth a look, in a basement on Pitt Street under what is now another bank.

  74. Michael permalink
    November 9, 2016 9:12 pm

    Yep – Floppy Disk and its successor need to be added.

    As already noted, Floppy Disk was set up by Al and Joe, both of whom had worked in Anthem (and were in a band together.) Floppy Disk had a couple of locations in the Westpac Plaza (near Jamison St). After Al passed, Joe continued and soon after relaunched Floppy Disk as UnSound. UnSound moved to a couple of locations and ended up in Wynyard. Eventually Joe sold it.

    Great, great times.

  75. Spoonpheeda permalink
    January 12, 2017 10:46 pm

    does anyone remember “nextlevel” records in Liverpool st, straight up Hip Hop, I was so scared to walking up the graffiti covered stairs the first few times, thought I would b stabbed…
    they also sold spraypaint, graffiti magazines, fat shoe laces and all hip hop essentials,

    and yes Micheal UnSound was incredible, he had all the bootleg reggae videos and tapes,
    I still remember the the hot stagnant air under Wynyard station, if u made it passed the blue light junky toilets in Wynyard in one piece u arrived in the record mecca….and u could grab a beer at the councourse if u were over 18……..

    And how Utopia used to sell gig photographs….FoxTrotsky from Nancy Vandal helped me source early Operation Ivy 7″s…..

    One love Y’all

    • jay hovah permalink
      January 13, 2017 9:49 am

      Love Next Level Records. Before that location next to Hungry jacks they had the Lounge around the corner on Pitt Street it literally was a lounge in the bare space it almost felt like you were walking into someones apartment! Dr Phibes ran next level i used to spend hours up there browsing albums and graffiti magazines. They had a photoboard where the local writers could post their latest work. This was the days before instagram obviously. They moved after that down to Chinatown on George Street then the business got sold and became Soul Clap records which then moved to a location near Central Station that I cant remember.

  76. Craig Monty permalink
    January 13, 2017 12:16 am

    What are the contact details of Ava and Susans now? Looks like they are in Springwood NSW (Blue Mountains).

    • David permalink
      June 18, 2018 1:43 am

      Craig, I’m not sure they operate a store any more. There doesn’t seem to be an active listing I can find. An ASIC record doesn’t mean they operate. It could be they are just protecting the name for old times sake. I seem to remember talking to Barrie years ago and they had moved to the mountains for health reasons and commuted. They would be ancient now. Mid 70s at least.

  77. vicky haniotis permalink
    January 13, 2017 6:49 am

    Potent memories+still being shared! I repeated a year in high school because I attended more record shops than lessons in the late 70’s. There Id be,[usually Record Plant or Phantom] uniformed+ALONE!!! trying to look busy,finger-flicking masterly thru the genre’s whilst waiting for the boyfriend to finish work at Ashwoods. I’d be reduced to a quivering,paranoid mess, stuck in the 7″ puce-coloured jazz fusion section by the time he showed his face. He’d rock up with a bag of wonderful records,scored from his sort at Ashwoods,+ do deals. We’d go home with a stack of new,old or rare musics from people we were lucky enough to see live at the time. A great time for falling in love. Never forget the day Radio Birdman’s Rob Younger,who’d worked at Phantom for the years I’d been going there, looked up at me from behind the counter + said “THERE’S GONNA BE A NEW RACE..IM GONNA MUTATE.THE KIDS ARE GOIN YEAH-HUP”…………………………………………….. awright…he actually said “hello”

  78. Eddie Kaleel permalink
    June 15, 2017 11:58 am

    Eddie and Freddie were owners of Soul Sense.
    Eddies twin brother Robert was owner of Soul City Records Bankstown

  79. Michael Deal permalink
    July 8, 2017 10:42 pm

    In the early 80s there was a record shop at Circular Quay near Pitt St called “Sound Advice”. It may have had another store further up Pitt Street. I remember “Peaches” in Pitt St near Australia Square in 1981. As i worked in Phillip St I was a regular customer at a little record store in the AMP Centre arcade called “Soundwise”. The owner in the early to mid 80s was a guy named Bob Starkie if my memory is correct. At that shop you would get a voucher that entitled you two a free record after buying ten (or maybe even five). A great little shop that I spent a fair bit of money in as a teenager.

  80. Shirley Hassen permalink
    December 2, 2017 11:34 am

    Hi! I do not Know if my reply is correct to this space but I have many old vinyl records; Perry Como/Peters and Lees/ philharmonic-Tchaikowsky / Strauss/ Guy Mitchell / Disney; Bed Knobbs and Broomsticks, etc if you are interested i purchasing. Shirley

  81. Pappa Piccolino permalink
    December 11, 2017 12:52 pm

    Apologies in advance for being a johnny-come-lately.

    I can certainly associate with the original article and all the comments. Music was my constant companion from my early teens until my 30’s. Like most others, I also made the trek to the CBD to all the places mentioned. I actually worked in the McKell building for a while, so was in Waterfront most days. Red Eye, Phantom, Waterfront, Floppy Disk and Metropolis were my favourites, with a small honourable mention to Utopia and Michael’s Music Room.

    I recall one of my friends at school telling me in 1983 that Floppy Disk had copies of the debut album by an “unknown up and coming” artist called Madonna. I was down there on the weekend to buy it. Whilst there, I also used to check out the clothing stores, in particular Shaggs for Men.

    I was never a big fan of the shops on the Pitt Street strip, for reasons unknown (although I did buy a few items there), and I refused to buy anything from Goulds because I never liked the owner, and didn’t like the fact that nothing was catalogued.

    My favourite purchase of the era is a limited edition blue vinyl copy Hit Me With The Surreal Feel by Kim Salmon and the Surrealists.

    I didn’t see anyone mention it in the comments, but Frank from Waterfront also ran a short lived store called Whammo, funded by News Corp or Rupert Murdoch or some such. It didn’t last long unfortunately. I’m pretty sure it was on York St, during the early 2000’s.

    Like many others, I eventually moved over to iTunes, ipods etc., and now carry nearly 4000 songs on my iPod. Certainly has its advantages, but buying from iTunes isn’t as good as buying music the “old school” way, which I do miss. I miss the social interaction, the liner notes, and I don’t know why iTunes encodes everything at 256k. Why can’t you have options for CD quality 1411k bit rate audio for those that want it ? Sounding grumpy now.

    And by the way, getting old sucks.

    Cheers to you all.

    • Kit permalink
      December 12, 2017 12:36 pm

      Whammo took over Waterfront’s long-lived last space a couple of months after they closed – I guess Frank had time left on his lease and did a deal with Festival to manage a physical storefront for their existing combination of online sales and a port of the Australasian Music Encyclopaedia. Whammo stood for Worldwide Home of Australian Music [and media??] Online, afair.

      Waterfront the shop has itself been back in business for 15 years online:

      …overlapping with Whammo’s final year or so:

      • Paul permalink
        December 12, 2017 10:03 pm

        Thanks Kit. I did a little further reading after I posted. That all sounds about right to me.

  82. Paul permalink
    December 11, 2017 4:07 pm

    And I should have mentioned it in my previous post. Many thanks to Vanessa and all respondents. I really enjoyed reading both the article and comments.

    There were also a few very good record stores around the suburbs, as others have already covered. The record store in the Wentworth building at Sydney Uni was also very good.

    That whole era seems like several lifetimes ago.


  83. Alan permalink
    December 26, 2017 12:38 am

    I just discovered this site, and I wish I had found it years ago…. so much great information from Vanessa, and so many shared memories from all these replies. I didn’t see any mention of Talkeries in Castlereagh Street… it was one of the two “originals”, to my memory. I bought a couple of rare beauties there around 1955, and, as a young teenager, I was painfully conscious of any kind of mis-handling of the precious vinyl. I would dread making my purchase from “Mr Talkeries”, because he would grab the record and yank it out of the cover to check it, like it was so much garbage. I don’t think I ever heard him say a pleasant word to anyone. But he was just about the only store in the area that opened on Christmas Day (unheard of in the 1950s!), and he did have some rare items in stock! I bought an English soundtrack of “A Star is Born” (Garland, not Streisand) before it was ever released in Australia (I still have it). Not far away, in Bathurst St, was Ashwoods (which started in a shop mid-way between Ashfield and Burwood, hence the name), which had at least three locations over its half-century in the city. Back then it sold stamps as well as records. Then it moved to the Pitt St location that everyone has been talking about, and it became my second home from when I was about 15 until I was over 50! I even worked there for a while, and can testify to a couple of the comments above, that the staff was more entertaining than anything you might find in the racks. While I was there, I recall staying back on night until 11 p.m. getting all the records and Cds in alphabetical order. I was so proud when I finished… but two days later you’d never have known I had even started! Eventually all the old guard down there retired, and it moved to York Street… I only ever went there once, by which time vinyl was on the way out and the much-less-interesting CD was king… I don’t think the store prospered in its new location, and it lasted just a few years.

  84. Damian B permalink
    January 16, 2018 4:03 am

    Utopia wasn’t exclusively heavy metal: it was known for its incredible range: it covered a massive array of the underground – think 70s new wave such as The Residents for eg – as well as being much sought after for its collection of singles from many decades, and treasured by mainstream radio. John would collate records from all around the globe, usually from the SOURCE. eg if he stocked Suicidal Tendencies, it possibly came from Mike Muir in Venice. It was a great store (note I am talking mostly about the Challice Arcade/Martin Place Utopia though the tradition continues as the store moved)

    • Freddy Fender permalink
      January 24, 2019 6:21 pm

      Utopia was originally a disco specialist shop back when they opened. when that died they went into rock music.

  85. September 10, 2018 6:47 am

    There was also another secondhand record store on Pitt St around 1982, I don’t remember its name but it was run by a guy named Greg i think. It was on the Eastern side as I recall in the area Opposite Central St and Wilmot St.

    There was also the Half Back in Manly and DY.

  86. dja69 permalink
    March 27, 2019 2:57 pm

    It was announced on Facebook, Saturday, 23rd March 2019 as Lawson’s Record Centre on Pitt St will be closing down due to low sales and high rent.

    The shop owners are not sure when their closure of business is as they are waiting for a response from the landlord who is currently on holidays.
    It’s so sad.

    • Vanessa Berry permalink*
      March 27, 2019 4:19 pm

      That’s sad news indeed – thanks for letting us know. End of an era.

      • dja69 permalink
        March 28, 2019 6:38 pm

        To think the store made 50 years last year when it first opened it’s doors in 1968.

      • Jak permalink
        April 5, 2019 6:45 pm

        It actually opened in 1982, originally just around the corner in Liverpool Street. They moved to the current Pitt Street location in 1986 – right in the thick of it in those record store glory days.

      • Bongo permalink
        April 6, 2019 10:14 am

        I don’t remember them ever being in Liverpool St. but they did occupy another site in Pitt St. just across the road and north a bit in the old Anthony Hordern building. They also had a shop in Burwood that I used to go to in around 1969/70.

  87. dja69 permalink
    April 5, 2019 2:25 pm

    Lawson’s Record Centre made the news on the ABC regarding it’s closure on 27th April 2019.–SNNec

  88. Adele Jones permalink
    May 27, 2019 6:23 pm

    I worked @ Edels & Palings in the late 60s. Your Pitt street area past Liverpool street also had a small Edels Pitt Street store which I did work @ for a while. I started off in King Street store in 68. Then I was sent to work in the other branches in suburbs as well. I ended up working in Palings Bankstown which was my last employment in the record business. It was great working in the city in the 60s especially in the music business. So lucky & I knew it.

    • John Hiles permalink
      May 28, 2019 10:39 pm

      hi Adele
      I remember the Edels store in King St. in the 60s. Didn’t it have soundproofed listening booths , like phone booths , where you could request to hear a record from the staff then go inside and listen ? I can remember piling in there with a bunch of friends to listen to the 1st LP by Jimi Hendrix “Are You Experienced ” which must have been 1967. After listening we would slink out, avoiding eye contact with the staff ,
      mildly embarrassed because we were 15 and had no money.

  89. Craig Nash permalink
    October 14, 2019 2:43 pm

    One of my favourites was Soundgarden Records at Hurstville. It was a cool little shop run by Matt from Lawnsmell. I would go there weekly.

  90. Sean permalink
    December 8, 2022 11:32 am

    I recently upgraded my vinyl copy of Eno’s Music for Airports, buying the audiophile release from Chris at Red Eye. Bought my original import copy from Chris, then at Anthem Records, in 1978 when I was a kid in school uniform!

  91. December 13, 2022 6:57 pm

    Ah Anthem Records in Town Hall Station. I bought Yes, Fripp, ELP and other Prog Rock albums there.


  1. Bertrand Russell–History of Western Philosophy | Neil's Commonplace Book
  3. A round up of music posts | GeorgiesBlog
  4. Record store sentiments | music, film, gen x, new wave
  5. “More of everything!” | the blog that chris wrote
  6. Sydney Music Ghosts and The Phantom - AUSTRALIAN MUSIC MUSEUM PROJECT

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: