Black Sedan Records is one of those half remembered record shops from my teenage years when I was at art college in Manchester. It was sited close to the main Polytechnic buildings (we didn’t need to use the word campus back then!) and so had a large student population to sell to.
The shop was sited at 127a Oxford Road, 127 “a” because it was actually upstairs above another shop (and so got cheap rent). Apparently it was set up by a young lad called Rick. It’s worth remembering that Virgin were still fairly new up North, so there were opportunities for others to get a foothold. Black Sedan stocked regular album releases and also American imports, which was a thriving scene back then, as one student recalled: “When I first moved to Manchester at the end of ’74, for three months I stayed at a guy called Phil’s place who had spent 400 quid of his student grant on American imports from Black Sedan.” (Stuart James).
The shop also handled some of the early vinyl bootlegs, one of the few places in the city where you could (another was a dodgy little pornographic magazine store off Tib Street. You had to venture in past the dirty mac brigade to get to the bootleg room at the back of the shop!). Producer Martin Hannett was also a Black Sedan customer.
Black Sedan must have done fairly well (and their prices were competitive) as they moved to better premises in what was called The University Precinct just down the road. This was a 70s redevelopment which incorporated offices, a library and a small shopping centre all on the first floor. The shop moved there circa 1975/6 (according to an advert in a local fanzine) not long before I left.
Quite why I’ve still got a Black Sedan plastic bag 40 years after shopping there is anyone’s guess but I have, so here’s a picture. It’s a strange sort of art deco image, not particularly well drawn, and one wonders why they went for this look. No address on the bag, possibly because they had a second shop in Rochdale (which at least one forum user says was better). I don’t know when the Manchester store shut. I found an old receipt for the first shop online, note the lettering which isn’t a million miles away from the early Virgin graphics.
127a Oxford Road was taken over by Pandemonium Records, run by one of those mad record shop owners who have passed into legend. According to recollections on various forums, he sometimes charged 50p admission to the store. Other days he would let you in free, but charge you 50p to answer questions. Unpriced rand rare ecords were quoted at silly prices, but he would offer to tape them for £1 a side (and in more recent years burn them to CDR for money)! Needless to say he also had boxes of iffy bootleg cassettes. There is a bit of blurry video of him on the web huddled in some vinyl basement somewhere in the outer reaches of Greater Manchester, forced to move there because his previous shop threatened to fall in due to the weight of vinyl, but latest reports suggest he’s now gone.
Sadly 127 Oxford Road has been redeveloped, but a couple of the older shops right next door have escaped the dead hand of the property portfolio and give a flavour of what the place looked like in the 70s, while astonishingly Johnny Roadhouse Music three doors down is still going. Don’t let the run-down state of their front fool you, it’s a mecca for musicians.
Thanks also to the Manchester District Music Archive