Virgin Records shop bags hold many memories for people who shopped there in the 70s and 80s. I have found a few which I saved over the years from my own vinyl jaunts.
The Virgin Manchester shop moved to Market Street around 1979, but the first store on Lever Street was a very popular place to hang out and many local bands used the notice board there to find like-minded musicians. I was often in the shop while I was at art college just around the corner. Like many of the early shops it was quite pokey, two rooms knocked through.
I visited the later Virgin Birmingham store, as we went to a few rock concerts down there but not the original Virgin shop on Corporation Street. This opened quite early, 1971 or so according to locals, and the original manager was Paul Dolman. He later went on to start Greyhound Records with Gillian Busher.
Virgin then moved round the corner to a flashier shop in Bull Street in the second half of the Seventies before moving again to an even bigger shop on the corner of both streets. The original shop had an early Space Invaders machine which people remember fondly, and used these pink bags for a time.
This pattern of three moves was also the case in Sheffield, as Virgin moved from their original shop on The Moor to a Victorian block on Fargate for a few years (which is often forgotten) before moving a third time to a big shop opposite the town hall. As I grew up in the city, the local Sheffield store is the one I remember most, as this was my first experience of the chain – prior to this the name had only been seen in the full page press adverts for their mail-order business. The Sheffield shop opened in 1973 and this is their original bag with the full “Bottom of The Moor” text.
I never went to the Virgin Coventry store. This was run by Mike O’Hare and Malcolm, while the upstairs was leased by another record shop which sold rare soul imports, The Soul Hole, who moved there in 1974 from a basement. This was run by none other than Pete Waterman.
John Bradbury and Tim Strickland of The Specials both manned the counter at this branch of Virgin for a time too. A plaque has been fitted there as part of the Two Tone Trail. Local forums suggest that the Coventry Virgin was one of the second wave of shops and opened in mid-1973. Dave McGarry joined the team there in late 1974. Gordon Montgomery also worked in the shop and then went on to open the Fopp chain.
In 1984 the Coventry branch moved to The Precinct and was upgraded to a Megastore, which lasted through until it was rebranded as Zavvi in 2007 and met the same fate as the rest of the chain a few years later.
I did visit the Notting Hill Gate Virgin store on trips down to London. It still amazes me that nobody has accurate information on the very early shops, but this was their second shop and opened probably in late 1971 or 1972.
All these Seventies bags feature variations on the Roger Dean artwork.
I have done a new art print inspired by the Virgin Sheffield shop bag (see below), one of a series devoted to lost record shops which you can read more about on my art site (or can be purchased from the Easy On The Eye online shop.) An earlier post on the history of Sheffield Virgin shop is on the site.