Virgin Records, Sheffield pt 2

As promised, Richard, who posted about Virgin Records in Sheffield, has supplied us with more information on how he came to decorate the windows of three of their new stores.

The original Virgin Records in Sheffield, 1973

“I was a Fine Art student in Leeds from 1970 to 1974. Virgin Leeds opened in December 1971 (at 20 Queen Victoria Street – it’s now been turned into an upmarket roofed-in arcade), and I got to know the couple running it pretty well.  The shop window had twee paintings of pixies on it, and I told them I could do something better. So in spring 1972 I did a sort of stained-glass-effect portrait of Chuck Berry, about 8 ft high, based on the famous 1950s duck-walking photo of him playing his guitar (I have a photo of the painting somewhere, which I’ll send through if I can find it). The then head of Virgin Retail  – Nik Powell – liked the painting and asked me to do a window for their new Virgin Imports store, a tiny shop just off Sloane Square in London. It was being run by Jumbo Vanrenan, a great guy who was a pal of Simon and Nick Draper (who would help found Virgin Records, home of Mike Oldfield, Gong, etc.). The London shop had a curved window on which I painted a black-and-white globe being circled by a plane marked Virgin. This was the summer of 1972
My third and final effort was the double image of Elvis on the window of Sheffield Virgin, painted in the late summer of 1973. I’m still certain that the shop had only just opened.
After finishing at college I worked behind the counter in Leeds Virgin until summer 1976, then moved to Paris, where I’ve been ever since. I worked in a Paris reggae shop for a while, and designed a logo for another Paris record shop. From 1995 to 2005 I occasionally contributed to music programmes on French radio. Otherwise my only direct contact with music these days is hanging around in the dwindling number of record and CD shops…”
My thanks to Richard for filling us in. Happily he has found the photographs taken of the Sheffield store. Steve Mandy was running toe store and according to Richard, Steve’s then girlfriend Clio had just finished filling the window with the clothing they sold upstairs.  The upstairs was known as Virgin Rags for a time.

Virgin Records Sheffield montage

Virgin Sheffield then and now

I thought I would try montaging Richard’s image into the scene as it is today, along with a trio of potential customers.
Richard has also had fun trying to identify the sleeves in the window. On the right is Mott The Hoople “Mott” (the pink one), with Carlos Santana/John McLaughlin “Love, Devotion, Surrender” just above it. Love’s “Love Revisited” is the the chessboard-effect cover on the bottom left. I also recognised Who Do We Think We Are by Deep Purple and Hogwash by The Groundhogs above it. Indeed if we are right and the store did open in 1973 this could be the Deep Purple album I bought. I also got Hogwash, and still have both.
Of course in later times this sort of large image would have been produced on vinyl for window displays, but Richard did a great job. Reflected in the window you can just see a car-park. This part of Sheffield was an old flattened bomb site from the war, and one of the last areas of the city to be rebuilt.

Virgin Records photograph courtesy of Richard. Please do not reproduce without permission.

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