UPDATE • Jumbo has recently moved since I wrote the review below, but only across the road to 1 Merrion Centre. The shop was here in the seventies, so a return home. There are pictures of the move on their site including this rather forlorn shot of the old place being dismantled! But the new place looks bigger and better although my partner will miss the wool and knitting shop it replaces…
At first sight, the dismal St. Johns Centre off the Leeds Headrow promises little of interest, another faceless city centre shopping development of which Leeds has more than enough. But brave the cheapo mobile phone cover stalls and other tat, and head upstairs to find Jumbo Records, a rare example of the independent high street record shop. Surviving for over forty years too.
As my grandparents lived in Leeds, it was a place I got to know as a kid and in the late seventies they had a lot of the bigger bands at the infamous Queens Hall, a former tram depot (the axle grease from which the music promoters clearly felt was all part of the ambience). It probably wouldn’t even get an entertainment license these days (in fact I think it got shut down when they were found cramming far too many people in) but going to a gig there meant you could hang around the nearby hotel where most of the band stayed to try and get some autographs, then mooch around the record shops.
Knowing Jumbo where they are now, I hadn’t realised they’d been in the Merrion Centre before, as this was a well stocked record shop me and any gig going mates would make sure we dropped in on as they always had the limited edition formats and other interesting stuff. In fact Jumbo began three years earlier in 1971 upstairs in the Queens Arcade. They moved to the Merrion Centre (which even in the seventies was a fairly dismal example of the genre) in 1974, and only migrated to their current site in 1988. You can read more about the owner and the history of the shop at their website: http://www.jumborecords.co.uk
Certainly when I was with RPM Records, Jumbo was always one of those stores which would support our esoteric pop archive titles. Today that trend continues, but Jumbo have always been vinyl fans and I’d estimate that at least half their current store is given over to records rather than CDs. It’s all new stuff, contemporary pressings and reissues of all genres, and by far the best stocked new vinyl outlet this side of the Pennines.
They also handle concert tickets, plus a wide range of indie music magazines and other publications. I visited in October, and was tempted by a strange album of British Rail buffet car announcements. Now where else would you find that?
It was good to also find Relic Records still hanging on in Leeds; CDs upstairs with a well-stocked vinyl basement (which wasn’t hard to find a couple of interesting albums in) and Crash Records on the Headrow, which still has some new vinyl as well as shirt, CDs and tickets.