Shades Records – The Greatest Record Store There Ever Was: A Tribute for Record Store Day

Record Store Day

Record Store Day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As record store day approaches, I would like to pay tribute to just one record store that is sadly no longer with us. The Greatest Record Store There Ever Was…

In the years before Napster, Songkick, Spotify and other Internet stuff spoon-fed the heavy metal-loving youth of Britain, there were just two ways to find out about your favourite band:

Kerrang! and the Shades Records advert in Kerrang!

Shades Record Store was the Heavy Metal music store in the UK throughout the eighties. Situated in a rickety basement in St Anne’s Court just off Wardour Street in London’s Soho, Shades stocked more rock records than Wayne Rooney has words in his vocabulary, if that isn’t damning it with faint praise.

No Norwegian doom-metal band was too obscure and doomy, no glam-metal band too ridiculous and cheap-looking for them not have a space at Shades. Posters, badges, T-shirts, commemorative mugs and teaspoons: no item was too obscure.

At a time when it was impossible to buy Aerosmith records in the UK (it seems ridiculous now but it is true – until Permanent Vacation came out in 1987, you couldn’t buy any of Aerosmith’s ’70s classic albums this side of the Atlantic) only Shades had their entire back catalogue (on import from the USA at £8.99 each instead of £5.99).

As far as I know, their advertising budget was spent entirely on smallish ads in Kerrang! Magazine – hitting it’s entire target market in one fell swoop.

Shades advert

Their ads were worth reading for three reasons. Firstly, they would publish the expected dates of release of each record well in advance. I might learn that Judas Priest or whoever had an album coming out months in advance of reading a review of it in a magazine. Second, they might make a comment, good or bad, about whether they thought the album was any good. They were pretty scathing about Motley Crue’s “Theatre of Pain” album (rightly – it was a poor relation to Ratt’s “Invasion of your Privacy” released the same year) and were taken aback when “Girls Girls Girls” turned out to be pretty decent. Most thrash was described as “Beyond Slayer” if it was very heavy, or “Total Death – Not for Wimps”.

Thirdly, and most importantly, they would have stock of the most obscure or brand new imported releases: I first heard about Guns n Roses’ debut EP “Live… &@! Like a Suicide”  in a Shades ad in the back of Kerrang! well before any reviews appeared, or the release of Appetite for Destruction.

I went to a record signing by Poison and it was bedlam – difficult to get two or three hundred or more rock fans up and down the basement steps in a shop the size of a small branch of Starbucks on a Tuesday lunchtime. Especially with all that hair teased out – there were rumours that people fainted from all the hairspray fumes. Rumours, it must be said, that I have just started.

On a more normal day, I would pop down on the tube to Tottenham Court Road – often midweek and thus dressed in my work clothes of (oh, the humiliation) a suit and tie – which made me stick out like a sore thumb amongst the leather and denim brigade. I felt squarer than Cliff Richard at a Hipster Convention, but they were always nice to me. It may have helped that a large proportion of my disposable income was left at the counter…

Down the stairs and turning right towards the sales counter, a friendly and shaggy haired chap called Fred would cheerfully greet me and cast an eye over my latest purchases whilst Candlemass, Stormtroopers of Death or something more extreme would violently blast out from the stereo. Not a shop to live above if you craved the quiet life. Or your hearing. A couple of others lurked behind the counter – a hair metal dude and a proper thrash metal aficionado. I never felt able to strike up a conversation with those slightly more exotic characters. They looked like they were in bands. One of them was called Kelv Hellrazer (part of me hopes his real name was Colin, or Nigel).

Most of my most seminal metal purchases were made there: Metallica’s Master of Puppets, Anthrax’s Among The Living, Megadeth’s So Far, So Good…So What? and D’Molls’ debut…(well you can’t get them all right can you?).

The owners also set up a fanzine called Metal Forces, which focused on the new thrash metal sounds that were still in their relative infancy, and which probably inspired Kerrang! to launch rival publication Mega Metal Kerrang!

Sadly Shades closed down in 1992 – a victim of (I would guess) the twin tides of grunge and CD sales overtaking vinyl, with rising Soho rents doubtless playing their part. It has never been replaced and never been bettered. Record Store Day (21st April) reminds us to support places like these before they’re gone. Because without them, we’d only spend our money on something worthwhile. And who wants that?

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117 replies

  1. my pleasure. i added you to my blog roll

  2. I remember Shades very well. It’s where I first discovered new albums by bands such as the Killer Dwarfs and where I bought gems like “Surfing with the Aliens” by Joe Satriani and tickets to a thrash gig at the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town.
    I do pay tribute to Shades in Rock And Roll Children, only I call it Snakes in the book. It was as I describe it, “An Aladdin’s cave of heavy metal.” I never did buy that Kreator t-shirt though.

  3. Loved that shop, bought my very early Metallica there too. Remember the distinctive smell of damp, of mouldy books – if they could have bottled that to sell thirty years later, they’d make a mint now. *Sniff*

  4. great post, thanks. when in Soho i’ll often find an excuse to detour down St Anne’s Court and gaze wistfully at where the entrance to Shades used to be.

  5. Great reading! Living in Sweden, I remember the the Shades ads in Kerrang! and they were part of why I bought the magazine every week. I couldn´t get Kerrang! anywhere in my town, so once a week I travelled by train to get the latest issue, and every other week it was double jackpot as I bought Metal Hammer too.
    There was acutally a similar store to Shades no too far from me here in Sweden. It was called “Record Heaven” and was located in Malmo. It still exists, but have only the name in common with the old store. Tons of truly unique collector´s records that I have never seen since – even on the internet!

    I can totally releate to your memories, because it was very special feeling – and smell – in old vinyl stores. I can´t say that I get too exited about downloading mp3-files or ordering new albums online. Downloading is great if you want to discover new bands, but that great feeling of buying an album because the cover looked cool or whatever, well that feeling is gone forever.

    Too bad.

  6. Nice post…Good to hear that somehow, we are now part of a time, a place and a scene and that it was and is so important to so many… RIP Shades…We are still in touch with Dave the con, Kelv “Hairspray” Hellrazer, Mick, Anna and The Daves ( Price and the other one). Find us on Face book: Some “fans” have started a page not so long ago. By the way, only one owner and father to us all, Mike Shannon.
    Fred the shaggy-haired dude…

  7. A good piece…Shades actually closed down in May 1992

  8. You’ are welcome…All the pleasure is really mine…It’ll be nice to do a reunion!!! Dave CONstable lives in Sweden, I live in France, Dave Price has a show on ARFM…and there are still a few here and ther (Kelv and >Mick/Anna are in London… Cheers!

  9. Only just getting round to catching up on all of my reading! Wonderful post, injected with really great humour, The commemorative spoons amused me. Last year my friend came up to visit me in the Isle of Lewis (where I currently live). We took a trip to Harris, to my surprise, she bought one of these (sorry!) naff decorative spoons. When I called her on it, telling her I didn’t know she collected spoons, she replied saying “I don’t collect spoons! I collect shite.” Fucking hell… how I laughed. It is certainly making shopping for her a lot easier! ;)

  10. Spooky! I’ve just finished watching a programme on BBC4 about how British rock bands conquered the USA and thought “I wonder what happened to Shades in Soho?”

    I knew they had ceased trading years ago but had no idea it was as far back as 1992. I used to go there as a student in the late 1980s and it was hard work resisting the temptation not to blow all my grant money in one go.

    I could never really get over just how much they had in stock; you only had to name it and they had it. These were the days when finding an AC/DC album in HMV was a noteworthy event and the HMV staff would look down their noses at you when you up to the counter to get the record and pay.

    It’s funny how these days being a rock fan isn’t like bearing the mark of Cain. Relatives no longer buy me Police and Duran Duran singles for my birthday or for Christmas in an effort to wean me off “that rubbish.” HMV even started stocking a half-decent range of rock albums. Evidently they’d finally noticed how many albums rock bands were selling….

    Like you I can vividly remember the layout of the store and the smell of the place.

    Somewhere in a box of odds and ends I’ve got my old Marquee Club membership card from the days when it was still almost opposite the Intrepid Fox. I saw all sorts there, Bernie Torme and Tesla to name just 2.

    The Tesla gig was fantastic. It was their first in the UK and I think Metal Hammer magazine had sponsored a mini European tour for them. Anyway, they clearly had no idea how popular Mechanical Resonance was in the UK until they realised the crowd were singing along word perfect. The look of sheer delight on the faces of the band members was really quite something to see.

    So much has changed over the years. The old Marquee, Shades, the Intrepid Fox – all gone. I feel privileged to have known all of them.

  11. Great post – sure brings back memories. As a teenager I used to get the train from Southampton to Waterloo and with an empty rucksack, walk upto Shades and then take in Virgin, HMV & Tower megastores then back to Shades (getting a sandwich in the shop next door to Shades) then back to Waterloo with a bulging rucksack. I have still got one of the grey Shades carrier bags! Perhaps I should put it on ebay. As you mentioned, it is amazing to think that Kerrang! was the only source of info for heavy music and any album I liked the sound of would be available via Shades. I bought many albums from Shades (in person and via mail order) but I can remember the 3 albums I bought on my first visit – Power Of The Night by Savatage, To Mega Therion by Celtic Frost & Universal Juveniles by Max Webster – albums that were just not available anywhere else. I also bought the first album that I wanted that wasn’t going to be issued on vinyl (the 1st and so far only album by King Of Kings) though I didn’t own a CD player. I can recall having a telephone conversation with Kelv Hellrazer regarding Faith No More’s ‘Introduce Yourself’ album that I had ordered and wanted to cancel. I managed to by the album locally though he said it was ‘a pile of crap’ and he would send me ‘Raising Fear’ by Armored Saint instead as it was brilliant and not to worry about the £2.00 price difference (in my favour)! And it arrived within a couple of days. You don’t get customer service like that anymore – go into whats left of HMV now and the staff can tell you all the cheats on the latest Nintendo game but have no idea what music they stock!

  12. I remember Shades well, living in Chatham Kent at the time, so easy 1hr train journey,
    My earliest recolections of Shades is buying the first two Nightranger albums (Dawn Patrol & Midnight Madness) and also buying Def Leppard’s Hysteria a month before its official release. But my biggest memory is meeting the mighty METALLICA (James, Kirk, Lars and Cliff) in 1985 after reading an advert in a loca Medway news paper. So I took my copy of Ride the lightning along with me and they all happily signed it.
    I often wondered what happened to Shades, and was sorry to hear that it is no more, as it was a major part of my life.

  13. Shades was a truly great record store, I spent many a happy hour there browsing the selection, I used to Tube it from Essex to Tottenham Court Road and then work my way through the back streets to the store. I remember going to signings there for Onslaught, Sacred Reich & Nuclear Assault (I think!) Although I still listen to rock, punk, thrash, metal, death metal and so on, I did sell all my records sometime ago, and some did really well, since they were ‘1st editions’ of things like Bolt Thrower – Realm of Chaos and Carcass – Symphonies of Sickness. At some point in my youth I remember myself and friends drifted away from visiting Shades for some reason, I don’t know why really, and we tended to end up at the independent stores in and around Camden Town. On one occassion a group of enourmous (as in tall) Nazi Punks rolled up at a store we were in, fortunately for us it didn’t stock they’re kind of music and they didn’t stick around long. I reckon the record I most listened to that came from Shades was probably Tankards – Morning After, a fairly extreme tutonic thrash explosion.

    I remember all the record stores well in London, we used to sometimes hit Virgin, HMV and Tower Records, but I always found Tower really expensive, and I don’t recall buying anything there ever. Favourite for food during these trips was always a Burger King somewhere on Oxford Street, a Double Whopper and Fries vanquished all hunger pangs.

  14. My Friend has just reminded me that those Camden Town record stores were Rhythm Records and Vinyl Experience, both now also gone.

  15. Shades, sigh, the store us continental Dutchmen went to, when in London, to score obscure Neat releases and such. I remember the first time walking down those stairs and entering a slightly stale smelling store, but a treasures awaited me there.

  16. Wow, loved reading this article about Shades, been thete atleast 10 times and always could find more than icould afford, what afantastic shop! Nothing like that even came close like that to be found in The Netherlands, still miss Shades! X Angel

  17. I remember Shades when it was next door (it’s now a sandwich bar I think) I remember Dave (who went off to Sweden to manage Candlemass) and Kelv who used to get the piss ripped out of him by all the trash fans (myself included). I used to bump into him regularly on the tube after the shop closed and we used to chat about the old days. He was a nice guy. I wonder were he is now.

    The very first time I went in there was on a trip to London when I was at art college. I was with a couple of girls, one of whom, not being into metal, was totally freaked. I think War and pain by Voi Vod was playing at the time!

    I also remember the adverts Kerrang! ran with comments such as “beyond Slayer”. That generally influenced my purchases. So thanks for turning me on to some great bands.

  18. Fantastic article – brought back so many memories of the hours spent in Shades, so many records purchased and still loved! Do even have a carrier bag and a T-Shirt – not that i can fit into it any more.
    Thanks for the memories

  19. Now, there’s a memory coming back……. Whenever I had the opportunity to come to London (school / parents) I used to visit that store (1982 / 1983) and spend all my money on the obscure and unknown metal bands from the UK and US. Remember hearing Jag Panzer – Tyrants EP there when the had just got it in. Immediately bought it…

  20. I remember them for “Buy or FOAD” in their ads – all u needed to know really

  21. Fantastic piece. Just spent the past 30 mins reminiscing about being 14 again (1984) and waiting desperately for that 12″ package to arrive on the doorstep from Shades. It was too far to travel to London to visit the shop so the ads in Kerrang and the mail order service was my lifeline for anything more obscure than Iron Maiden or Motorhead. I remember buying the first Queensryche album (The Warning) this way and some dodgy Manowar albums!

  22. A nicely written piece and some great anecdotes in response (I do remember that guy’s Mum sitting on the steps reading her book!!)!

    I first discovered Shades with my friend Steve Hammonds not long after it had opened in late 1982. At that point it was situated in the lock up next door to the basement it ultimately moved to. ‘Modest’ Mike Shannon was the owner and I seem to recall that the first album I bought there was Night Ranger’s ‘Dawn Patrol’ on import.

    Mike was then joined by Dave Constable and a thriving metal community was born. One of the by-products of this was ‘Metal Forces’. The magazine was put together in response to our collective frustration with the clique that ran ‘Kerrang!’ at the time. Funded by Bernard Doe (a fellow Shades regular) and Dave Constable with, I understand, a great deal of help from Sir Michael Shannon, the first editorial meeting took place in ‘The Ship’ public house just round the corner and also involved Steve Hammonds, Dave Ling, myself and a few other like-minded souls. The first issue was published in late 83 with that glorious yellow cover and the controversial ‘Murray to leave Maiden?’ story.

    Another Shades regular, Kelv Hellrazer, came on board for the second issue to contribute mightily with his Glam contributions over the next few years alongside sterling articles from the likes of Steve Price (now of arfm fame but then involved with the Alice’s Restaurant radio station), Dave Shaw, Dave Shack (now a senior exec at Sony) and Garry Sharpe-Young.

    As Shades legend spread business was such that the move into bigger premises next door was made, with Kelv joining the staff on a full-time basis and fully evolving into the Glam Icon he has became. He was soon joined by Fred Avesque and I’d also help out behind the counter on a Saturday. It used to be bloody busy and, as a consequence, Nita and Phil’s tea shop on Wardour Street would be inundated with tea orders from staff and customers alike. The two days before the Monsters Of Rock gig in August was extremely busy, as hordes of metal fans from all over the world would descend upon St Anne’s Court.

    Later on, as business boomed (especially on the mail order side) Mick and Anna Grazier joined the team. I was never on the paid staff myself, but before I joined ‘Kerrang!’ magazine as a full-time contributor in late 1987 I had been known to take a week’s leave from my own day job to help Mike out if he was short staffed due to Kelv or DC being away.

    Dave Constable was the man initially responsible for those legendary ‘Kerrang!’ ads. He was the person who should be credited with inventing the terms ‘Thrash Metal’, ‘Death Metal’ and ‘FOAD’. When he moved to Sweden the ads then became the domain of Kelv with, I understand, a bit of help from Fred on the Thrash side.

    Whilst DC went off to manage Candlemass and his Megarock empire, Shades was also involved in bands, record labels and gig promotion. Lord Mike Shannon managed Chariot and released their two albums on Shades Records. Towards the end of the Shades experience Mike and Steve Price put together the American Dream shows at the Astoria, where the likes of Danger Danger, Shadowking, Tuff and The Scream held court.

    Memories of that shop are countless. A great book could be written. From the girls, the V.I.P. visitors (Gene and Paul from Kiss, Pat Cash, Bruce Dickinson to name but four), the legendary customers and after hours drinking sessions to the legends that worked there and some truly bizarre happenings (fighting tramps, police chasing a thief in Keystone Cop fashion, the Terminator clone) that went on, the place will always hold a special place in my heart. Yup, I still have the bags and the t-shirts!

    • Dave Reynolds! Wow – thank you for dropping by and adding your thoughts. Looks like we are collecting some great stories – I think you have just nominated yourself to write the Story of Shades…
      Great to hear from you – of all the articles I have written it is this one that I enjoy reading the comments on most of all.

  23. i remember shades when it was in a dark little shop across from marc almond/soft cell then moved into a basement shop next door.i would come to london 3-4 times a year to buy records and sell records to shades and other shop was called shattered and is located in cleveland ohio.i was able to get some of the best small label metal records from shades/dave constable.i also remember the countless cups of tea that was purchaced from a shop on wadour st.i also remember fred,at the time he lived at my friends flat in sydeham which i also stayed at.kelvin was on an episode of cops in the u.s.i think he tossed a t.v. out the window of a hotel in l.a. and police showed up.i have not spoken to dave constable in a number of years but he did visit me once and bought alot of records to send back to sweden.shades was always one of the shops i always stopped at when i was in london. rock on !! frank/shattered

  24. Poison interview at Shades Records

  25. FOR YOUR INFO / shades was stated by two new zealanders,billy jones and paul,mike came in as a third partner well after it had become a mecca for obscure vinyl

  26. Interesting. I’d like to know where were these two New Zealanders between 1982 and 1991 when Shades ACTUALLY became a mecca for vinyl?

    • hiya im billy the kiwi i did start shade records in the lean too next door .Started it with my own small record collection made the counter with some old doors and the shelves from a gone broke record store auction in winsdor ,never did fix the leaky roof.Mike wandered in one day great guy ,i left him there and continued on (my street life mission) cheers

      • Thanks for getting in touch Billy. Can I ask you a couple of questions?
        1. Did you start as a used record store?
        2. Did you start as a specialist Heavy Metal store or a more general record shop?
        3. Why did you move on and what are you doing now?

      • second hand records mostly selling punk fanzines badges rough trade stuff, mike was the heavy metal man and sounds like he did well

  27. Shades was an amazing store, with a bunch of great passionate people that lived and breathed heavy rock music.
    I came over to London from New York once or twice a year, and stopped by to visit with Mike, Constable , Kelv, Reynolds et al, every day that I was in town
    It was a gathering place, where at least for me, friendships were made that have remained in place for decades.
    All the best,

  28. Hans, remember the first time i meet you, i was hanging out with John Kibble. We meet in Central London and drove back to Johns house in Sanderstead. Great times.

  29. Does anyone remember Flyover Records, they where across the road from Hammersmith Odeon. Before Shades opened they where the place to find American imports for 6 pounds. I first meet Kelv in there one lunch time, we had both bought Riots Fire Down Under, and travelled home together on the Piccadilly line. 32 years later still in contact with him.
    Dave Reynolds, thanks for the mention, those where great times with Metal Forces in the beginning. Do you remember Mike Vergane? He did alot of interviews for MF when Bands would rolll into Houston. Still in touch with him, we speak once a year at Christmas.

  30. David, Flyover was indeed THE place to go to in London before Shades opened its doors having previously been known as Dark They Were And Golden Eyed I believe. Those early ‘Metal Forces’ days were very special. I remember going over to the continent on the ferry with Dave Constable and Tim Ostrogoth ( not his real surname, but it was his nickname at the time. He became a glamour photographer) to take copies of the first issue over to Holland and Belgium. I also recall you were quite pissed off with me after I gave Kix a poor review after I was lucky enough to see them headlining over Cinderella at L’Amour in Brooklyn! They played much better shows a couple of years later though!!! :0)

    Hans, good to see you post my friend! Without you that first Crown Of Thorns album would most likely still be on someone’s dusty shelf.

    • Flyover Records get an acknowledgment in Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray’s Bowie – An Illustrated Record…

    • Hi Mr. Reynolds-
      Ha, Crown of Thorns….Haven’t listened to that in a few :)
      Hey, I remember Flyover too, but at Shades, it was much more about the group of people, and the camaraderie.
      The knowledge of this group was unbelievable, and helped shape my taste and focus my passion of rock music and the culture around it.
      Without you and everyone there my A&R career might have not gone as well as anticipated ;)
      All the best,

  31. Dave, dont remember the Kix/ Cinderella review, nowdays i cant remember what i had for lunch yesterday.

  32. Shades,great shop. Pity it’s gone.

  33. Wow “Flyover Records”, that takes me back. Shades was our regular Saturday hangout, we’d get there for about midday and just hang there listening to whatever new imports had come in, buying bizarre import stuff at silly prices (19.99 for the first Cryptic Slaughter album, then next week it was 9.99!), waiting over 2 years for Dave to get the Sodom shirts in that never appeared, but it was FUN and we met so many cool and like minded people in there, many of whom are still in touch or on the scene nearly 30 years later. Then we’d all end up in the Ship or the Marquee if there was a gig on. Best thing Shades EVER did was sponsoring/running the Possessed/Voivod/English Dogs show at the Electric Ballroom, that was a lifechanging night for many people including myself. And yeah, I am just about old enough to remember the original Shades when it was a little ground floor lockup, and the amazement when it moved into the basement nearly 10x the size of the old shop! I bought my first Venom t-shirt in the lockup around late ’84. I still have it :) Hazy memories abound, I really miss those days. BUY AND DIE!!!

    • Pete, that Possessed/Voi Vod/English Dogs gig was a pretty wild night. I seem to recall that Voi Vod were the best of the three on the night.

      Whatever form of hard rock/metal anyone liked, Shades catered for all. But, heck, even the gigs afforded you the opportunity to see all kind of variety of styles back then as well. FUN times indeed!

      • It was a brilliant show. Did quite a bit of stage diving that night

      • Voivod were jawdropping. I seem to remember people leaving during Possessed, everyone was so wound up waiting to see them, but they just couldn’t follow Voivod. I still have the ticket stub from that night, sadly not the t-shirt. Actually, I have a funny memory from Shades from not long after that, the Vectom “Speed Revolution” album came in, and I brought it up to the counter to pay for it and I think it was you actually, said “Are you sure???” Hahaha :) Cheezy but GREAT album. I think I still have pretty much every vinyl I bought from Shades actually, including possibly the best thing I ever bought from you, the Septic Death “Attention” album. Inspired me to a whole new dimension of noise :)

  34. I’ve never personally been to Shades, but back in the ’80s I ordered quite a few records from them as none of it was available in Hong Kong. I remember getting Possessed – Beyond The Gates, Napalm Death – Scum, the first couple Nuclear Assault albums etc.. from them. It was basically the only place that I could get my favourite thrash metal albums back then…

  35. Shades…….wow……..I remember going their frequently, like a lot of other people posting on here of course…..but two occasions stand out. the first was when I walked downstairs into that unique atmosphere and thought, ‘bloody hell, AC/DC have an unreleased album with Bon out!’ Turns out it was Rhino Bucket’s first album!! And exactly the same thing happened again with ‘Cool From the Wire’ by Dirty Looks! The second was the time Skid Row did a signing session at Shades. I still have the leather jacket I used to wear with all of the band’s signatures. Never has there been so many beautiful women in one small place………ah, the memories. Cheers to all who frequented, worked or knew Shades. It still rocks in my memory!

  36. Great story of the store, I only got to go to it once and it was when Tuff were there so I got a signed poster but already had their album so bought the new Danger Danger CD instead! I remember it took my ages to find the shop (not knowing Londonium)

  37. oh happy days indeed,great to see so many stories from the best record shop ever…I was fortunate enough to spend many happy hours in both the upstairs and downstairs version of shades and as I look at my vinyl nowadays almost half of it was bought at shades….
    I used to have Mondays off from work back then and my day would start with a trip to hammy odeon to buy tickets for any upcoming shows then a quick stop off at flyover records for a browse,then jump on the tube to st annes court where I spend the rest of the afternoon listening and buying the latest rock gems.sometimes if my luck was really in there would be a gig at the marquee so a few jars would be had in the ship then the marquee and IF we were all in the mood it would be a stop over at the st moritz club until the early hours…all this while carrying my bag of vinyl from shades … if I even tried that nowadays I would be dead by 8pm ha

  38. Nothing but great memories of Shades Records & the staff. I went to the original shop just the one time in 1984 but the basement shop countless times between 1985-1992. I distinctly remember the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end first time I walked down the stairs, music blasting out, seeing the latest releases on the wall opposite, the most amazing array of new & back catalogue sleeves in the racks, stacks of back issues of Metal Forces on the counter & the weird (so it seemed to me at the time) group of people who worked there. This first time to the basement like every time after I had my wants list drawn from the Friday rock show, Kerrang & the legendary Shades adverts.
    I bought so many classic albums that blew my mind, all which I still own & would never part with. A few examples: Megadeth – Peace Sells Music For Nations white label test pressing original mix (can’t be to many of those about). Metal Church – Metal Church, unfortunately I had to settle for the european re-issue as as my best mate beat me to the last Ground Zero pressing (Cheers Nat! And why did I not order that Metal Church neck brace ;-) ). Angel – Helluva Band, still sealed (OMG). And lastly all-time forgotten favourite Hanover Fist – Hanover Fist. Phenomenal mega obscure balls out Canadian hard rock release from 1985. Deleted before release & Shades were selling it somehow.
    Granted there were a few other shops that stocked new release imports & hard to find titles, the Virgin megastore had loads & loads of stock but was way too expensive, Flyover records had a decent but limited imports selection but was fairly pricey. I can’t remember what the main HMV store was like at this time. All I know is at that time there was nowhere else to compare like Shades in the south of England.
    So to the crew at Shades: Mike Shannon, Dave Constable, Kelv Hellrazer, Fred, Anna, Dave Reynolds and the rest.

  39. I made just one pilgrimage in 1987, bought some anthrax and Autograph I think, I was so excited travelling to the big smoke from Bristol with 50 quid to spend, great memories…the ads in kerrang every week were a must read!

  40. What a fantastic tribute…
    Kerrang was my bible, growing up in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, and the Shades advert became very important. I too completed my Aerosmith collection, pre Permanent Vacation, via their wonderful mail order service.
    I still have my D’Molls debut album somewhere too… Loved it at the time.
    Only ever made the pilgrimage to the shop once, buying Toys in the Attic if memory serves, but it was a religious experience…
    I’ve lived in London since 1996 and gone through many adventures in music along the way. I find it incredible that there is nolonger a specialist Metal shop in the capital…
    Does anyone have any Metal Record Shop recommendations in London that I’ve not come across? You just can’t replicate the experience ordering on line…

  41. Aww! Great article! I fondly remember Shades, what a great place! Used to go there with my pals when we were 16, got Appetite for Destruction before anyone had really heard it. I remember a WASP poster on the stairwell of Blackie Lawless drinking blood out of a {plastic} skull. The vibes were great, good sounds playing {goes wwithout saying} yes. Very sad it’s bitten the dust to the modern age. Tragic. I had a dream where I returned to the Shades basement and found my old bands Demo tape in a box. RIP Shades. You are often thought about.

  42. Surprised about the Aerosmith comment. All their albums were available in the U.K. as UK pressings on the CBS label. Aerosmith were my main band and in 1977 at the age of 15 it was easy enough to track them down either at HMV or the other shops in Manchester (the only one I had trouble with was Get Your Wings which took me a few months to find) ….and when Draw the Line got it’s UK Release in January 1978 (as opposed to it being released in the USA a couple of months earlier) I bought it on the day of its release at the local HMV. So yeah all the Aerosmith albums had UK releases back in the 70’s.

    • Thanks for that – I’ve no doubt they were available on release – I expect they were either deleted or not stocked as their star waned in the early to mid eighties. My copy of Rocks was a re-release without the nice inner sleeve…

    • I was trying to get the Aerosmith albums from 1983 until their comeback. You were a few years before me there. I guess you were pre-deletion…

      • I got lucky: my local record library got Rock In A Hard Place, then I found Live Bootleg in a secondhand store. Thirty-two years later, they remain my favourite Aerosmith albums. And it meant that by the time Walk This Way came out, I was sufficiently practised in the art of drawing their logo on my rough book that I could legitimately claim to have been into them for years (like anyone gave a crap…)

      • I actually embroidered their logo into the back of my denim jacket…

  43. I LOVED SHADES – Do you remember all the Graffitti on the wall from bands and fans? – before walking down those stairs to the tiny shop.
    I have some photos of the place somewhere.
    And I helped out with a Gig they organised at Camden Electric Ballroom with VoiVod Possessed & English Dogs- great days

  44. Never actually made it to the shop but bought stuff mail order from ’em almost weekly. I fondly remember reading the ads in Kerrang!
    Someone should do a kickstarter project to fund a book about it – all you lot could write down your memories of the place, dig out loads of old photos, contact former Shades staff for “behind the scenes” tales…..I’ll bet it’d get funded in no time!!

  45. It’s pleasing to see this blog is still live and that people are still stumbling across it and leaving comments since it was originally written. I’ve read through the comments since I last had my say back in 2012. I just wanted to add a bit not directly related to Shades, but simply to say that I’m amazed how many of the bands I used to listen to are still going, you kind of expect it from mainstream acts, but bands that are a bit more ‘underground’ like Autopsy, Napalm Death, and so on they’re still kicking around out there. It’s also good to see Testament, Tankard, Exodus and Death Angel are still about. They seem to have had longevity well beyond what I’d have expected.

    I wasn’t aware of the connection between Metal Forces and Shades, during my ‘youf’ I seem to remember being stuck with Metal Hammer or Kerrang! Neither of which really catered much for the bands I used to listen to. However Metal Forces seemed to have more of a bias in that direction.

    During the early \ mid nineties there seemed to be a gradual drift in popularity towards the heavier side of metal along with the rise of Grunge. I was never quite sure what happened to the glam rock bands like Poison, did that scene survive? And when did Tommy Vance and his Friday Rock Show wind up? That was a weekly listen for me during my time at secondary school.

    I never really knew any of the guys in Shades despite being fairly regular there, particularly during the summer holidays.

    I’m pleased that in the times we live we’ve seen the rise of DAB radio which has given a few Classic Rock radio stations, and of course with Internet Radio, it’s not hard to track down some guys pumping out the heavier side of the scene 24 hours per day. However I do miss those good old Shades days and Mr Vance playing an interesting selection of tracks on his show, along with a session band, the Wolfsbane session always sticks in my mind. These were also the days of the late \ great John Peel, the only man brave enough to take on the likes of Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower, Carcass, Extreme Noise Terror…

    • Good to have you back and checking in on us from time to time!
      I agree that it is good to see so many bands finding an audiences one 30 or even 40 years later. The Anvil documentary is a good example of this.
      I think the glam scene petered out with the onset of grunge, but Bret Michaels of Poison found reality TV and they may well still be playing somewhere. I believe there is a nostalgia circuit for some bands to play around the USA…

  46. so you ask whatever happened to john kibble in your conversation with hans, well nows the chance to find out! i think theres a story to be told with regard to all the false mercyful fate stories etc etc etc. . fancy helpin me organise it????? and yeah they were great days, Shades, the music, the scene…hope you’re well…maybe speak soon…say hi to anyone else i used to know…regards John ‘Rock City’ Kibble

  47. This is a little off the Shades topic, but there’s a series called “Metal Evolution” which I believe was aired on music channel VH-1. There were about 10 episodes and it charts the history and ever changing direction of rock \ metal. If you get the opportunity to catch it it’s definitely worth a go. The only thing that’s not really covered in any depth is the Death Metal \ Grindcore scene, although it recognises the styles existence and there are a number of references to it. Just looked on Amazon and you can get it on Blu-ray.

    Their text says…
    “Metal Evolution is the latest production from the team behind Metal: A Headbanger s Journey , Iron Maiden s Flight 666 and Rush s Beyond The Lighted Stage . This 11 part series, which has aired on Sky Arts in the UK, is the biggest and most comprehensive series ever made on the history of heavy metal and hard rock. Using as it s framework the Heavy Metal Family Tree, that was originally created for the Metal: A Headbanger s Journey film, the story starts with the roots and early days of heavy metal and then covers the various sub-genres that heavy metal is evolved into across its more than forty years. The film is presented by metal-head turned anthropologist Sam Dunn who criss-crosses the globe interviewing more than 300 of metal s most revered artists, producers and luminaries to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about heavy metal. And then some. Episode Listing 1) Pre-History Of Metal 2) Early Metal US 3) Early Metal UK 4) New Wave Of British Heavy Metal 5) Glam Metal 6) Thrash Metal 7) Grunge 8) Nu Metal 9) Shock Rock 10) Power Metal 11) Progressive Metal.”

  48. This shop was amazing. Exactly as a record shop should be. Dark, dingy, loud, intimidatingnd totally cool. I went here many many times, and bought so.much stuff I can’t remember. I do remember bringing my older sister here to buy me the Cliff Em All video as she was 18 and I was 14…. Great great days.

  49. Well, I seem to be conspicuous by my absence here – but no longer. Hi to Hans, David Bohan-Shaw, Fred, Dave Reynolds…and especially John Kibble. WTF, mate, where the hell are you these days?

    Yes, those Shades days were indeed the bollocks. Gone but NEVER forgotten…

  50. What memories.-I remember what they first had the artwork done of Morrison and Lennon in the original store – simply awesome

    I didn’t tend to frequent it quite so much when it moved to the basement because it went a bit too heavy for my liking, and I worked a bit further away but used to spend most lunctime’s there when it was in the lean-to next door. Used to pop in to drink tea with Mike on my way to Karate in Marshall Steet – he used to be able to get hold of a lot of “specialist” Stones and Zeppelin vinyl if you know what I mean – spent most my spare cash there.

    Funilly enough, just been selling some very rare Alice Cooper VHS videos on ebay that I bought there just after it moved and that forgot I had, so rare l’ve never seen them anywhere else before or since.

    Good to see that Bill is still out there, have often wondered what happened to Mike.

    Totally agree that in both of it’s incarnations it was the greatest record store ever – Happy days

  51. Maybe someone already posted this, I used to live in Italy Rome at the time of Shades, I actually remember the first time I went there it was upstairs and not in the basement, I remember opening this door which was probably black and walking inside a long and dark place, all the walls and everything inside was black.

  52. Great post.

    It was hard for a kid living in Iceland in the 80’s with a serious metal addiction, as the selection of vinyl was very limited. So the Shades ad’s in Kerrang became a portal to the world.

    I remember well doing my first order… Scanning the list of new releases, deciding which one to go with (Metal Church’s The Dark). Then going to the post office to buy a mail order check. Sending it with the cutout and then waiting for 5 or 6 weeks for it to arrive in the mail.

    A couple of years later (going to Donington in ’88) I went on a pilgrimage to Wardour Street. It was like entering fantasy land after having had to imagine what it was really like for many years. Coolest place ever…

    I know – as there is a boom in vinyl sales and Metal is on the rise again – the timing would be perfect to re-open Shades.

  53. I was there for the Poison signing…. still have my autographed EP from that day !!!!

    • Wow, what a post! Great memories. I loved Shades ‘ spent almost as much time in there than in The Marquee. Spent many hours sat on the stool speakin with everyone and hearing the new stuff. Takin turns to get the tea, Fred pullin out a new album for me, Pete and Scott of Chariot, fellow Finchleyonian Kelvin and his glam angle, Steve Harris poppin in for a record and a natter, Tour de Force chinwags, the Kerrang mob and new boy Phil Alexander proud as punch with his new job, pop over to see Andy Warnock to see if he’d fixed our guitars, pop back in time to see a new box of records arrive. Mike, thank you for what you gave me, us, one and all, timeless quality memories.

  54. Hi hi, I remember going to Shades in the late 80’s. Bought Monsters of rock tickets and coach tickets there and possibly several other gigs. One day we went down to see if a long promised metal video had been finally released to find a sign or maybe a shop assistant stating the fact ‘No we do not have Cliff ’em all and if anyone else asks I’ll punch them’

    Thanks for the details I’m going to share this with others


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