Cardiff’s Forgotten Record Shops

Growing up in Cardiff in the early seventies started my lifelong love of vinyl which still remains.
Since that time I have had hundreds of cassette tapes, cd’s, minidiscs, downloaded mp3’s, surround sound dts discs, dvd audio and lossless formats but I value the l.p. the most possibly the enduring appeal of the paraphernalia that accompanies it and probably because of my love of record shops. Cardiff was once well serviced with record shops.
1. Spillers…”the oldest record shop in the world” has been on 3 sites but whilst on the Hayes adapted to many of the changes and trends in music and tried to not leave any of it’s loyal customers behind with a huge back catalogue, knowledgeable staff and an addictive presence.
2. Sound Advice… Castle Arcade closed by the very early eighties, this had a more hippyish vibe and female staff were encouraged to play Fleetwood Mac albums and engage with the (mostly) young male customers which made for a more genteel shopping experience than Spillers. Had a basement which stocked Athena posters and second hand trade in’s of mostly Joan Baez and Melanie albums. Also had the coolest of the inimitable 12″ carrier bags with a black and white art noveau design.
3. Buffalo Records….originally in the Morgan Arcade (ironically next door to where Spillers have re-located) seemed to have an emphasis on price and displayed as many l.p.’s in the window in those plastic see through hanging things, floor to ceiling all of them with a price attached.
Always 30p cheaper than the others when 30p meant something. They relocated to a much bigger store across the road from Spillers on the Hayes and bizzarely sold jeans (their own design and label) as well as records. Had a brown plastic carrier bag with a wild west buffalo design when Spillers were still supplying records in paper bags. Closed in the mid 1980’s.
4.City Radio…. Also on the Hayes but around the corner next door to the Post Office. Sold hi-fi but had a large amount of racked l.p.’s. Was the last shop to have a resemblance of the listening booth where you could choose a record and listen in advance of purchase in relative privacy. Stocked a wide range of genres and mostly played cool blue note jazz music in store, unfortunately closed in 1980.
5. Virgin….originally opposite the castle on Duke Street now a coffee chain, arrived in the late 1970’s when Virgin was a very cool label (XTC, etc.) the first Virgin shop in Cardiff had a corporate feel to it and introduced the aloof sales assistant concept to the Cardiff record buying public. I once met Elvis Costello in Virgin with an armful of CD’s in his arms and we chatted at some length about Prefab Sprout who he was championing. Moved to what was called the Virgin Megastore in the Capital centre after closing their original shop for a few years absence from Cardiff. Richard Branson predicting the onset of internet/downloading sold all of his music shops to Zavvi who went bust within months by 2010.
5. Oddysey…shops in Canton and Whitchurch embraced the buoyant singles market in the late 70’s and early 80’s but were both gone by the 90’s. Still see some of the Staff including at “the Record Shop” in Roath.
6. Our Price…in the St David’s Centre from 1982 to the late 1990’s, this shop had the airport kiosk vibe, go in choose your cd, pay for it and leave.
7. Woolworth’s….various sites but I remember the Queen Street store as music was at the front of the shop next to the pick and mix where my Mum bought all of her extensive Jim Reeves collection. It nearly made it through the recession but had the same wholesalers as Zavvi and was caught in the crossfire when they went down following them as another casualty of Britain’s High Street not long after.
8. HMV….Queen Street, still there, corporate, now sell virtually everything including magazines, posters, headphones, iPods, computer tablets, t-shirts, books, computer games, blu ray discs, dvd’s, cd’s and recently a reintroduced line of 12″ vinyl both current and re-issued. Supermarket feel from the moment they opened in the early eighties with a line of tills and cashiers shouting “next please” and an awareness that they employ uniformed security as well as plain clothes store detectives. Weathered the storm that is killing the industry (the same industry that told us over 30 years ago that “home taping was killing music”).
I included HMV, because they used to be a record shop. I haven’t included Kelly’s in the Cardiff Indoor Market because they still are, but I have included Spillers because I am loyal to Spillers and Kelly’s as well as a few other suburban second hand outlets.
Other outlet’s in Cardiff for records back in the day:
Boots, huge record department upstairs specialising in the Carpenters etc.
John Menzies, W.H. Smith
Howells Department Store
Rediffusion Television and Radio Stores
Record Shop in Llanishen Village

The picture in the UK is much the same and the subject of a new documentary film



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2 responses to “Cardiff’s Forgotten Record Shops

  1. mike

    CIty Radio didn’t close in 1980, it moved from The Hayes to the Morgan Arcade, dropped the hi-fi and was the only classical specialist shop in Cardiff until it did close around 1995.

    Our Price also had two shops in St Davids centre at one point, one at the Queen St end and one at the Hayes end ( opposite where Woolies ended up ). There was also a short lived Rock specialist called Trash City upstairs in the Royal Arcade, and a couple of vinyl / dance music shops in the same arcade

  2. Norman Francis

    Worth a mention would be Paul Gibbs of Clifton Street and Sound Advice of Castle Arcade and Thank You for the mention .. Odyssey of Canton & Whitchurch.

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