Back when we used to buy music. No, really.

For our fourteenth window, we’ve gone from one form of scratching to another. This time, on vinyl rather than nylon.

The Ad of Christmas Past

We could get away with saying “We Wish You a Ferry Christmas”, as the subject of ad is Washington’s famous son. (That is Washington, County Durham by the way). In the Our Price advert, just a typical quick and dirty one to promote Bryan Ferry’s then new solo album, Bete Noire. Yes, the typical snatches of two songs, and shot of the vocalist (Mr. Ferry of course) from two promo videos.

What’s also worth noting is the graphic design of the Our Price paraphernalia reflects the album cover. Though adapting the ad to suit his 1987 album may have been a straightforward affair, doing the same with a Roger Dean album cover may have lost something in the process.

Bete Noire was a pretty decent album for Bryan Ferry. It peaked at Number 9 in the UK Album Charts and he got a Gold Disc out of it. There was some additional session work from Johnny Marr (not long after The Smiths disbanded), Siedah Garrett (who shared a UK Number One Hit Single in Summer ’87 with Michael Jackson), and David Gilmour among a cast of others.

The Shop of Christmas Past

Our Price was a store chain ran by music geeks for music geeks founded by Gary Nesbitt, Edward Stollins and Mike Isaacs. The first store opened on Finchley Road as The Tape Revolution in 1971. Five years later, the Our Price Records name was adopted. Then Our Price Music in 1988 due to CD’s rise in popularity. In the early 1980s, they were second only to Woolworths in recorded music sales, and this was bolstered by the acquisition of the Harlequin Records chain.

In 1984, they were taken over by WHSmith. Expansion continued, but a resurgent HMV in the late 1980s put paid to that. In the 1990s they got their own back, purchasing Virgin’s majority stake in its Megastores. Some branches of Our Price became Virgin Megastores as integration proved troublesome.

By 2001, some of its shops became Virgin V-Shops with fewer branches adopting the Our Price name. The last ones closed in December 2003.

As for the fate of the Virgin Megastores, they became Zavvi stores in 2007. That was short lived as financial difficulties beset the retailer. HMV picked up the former Zavvi shops, and the curse continued with HMV closing branches by 2012. Today, albeit in reduced form, Our Price’s nemesis is still trading – as Britain’s only nationwide chain of music and video entertainment shops.

S.V., 14 December 2015.

2 thoughts on “The Lost Precinct Advent Calendar – #14: Our Price Music

  1. Hi Stuart,

    My husband used to be involved with record promotions for Our Price, HMV and Virgin Record stores and did their window displays up to until about 1990. He did the display for this album and we have many posters for various groups in our loft

    GAY x


    1. Hi Gay,

      The late 1980s must have been an amazing time for the record stores. Album sales were buoyant, though the singles market was fragmented at the time; 7″ and 12″ vinyl, cassette singles and – by the 1990s – CD singles. Being the pre-downloading era, physical media or bust.

      The posters used to give the shop windows some colour. Especially in some precincts where they had the lights on low for a ‘theatrical glow’ (1980s Arndale Centres for instance). Even with downloads, I still prefer the physical format. If your hard drive or memory card conks out, you’ve lost your music.

      Bye for now,



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