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Belfast. it felt like a pretty bohemian, enticing, esoteric place - not unlike the place in the Hi Fidelity film. It was run by one Kyle Leitch, who later went into record distribution and national singles buying for Woolworths during the 80s's. Kyle's now a good pal and we have endless fun discussing his role as the 'real' 'Godfather of Punk' in Belfast. Local character Terri Hooley - who ran the Good Vibrations shop/label in Belfast from the late '70s onwards - has more or less made a career out of being 'the Godfather of Punk'. And the very best of luck to him (in fact, there's a biopic on him currently being filmed). The irony is that - as Tel well knows - Kyle was running a record shop selling huge volumes of punk records two years before he was! Caroline Music probably sold three times as many Good Vibes label singles as the Good Vibes shop itself did (I can only recall being in the shop once in that era - it was a bit off the beaten track, and quite forbidding to a kid!). But truth should never get in the way of a good bit of mythologising. As for me, I never bought punk records at all! I think reissues/imports by Jethro Tull and Arlo Guthrie would have been my earliest purchases...Colin H

I would say that Caroline Records was the first shop in Belfast with both a wide selction of music and a knowledgeable staff. I remember buying 'Tonight's the Night' and 'Nils Lofgren' on the same day; memorable because I couldn't usually afford to buy 2 LPs on the same day. Oh how I miss independent record shops with staff who could introduce you to bands/singers you hadn't heard before. Wezz

(Aug 2, 2013) Anonymous said:I think you will find that your facts are incorrect on this!

Keith M. 'Many memories and records bought. Great staff that went onto dr Roberts. Angus and the guy that looked like Ricky Skaggs . Bought many records in diff locations. The street down near north street that became a rip off Tshirt shop. Recall buying the doors and new order there in 84.' ( May 22, 2016)

Name Malcolm Emery
Comment: Just found this and what memories...bought Zeps first album there, Blackfoot marauder and stray Saturday morning pictures all same day in August 1981, 16 years old and starting my record collection. Made many happy trips to Caroline Music. Thanks for preserving. ( Sept 30, 2016).

Name Andy Boyd
Comment:...need to correct Colin on the above, as it's not factually right....Kyle didn't run the shop, he only worked in the latter stages of Caroline Music in Ann St. Long before Kyle, the shop was owned by Lawrence John, and was run by Robin Brown, and Jerry Lang, now a U105 presenter, who both went on to run excellent shops of their own...Robin owned Dr Roberts, and Jerry owned Musique in Bangor...another person who worked there was Ivan Martin. (April 17, 2017).

Name Kevin Gallagher
(2020)
Comment
All you guys know your music better than me , but the Caroline Music I remember was in Ann street Belfast and owned by partners John Keenan and Joe Burns.Wonderful shop, and wonderful engaged staff as the earlier chap said they introduced you to various genres of music.Was in Belfast yesterday hats off to HMV for battling on against market trends and mid covid.

Comment
Just came across this today. I may be able to help a little. I myself bought the Caroline Music shop at 57 Ann St. Belfast in 1976 from Lawrence John Downey. It was the era of Free Radio Caroline, the famous pirate radio station broadcasting from a ship. I was working for him at the time running a little wholesale, selling T.V. advertised records and tapes eg. K-Tel label, NOW 1, NOW 2, NOW 3, Arcade etc. We worked out of a room on the 2nd floor of 57 Ann St. He was buying a drink off-sales in Newtownards and decided to sell Caroline music. It was the era of the highest interest rates since pre-war years. Bank base rate was 15%, average mortgage rates were 17%, business loans, like the one I took out to buy the business, were 21 and 22%. Gerry and Robin and Kyle and Paul Mills were working with Lawrence at the time and I continued to employ them, making Gerry Lang my first manager at that site. We grew up in the age of The Undertones and Stiff Little Fingers and The Sex Pistols. The guys working and running Caroline Music were the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic bunch of guys in Belfast. Great decent lads and some more joined the team, including Stephen and Trevor and Leon, when the additional branches opened. They made Caroline Music the go-to destination for current music. They made it the legend it became and is still. For a long time 57 Ann St was the regular Saturday afternoon destination for every Punk and Mohican in Belfast and further afield. All you music lovers who supported Caroline Music week after week were the other magic ingredient. About a year later Paul Morrison, who owned the Bogart men's shop next door at 59 Ann St., wanted to sell his business. He was moving to America to open a restaurant. I agreed with Paul that I and my cousin John Keenan would buy Bogart. In later years Bogart expanded with other shops called Keen Jeans, Reflex, Gazzini, The Liquidation Shop, Bacall, The Designer Shop, LQ. Se Gorman, my brother-in-law, joined myself and John Keenan in opening Gazzini in Cornmarket and Reflex in Donegall Place. He ran those units. Eventually I sold my interest in Bogart to my partner John Keenan and he continues owning and running Bogart to this day, 27/08/22. Caroline Music went on to open more branches in Lower Garfield St. Belfast and Donegall Place Belfast. The original shop at 57 Ann St was, in later years, relocated further up to number 10 Ann Street, a larger and more central site. That move freed up number 57 and myself and John Keenan expanded Bogart into number 57 which doubled it's size. I eventually sold the Caroline Music business to Mervyn Solomon of Solomon and Peres at Mallusk outside Belfast. They were one of the two largest record and tape wholesalers in Northern Ireland. They also owned The Gramaphone Shop in Donegall Square North, Belfast. They expanded into a number of towns using the Caroline Music brand. Mervyn's son Richard ran those new shops. To all who were part of the story, I keep you all in my prayers. by Joe Burns (2022)

Comment
Update to my previous post a few hours back 27/08/22
I forgot to mention Keith (Thompson), sorry Keith. When Keith joined the crew he fitted in like a glove. He already knew everyone because he was always in the 57 Ann St shop most days and frequently for hours at a time. He was a good customer as well as everyone's friend. It was the obvious thing to give him a job and he worked out great. Nice guy.
by Joe Burns


Comments

Nick Heath
18 Mar 2024 at 07:31
I moved to Belfast in 2002. As someone born in 1972, Belfast (and NI in general) shops were quite wonderfully independent still. One of the (yeah yeah it’s sounds odd) silver linings of The Troubles was that it kept the huge chains away a lot longer.

I remember Caroline well. I think it was here that the CDs were merchandised A-Z but by first name… e.g. Van Morrison under V. Or John Martyn under J. Correct me if it wasn’t Caroline but it was definitely a store in Belfast. Might have been The Gram’ Shop.
Caroline had branches elsewhere, I remember one in the Ards Shopping Centre too. Was it Caroline? Yellow and blue to my memory.

Sadly, in the mid 00s (ahem.. my employer) HMV steamrollered NI with stores opened in Coleraine, Bangor, N’Abbey, Ballymena, Derry, Lisburn and Newry, and three in Belfast! They were thinking of Newtownards too… this killed all the indies stone dead. Only to then go out of business themselves when they panicked during the iPod boom. If they’d stuck with doing what they do best like they did during other slumps, I think they’d have made it.

Anyway. Caroline was fab, it was a proper record ship still aloof music snob staff, and grimy carpet. I miss it.
Dave Harwood
19 Mar 2024 at 03:06
I found this advert in the 'Belfast Telegraph' dated 28th February 1975:
“CAROLINE MUSIC, 57 ANN STREET, BELFAST. NOW OPEN FOR RECORDS AND TAPES. WIDE SELECTION OF POP, C.&W., ROCK, FOLK, CLASSICAL, ETC. Try our SPECIAL ORDER DEPARTMENT for that hard-to-find RECORD or TAPE!”
... and this in the 19th December 1979 edition: “CAROLINE MUSIC, LOWER GARFIELD STREET and ANN STREET, BELFAST.”
... plus this address in the 'Ulster Star' dated 14th December 1990:
“CAROLINE MUSIC, 6/10 ANTRIM STREET, LISBURN. Telephone: 0846 664523.”
... and this advert in 'Ireland's Saturday Night' dated 29th June 1991:
“CAROLINE MUSIC £1 OFF all C.D.'s, at Caroline: BELFAST, LISBURN, PORTADOWN, NEWRY, LONDONDERRY, NEWTOWNARDS. Offer subject to availability. THIS OFFER IS VALID UNTIL 3rd August 1991.”
... plus this piece in the 'Derry Journal' dated 5th December 1995:
“Caroline Music calls the tune: CAROLINE MUSIC, in Waterloo Place, is now firmly established as one of Derry’s leading music stores and is the place to go for all your musical needs this Christmas. Caroline Music, formerly known as the Gramaphone Shop, changed its name around three years ago. After changing its name the store moved to new premises next door to Wellworths and is now a haven for all music lovers. Caroline Music will celebrate its tenth(?) anniversary in business next March and has, during this time, earned itself a reputation for helping local up and coming bands. Manager of the store, Lee Mason, who previously worked for Tower Records in San Francisco and has a wide experience and knowledge of the music business, said Caroline Music was the only local store prepared to help out young bands. “If a band comes to us with a product we will stock it free of charge and all profits from sales will go to the band. We will also help bands out by playing their demos”.
Martin Connolly
26 Mar 2024 at 05:12
In my recently published novel, ‘Belfast, with Dinosaurs, 1979’, the main protagonist, a 16-year old music lover (modeled on myself), visits Caroline Music. It is quite an extended scene, from page 54 to page 58. The whole chapter (Four) contains a wealth of detail about Belfast city centre shops etc. In a much later chapter (Seventeen), there is another slightly extended scene in Good Vibrations, and Terri Hooley even has a cameo. Pages 231 - 233. I have tried to reach out to Terri, but no joy. In the earlier chapter, there was also mention of Harrison’s and other music shops. I look back fondly to those times and those shops. I was delighted to see this thread.
Craig Leckie
07 Apr 2024 at 08:09
So great to see Ross Grahams' beaming smile in that first group image. I fondly recall Gordy Horner and Ross Graham when they were reps for Island and MCA. The good old days, when we'd get promo tshirts and tapes on a monthly basis.

No mention of Damian at the Ann Street branch ? Mr Van Morrison ? Damian was an oracle on Van.

Thanks for the memories.
Anonymous
17 Apr 2024 at 04:05
Ballix. You're thinking of Terri Hooley.

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57 Ann Street / Donegall Place Belfast / Northern Ireland
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