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Name: Dean
Comment: I worked in Parrot from the day it opened in November 1982 (well, a week or two before it opened, as we had to get all the stock in place) until around June 1986.

With no enforced playlist like those major shops, I got a total musical education from Phil and Simon the Manger and Assistant Manager. Being a 17-year-old punk-loving kid, I'd stuck to listening to punk and a bit of metal, but Simon would play anything from Marvin Gaye to Led Zeppelin, and Phil would be into new stuff like New Order and early electronic dance stuff. Of course the downside was having to listen to that yellow-covered self-titled 1983 Genesis LP with Mama on it, on heavy rotation when that came out, but it could have been worse and was a small price to pay.

It's surprising that the shop lasted as long as it did, as things started to go on the slide for the shop and its chain in general with the arrival of the CD and the megastores such as HMV and Virgin in 1985-86. By that time I recall I was "processing the faulties" out the back more than usual to recoup funds for the store, to try to appease the ferocious, terrier-like owner Colin Holmes.

Some customers would bring stuff back as faulty, not realising that a sound effect wasn't surface noise; Dire Straits' Love over Gold LP was a good example, until it came out on CD and the "offending" static noise was still present at the end of Telegraph Road. I had to send lots of those LPs back, although there was nothing wrong with them, I think i used to have to bash the vinyl against a shelf so it did have some sort of visible fault - on the boss's instructions of course!

One time, we had to ban one chap who would repeatedly buy an LP, tape it, then bring it back a couple of days later with some lame excuse, surface noise/it jumps/pressing fault etc, etc... I think he probably spent about £4.99 in total in the shop on one LP, and then used us as a library until he got banned by Simon one quiet afternoon a few months down the line. He'd always pick a different day to come in hoping to be served by someone different until Simon saw him trying to blag me and shoved me out of the way, stepping in and unleashing what was probably a real ale hangover on him. Although it might have been a dope hangover, as his coat always smelled a bit 'exotic'. I think I saw the banned guy (you know who you are!) in Andy's on Burleigh Street practicing the same scam later on.

Phil the manager left in 1984 to work at Backs Distribution I think. I left in 1986 to go to the enemy at HMV/Revolver as it was then, for more cash, but soon learnt a valuable lesson that a lower wage in small business was preferable to corporate bullshit day in, day out, such was the experience with HMV. I should've stayed at Parrot, which was by then managed by the "man with the stubble" whose name was Bill, just for the record. I often wonder what happened to Simon Rouse?

Anyway thanks for playing me some decent music, and paying me for the pleasure!

Oh happy days indeed...

Name: Johnny Oakes
Comment: Harlow's store was the one I visited the most but I popped into the Cambridge one on a couple of visits. A fantastic record shop whose only competition was probably Our Price as a standalone record store in Harlow at the time.

I used to have a thing for imports and coloured vinyl records and Parrot Records always seemed to have interesting varied stock. As with many stores, it had its day and eventually stood empty but for its shop logo but it did a brisk trade in the eighties - a great shop which brings back good memories. Good to read the others' feedback about the stores.

Name: Martyn Cain
Comment: I remember being on holiday in August 1986 and buying loads of fantastic 12" singles from the Southend store, looking at the bag of my purchases and seeing where all the other stores were. Sadly, I never got to any of them BUT I'VE STILL GOT THE BAG!

Name: J.R. Mullet
Comment: Parrot Records, on the Canterbury ring road (A28), was run by a very bad-tempered tubby guy and, I seem to recall, his daughters. It was open from the late 1980s (1988?) until the late 1990s.
(5 March 2015)

Music journalist Giles Smith worked as Christmas staff in 1984:

"The branch in Southend-on-Sea was run by one of the rudest men I've ever met in my life - he looked like Beethoven and smelt like a goat, and I don't think he knew anything about the music his customers were interested in. Once I asked him if he'd put up a poster for my band's forthcoming gig; he refused, saying there was nothing in it for him. I boycotted the shop after that. I was walking along the road one evening and he was standing at a bus stop. He saw me coming towards him and hid in a shop doorway until I'd gone past, which made me smile to myself."

Name: Debby
Comment: Don't forget that 'lovely Southend manager' went on to the Basildon shop.
(12 October 2014)

Comment: Oh god, yes. I remember asking him to order in the Art of Noise's first album on vinyl and he was adamant it was cassette only. I even took in my friend's copy as proof but he still said it didn't exist. Ermm...
(16 April 2014)

Comment: There was one in Romford too, by the antiques market. Not a great shop though.
(7 June 2013)

Name: Paul Cooper
Comment: We also had a Parrot in Romford.
(1 January 2013)

Name: Gareth Nevitt
Comment: The Chelmsford shop was in the High Street and we used to go in there after school and browse the bins. I think the first record I bought there was Tonic for the Troops by the Boomtown Rats in 1978.
(30 January 2015)

Name: Paul Saint
Comment: We loved Parrot Records, Romford. They used to order a lot of vinyl from Mute Records for us at Transistor Bros.

Name: Alan Williams
Comment: There was a Parrot in Duke Street, Chelmsford too. Very cool shop with 7"s pinned to the wall, full of punks, who were great entertainment and a lovely bunch of people. My mate sent his mum in to buy Fuck Off by Wayne County & The Electric Chairs!

Name: Ray Pyne
Comment: Many school lunchtimes spent at the Chelmsford one in the late 1970s. Great place to buy krautrock and all the kind of stuff we'd heard on John Peel the night before.

Name: Mr. Wishmore
Comment: I used the Parrot Records shops in Duke Street, Chelmsford and the one in New London Road. I bought so many punk records from the Duke Street branch but also Pop Inn In Baddow Road. I always liked Martin who ran Pop Inn.

Alan Norrington (RIP) used to be pretty good company in the Duke Street and New London Road Parrot stores, as was ‘Boston Martin’. Duke Street was great for the ‘Deletions Bin’, I bought several NY punk scene albums from there.

I used to chat to the Chelmsford punks, Ian F and Donald R in particular as they were friendly and not ‘up themselves‘ like some of the others.

In early 1984, Alan opened his record stall in Chelmsford market, it was a hangout and a social club too, it was also like the jungle drums as a message service, tell so-and-so I’m in this pub, etc etc. It was a place of merry japes, banter and general drunken (at least) balderdash, as I would invariably be at the stall in an ‘advanced state of refreshment’. Great days with great people, Alan, George, Saturday Sal, Alan Norrington (again), partner in crime and grime Bob, and at the time Paul ‘No money’ Chester, also Craig from Broomfield, I remember taking you into The Colville in Portobello Road, that was surreal!

Name: Angie Lawrence
Comment: I worked in Miss Selfridge in Chelmsford. We used to buy vinyl from Parrot to play in the shop. Eventually I dated the guy who ran the Parrot shop. It was a fun period of my life - many happy memories - like going to Crocs on Saturday night

Name: David Shaw
Comment: I bought so many records at Parrot in Duke Street, Chelmpsford - as a Marconi student apprentoid from 1978 to 1981. Now my daughter has inherited my 45s, and is still enjoying the music - after 44 years. It’s interesting to read the snippets of echos of news.

Name: Nick Martin
Comment: I lived in Colchester from age 11 till I was 18 - 1974 till April 1981. I often went into Parrot Records in Balkerne Passage, Colchester. They always had a fan section of rock 'n' roll and rockabilly, and even stocked 'New Kommotion'. Brilliant shop.

Name: Stephen Halden
Comment: I was at the Chelmer Institute from 1978-80, and spent a lot of my free time (and limited cash) in Parrot Records buying punk and ska records. I remember buying the second Clash LP there one day in and there had been such a heavy snowfall I had to hitch back to Billericay where I lived. I didn't get a lift until I had reached Galleywood Common, totally freezing holding the LP!

I also sometimes DJed in the student union bar on Fridays with a mate, and often played tracks there, which soon got the punks up, but cleared the floor of other punters.

Name: John Carrigan
Comment: Does any one remember a smallish record shop in Balkerne Passage, I think it was called Parrot Records. I got most of my records from there, including the banned Pistols tracks of the time.

Name: Heather Mcfarlane
Comment: Yes, my brother used to work there for years. My sister and I used to love going into the little cubicle and listening to different records, then telling my brother which ones we wanted as he got discount. They were the days, love the vinyl.

Name: Mary Aston
Comment: I remember Parrot Records very well. Used to hang out in the Rock & Roll cafe next door, I'd say 1981ish. Nigel worked in Parrots, super nice fella, got a photo of him somewhere at a Rockin' Do that we put on at Woods, think it was The Stargazers...

Name: Andrew
Comment: Parrot Records was run by a husband-and-wife team in a small, two-storey shop in Balkerne Passage. Conveniently situated near The Gilberd School, I spent many an hour flicking through the racks and bought several Beatles albums. Later, a branch opened in Long Wyre Street, again a convenient location when I was working at the Co-op. Here, I dallied with a copy of Blue Valentine by Tom Waits and Solid Air by the late John Martyn. The moody, dark covers intrigued me. However, it was a few years later when I bought them and discovered a whole new fascination for Waits and Martyn. I revelled in Waits’ lyrical magic conjuring up images of the American small-town life I’d always imagined.


Dave Harwood
15 Nov 2023 at 05:38
I found this address in the 'Suffolk & Essex Free Press' dated 18th June 1981: “Parrot Records, BALKERNE PASSAGE, COLCHESTER.”
… and this address in the 'Cambridge Daily News' dated 28th January 1983: “Parrot Records 93 KING STREET, CAMBRIDGE CB1 1LD.”



24 Queen Street IP1 1SS Ipswich / Suffolk
19 Duke Street CM1 1HL Chelmsford / Essex
4 Balkerne Passage CO1 1PA Colchester / Essex
93 King Street CB1 1LD Cambridge / Cambridgeshire
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