Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Underground New Cross, 1967-73

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a record shop in New Cross was one of the local hubs for the cultural underground. Chris Wellard Records at 6 Lewisham Way, SE14, advertised regularly in The International Times, the main underground paper, which was available in the shop. Its exact location is given in 1973 advert: 'If you feel like having a browse around get a train (from Charing X, etc) to New Cross, turn right and walk 200 vards- we're opposite you; or get a bus(36, 177 etc) to The Marquis (New Cross); we're opposite that. Early Closing Thursday' (IT, 11 January 1973).

Another advert from 1967 (28 July) went so far as to proclaim it as 'London's most aware record shop': 'THE PSYCHEDELIC SAXOPHONE OF CHARLIE NOTHING. One of the flippers currently making the scene in San Francisco. Also BLIND JOE DEATH, JOHN FAHEY, ROBBIE BASHO, and others—Great Guitarists spawned from the incredible SAN FRANCISCO Flower Movement. Records on sale from London's most aware record shop. Call or write for list & details to CHRIS WELLARD RECORDS, 6 Lewisham Way New Cross, London, SE-14'

As this suggests, jazz was the main musical focus of the shop. Indeed the National Jazz Convention, held at Conway Hall in 1969 ( used the shop as a mailing address (IT, 23 May 1969) as did Chris Trimming of the London Blues Society (IT, 28 June 1968).

This is confirmed in an article on record shops in IT (which also displays the casual sexism of many on the 'alternative' hippy scene): 'Chris Wellard of New Cross was my final call. This shop has a small window display, but inside folk, blues and jazz music are the main interests of the staff. Books on blues and folk were on sale, as well as IT, Time Out and other journals. Tony and Chris, who I interviewed, had a lot to say about the jazz scene, andthought that CBS were the only company really interested in jazz. They thought EMI covers were pitiful and their presentation generally bad. Albums far outsold singles in recent months, they told me, and I also heard a tale of how Saturdays in the shop often end up with alcoholic frivolities. The interview ended when Tony spotted a gorgeous chick with especially large tits on the opposite pavement and we all went to have a look at her. For a provincial shop, Chris Wellard have a nice scene going, especially if you are interested in jazz, which they will discuss with you at length'. (26 September 1969). Later Chris Wellard Records seems to have moved to 4 Chequers Parade, Off Passey Place, Eltham, London SE9 (as advertised in Gramophone Magazine, July 1974).

IT also mentions a couple of times a locally produced zine: 'JUNK, a SE London mag costs 1/- from 281 New Cross Rd., SE14... Poetry, cut-out, cartoons, friendly tone. The friendliest thing I've read for a long time. 'Rupert is at your door".(IT, 13 March 1970). Later the address is given as 243a Lewisham Way, SE4 (IT, 8 October 1970), from where Chris of Junk magazine wrote a letter criticising a music festival: 'Here was an opportunity for alternatives - what did we get? a pile of garbage worthy of a bunch of daytrippers. One final thought: why do people go to a capitalist festival anyway?!?'.

Don't know if either Chris (Wellard or Junk) is still out there? Anybody have any memories of the record shop and/or magazine?


Anonymous said...

Chris was one of the Greenwich Wellards! I thought he had moved to Eltham

BS said...

I too remember those days so well. Would love to get in touch with Chris Trimming or Chris Wellard again.
Anyone know how to contact them?

Paul Wickenden said...

I worked in Chris Wellard Records 1973/74 as the Saturday boy. Tony Middleton run the shop although Chris was the boss. Chris opened a shop in Eltham in 1974 but it never had the same impact as the New Cross shop and soon closed. Tony went on to work in Dobles.