The Graphic History Of The British Music Scene
(One Sleeve At A Time)
by Lucy Morris
Collect your NFTs. Go, hoard your baseball cards and stamps. Jonny Trunk – author of ‘A-Z Record Shop Bags’ – has cornered the niche on amassing meaningful ephemera.
It’s the little things, the nik naks, like swing tags and packaging, which speak volumes about society and design. And, in Trunk’s case the music industry too. Trunk, over the course of 30 years, has been gathering one particular nik nak: the carrier bags produced for record shops between the 1940s and 1990s. Arguably the salad days of these stores, before everything went digital and Urban Outfitters swooped in to corner the ‘vinyl revival’ market.
Both a window into materials and branding, these bags weren’t designed to last. They were there to get your product from A to B, to show off to all the passers-by where you snagged the hottest hit, that was it. But, for Trunk, they’ve come to signify more.
With Fuel Publishing, Trunk has unwrapped the creativity of a forgotten industry. Often candy-striped pink or grey, these bags, that protected precious LP records, were often repurposed from sweet shops. Others are stamped with bubbly 70s fonts or punchy graphics. Each individually recalls a forgotten independent business and in turn the changing face of our shops and society.
Take the Epstein family business, for example. Once, furniture makers, they pivoted when electronics began to impact the average household and expanded their store’s range. This pathed the way for NEMS, North End Music Stores, where their son Brian was put in charge. And, who knows if we would have had the Beatles if they’d kept selling ‘new and exciting furniture and upholstery’?
What Jonny gives us is a flavour of the ‘unexpected history of our high street, but also of folk art, nostalgia, inspiring graphics and more’ he’s spot on when he shares,
‘The chances are you’ll see the bag from the first record shop you visited, or that much-loved, long-gone, local hang out, or even stumble across the four-storey record superstore just off Oxford Street that you never knew existed.’
In Jonny Trunk’s capable hands, the book is a gem underpinned by real knowledge of the growth of the British Music Scene. The forward is by Jon Savage, who wrote a history of the Sex Pistols and Punk, England Dreaming.
A-Z Record Shop Bags is available now from Greyscape.com and will be shipped on publication day 28 April 2022.