Thrash Hits

July 30th, 2008

In Memoriam of… Shades

It’s never easy getting old and seeing all the things you love getting old or, even worse, disappearing. Tony Hampton bemoans another music shop lost forever on the day the Sister Ray goes into administration.

shades soho shop thrash hits

When my granddad says it, it’s usually to make a point about walking to school in the snow with no shoes but, “Kids these days don’t know they’re born”.

In the ‘80s and even creeping in the early ‘90s you had to work really hard to enjoy your metal. There were no rolling 24 hour music TV channels, no internet (imagine that!), no ironic acceptance by the mainstream media’s fashion pages and no way a parent would buy you ticket to a gig – let alone a band t-shirt.

Ok, I’m sounding really old now, but it really was a completely different landscape.

Rock videos occasionally got aired at 2am or on The Chart Show on a Saturday lunchtime – where once a month you’d get the Rock Chart – a five-minute run down where you’d press record on your video and get 30 seconds of a Black Crowes video or Metallica‘s ‘One’.

You always hoped the “Play” icon would come up on something decent, and you’d get the full video. Invariably it wouldn’t.

Watch the Rock Chart from the ITV Chart Show from May 1989

We did have the Hard and Heavy videos though: a monthly video-zine with interviews and footage – like a clunky £12.99 VHS version of YouTube. These introduced me to Testament who are, 20 years later, still incredible and the early (and completely dismissed these days) work of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Or, of course, the moment we all remember like it was yesterday, BBC’s In Bed With Chris Needham. Nowadays, skin tight jeans, high-top trainers, Ray Bans, long hair and a leather jacket means you’re probably a Ting Tings fan. Back then, you were given a wide berth by people. You were scum.

When we went out to buy music there were two options – the limited selection of tapes on offer at HMV or Virgin, or the one rock-specific place, the now fabled Shades.

Located in a basement in Soho it was a glorious one-stop-shop for albums, posters, patches, magazines and all metal paraphernalia. It was like entering a secret world.

Discovering stuff like Vio-Lence, Demmel and Flynn’s very brutal, pre-Machine Head, Bay Area band and The Decline of Western Civilisation Part II: The Metal Years on video here were real turning points in my life. Plus all the bands who came to play London would do in-store signings or just hang out.

Watch ‘Mega’ Dave Mustaine on The Decline of Western Civilisation

Interview with Shades owner, Mike Shannon

  • Shades was incredible and is still talked about in hushed, respectful tones. It’s not an understatement to call it “legendary” is it?
  • To be honest, I’m not sure how people feel about Shades nowadays. At the time, from the early ‘80s onwards, it was certainly influential in the development of the music scene. Along with Kerrang! Magazine, it was the major source of product and information. With the coming together of characters such as Dave Constable, Bernard Doe, Kelv Hellraizer and Dave Reynolds, it gave rise to the fanxine, Metal Forces. For an all too brief moment in time, I feel we made our mark.

  • All the bands used to hang out and do signings – they obviously loved the place too. Any good tales on who passed through?
  • It’s actually quite mind-boggling when you start listing the bands that turned out for ‘signings’ at Shades. To name but a few: Anthrax, Badlands, Bang Tango, Bon Jovi, Danger Danger, Doro Pesch, Exciter, Metallica, Lee Aaron, Poison, Pretty Maids, Shadow King, Skid Row, Warrior Soul, Wasp. Most of what happened at that time is better left unsaid, although the vision of Sebastian Bach shimmying up Kelv Hellraizer’s drainpipe at 2am still brings on a smile.

  • What was the spark that made you decide to open? Are you a rock obsessive like the customers?
  • I started Shades in 1978 on a wing and a prayer. The idea was simply to create a rock specialist shop in London. The original premises were the size of a shoe-box with a leaky roof but £50 per month in the West End of London was irresistible. As its popularity exploded we moved into the larger premises in ’83 until 1990. I grew up with bands like The Stones, The Who, Cream, Hendrix, Free and Zep. I have always been a rock fan and remain so to this day.

  • What was the reason behind it closing?
  • We closed in 1990. A combination of Maggie Thatcher, the IRA, British Rail, HM Customs & Excise and a greedy landlord made it simply unworkable. In addition to the economic climate, the music scene had moved on and the market had become so fragmented, I felt our time had passed.

    Watch Gaz Top and Kelv Hellraizer in conversation at Shades.

    There were a couple of other outlets to get your fix of course. Carnaby Street also, far from being the slick Muji-obsessed tourist trap it is now did have a couple of hippie shops where you could hope to buy a Misfits t-shirt, a bullet belt and a Slayer badge.

    Shades was the place. Now it is a mythical place of metal folklore – and a very, very fond memory.


    Comments

    • Tony Sylvester

      Anyone wishing to pay homage will find the surprisingly large subterranean space now devoted to a 24 hour internet cafe on St Annes Court.

      In the interim years it was a dance shop called Chocci’s Choons.

      Sadly, sadly missed.

    • Tony Sylvester

      Anyone wishing to pay homage will find the surprisingly large subterranean space now devoted to a 24 hour internet cafe on St Annes Court.

      In the interim years it was a dance shop called Chocci’s Choons.

      Sadly, sadly missed.

    • Peter

      Fantastic article, its sad whenever an independent music shop closes down.

      I live up north in West Yorkshire and am lucky to have such shops as Radar Records in Huddersfield, Crash and Hellraiser in Leeds, who over the years, to this day, and hopefully beyond, have introduced me to many wonders of metal, punk, rock, hardcore and more. In the face to giants such giants as HMV and Zavvi, stores like these represent individuality, true choice, and a bargain or two.

      A lot of music these days has moved onto the internet, but I like nothing better than heading down to these stores to pick up a copy of Rainbow’s ‘Rising’, or In Flames ‘The Jester Race/Black Ash Inheritance’ for comparatively next to nothing.

      I’m sure Shades is sadly missed by many, but I’m sure its spirit lives on in indy shops everywhere.

      R.I.P. Shades, you will forever be missed.

    • Peter

      Fantastic article, its sad whenever an independent music shop closes down.

      I live up north in West Yorkshire and am lucky to have such shops as Radar Records in Huddersfield, Crash and Hellraiser in Leeds, who over the years, to this day, and hopefully beyond, have introduced me to many wonders of metal, punk, rock, hardcore and more. In the face to giants such giants as HMV and Zavvi, stores like these represent individuality, true choice, and a bargain or two.

      A lot of music these days has moved onto the internet, but I like nothing better than heading down to these stores to pick up a copy of Rainbow’s ‘Rising’, or In Flames ‘The Jester Race/Black Ash Inheritance’ for comparatively next to nothing.

      I’m sure Shades is sadly missed by many, but I’m sure its spirit lives on in indy shops everywhere.

      R.I.P. Shades, you will forever be missed.

    • Simon

      I remember it when it was the shoe box next door.

      I found it through Kerrang! Who used to publish a short Advert/catalogue every issue. I remember if anything was advertised as “Beyond Slayer” it was probably an essential purchase. I managed to get hold of early Bathory, Voi Vod, Celtic Frost all sorts of extreme (for its day) metal. I also remember Kelv taking the piss out of us thrashers (and us returning the compliments too) I used to regularly bump into Kelv on the tube after Shades finally closed down and got on really well with him (where are you now Kelv?)

      Great shop sadly missed

    • Simon

      I remember it when it was the shoe box next door.

      I found it through Kerrang! Who used to publish a short Advert/catalogue every issue. I remember if anything was advertised as “Beyond Slayer” it was probably an essential purchase. I managed to get hold of early Bathory, Voi Vod, Celtic Frost all sorts of extreme (for its day) metal. I also remember Kelv taking the piss out of us thrashers (and us returning the compliments too) I used to regularly bump into Kelv on the tube after Shades finally closed down and got on really well with him (where are you now Kelv?)

      Great shop sadly missed

    • kelvhellrazer

      In the words of Justin Lee collins..”Good Times”..Shades was the place, five years for me like beeing in a band..i had to step back from it to take it all in ..right place, right time..

      • Ian Rogers

        So what are you up to now, Kelv? I always saw you as the artful dodger with hair that changed colour whenever I saw you. Best, Ian.

      • Uwe

        Thank you very much, Kelv, for all the marvellous recommendations of great melodic rock records back in the mid 80ies everytime I came by. Shades brought melodic rock to the continent – not only via these “exclusively available by Shades” gems. After ages I found Grand Prix  “There For None To See” there (nomen est omen).

    • kelvhellrazer

      In the words of Justin Lee collins..”Good Times”..Shades was the place, five years for me like beeing in a band..i had to step back from it to take it all in ..right place, right time..

    • Jason

      This place looks amazing.

    • Jason

      This place looks amazing.

    • fred the Frog (Avesque)

      Well, times fly. The years spent there were the best in my life…Rock, Women, The bands, the business and Mike’s tea infested smile and infectious good humour, Kelv hairsparay vapours, Dave constable’s mood and famous phrases(FOAD, HUge, don’ give up your day job and Legend to name but a few) Mike, Anna (where are you now?) plus the constant company of venerable journos,DJ’s and hangers on…I think if we had footage, we could make a great documentary about the time, the place and possibly the reason for the demises of such places(The music business stopped to care in the 90′s so fuck them now)
      Well here are the few thought of somebody proud to death of having been part of it and like to salute all of those who made this place great. Rock on

    • fred the Frog (Avesque)

      Well, times fly. The years spent there were the best in my life…Rock, Women, The bands, the business and Mike’s tea infested smile and infectious good humour, Kelv hairsparay vapours, Dave constable’s mood and famous phrases(FOAD, HUge, don’ give up your day job and Legend to name but a few) Mike, Anna (where are you now?) plus the constant company of venerable journos,DJ’s and hangers on…I think if we had footage, we could make a great documentary about the time, the place and possibly the reason for the demises of such places(The music business stopped to care in the 90′s so fuck them now)
      Well here are the few thought of somebody proud to death of having been part of it and like to salute all of those who made this place great. Rock on

    • http://www.daveling.co.uk/ Dave Ling

      Great article with ‘modest’ Mike, fantastic shop. Some of the best times of my life were spent in Shades, the adjacent Ship boozer, the Marquee, the St Moritz Club. I will never forget some fo the Shades signing sessions – Bon Jovi, Queensryche, WASP and Manowar among them. All hail Shades!!!

    • http://www.daveling.co.uk Dave Ling

      Great article with ‘modest’ Mike, fantastic shop. Some of the best times of my life were spent in Shades, the adjacent Ship boozer, the Marquee, the St Moritz Club. I will never forget some fo the Shades signing sessions – Bon Jovi, Queensryche, WASP and Manowar among them. All hail Shades!!!

    • vern

      yes,i remember these names well,shades was a great place for a free cup of tea too!!vern :-)

    • vern

      yes,i remember these names well,shades was a great place for a free cup of tea too!!vern :-)

    • Johnny

      Miss it!

    • Johnny

      Miss it!

    • metalbitch

      Hellyeah, I loved this store!! I got introduced to countless great bands that became “the base” of my METAL era to this date. Such a great store, hands down. I miss Shades and the good ol’ days…

    • Moleywebb

      Remember shades, went there every month.
      Meet Tommy Vance there once
      R.I.P shades
      The memories remains

    • Humperdinck

      Living in an isolated village oop North, the weekly Shades ad in Kerrang! was a godsend. Pretty much every couple of weeks I’d post a hand written order down to London and a week or so later, there would be that brown cardboard mailer left by the postie on the doorstep. Shades made thousands out of me and I didn’t begrudge a penny of it!

      • http://www.thrashhits.com/ Raz

        Don’t get those kind of adverts in magazines any more do you! I remember buying some amazing stuff via mail order when I was a kid. Good times!

    • Uwe

      Shades was THE centre for buying rock music albums. Teaching in Forfar, Scotland, in ’85/’86, I’ve never missed to stop there digging out the secrets of melodic rock and providing my friends in Germany with stunning rock record releases not available there. Structures in the music business may have changed but Shades remains unforgotten – not only in my mind.

    • Everyrecordtellsastory

      I wrote about Shades on my blog a couple of days ago: 
      http://everyrecordtellsastory.com/2012/04/09/shades_records/
      Great memories…

    • Philip

      yesterday i walked by st anne’s court…

      as a kid i learned about shades in a german edition of metal hammer magazine. then, in october 1985, i convinced my parents to let me go from safe little switzerland to london (bairly 16 years old) to go see venom (with exodus and chariot opening) at hammersmith. my teenager dreams becoming reality for sure.

      i also remember going to shades many times during those couple of days, the highlight being the instore signing session with exodus. i remember rob mckillop being totally friendly to this little teenager…

      some memories last forever. thanks.

    • Mr Bootleg

      What’s happened to Mick Shannon? What’s he doing now? Not only was Shades THE place to go to buy heavy metal records but it was also THE place to go to get your bootlegs.

    • roger rotor

      wow, great to find this interview (even almost 5 years later…)! i spent many many times at shades in the 80′s, first time as i remember in ’83 in the age of 15! and of course i spent hundreds of pounds for all that great stuff – especially all the nwobhm 7″es. like the other swiss guy philip (below) i was there in ’85 to see venom at hammersmith odeon and i was very prowd i didn’t miss the EXODUS signinhg hour in the shop ;-)
      almost 30 years ago…

    • lee james

      went to shades when i was 15 thrash metal in its heyday anthrax among the living, megadeth so far so good so what, death(leprosy) days .Brought metallica ride the lightning (gatefold) /anacrusis suffering hour kenn nardi on vocals had a wicked screech . Remember the stairs down the posters and t shirts on the stands and the smell of records lost a few hours after school there !!!

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