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Celebrating Liverpool’s oldest record shop, The Musical Box, for Record Store Day

1 month ago

Celebrating Liverpool’s oldest record shop, The Musical Box, for Record Store Day

Tony Quinn spent his childhood surrounded by records, watching his mum and nan giving the latest releases to fans caught up in the excitement of Merseybeat.

Now he’s the third generation of his family to run The Musical Box on West Derby Road in Tuebrook, with his son Craig adding a fourth.

The Musical Box – celebrating its 77th birthday this year – has become a Liverpool institution; the oldest record shop in the city and a serious contender for the longest-running family-owned one in the country.

But far from being a collector’s item of the past, the shop is thriving and it’s found a new customer base to join its loyal long-standing one.

As vinyl has come back, a whole new generation has discovered a love for it and The Musical Box has expanded, converting its second floor last year into an extra space not just to sell albums, but as a mini museum displaying fantastic archive material.

The space, which was once Tony’s nan’s living room, has its walls covered with old 78s and memorabilia from Liverpool’s once thriving independent record scene. There are even old logbooks, found when they were clearing out the room, with handwritten sales for the releases of Ticket to Ride and Can’t Buy Me Love among others.

Downstairs is vinyl heaven, with crates filled with every genre and every decade, from rock to soul and country. There’s a dedicated Beatles section too, which fans who come as part of the Fab 4 Taxi Tours head straight to.

For Tony, The Musical Box and its eclectic contents has been an ever-present his whole life. He was actually born above their second now-closed shop in Old Swan in 1961.

His nan Dorothy Cain first took over the shop in 1950 from her brother, who’d run it for the previous three years. Initially it was stocked with Dinky toys and Hornby trains alongside albums, but as rock and roll exploded in the 50s and then Beatlemania in the 60s, it became all about music.

Tony joined the family business in the 80s after college, and when Dorothy died in 1992, his mum Diane, who’d been helping out since she was a teenager, inherited the shop.

She carried on working there alongside Tony until she finally retired aged 83, three years ago.

Tony said:

“My mother always says, ‘I have two sons, one works and the other one sells records’, I just sort of fell into it, but it’s never felt like a job because I love music anyway and you meet some lovely people.”

Over the years, the Tuebrook shop has seen plenty of famous faces popping in to browse and buy.

Pete Best has said he and John Lennon were frequent visitors before The Beatles were super-famous. Bill Shankly wanted the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards playing Amazing Grace.

More recently they’ve welcomed actor and DJ Craig Charles, and Elvis Costello with his wife Diana Krall. 

Trends have come and gone in the industry over The Musical Box’s lifetime. Where once reps from labels came in to promote their artists’ latest releases, now Tony does all the ordering online.

“We know our customers, lots have been coming to us for years, so we know what they’ll want. Obviously with someone like Taylor Swift or Beyonce, we’ll have their new albums, but I wouldn’t even know what was in the charts.

“In the time I’ve been here, I’ve seen things go from vinyl to CD to downloads now back to vinyl, but we never got rid of the vinyl.

“15 years ago, the CD was dying off because everyone was downloading then all of a sudden LPs came back. People realised they were lovely to look at, they loved the smell, taking them out the sleeve and putting the needle on the record. 

“And we’re seeing lots of coloured vinyl again. The Zutons album is due next week and there’s a coloured one which we’ll be getting in.”

Craig, Tony and Diane in the shop with Elvis Costello

This Saturday, The Musical Box will be celebrating Record Store Day, and it’s stocked up with limited editions ready.

“This will be the fourth one we’ve done,” says Tony.  “The first couple of hours are a bit mad, we have people queuing up, then it’s first come first served. Last year we turned up at 8.50am ready to open at 9am and people were panicking! 

“But it’s great, it’s definitely taken over form Christmas Eve as one of our busiest days of the year now.”

Find more information about The Musical Box here.

Find all the latest Liverpool news here.

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