West End Labour Councillor Pancho Lewis has welcomed the news that the new HMV owners are looking to re-open the historic 363 Oxford Street store if they can do a deal with the landlord.
Opened by Sir Edward Elgar in July 1921, the HMV store also has historic connections with the Beatles.
Councillor Pancho Lewis said:
“I welcome news that the new owner of HMV is looking to reopen the 363 Oxford Street branch. This location is, after all, the flagship HMV store and has a rich history. It is where Beatles manager Brian Epstein was put in touch with producer George Martin, which helped propel the Beatles in becoming a worldwide sensation. And for years it’s been a place music that enthusiasts visit from all over the world to buy their favourite record and soak in the history.
I would like to offer my help in discussions with the landlord in my role as a Councillor for the area. Westminster Council is currently looking at how to plan for the future of Oxford Street – and so now is a good opportunity to look how iconic locations on Oxford Street can be protected.
As shopping moves towards more ‘experiential’ form of customer engagement, the new owner Doug Putnam may want to look at complementary uses – like music venues, recording studios, workshops, or opening a bar or a restaurant. This could help enhance the business model, something I know he’s acutely conscious of the need to do. A move in this direction should be complemented with conditions to make sure nearby residential amenity – in particular west of the site – is protected.
In summary, reopening the HMV store is vital in continuing the unique heritage of the company and retaining Oxford Street’s position as the UK’s premier High Street. I know tourists and the local community alike would very much like to see the HMV store remain open.”
The original store was destroyed by fire on Boxing Day in 1937 and had to be completely rebuilt by architect Joseph Emberton. The store reopened in 1939. During WW2, 363 Oxford Street’s basement was used as an official air-raid shelter,
In early February 1962 the Beatles had been rejected by Decca Records after recording a 15-track demo. One of the cited reasons was famously that “guitar groups are on the way out”.
Undeterred, Beatles manager Brian Epstein continued to tout the group and visited the HMV shop in Oxford Street to see a friend he had made on a retail management course, who suggested his tapes should be transferred to discs – to make it easier to hawk the songs around.
The shop engineer was so impressed that he called down a music publisher from a top floor office of the building, and he in turn, made a call to the secretary of producer and Parlophone executive George Martin.
A few days later on, February 13th 1962, Epstein visited EMI’s Manchester Square office where George Martin heard the disc and spotted some potential. When the eventual session at Abbey Road Studios took place, the band recorded four tracks – “Besame Mucho” and three original songs, “PS I Love You”, “Ask Me Why” and “Love Me Do”, the Beatles’ first single.