All Change Records was an important and influential chain of independent record shops in London in the 1970s. Founded by Geoff Francis in 1972, the first successful shop was in Golborne Road, Notting Hill.
The All Change chain was notable for establishing thirteen shops in all, with eight in any one time. The chain included All Change Records, Sound and Music (of which one went on to become the famous Daddy Kool) and Stuart Henry Sound System. Honest Jon’s, another well-known independent record shop was started by Jon Clare, a friend of Geoff’s who took over the first All Change Records premises.
Recycling had an important and unexpected part to play in the genesis of All Change Records.
In 1972 Geoff Francis was working with the nascent Friends of the Earth in London. He was charged with setting up their first paper recycling campaign and was being paid to do so by Ed Fairfax-Lucy. They had a warehouse in Hackney and, as an administrative centre, a shop just off Exmouth Street market, close by Mount Pleasant sorting office.
Geoff was being paid £8 a week, which even in those days did not make life easily sustainable. He asked Ed if he could use the shop front to sell books and records to augment his income. He acquired £150 worth of second hand records on loan from a friend. When local kids set fire to the six month’s worth of collected paper, Geoff and Ed were more than somewhat dispirited.
The guy who had loaned Geoff the records asked if he could take over the rent of the shop for a transcendental meditation centre and suggested that Geoff could rent the shop (over which he lived) in Golborne Road, off Portobello Market, which was only being used for furniture storage. Geoff met the owner and agreed, on a handshake, a rental of £12 a week. He moved in the stock he had and opened up. The first Saturday’s takings were £39. And so All Change Records began.
Geoff was soon joined by Graham Griffiths, a former fellow student at Bedford College in Regent’s Park. Their alma mater was to prove to have a significant role, not only in the All Change story, but also in record retailing in London beginning in the 70’s. The shop proved exceptionally successful and at this point another part of the All Change philosophy came into play. They had too many records for one shop and had to find another. A former psychology student with Geoff, John Trainer, identified a shop in the cottages at 231 Baker Street, which was available (this was the closest individual address to the mythical 221B of Sherlock Holmes fame) and is now the Beatles shop at that address.
The shop was opened by Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers who were great friends of both Graham and Geoff, and were managed by the legendary Jake Riviera who was to go on and manage Elvis Costello. Also amongst their number was Martin Stone, the English blues man who played with all the American greats and was the anchor man to Savoy Brown. Martin is now an exceptionally astute and successful specialist book dealer.
Geoff remembers the first sale in Baker Street, which was a copy of ‘The Way We Were’ at £1.75. The acquisition of Baker Street was facilitated by Geoff and Graham’s accountant and business partner, another Martin Stone. And it was through him that they acquired two shops which were known as Sound and Music. The first was at Sternhold Avenue, Streatham and the second, Hanway Street, which runs between Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. Hanway Street became their Black record store, which was taken over by Martin’s brother, Keith, plus Steve Barrow, and became the famous Daddy Kool.
Their expansion meant that the original Golborne Road store was not getting enough attention, so they literally gave the premises over to Jon Clare, with whom they had been at Bedford College. He had been the engine behind what was undoubtably the most avant garde university jazz club in the country. The shop then changed from All Change to Honest Jon’s. Later on, Geoff effected the coming together of Jon with Ted Carol of Rock On, Chiswick Records and Ace Records, to create a jazz label.
When the original Golborne Road shop was opened, every Friday and Saturday evening Geoff and Graham would get a visit from Ted whose Rock On rock’n’roll store was immortalised in the words of Thin Lizzy. ‘He buys his records from the Rock On store, Teddy boy he’s got them all.’ Ted was managing Lizzy at the time. Ted would come to spend some of his takings and would announce himself with the words ‘OK, let’s have a look at these turkeys.’ Ted became a great and valued friend, to Geoff in particular.
Amongst other clients and friends who frequented the store in those halcyon days were Pete Drummond, Stuart Henry, Bob Harris, Alma Player, Alan Black and the cartoonist Robert MacCauley who created the logo for All Change Records, Stuart Henry Sound Systems, and later Mole Jazz.
Locating to Baker Street brought with it a number of opportunities and innovations from the two G’s. They started their own Time Out chart, which they believed resuscitated the career in this country of the likes of Hall and Oates, whose Abandoned Luncheonette they had picked up on deletion from Midland Records, and along with a number of other albums which were to become cult, like those of former Monkee Mike Nesmith.
The position in Baker Street brought them to the attention of other more conventional businesses and they were invited to provide the records at the entrance to London’s premiere hi-fi store, Lindair House in Tottenham Court Road. They also took up positions in Oxford Street, at the old dolphinarium and at Marble Arch, where the Virgin Megastore subsequently stood.
Lindair House brought them in direct competition with Our Price, who were at that time Tape Revolution. Geoff always wondered if their name had come from the labels they would almost certainly have seen at All Change (which gave the RRP and then said ‘our price’ underneath).
They opened a jazz shop at 20 Baker Street and eventually a 2500 square foot store (which was to be Stuart Henry Sound System, with one of London’s first vegan restaurants ‘Rosalie Good Eats’ on the upper floor) at 136 Marylebone Road, just 40 feet away from its junction with Baker Street. At this point Graham and Geoff agreed to split the company, with Graham and Ed Dipple taking the All Change mail order list, and pursued his interest in the more traditional areas of jazz.
This allowed Geoff to explore his own fascination with the avant garde label ECM. Assisting him in this endeavour were Melody Maker’s Steve Lake and avant garde drummer John Stevens, who had been with the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, eventually having his own record deal with John Stevens’ Away. John featured on many famous albums, including John and Yoko’s Two Virgins.
When Geoff left the record industry he still kept his connections with music. Because of his passion for the planet and those we share it with, in the early 80s he set up Animus Records with Hilly Beavan and Anthony Lawrence. Their first releases were the single Blood on the Ice and the album Animal Tracks with Woodstock legend Country Joe MacDonald. This was followed by a single co-written by Geoff and Captain Sensible called Wot No Meat, Rain/Get ‘Em Out by Steve Davis and the Chimp Rap with Dutch producer Chris Pilgram.
He set up a campaigning organisation, Animaline, for Linda McCartney, Carla Lane and Rita Tushingham and worked on Linda’s single Cow / White Coated Man. Linda and Paul used a range of t-shirts, created by Geoff, on a world tour.
In 1990 Geoff was asked to put together the 20th anniversary of the Isle of Wight Festival in the absurdly short time of eight weeks. Calling upon friends from his time at All Change, particularly Ted Carol, he managed to gather together thirteen acts, most of whom had played the three original festivals.
Over twenty five years ago, Geoff Francis went on to become a full-time artist, photographer and writer www.artistgeofffrancis.com. In 1996, Geoff co-founded the not for profit internet tv site Bonobo TV, and also co-founded the environmental charity No More Dodos in 2015, which seeks to raise awareness of endangered habitats and species. www.nomoredodos.org
To jog some memories, these are the addresses of the branches in the All Change chain.
1 59 Skinner St EC1 ( by Exmouth Market Mount Pleasant ) 71/ 72
2 Golborme Rd ( Later given to Jon Clare for first Honest Jon’s )72-74
3 231 Baker St 73/74-78
4 Lindair House Tottenham Ct Rd 74-76
5 Sternhold Ave Streatham 74-79
6 Hanway St Black Music Shop 74- 76 (became Daddy Kool}
7 Stalls at Dolphinarium and Marble Arch Oxford St 75
8 20 Baker St (jazz Shop)75-79
9 Lion House franchise Croydon 77
10 George Lane South Woodford 75-77
11 Stuart Henry Sound System 136 Marylebone Rd which included Rosalie’s Good Eats Cafe Veg Restaurant in 76 -79
12 Graham Rd Hackney 77-80