Friday, 27 July 2018

My Top Ten High Street Retailer Songs Vol. 1

A visit to the cinema on one of the nearby retail parks earlier this week confirmed that Toys-Я-Us has finally gone the way of the dinosaurs. I felt a bit sad about this, not through any loyalty to a huge American company which was too lazy to spell its name properly (or get its letters the right way round), but because I often popped in there if I had ten minutes to spare before a movie, to see if they had any toys Sam might be interested in that weren't extortionately priced. This got me thinking about all the big high street names we've lost over the last few years, and once again I felt a twinge of nostalgic sadness for the stores of olde that we'll never see again. Many of them have been immortalised in popular song though. Here are ten great examples (of songs, not stores)...

10. They Might Be Giants - Toddler Hiway 

A second appearance this week for TMBGs, with one of their earliest tracks, taken directly from their 1985 demo tape for inclusion on their self-titled debut album. Just 26 seconds of goodness...

In the mornin' sun 'round seven o'clock
The parking lot fills around Toys-Я-Us
And my little girl, she will get away
Ride her bike down Toddler Hiway
Take your Close'n'Play
Toddler Hiway

9. Manic Street Preachers - Sculpture Of Man

The shop most famous for selling that poster of a tennis player scratching her bum causes the Manics to go on an anti-consumerist rant...

Wills and Harry dressed in drag
Standing over the sodomised body of their mother
Would make a beautiful poster in Athena

8. Andy Bell - Electric Blue

Sadly, the Army & Navy Store was Erasured from existence some time ago, and you probably don't want to dig too deeply into why Andy Bell was a frequent customer...

Eyes wide electric baby
All dyed in cobalt blue
Stole from the Army Navy store
Army Navy store

My dominatrix baby
Dolled up in rubber tube
Hey have you done me lately?

7. The Monochrome Set - Two Fists

Sold all their shops to WH Smiths 20 years ago. Three years earlier, The Monochrome Set wrote this...

I know you're as hot as hell and the summer is high
You've got a mind to make love but that means
Someone must die

And I can see what's coming like a rusty nail
It fits right into your world view like a wind in a sail

But that's what love is about or what else am I here for?
I guess I'll wait in John Menzies then I'll go back for more

6. Scritti Politti - Mrs. Hughes

I used to hate going in BHS when I was a kid. "It's too hot," I used to tell my mum. I'm not sure if it was too hot, because I never went in there as an adult. Then one day, it wasn't there anymore. Only Green remembers it now...

Tell me again and I'll touch Mrs. Hughes
You've got her confidence you get to choose
I can hardly refuse

Down the town center where somebody died
By British Home Stores just sitting outside
Looking self satisfied
But the point was beside

5. X-Ray Spex - Warrior In Woolworths

Poly Styrene pays tribute to the home of Pick n Mix. I had less problem with being dragged into Woolies as a kid. Bought some of my first records there too.

Warrior in Woolworths
Humble he may seem
Behind his servile innocence
He plots and he schemes

See also The Jam - Saturdays Kids...

Saturday's girls work in Tescos and Woolworths

4. Nick Heyward - These Words

Nicest pop star I ever met. Have I said that before?

Homebase, on the other hand: just too bloody expensive to survive.

I love Elvis
She loves Woodstock
I love Homebase
She loves sunblock
How many times can you make a stand
To fall from the highest of all you've said and done?

3. T-Rex - Misfit 

Long before McDonalds, there was Wimpy. Marc Bolan was buying his burgers there way back in 1966!

Wimpy bar misfit
I don't wanna be
Like Billy the kid
Left hangin' from no tree.

See also Jethro Tull - Up To Me...

Take you to the cinema
And leave you in a Wimpy Bar 
You tell me that we've gone too far 
Come running up to me

2. The Specials - Man At C&A

Even nuclear war does not phase the man at C&A.

I'm the man in grey, 
I'm just the man at C&A
And I don't have a say 
In the war games that they play

See also Half Man Half Biscuit - Venus In Flares...

The man behind the mask at C&A’s was quite polite
He said that when I wore my mac I wouldn't have to fight

1. The Freshies - I'm In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Check-out Desk

What Frank Sidebottom did before he became Frank Sidebottom... hung around the Virgin Megastore all Saturday...

It has to be said that if you were a young lady when I was growing up, then 10 points were immediately added to your sex appeal if you worked in a record shop. Whether you would actually want to appeal to the sort of losers who spent all their Saturday afternoons flicking through the racks... well, that's another matter entirely.

Nobody is allowed to mourn the Virgin Megastore for one simple reason: Richard Branson is a dick.

Any old stores in your record collection? Or have the all closed down?


  1. Great post and, as someone who had a Saturday job in BHS in the 80s, nice to see that get a nod here. And the many lunch breaks I spent from that job, in Woolworths record section, and Athena (and Virgin, though you're right about Branson).

    But - steward's enquiry - Wimpy isn't gone! Far less common, granted, but some cling on.

  2. Really? I haven't seen one in years!

  3. I'd like to add "Thriftshoppin"* by Pianosaurus - a band who played all their songs on toy musical instruments.

    This band also produced one of the greatest rock songs in history*

    "Are You Ready To Rock" (this is not the original, but gives you an idea of how these guys worked) - do check out the original if you can find it.

  4. And the best Woolworths' song is "Love At The 5 and Dime" by Nanci Griffiths:

    "Rita was sixteen years
    Hazel eyes and chestnut hair
    She made the Woolworth counter shine
    And Eddie was a sweet romancer
    And a darn good dancer
    And they waltzed the aisles of the five and dime..."

    1. You'll get no argument from me over Nanci Griffiths though. I always wondered if American Woolworths was the same as British Woolworths.

  5. Very impressive, as ever! There's something about these high street references that is just so homely. Talking of homely, we still have a Homebase here but I don't know how much longer it's going to last...
    Just mentioned this to Mr SDS who was a Genesis fan in his heady, hairy pre-punk college days of the early '70s, and he recited these delightful lyrics from 'Aisle Of Plenty':

    I don't belong here, said old tessa out loud.
    Easy, love, there's the safe way home.
    Thankful for her fine fair discount, tess co-operates
    Still alone in o-hell-o
    See the deadly nightshade grow
    English ribs of beef cut down to 47p lb
    Peek Frean's family assorted from 17 1/2 to 12
    Fairy liquid giant - slashed from 20p to 17 1/2
    Table jelly's at 4p each
    Anchor butter down to 11p for a 1/2
    Birds eye dairy cream sponge on offer this week.
    It's scrambled eggs.

  6. A lyrical mention of another ex-High Street Retailer.
    From Half Man Half Biscuit - National Shite Day:
    "There’s a man with a mullet going mad with a mallet in Millets"

  7. Specials, Scritti, Heyward, Jam, Monochrome Set. Quality, Rol, quality.


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