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Established in December 1974 and on line since 1995, Sound World became Newcastle’s most successful independent record store business. Within several months of opening its first Sound World, it commenced a second retail store. By 1981, Sound World had acquired its third store, this time in one of Newcastle’s largest retail complexes.During the mid 80’s and up into the 90’s, Sound World expanded its retail stores further into the Newcastle region culminating with the opening of it’s Mega Store in the heart of the Newcastle Central Business District.Sound World was founded by Spero Davias, primarily as a record retail music store and secondly as an extension to Spero’s electronic workshops who amongst other ventures, designed and built valve type amplifiers for various venues and bands throughout Australia.
By Spero Davias 10/11/2018
The raw and uncut version By Spero Davias
As Newcastle’s up and coming young Electrical Contractor, I was involved with quite a few Retail stores in the Newcastle Area and became mates with some store owners, like Chester Woods who owned Chester’s and Reg Mason who started Impact Sound.
Being Chester’s personal Electrician, I wired up most of Chesters stores from the west end and into the main section of Hunter Street. At one stage Chester and Reg amalgamated their stores under the one roof and opened up a ‘super store’ in Hunter Street just up from the Civic Center. As it was one large premises, I was chosen to wire up both stores, that’s Electrics, Music, Security Alarms etc… I spent many days and nights putting it all together. As the new Impact Sound was being built there were the usual trades all day long so i chose to set up my gear at night when it was a bit quieter..
To keep the boredom away during the night i would find different records to listen to, whilst i was working, so where does one start to find the right music, well I was like a ‘young kid in a chocolate factory’ with the choice i had. I would stay there working and playing Records all night…
Then came Chester’s Jeans and Records in Maitland, so off i went to wire up the business as you do but when i finished the work, i would go up to the store on a Saturday morning and spin a few records. It was great fun. It’s about then that i thought to myself, that I could do this one day..
My involvement with music stems way back to when I ran my business ‘Spero Electronics’ back in my younger days. By the time i was 18 year old, I was building Guitar and PA amplifiers for the local bands in the area Thus getting to know most of the muso’s around the town. I would frequent most of their gigs at night, at different venues, checking out the sound and making sure it all sounded ok. If i wasn’t satisfied, I would pull the amplifier apart during the ‘the bands break’ and resolder different components back in the amplifier to modify the sound. When i was happy with what i heard i would finally get home before 3am…
It wasn’t too much longer down the track, that Reg had an offer to buy Impact Sound, from a Sydney business person. In the meantime Reg was aware that i was interested in Music, so he suggested that i should join him in a trip to Sydney the next few days and whilst there he could ‘show me the ropes’ and also introduce me to the Sales Managers of the 6 major record companies. Well we drove from the City office of CBS out to Philips then all the way to Homebush to meet EMI then back to the city Festival, Astor then out to Crows Nest to Warner. By now i was enthused and ready to begin my own Record Store business.
Not so much as week went past and we were having a few drinks at an old mate John’s place at Charlestown one Saturday night. We were sitting around the lounge room that i had prewired the speakers a few weeks before into a Quadraphonic Stereo. We were playing ‘dark side of the moon’ in Quad… how good did it sound !!
As the night went on we got talking about the record industry and it was at that point that i asked John who was an ex muso, if he would be interested in going halves in a record store. We both had our own businesses at the time so this would have stretched us to the limit.. well who cared, we were young! we spent the rest of the night trying to work out a good name, At first it was ‘Sound Wave’ then later we agreed on Sound World.
John agreed and also suggested we should start looking for a site on Sunday morning, he also suggested that there was a vacant store in Cardiff, a few doors from where John ran his Cafe business. We approached the owner in the morning and secured the site for I think $50 a week rent. It was only four walls and a roof so there had to be a lot of work to make it into a really cool record store, As it was, I had an excellent Electrical apprentice in Mark working for me at the time, that let me do my ‘own thing’ to a certain extent. So off i went into building a Record Store !!
My first port of call first thing Monday morning was at a mates Record Shop in Wallsend. He just new timber record racks made up so i copied down all the dimensions and also copied the counter and then off looking for decent ‘pine board’ which i found in the converted Islington picture theatre. I loaded up the roof rack of the old Falcon an off i went down Beaumont Street, heading back to Cardiff to start work. Unfortunately some guy decided to J walk across the street which forced me to brake, well the roof rack ropes didn’t hold on well and you can guess what happened next, pine board sheets all over Beaumont Street… not a good way to start a new business.
Back in Cardiff I started work on the shop fit out, I worked from morning to night for at least three months, with John giving me a hand, until it started to resemble something you could call a record shop. We both, in the meantime, had other work commitments from our own businesses, so the work took longer than we anticipated.
As it was approaching Christmas which is a very busy trading period for retail, I had already started to look for staff to man the shop. I didn’t have to look far when I asked Louise across the road if she was interested, She jumped at the chance…
John and I took a day off and drove to Sydney, record shopping for stock. We asked each of the record companies for one of each of their best selling and latest records, we also asked for as many record spare record sleeves/covers as possible. We told them we needed them for decoration!! So we ended up filling up my lounge room at home with the stock. It took Lou and myself Days and Days to work out and price each record and get them ready for sale.
It was the 16th of December 1974 and we were ready to open our first Sound World store. The paint was still drying and the sign writer was just finishing when we opened the doors. The record racks Looked full to the brim with covers as the actual Vinyl record was stored behind the counter. And what about those hundreds of empty covers we brought back, well they were in the racks mixed with the real covers.
The catch phrase here was when a customer brought a record cover to the counter and it was a ‘fake’ we would say, ‘Mate sorry about this but we just sold our last one’, ‘Would you like to order one and we will have it here for you in a couple of days, 90% of our customers were only to happy to place an order. I would correlate all the sold stock for the day and all the orders, call the record companies before 5pm and place our orders BUT we told each one of them that we would collect the stock that night. So by 6pm John and I would jump in the car and off to do the circuit of the Sydney record wholesalers, they always had night staff on duty and our boxes of records were waiting for us at the front desk. There was a docket there waiting so we paid cash from that days takings.
As we were both young and just married at the time we could not afford any spare cash, so this ‘picking up records at night’ went on for many months until we built up some cash reserves and had enough to open up accounts with the record companies. So eventually the overnight record run, which was great fun at the time, reverted to overnight in the train delivered to the Cardiff station.
In the meantime, there was more work in the store. As i knew quite a few Electronics Wholesalers that sold stereo gear, I managed to talk them into filling up our large front window display with their product on a consignment deal. So then we were in the stereo game. We also sold cassette players, speakers Amps, headphones and our biggest seller was the old record stylus.
So we were away, making a small profit, enough to keep the ‘wolves from the door’ When i was called out to a job in Thornton, to wire up a speaker system for music in about half a dozen spec homes. I was driving back into the city along Maitland Road when we stopped behind a bus at a Mayfield bus stop. There were a lot of people getting off the bus that made the place look so busy, then it caught my eye.. I sign in the shop window that read ‘for lease’… well i couldn’t park the car fast enough to go back and check out the store.
I was right there, spoke to the guy, asked the situation, then i said, could i use your phone to call my partner ? John being the conservative type wanted to ask a lot of questions but i had that certain Gut feeling about the position in the street that the shop would potentially be. With those words, i went back to the shop owner and told him to ‘hold the press’ as he had earlier indicated that it was going into the papers tomorrow as a ‘shop vacant’ notice…
I suggested that he keep the ‘store vacant’ advertisement out of the newspaper that next day as I will take over the store. The store was at least double in width and it was part of the The Stag and Hunter Hotel’s right side. After settling down a bit later in the day and looking further at our latest acquisition, i recall thinking the shop was a tad to big for just a record shop so i hightailed into town to see Garry and Kevin in their jeans store in King St. I suggested we could look at doing something similar to the Chester and Reg situation, were we could have the two stores in the same building divided by archways in the center. And so it was, I won the left side and Garry took the Right side as a sub lease. This was now around February 1975.
Both shop building teams were away ! I called in the help of my old mate Malcolm Fraser builder extraordinaire, where together we set up a full workshop in the middle of the shop which was to last around 3 months mainly working at night. We would start work at 6pm and tried to finish the day by 3am in the morning. The secret to our late night working was to make sure we were in the bottle shop in the next door hotel by the time they closed and chose a few bottles of the best red we could drink !! I think it was around midnight when we cracked open the first one !! Come to think about it, I am still wondering how the Hotel Management let us get away with it all, the extra loud music of Led Zep, the loud hammering and the ear piercing noise of the electric saws till 3am !!!
to be continued….
By Spero Davias