Once it was a landmark for York teenagers, now a bench in King’s Square reminds us of Sound Effect; York’s first dedicated record shop. MATT CLARK reminisces with its owner.

THESE days music is everywhere. In 1970 it was nowhere, at least not in York. The odd electrical retailer may have stocked a few choice albums, but where, as a teenager, could you hope to hear the latest album by Van der Graaf Generator?

A point not lost on Nick Banks.

At 22 he was already au fait with the music industry, having worked in sales promotion for CBS and Polydor. During his time on the road it often dawned on him that York was being left behind.

So he opened Sound Effect on King’s Square, York’s first outlet dedicated solely to records and cassettes.

“It was a hell of a gamble,” Nick says. “The shop was a derelict shell, but I was determined to make it work.”

He needn’t have worried; almost overnight Sound Effect was top of the pops. So successful the BBC added it to their list of contributors for the week’s top 20.

“I was the first to be chosen in York and you were fairly heavily guarded in the sense you couldn’t disclose that you were a shop that helped compile the chart, because the record companies would be keen to know.

“Someone would come and collect the recorded sales for the week in an envelope on Saturday night, then it was couriered down to London.”

Sound Effect was quickly frequented by all the local DJs, not to mention teenagers desperate for somewhere to pop into on a Saturday afternoon.

“It was a bit more than just a pop in. Sound Effect became a social hub with people coming in for hours, listening to music and chatting with friends.

“In its heyday I had to employ a security man to make sure people could get in and out alright, because it was so busy.”

Star names showed up too, like Desmond Decker and Barry Biggs. Not to mention Judge Dread.

York Press:
 Desmond Dekker, with Nick Banks, signs copies of his latest release for fans. Desmond had a No 1 hit in 1968 with Israelites

“He had a top ten and nine top 40s and was an enormous guy who had the infamy of having almost every record banned by the BBC. That was a busy day.

“We also had Dr Francis Jackson the Minster organist who brought out an album and made a personal appearance, although he wasn’t quite as well attended.”

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Listening booths were popular at the time, but Nick was a bit more adventurous, installing, instead, sets of headphones so that people didn’t have to sit in what he calls ‘a smelly cupboard.’

Sound Effect was just what York needed. There was a burgeoning music scene, thanks in part to the ‘new’ university, and a number of clubs sprang up to cater for Northern Soul fans.

Another point not lost on Nick.

“I used to import soul records from America, People would hear these songs in places like Wigan Casino, but couldn’t get them because they weren’t yet released in the UK.

“And unless it was played on the radio, DJs had to come to someone like me to find out whether a record was suitable for their club or mobile disco.”

York Press:
Dr Francis Jackson, who was the Master of Music at York Minster signs copies of his album Organ Music from York Minster with Nick Banks at the store

Once indispensable, Sound Effect is no more, but in its memory there is a new bench in Kings Square in place of one Nick presented in the seventies. Like the shop, it became something of a landmark for people who remembered the times they had there and the people they met.

“It was a good era, a lot of good times had by a lot of people,” says Nick. “Recently one of my members of staff told me it was the happiest time of her life and the best job she ever had.”

York Press:
Barry Biggs, who had a hit in the singles charts with Sideshow in 1976, signing autographs at the store