Lost in the Booth: British Record Store Listening Booths as Atmospheric Sites of Intimacy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In October 2019, Derbyshire Live posted an online article to do with an archive photograph of the demolition of the Spot, the location of Dalton’s, a highly popular shop in the centre of Derby during the 1950s and 1960s. Indeed, a place where many local families had purchased their first radios and televisions, it was also a “popular haunt for teenagers keen to buy the latest chart hits which they could listen to in one of the shop’s listening booths”. For, put simply, this was where “[y]ou would select a record you wanted to hear, tell the staff and then go into one of the listening booths and put on a set of headphones. The staff would then put the record on” (Goddard, 4th October, 2019, n.p.). Moreover, Graham Sharpe, in his book Vinyl Countdown (2019), notes that one of the most ‘interesting features’ of Jacaranda Records Phase One, Slater Street, Liverpool, are “the chintzy garden-shed listening booths equipped with little record players on which you could listen to prospective buys” (p.295).
With all of this in mind, this chapter is concerned with both records stores and certain places within them as sonic microcosms. Whilst acknowledging the community-enhancing aspects of the record store resulting in them being understood and appreciated as shared cultural spaces, this chapter examines distinct sites within the record store – namely, listening booths – as very intimate, contemplative spaces-within-spaces. Employing the combined approaches of cultural history, urban geography, and the still-emerging study of atmospheres (see, for example, Griffero, 2016), this chapter considers both the aesthetic and atmospheric significance of the listening booth – that is, from the ‘space age’, headphone-less, cell-like rows found in HMV, Oxford Street, London, mid-20th Century, to the more bespoke, retro-imbued, quirky places to be found amid the high-street vinyl revival emporiums of today.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Life, Death and Afterlife of the Record Store
Subtitle of host publicationA Global History
EditorsGina Arnold, John Dougan, Christine Feldman-Barrett, Matthew Worley
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
ISBN (Electronic)9781501384523, 9781501384530
ISBN (Print)9781501384516, 9781501384509
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2023


  • Atmospheres
  • Intimacy
  • Listening Booths
  • Record Shops
  • Record Stores
  • Subcultures


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