Remembering Alan Jensen Disc Jockey Record Shop – by Tony May for Hastings Town Magazine

Remembering Alan Jensen (‘Big Al’ And The ‘DJ’).

In the early 1970’s a local businessman-Johnny Hodgson, owned a record shop in the Old Town of Hastings entitled ‘The Disc Jockey’. The shop was doing very well but Hodgson had other business interests (like the promotion of bands on Hastings Pier) and these were beginning to take up more and more of his time. Johnny decided to put an advert in the local paper for someone to help him run the shop. Alan Jensen (at this point working for Courts) applied for and got the job. Hodgson and his wife (who ran a hairdressers shop in the Old Town) were well known locally and Johnny had political ambitions. In 1972 those political ambitions became a reality when Johnny was duly elected as a Hastings Councillor. Seeing his chance, Alan Jensen offered to buy Johnny out of the shop. His offer was accepted and the pair went their separate ways.

A larger than life character and a born showman, Alan soon managed to make a success of ‘The DJ’ (as it became more commonly known) and swiftly set about moving premises to a more central position in Hastings at the bottom of Queens Rd. For a short time, the shop was renamed ‘The Disc Jockey +1’ but Jensen had another way in mind about how to stamp his personality upon the shop… the invention of ‘Big Al’ – a caricature ‘mascot’ of Jensen himself (the medallion around the ‘creatures’ neck featured the words ‘I Like Big Al’).

‘Big Al’ was a massive success and gave the shop a unique (and very memorable) image. ‘Big Al’ appeared in all the shops newspaper advertisements and on all of the shops printed bags. With his beautiful and glamorous wife Sue at his side, Alan swiftly established ‘The DJ’ as the most popular and trendy place to buy your records in Hastings. A chart of the DJ’s best selling singles and albums appeared weekly in The Hastings Observer and regular ‘competitions and give-aways’ ensured that another smiling picture of Alan (along with the latest winner/s) was frequently in print. In short, Alan Jensen was not just a flamboyant and confident character he was a fine businessman.

Then of course there was the shop’s staff. As conclusively proven by his wife Sue, Alan was definitely a man with an eye for the ladies and invariably the shop would have a bevy of beauties behind the counter. While in today’s day and age such a practice might be frowned upon, (like the similar period practice of offering ladies free entry to nightclubs) it certainly ensured that the DJ was frequented by most of the young male record buyers in the town… including me!

It is worth mentioning here also that in the 70’s and 80’s competition to The DJ was fierce and there was at least 8-10 places (not including second hand outlets) in Hastings town centre alone where you could buy records, tapes (and latterly cd’s)..

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Hastings Records Shops by Tony May for Hastings Town Magazine

As regular readers will know, I have a very soft spot for all things musical and have written a number of articles for H.T. about local record shops and characters associated with them.

Well, I’m delighted to inform you this month that a new website called ‘The British Record Shop Archive’ has been set up by another such enthusiast, Leon Parker.

The aim of the website is not just to record for posterity the name of every record shop to ever open its doors in the U.K. but to also make sure that the social interaction, culture and day-to-day way of life that was buying a physical music product from a real person over a counter is documented and remembered.

Having been in more record shops than Sir Richard Branson over the years I have been having a whale of a time contributing photos, memories and memorabilia to the site and you will be glad to know, have personally made sure that Jack & Sonia London’s ‘The Record Shop’ webpage has been royally decked out and the part they played here in Hastings for 44 years properly recorded.

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In fact, Hastings Town has played quite a large part in helping me to see that Hastings record outlets are not forgotten. As well as my article on Jack London, I have contributed my article ‘Remembering Alan Jensen’ about the man we knew and loved as ‘Big Al’ of The Disc Jockey and submitted the photos our sadly missed friend, Ron Fellows, sent me of Stylus Records.

Being a true ‘anorak’ I also sent in photos of a few old local record shop bags I found stored away in the loft as well.

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Its sobering to think now that at the height of the popularity of vinyl records in the 1980’s there used to be thousands of independent record shops in the U.K. In 2009 that figure had dropped to just 269 (according to The Independent newspaper).

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Oh No My Beloved Debenhams – Tony May

photo: Tony May

Tony May… I’m planning a possible Debenhams article for ‘Hastings Town’ magazine as I ‘process’ my feelings re yesterdays awful news. In the meantime here is a blog containing (mostly) my happy memories associated with Debenhams Hastings store… https://tmchristmas.blogspot.com

Jeremy Peter Harrison… My best memory was back in the 1980s. I was shopping in the men’s department which at that time was at the back (seafront side). I was amazed to see two Lads pick up a complete rail of suits and run straight for the door. They hadn’t done their homework- it was a revolving door and they got jammed solid……!

Brigitte Lee… I worked on Santa’s Grotto, probably around 1980. Gordon worked in the lift that Christmas. I had started there as a Saturday girl, probably mid 70s. My Mum Trixie worked there and years later my daughter was a Saturday girl in another branch. Debenhams will leave a terrible hole in many town centres.

Judy Atkinson… I always remember that your mum was Miss Debenhams & still held the title as they never held the contest again

Janine Hemsley… I was singing on the gig that night at the Falaise Hall. 😂. We were so proud x My beautiful Mum Trixie was crowned Miss Debenhams in 1975. Those were the days when there were fashion shows during the day on the shop floor. Mum worked there for quite a few years.

Patricia Wapshott… Janine, I remember your beautiful Mum working on the make up counter, she was so glamorous and so lovely to talk to, her and my Mum who loved and was always buying makeup from her always got on so well xx

Janine Hemsley… I worked there briefly for Estée Lauder. I trod on a cable and put the whole of the first floor out. It was a Christmas promotion when Youth Dew first came out

Lucy Pappas… Tony, love your blog post x My oldest sister worked in the cafe more than 50 years ago. It seemed the height of sophistication to go for a milk shake and a bun when she was there. I still like the cafe even though it appears to be from another era. I’ll miss Debenhams, one of the few places I go to for pretty underwear and the occasional frock. Over the years, I’ve also bought luggage, bed linen, Christmas presents, new baby presents, make up, jewellery, the list could go on. What a loss to Hastings!

Judie Struys… Lucy, it wasn’t the biggest Debenhams but it was the heart of the town. I’ve been visiting it since I was 12. There used to be a special bit for teenagers in the 1970s, but I’ve forgotten what it was called. I used to buy so many of my clothes there when I was young. I’m so sad for the staff, some of whom have been there for decades.

Leigh Wieland-Boys… My first job on arriving in Hastings in 1971, it was Plummers then. So sad

Susan Butchers… We went there today no sale everything just as it’s always been

Fred Marsh… does any one remember my mum Doris Santer she worked at Plummers during the war and returned in the 60s up until her retirement, now she could tell many a tale about Debs.

Brigitte Lee… I remember Doris. I lovely cheerful lady. I have a feeling she worked in the jumper dept when I started as a Saturday girl.

Stephen Moran… A really sad day, my sister used to work in the office in Plummers during the seventies and I have such fond memories of taking my then two year old daughter to the cafe for coffee (me not her!) and cake most mornings.

Jane Dorsett… Really sad, I was a window dresser at Debenhams, worked with Gary Palmer, Teresa White, our boss was Paul Coombes, the windows always looked lovely and the Christmas grottos we use to do, very happy memories.

Alan Esdaile… Very sad news. What’s going to become of it now? May I suggest, it would be perfect for a theatre/venue with parking at the town centre car parks nearby and St Mary In The Castle would be perfect for the Bayeux Tapestry.

Jack Irving… Excellent idea

Tony May…Great to hear a lot of your reminisences about Hastings Debenhams! If any of you have any old photographs of Debenhams/Plumber Roddis/ of well-known/loved members of staff or of anything to do with Debenhams please send them to me privately by e mailing unseated.tony@gmail.com. I have written a personal tribute to the store and am looking for some photos to go with the piece. The photos need to be yours though and not copyrighted otherwise I will not be able to publish them in ‘Hastings Town’ magazine. If I get more than I need I may well decide to write a ‘follow up’ story. Debenhams will be such a HUGE loss not just to our High Street but to our social history as well and I want to make sure that, if nothing else, the national archives won’t forget that…

Judie Struys… I remember that lady in Debenhams. So glamorous!

Jane Dorsett… I worked as a window dresser in Debenhams in the early 1980s, I worked with a friend called Teresa White, would love to get in contact with her, if she still lives in Hastings.

 

Medicine Head and Factory – Hastings Pier 12th March 1976

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ticket supplied by Mick Mepham,          review supplied by Sarah Harvey.

Tony May… A personal appeal here for some help from you all. I am looking for pictures of the band Medicine Head which appeared in the local newspapers from their Hastings pier gigs during the 1970’s. One particular picture is said to include my friend, Simon Griffiths (otherwise known to a lot of you as Karl) who was a bouncer on the pier for a short time in the background. I do not have many pictures of Simon (only those from the Bexhill Observer of 1977) so would really appreciate any of him from any time period. If anyone here can help I would be very grateful.

Andy Qunta… Wow! 40 years to the day! I don’t really remember this gig, but I’m sure I wasn’t thinking that 40 years from now, Factory will be about to release their first album!

Steve Kinch… I don’t recall ever playing with Medicine Head… then again, I don’t remember what I had for breakfast.

Peter Fairless…. As well as the 12th March 1977 they played in September ’74, too. What a great band!

Jim Munday… Yes, but not very good at sums… 

Chris Meachen… Nice blokes, one of the very few acts that bought us a drink for dragging their gear on…

Gerry  Fortsch… That was a bloody long haul to get your gear on the pier, I remember it well.

Chris Giles… Medicine Head great group …enjoyed watching them and their music brilliant …had forgotten I’d gone and seen them

St Clements Caves Hastings? Who was the band? Can you help asks Tony May

Tony May…Tony from Hastings Town’ magazine here! I found this old, slightly blurred B&W photo in a box up at ‘Teddy Tinkers’ and I think it may have been taken in St Clement’s Caves. What do you think? Can you identify any of the people in the photo? Any light you can shine on this would be appreciated!

Steve Cooke… Great pic. Home made bass.

Monica Bane… Alan!, Was in the Caves around 1958. Double bass player I’m sure was Johnny Griffith’s
And Jeff Coats on banjo

Alan Esdaile… Looks like St Clement’s Caves.

Mick O’Dowd… I agree Alan. Probably late 50’s

Josie Lawson… Try find David Hartley Tony. He used to be a manager at St Clements caves. I used to go there a lot.

Elvis Curtis… Sorry no idea if you know a guy called Sid in the old gits network group. He may know, hope he can help

Biddy The Tubman – Blue plaque event – Sunday 11th August 2019

BIDDY THE TUBMAN BLUE PLAQUE Event! Sunday 11th August 2019 – 15:30pm – 17 West Street, Old Town, Hastings

Official Unveiling by Christian Burton (Chairman Hastings Winkle Club) & James Edward Bacon (Deputy Mayor of Hastings)

https://www.oldtowncarnivalweek.co.uk/events/

or more information… Sue Church https://www.facebook.com/groups/1629432393840076/

photo Kathy Wood

photos by Jim Breeds https://www.facebook.com/HAPP1066/

Roger Simmonds… I remember him well !

Alan Pepper… Have just been watching him on old silent film in the twenties great stuff ! They’re pushing the boat out for him lol

Jacqueline Marsh… I can remember seeing him he was amazing

Jeanette Jones… I remember him coming round selling fish “Biddy’s the Best”.

Tony Court-holmes… we were there, good to see so many people

Lloyd Johnson… What a star Biddy was!….remember seeing him endless times in the 50s….us kids Love him!…. I’m just thinking it surely couldn’t have been this Biddy doing his tricks in the barrel in the 50s .He would have been in his 70s but maybe it was …does anyone know….it was near The Pier that I use to see him with my Mum & Grandparents…I remember his tub overturning and he would disappear and everyone thought he was drowning.

Amanda Hilton… remember my grandad telling me about Biddy

Alan Esdaile… Remember seeing him in the sixties and my mum went in his tub when she was young.

Lloyd Johnson… Here you go! Here’s Biddy for all those that never saw him perform…a great piece of film!…it makes feel so happy to watch this !…proof that our happy childhood was real and not a distant fantasy we look back on in old age!….

Peter Fairless… Thanks Lloyd.

Lloyd Johnson… It’s great to see him like this isn’t it?…if I remember correctly he lived behind Priory road secondary modern boys school in the late 50s when I went there and use to let the kids park their bikes in his garden if the school bike shed was full….lovely old chap!…

Peter Fairless… I didn’t ever see him perform, Lloyd, so this is fascinating. I’m wondering if James Bacon could ever be persuaded to do a reenactment?

Lloyd Johnson… maybe you should start a FB group for him to do it for a Hastings Charity…..and people could send funds to go to the charity..

Colin Tapp… I was watching this on utube recently thought it could be a subject for my next painting

Alan Esdaile… Wonderful

Lynda Whatley… Remember seeing him when I was a child and lived in Hastings

Mick O’Dowd… Saw him many times. Entertaining!

Tony Court-holmes… my mum went in that tub

Tony May… A bit later than most but I wanted to do a nice job for this and so I’ve had to take my time. A great song and a wonderful moment dedicated to a great man…

 

Tony May DJ – Speakeasy Club Kings Road 1982

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Tony May….While we are on the subject of D.J’s in situ, here’s a pic of me D.J’ing at ‘Speakeasy’ along Kings Rd from around 1982. How things have changed these days! No, mics for D.J’s, no record decks – no records!

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Pete Fairless….The DJ played a lot of ABC and Spandau Ballet, as I recall

Tony Court-holmes….i remember humping gear up into some strange places you had gigs

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all photos supplied by Tony May

Tony May…..Yes, wonderful days – I was busy busy busy then most of it concerning a search for RECORDS – HA HA.

Matt Thomas…..HAIR!!!!!!!! LOL

Leigh Wieland-Boys…..we always used to wait for the first person to get up on the dance floor…..so that was you, was it?! Unfortunately I can’t seem to enlarge this photo so can’t see them very well. I worked various pubs & clubs, glass collector at Aquarius 1971-1972 – Cocktail waitress at Saturdays 1975-1976, Cinque Ports 1976-1979, also Scallis during that time (as well as a full time job)

Tony May…..Thanks guys! Yes, Leigh – I was always one of the first to ‘get on up and get down’ HA HA

Pete Fairless…..It was a great little club, spent quite a bit of time there, early ’80s…

Paul Bryant… I particularly liked the cinema section they had there,always showing a dodgy horror movie. Sure it was Colin Russell djing down there but my memory isn’t as good as it used to be,plus it was a long time ago

Jeff Belton… Reminds me when I did my second disco. In a place called Marlow House, Sidcup, Kent. Had their own set up, two decks, and a lighting control. All I had to take was my records , headphones, mic. This was in the late 1983.
Notice the pop group on the poster, The Thompson Twins or is it Imagination ?
After 1983 I carried on doing discos for 21 years , 2004. Those were the days lol.

Pete Fairless… That’s Imagination, Jeff

Paul Bryant… Sorry it’s actually Shalimar.

Terry Hardwick… I was the DJ Speakeasy Colin Russell worked with me . This is where I met Tony.

 

 

New Romantics at The Crypt late 80’s

supplied by Tony May

Tony May… Here’s an old pic taken in the ‘New Romantic’ days at The Crypt… Alex Bailey is the one in the black vest and Joe Strange is the guy wearing the make up and with the denim jacket but I don’t know who the other person is?  87-89 ish..

Martin Richter…Nicky Blewitt ? A Rain Station poster – there`s a story

Karen Sweatman Was Blackman… That’s what I thought

Clive Williams… I’m guessing 88 could be 89

Martin Richter… possibly a bit earlier ? I`ve got the press cuttings somewhere !

 

Wanted info on Hastings Music cd’s – asks Tony May

Tony May… Something to get your brains working on here! I am currently researching the history of the ‘Hastings Music Various Artists’ CD with an eye on a future article. If any of you have any such CD’s can you post a pic of them here, please. So far I know of about 10 or 11 but do not have copies of all of them and could do with information about them. Also, do any of you know about any vinyl compilations of local artists? I do not know of any? The CD’s I have in my collection are as follows: Underground Music Vol 1 (1998), Human Action Through Music (2005), 24th State – The America Ground Hastings (2010), RX87 – The Songs Of U2 (undated but 2012), One Hastings, Many Voices Volume 1 (2016), Love Hastings, Love Yourself (2017). Happy head scratching!

Kevin Burchett… Down Hastings by Jiggery Pokery put together for the instalation of the old lifeboat does that count?

Tony May… If its a various artists album then yes but if all the tracks are by Jiggery Pokery, then no. Thanks for this though Kev!

Kevin Burchett… ok they are all by the same artist

Andy Gunton… I co-produced a CD of local artists music in aid of Hastings Pier, after the fire in 2010. It was called ‘Not the end of the pier’. You’re welcome to have a copy.

Tony Davis… Good cd. I’ve played tracks from it on Carnival Fm

Alan Esdaile… Bare Faced Blues 2014.

Steve Amos… Have you got Pissarro’s Jazz and blues volume 1 (not sure if there was ever a volume 2). It’s from some time in the nineties and has some great tracks, including Lianne Carroll doing a terrific version of Perfect Day.

 

Martyn Baker… Uppers on the south downs

Smart Huggett… ‘Hastings Musicians Tsunami Appeal’ (2006), ‘Boiling Over’ (1998), ‘1066 Compilation 2000 and our mate Reuben put this CD-R out: ‘From Beneath The Sea’ (2010) and mostly-Hastings freebie (and a fair few Eastbourne acts) from Rye’s Rocksalts Festival (2006). I always used to pick these things up when I found them! I put out several CD-R and tape compilations myself, largely of Hastings musicians but with the odd guest from further afield. They’re all listed on Discogs under our old Coastline and Dizzy Tiger labels. https://www.discogs.com/label/111494-Coastline-Records https://www.discogs.com/label/89679-Dizzy-Tiger-Music-Co

Jack & Sonia London – The Record Shop Photos from Tony May

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all photos Tony May

Tony May… I’ve managed to find the photos of Jack & Sonia London I promised to look for. With LP’s coming back I wonder what Jack & Sonia would have to say. Such a nice couple and they gave us 44 years of faithful service…

Phil Gill… Wonderful couple, lovely photos. Always a joy to visit their shop.

Peter Fairless… Brilliant, Tony! Brings back many memories, as Phil just said, it was – never knew what Jack was going to suggest I listen to next!

Andrew Clifton… Very nice Tony. Shame they never had children to carry on with the shop.

Phil Gill… Always remember going into the booth with a couple of 13 year old friends to listen to Thunderclap Newman’s Something in the Air. He knew we didn’t have any money to buy it, but he still played it for us. And when Hey Jude was released as the first single on Apple, he had a box of apples and gave away a free one with every copy he sold. Diamond geezer.

Alan Esdaile… Wonderful. Thanks for posting Tony.

Jon McCallion… Brilliant place so many hours spent there

Alan Esdaile… Great to see Abrahams in the background and the rack of Steam records.

Alan Pepper… Yes what a great man he was always time for any customer ! Thought I knew a lot but he was something else . He would reel off the catalogue number and everything. Jazz in particular. Fab memories. Thank you. TAKE ME BACK TO THAT SHOP!!

Mick O’Dowd… The real Gent of record shop owners. Never be able to replace these.

Cliff Wootton… Fantastic. So nice to have pictures of Jack & Sonia. They were close friends of Mum & Dad and always had time for their customers. Happy memories of hours spent chatting to Jack about records.

Eugene Hughes… Omg. I remember The Record Shop so well and the Fab Boutique over the road. Then it became Two Plus One in Havelock Rd. I understand Brian Fisher is still going well and living in Westfield.

supplied by Andre Martin