Branson tells Stuart Maconie on BBC Radio 6 Music that his Virgin stores were the first time music lovers could go to a proper store. An ad for the store:
There are no dopes at Virgin Records, that’s because all our customers are cool. They know a swell joint when they see one.
The alternative was to go to a very staid Woolworths or Menzies to buy your music, it was incredibly dull, and this was the first time that people could come into a record shop and it would have pillows on the floor, there were bootlegs on the wall. There were people that actually knew about music, who went there to talk about music, and if you did smoke a joint sitting on the pillows you weren’t going to be told to leave the store. It was a proper music shop.
That attracted a crowd:
There was a shop in Liverpool which we opened… and the first week the takings were £20,000 and the next week it was £19k, next week £18k and it got down to about £500 and I decided I’d better go up to Liverpool to find out what was happening, and it had become a club. There was no way anybody could get to the till to buy any music. It was just a place that every single person in Liverpool went to hang out, and it was a free club of course. So that went a little bit too far
The Sex Pistols play on a boat on the Thames to celebrate the Silver Jubilee and the release of God Save The Queen. Police raid the boat after the band plays Anarchy in front of Parliament, and McLaren is arrested.
Branson signs the Sex Pistols.
I saw them live in London I thought they were incredibly exciting. I rang up the chairman of EMI and said if he wanted to get rid of his embarrassment give me a ring and I was told quite bluntly that they were happy with the Sex Pistols. That night they went on the Bill Grundy show … the next morning at literally about 6:30 in the morning I got a call saying come over over for breakfast, and I arrived and he handed over the Sex Pistols contract and said the Sex Pistols are yours. We shook hands with Malcom Mclaren who promptly then went and signed them to A&M, at lunchtime they threw up all over A&M’s desks and by the afternoon they were a Virgin band.
Branson starts Virgin Records and Virgin Music Publishing. The label launches with Gong’s Radio Gnome Invisible Part 1, Faust’s The Faust Tapes, Elkie Brooks’ Manor Live and Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, which is one of the biggest selling albums of the decade and the soundtrack to The Exorcist.
Branson opens the first Virgin Records store at 24 Oxford Street, London. The first record he sells is an album by Tangerine Dream.