Sounds Unlimited, 149 North Street

Formerly Sounds Unlimited, 149 North Street, Brighton
Photo by Debbie Lias

In the 70s and 80s I only ever bought soul music, and Sounds Unlimited was far and away the best place to buy new soul releases as it used to stock all the brand new imports from America. One could buy stereo equipment and more ‘general’ records upstairs, but it was the hot, atmospheric little room downstairs, manned for a number of years by semi-legendary Brighton DJ, ‘King Jerry’, that used to draw me in every Saturday morning before releasing me into a teeming North Street replete with new records but minus most of my weekly wages.

By 1976 or 1977 it was in trouble and went bust. I remember the great closing-down sales they held for a few weeks where one could buy the stock at excellent prices before it closed for good.

Soon after the final sale I walked past one lunch-time and happened to notice that there were loads of records still inside so I knocked on the door and asked if I could come in and look around. I was told that I couldn’t but was invited to make an offer for the remaining singles as a bulk buy. On the spur of the moment I ventured £100 which was accepted. The next day I turned up with a van and left with about 5000 singles.

Comments about this page

  • “King Jerry”, wasn’t he the short guy who looked like an ape and walked with a limp?

    By Paul Hubbard (02/05/2009)
  • Yes, that was him alright. He was very knowledgeable as well. I had a very eclectic record collection in my (pre-punk rock coming of age) mid teens. I could happily listen to Lorrain Ellison’s ‘Stay With Me’ 45 and then something by Hawkwind and then Timmy Thomas’s ‘Why Can’t We Live Togher’ on Mojo or The Detroit Emeralds’ ‘Feel The Need’ on Janus followed by a Chuck Berry record. That basement was Jerry’s own kingdom. It was certainly ‘thee’ place to go for stuff like yellow label Stax singles as I did.

    By Paul Martin (07/05/2009)
  • To Paul Hubbard – Yes, he was!

    By John Lias (07/05/2009)
  • I remember a lanky salesman Kaz in the mid-70s, with straight, long black hair and spectacles. Could have been auditioning for Gong! Strategically placed opposite the  coffee house Vasso’s, this was the first store in Brighton to stock the even then obscure Jade Warrior albums.

    By Sedat Nemli (29/09/2009)
  • Let me correct my last posting – my comments were meant for Fine Records, not Sounds Unlimited. Apologies. I did go to SU’s closing down sale however, and picked up (then) new releases of Terry Reid and Laur Nyro for PSTG 1 each, not to mention a pair of wonderful speakers for next to nothing. It must have been late 1976.

    By Sedat Nemli (29/09/2009)
  • Whatever happened to Dave Gilbey owner / manager? of Sounds Unlimited? The last time I heard him he was on Radio (Brighton) Sussex with Stuart Hobday doing a program called ‘Hello There’.

    By Bob (04/04/2011)
  • I remember very well going into Sounds Unlimited to buy the single ‘Layla’ by Derek & the Dominoes in 1972 and I’m sure I was served by King Jerry. He seemed to always be surrounded by girls and I think he just wanted to be rid of me as there were 2 girls chatting to him. He leaned over the counter and said ‘Here you are 70p’ and handed me the 7 minute version, I couldn’t believe it, what a bargain! On another occasion I went to the same shop in 1973 to buy the album ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ by David Bowie and they only had the American version with the cartoon image on the front, it was the same price – £ 2.20, so another bargain!

    By Paul Clarkson (27/01/2012)
  • Ah – Sounds Unlimited was a real haven. I went there most Saturdays to stock up on singles – I was DJ’ing on a pirate station and needed to be current! I well remember that half the basement was taken up with a “dead room” with the most superb looking stereo setup. You could have your albums cleaned for 50p a time there too! And yes, Kaz from Fine Records in Brighton Square – he turned me onto Sandy Denny, and later Ultravox. He also threw legendary parties – somewhere in Hove, I believe.

    By Marc Turner (25/02/2013)
  • Editor’s Note:

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    By Georgia Salmon (27/02/2014)
  • I remember King Jerry being dumbfounded that a teenage hippy like me was asking to order Earth,Wind and Fires ‘Head to the Sky’ album. He was virtually speechless.

    By Mark Harris (03/02/2018)
  • I was part of the original team that set up the shop. We refurbished the interior and created a mezzanine floor. It was my first job after leaving college and I was asked whether I wanted to sell records upstairs in the pop muic department or downstairs in the classical and hi-fi. I chose the latter as my first love was Prog rock/Jazz and I knew the pop would drive me crazy. I also demonstrated in the hi-fi room. I only worked there for 1-2 years and commuted from Crawley where we had previously had a store called Sound Studio in the High Street.

    By Graham Holder (08/05/2020)
  • In response to the comment regarding Dave Gilbey owner/manager above. Dave was part of a management team of three. The main driving force was Philip Hymas of Crawley and the money man was tony Munson. They all worked at the store but I was never party to the actual ownership structure. The ‘dead’ room referred to was my main place of work when someone was interested in buying hi-fi they would come to the sound room where I could demonstrate various systems. We had a switchboard with approx 20 pairs of speakers wired in. I could put on a record and demonstrate the speakers one after the other until the customer could make a decision. Unfortunately they were often disappointed that the speaker they aspired to underperformed when compared with lower cost offerings. I never sold a pair of Quad Electrostatics and they were supposed to be the best money could buy, I did sell a lot of Tannoy speakers though as they sounded better. I still have the turntable/tone arm and speaker combination that I bought whilst working there in 1972 and they still sound great and I got staff discount!

    By Graham Holder (08/05/2020)
  • After further research I realise that Dave Gilbee is the correct spelling. He died in 2017 and his biog can be found as Dave MacKay (his DJ name) at Tony Monson and the Brighton shop are also mentioned.

    By Graham Holder (08/05/2020)
  • I remember both Sound Unlimited and King Jerry as we used to visit the Revolution Disco at the KingsWest Centre at the weekends where Jerry was normally DJ’ing. He introduced us to both Save Me by Silver Convention and The Hustle by Van McCoy well before they became hits!

    By Jon Beer (25/10/2020)
  • I too have a connection to Sounds Unlimited. Dave Gillbee was my brother-in-law while he was married to my Sister Lis. For the last couple of years I was at school, every holiday I shipped out to Brighton to stay with them and to help out in the singles basement. I don’t actually ever recall being paid for my labours, but what a dream job for a music mad teenager. Yes, I discovered a lot of these obscure imports and it modelled my later tastes. That and the glossy hi-fi upstairs were a real formative experience for me. One Xmas holiday in 1971, they took me to my first gig, it was Elton John (in full pixie costume) at the Dome, just as he was on the cusp of becoming a star.

    By Charles Biggie (20/07/2021)
  • I had the pleasure of working the “pop” section upstairs and I helped set up the shop along with Graham. worked at sound studio in Crawley…got my first hi fi there…SP25, trio amp and wharfedale speakers. Graham exposed me to soft machine …and stockhusen…those were the days!

    By mark stejskal (07/08/2021)

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