Record stores seemed a home away from home when I first visited Auckland. While Taste had the hippest records, it was Marbeck’s who had the right mix for me. In the Queen’s Arcade shop, the tightly packed imports made my mouth water, while I bought classic Dylan and classical albums at markdown prices. While working at Rip It Up in the mid-1980s I would always go in post-deadline to drop off the magazine – there was no problem finding an illegal loading zone on Queen Street then – and talk to the music buffs on their staff: Geoff Dunn about guitar heroes, Roger Little about country. Roger Marbeck was usually in the backroom, while his father Murray and uncle Haydn looked after the classical shop.
Now, after 78 years, Marbeck’s has gone the way of most record stores. It’s just another format change, said Roger Marbeck – the third generation to be a record retailer, who wisely sold the family business in 2006 (he now runs the label Ode). From sheet music, to cylinders, to 78s, to LPs and 45s and finally CDs, the shop has seen the technology of recorded music evolve, and adjusted accordingly.
In 2006 I interviewed Murray Marbeck (right) for Blue Smoke. He reminisced about his father Alfred, a silent movie pianist who founded the business, and the highlights of over 50 years selling records: HMV’s bullying of Tanza, the My Fair Lady boom, the arrival of rock’n’roll and finally, the CD.
Murray remembered the difficulties keeping the music coming during the Second World War. While the occasional khaki-clad star came in – actor Robert Montgomery asked for a supply of mouth organs for his fellow troops – just getting fresh stock was an ordeal. His father took out a second-hand dealer’s licence, and Murray spent his Saturday mornings plotting a route around Auckland, to eke out the precious rationed petrol in the family’s Morris 8 while he drove around collecting the used 78s. “We captured quite a good market because we gave the best price … We’d just buy a whole collection of 78s, and those that were absolutely useless or worn we’d throw in the dustbin, and people got to know that – on dustbin night – you’d hear them rattling around in there, in the dustbin outside the door! You know, in a small shop, you just got rid of the dross.”
The images are from Marbeck’s website. The top photo shows the Auckland shop in 1960, with Murray Marbeck at left, and his late brother Haydn at right. Murray Marbeck passed away in 2009.