Rockbrat Remembers: Impact Records (Canberra)

Posted: March 20, 2012 by Cowboy Col in Rockbrat Remembers:
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In 2012, the site of Impact Records is now home to a physio business…. Photo (c) Cowboy Col

One of life’s great ironies is that many clichés are actually true. Familiarity breeds contempt. This does not just apply to people, but also to retail shops. Let me explain. You remember how you when you were growing up, there were certain store that you used to go in all the time – a milk bar, a record store, a second hand store – whatever it was. Years went by and the store was still there. You got older, but it was comforting to know that your favourite store was still there. Then years later, the store is gone. You had ample opportunity to take just one photo of your favourite store – but never did. You thought it would always be there right, so you never did.  Many people lament that the competitive squeeze in retail over the years has gradually pushed these unique stores out of business with the consumer funnelled to multinational conglomerates, shopping malls and mega malls and the like. Let’s take music retailers for example. No longer does the little independent retailer exist. Nope, it’s a chain store, and it’s probably owned by some multinational retailer who also owns a glut of tyre, liquor and chemist stores. Ever get the feeling you’ve been conned ? If you are a youngun’ reading this, I hate to tell you, but the glory days of music retail (and rock ‘n’ roll for that matter) are locked away in the memory bank. As a record buyer in the late 70’s, 80s and 90s – I lived in record stores, which sadly, no longer exist.

Today I want to reflect on the ONE and ONLY music retailer in Canberra that dominated the retail landscape for over 20 years. Of course I’m talking about Impact Records. In the mid 80’s, Canberra had a reputation as the death metal capital of Australia, and with world class bands like Armoured Angel at the forefront, the metal scene burgeoned well into the late 80s with Alchemist and the like. Impact Records stocked a huge range of import metal albums, even stuff that was not seen in Sydney’s Utopia. Yet it was not just metal, there range was diverse and massive. It was a gathering place in Canberra for rock folk, people seriously into rock n roll (like me), pick up the gig guide, buy the latest import fanzines and always – tone and tons of LP records.  I remember travelling down to Canberra many times from 1985 onwards – just to go to Impact Records. That’s how good it was. They used to occasionally have great sales too, with much of the stock dragged outside on tables.  From memory, the original store used to be located upstairs on level 1 at the Boulevard Building in Akuna Street, Canberra. Another stalwart of the Canberra landscape, Electric Shadows cinema, used to be downstairs. I have strong memories of heading in here on cold winter days to pick up the latest issue of Kerrang! Or to check out the latest import metal LPs. I remember buying a Dio 12” and some other stuff in 1986. From then on, Mr Rockbrat and I made regular trips to the nation’s capital to head to Impact, to go “impacting”. There was Lucy from Armoured Angel behind the counter – and metal playing over the stores PA. Some years later, and Impact moved to bigger premises at the lower level of the Saraton Building, Cnr East Row & City Wlk, next to Kim’s Asian grocery. As the music landscape changed, and metal suffered a decline in popularity (thanks Kurt), music retailers like Impact went through a change too, as the shift from vinyl to CD was now well and truly in motion. Mr Rockbrat was forever in there buying the latest Kiss Fanzines, like Strike or Canberra’s ‘Sacrifice!’ Some time later though, as the new millennium crept in, Impact was bought out by a multinational, JB-Hi Fi. The store still stocked a full range, but the musical landscape had changed. By the mid 2000’s, I think around 2007, the doors were closed. JB Hi Fi still operates in different locations, but they are a soulless conglomerate that sells everything from computers to electronics, as well as CDs etc.

You never know what’s around the corner. In 1989, with metal being the dominant music, there was no reason to think that Impact would not last. Yet the star burnt out, and then you had the death of the LP, and then a few years on, digital downloads killed the CD star too – Music retail was not once it was – and for stores like Impact, the writing was on the wall. I often walk past the site of the original store, and think back to the mid 80’s when I was buying albums in there by bands like Znowhite and Armoured Saint. Good memories. Shall I end with a cliché ? Time moves on, but I still have the memory locked away. Maybe you have a memory of a favourite record store you’d like to share. If you do have a favourite store nowadays, go take a photo of it. 20 years later, like Impact, it may also just be a memory for you too.

IMAG0094

Impact Records bag circa 1990 – photo (c) Cowboy Col

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Comments
  1. Ben Dickson says:

    The original store was around the corner, on the same level in the Boulevarde, just before the bridge that exists now. It existed there until around 1987. I shopped in the original store around the end of 1980. I bought some Kiss records (I think one was Hotter than Hell). Legend has it that at least one member of U2 shopped at the store later on.
    Ben Dickson

  2. Martina Brown says:

    I can recall seeing Radio Birdman shopping in the store (not Deniz Tek though) the day after their 1996 ANU re-union show. Yeah-hup !!!

  3. K-Dawg says:

    The original store was actually in Garema Arcade, top level where Happy Days Amusements & where (as it so happened) Landspeed opened. Mick T literally started with a couple of milk crates of records… sold out of stock in two days… and had close for the rest of the week until he got more stock. It wasn’t too long after that that he (and the other partner) more the business down Boulevarde way. Oh yeah, and that store was AMAZING

  4. John Twohill says:

    Impact’s other owner (with Mick) was Tony Harris. I remember being at Tony’s home in 1977 and we were playing the first Ultravox, when Steve Kilby arrived. Steve was playing in his latest Canberra band which I believe was called Zephyr Wind ~ The Church came later. In addition to Metal and general releases, Impact had all the latest punk from the US and UK including great stuff on the Sire and Stiff labels.

  5. Ben Dickson says:

    Thanks for that info. That makes sense, as I was looking to start a shop in the early or mid 90’s and was considering the place on the level that Landspeed was many years ago (near Happy Days). I remember there was another shop up there that sold fashion, records, etc…Maybe it was Pretty in Pink? I sodl thema Sid Vicious record! Anyway, it’s funny how the Church song ended up in Donnie Darko…weird…

  6. Phil says:

    There is an independent record store in Canberra. It’s called Dynomite Records and it is in the Kambah Village. Mostly vinyl but some CD’s really great range you should check it out!

  7. Jimmy McPerson says:

    I will always remember Impact Records. After moving from Nth QLD to Canberra to attend ADFA, I quickly found Impact.

    Now NQ is far from a metal capital, and my youth in the 80’s was spent tape trading. So finding Impact was like arriving in some fantasy land.

    the mid 90’s was a hard time for metal, but Impact got me into the Canberra metal scene, and soon I was all over bands like Armoured Saint and Alchemist. Metal for the Brain became a regular event for me and my mates too.

    Military pay is fortnightly (or was then anyway) so the Saturday after “Happy Pay day” was spent at Impact buying new releases and merchandise of our favourite bands. between Impact, The Private Bin and Mooseheads, i’m sure I dropped $30k in Civic over 4 years, and I would gladly do it again.

    I’ve been to Utopia, and I do rate it quite highly, but Impact will always be the “home” of metal retail for me. even as I approach 40, I always get excited when I remember the days of finding something new (Rare or deleted copies of something, early works by bands that got reasonably big: Superheist’s Chrome matrix comes to mind).

    RIP Impact Records, you will always be one of the great places i remember from my time in Canberra.

  8. Sam says:

    I loved that store. As a kid living on the far south coast, during more school holidays than not, we’d travel up to canberra for the day and went there, among other places.

    Granted to me it was a store for my young teen comics addiction rather than music but I loved it nonetheless. My older brother loved it for the music though, albeit more for the old records than the CD’s.

    Sadly when my dad died in 1999, we stopped going to Canberra and until a couple of years ago, the only (rare) times I was stopping in Canberra was at the train station, getting the train to Sydney(after having gotten on the Countrylink bus). So when I finally got back to Impact Records it was long gone and even the JBHIFI that replaced it had closed down. I still couldn’t help myself from going down those stairs one final time in an act of nostalgia.

    On my most recent visit to Canberra I found Impact Comics and my brother found an independent music store, so I guess we both have somewhere new to go, if we are ever in the area but somehow it’ll never be quite the same.

  9. darren says:

    I worked with the drummer from armoured angel Steve Luff A AWESOME DRUMMER I MUST SAY
    but Impact was the greatest store Canberra has known and I would say that at least half of my huge lp collection came from that store great memories some thongs should never change and that was one dam shame

  10. Dave says:

    Thanks so much for this. Lame as it sounds me and a friend skated on those weird block things out front. I bought an SOD shirt with “speak English or die” emblazoned across it that I’m mortified by now, but there you go, Impact.

  11. Tim Goodacre says:

    I bought all my records from Impact from the late 70s until 1988 when I left Canberra.
    This included every US release by artists such as the Flying Burrito Brothers, Pure Prairie League etc etc and UK releases by the Beatles and Stones etc etc. A great place to browse the myriad of shelves and artists from the era. Mick was fantastic and patient in sourcing unusual and rare releases which in the days before the Internet was the only option if you wanted that imported release.
    Ah what memories in spending Friday evenings browsing and searching for that elusive release and going home with a large proportion of my fortnight pay spent on at least half a dozen brand new imported vinyl records!

  12. Dave says:

    Glorious stuff. Thank you.

  13. Tim Goodacre says:

    PS Mick is still in the business selling those hard to get vinyl and CDs on eBay via Phoenix Records

  14. Sam says:

    Man, the store above Electric Shadows was so cool, so low profile, it was like a secret club. I met my first date in Impact at the bus interchange, I spent a lot of money there on Sonic Youth CDs, comic books and anime. Every cent I had as a dumb teenager, I used to save my lunch money and go without, sell porno mags at school, steal, anything to get more money to spend at impact.. I gawked at the laserdiscs, they were out of my league. Man that pic of the bag brings back memories. Impact was my cult. But there were a lot of legendary stores in Canberra in the ’90s. KCs, Sherrifs Mini Cars, Dee’s, Phantom Zone, the original Landspeed, Cash converters that was actually a cash converters, even Brashes was good. I think there are very few of the original legends left, maybe Miranda Hi Fi? but that’s owned by hipsters now instead of Arabs…

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