HMV: A visual history

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High Street music and DVD retailer HMV, which has gone into administration, opened its first store in London's Oxford Street in 1921. Explore the guide below to find out about the company's long history.


First HMV store

HMV's first store at 363 Oxford Street

1920s: In 1921, the composer Sir Edward Elgar opens the first HMV store in London at 363 Oxford Street. The store stocks gramophones, radios and popular music hall recordings. The decade sees radio become popular with the British public and demand for recorded music increased.

Changing tastes

1930s gramophone

1930s: The decade sees the music playing on UK gramophones begin to change as American styles like jazz, swing and dance music start to become popular. HMV’s Oxford Street store is destroyed by a fire in 1937 and is - temporarily - relocated to Bond Street.

War years

Dame Vera Lynn

1940s: During the war, patriotic music becomes popular, including songs by forces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn (pictured). HMV’s store at 363 Oxford Street is rebuilt and designated as an air-raid shelter, while also trying to carry on with business as usual.

Rise of the single

A family listening to records in the 1950s

1950s: The first sales figures for UK singles show more than 280m are sold during the decade. Cliff Richard uses HMV’s 363 Oxford Street recording studio to cut a demo disc, which eventually helps him secure a contract with EMI.

Top selling single: Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets.

Swinging sixties

A group of young people listening to records in the 1960s

1960s: It is an exciting time for British music and popular culture, with bands like the Beatles and Rolling Stones winning over audiences around the world. HMV expands for the first time, opening 15 new stores in London and the South East.

Top selling single: She Loves You by The Beatles

Sales boom

Wings performing

1970s: UK singles sales top 500m for the first time. HMV opens stores in major cities around the UK, including Manchester, Leeds and Bristol.

Top selling single: Mull of Kintyre by Wings (pictured).

CDs - a new era


1980s: In 1984 HMV starts selling the new Compact Disc format and opens a new 50,000 sq ft store in Oxford Street in 1986. Sales of singles jump to 640m, with Band Aid smashing the 3m barrier.

Top selling single: Do They Know It’s Christmas? By Band Aid

100th HMV store

Kurt Cobain

1990s: The decade begins with the dominance of grunge bands, such as Nirvana (pictured), but ends with hip hop in the ascendency. HMV opens its 100th store in 1997, and Paul McCartney re-launches HMV’s flagship Oxford Circus store, attracting more than 5,000 people.

Top selling single: Candle in the Wind by Elton John.

MP3 introduction

A woman listening to an iPod

2000s: Apple launches its first iPod in 2001, as digital music begins to take off. The original HMV store at 363 Oxford Street is closed in 2000, replaced by a bigger space at 360 Oxford Street. In 2002, a new store in Islington, London becomes the 150th in the UK & Ireland. Top selling single: Evergreen by Will Young.

Overtaken by digital


2010s: UK digital music revenue overtakes sales of physical formats like CDs and records for the first time in 2012. HMV goes into administration in 2013.

Top selling single: Someone Like You by Adele (pictured).