Music Man Reading: the store celebrates its 30th anniversary on Oxford Road
“It was a pleasure to meet so many different people, from beginners to professionals, and so many personalities along the way.”
That’s how Peter Sirrell would sum up his time as Reading’s Music Man after recently celebrating 30 years on Oxford Road.
The shopkeeper marked three decades in his jam-packed used music store in July after starting in 1992.
Peter, who grew up in Reading, gave up a job at Heathrow for the British Airports Authority before moving back to Berkshire.
And he hasn’t looked back since.
“It’s been really nice,” he tells the Chronicle, eager to talk about the famous faces and quirky characters he’s encountered in his shop.
In 1994, Peter caught legendary composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber looking out of his window.
“I said what are you doing apart from Andrew?” Why don’t you come in? “, recalls the businessman.
Sadly, Lloyd Webber didn’t pop in to see what the shop had to offer, which includes used instruments, music gear, CDs, vinyl and more for three decades now.
One music legend who came around – multiple times – was Libertines frontman Pete Doherty.
The rocker stayed in Reading for a few weeks and got to know the other Pete.
“He came to buy cheap guitars and comedy DVDs. I’ve never seen a guy tune a guitar so quickly,” says Peter.
Other stars to walk through the doors of 207 Oxford Road include band members The Kooks, Cooper Temple Clause and Reverend and The Makers.
But it’s not just the famous faces that Peter – who counts Paul McCartney and Wings, The Stranglers, Blondie and Jamiroquai among his musical favorites – remembers.
“I sold a saxophone once to a lady in 1994/1995 and she went and learned it.
“Then she came back with her daughter 25 years later and bought another one for herself.”
The most remarkable part of this story is that Peter and the saxophonist recognized each other over two decades ago.
“She was surprised that I was still here,” laughs Peter.
The end of August is usually a good time for Music Man, with many Reading Festival revelers passing by.
Although there aren’t as many festival-goers coming these days, Peter said this time of year is usually so busy that he has to employ someone at the gate to prevent as many of people to enter.
“I used to have a sign that said ‘buy a cheap guitar and burn it afterwards,'” the shop owner explains, adding that revelers also came for flute whistles, bongos, harmonicas and more.
While instruments have been a mainstay in the shop window and inside the cozy store, the nature of Peter’s music sales has changed dramatically over the years.
He explains: “CDs were all the rage in the 90s, I couldn’t get enough of them.
“I was almost about to throw away my vinyl to make more room for CDs.
“I’m glad I didn’t because everything is reversed now, vinyls are popular and CDs are as flat as a pancake.”
Sony Walkman handsets and cassettes have also come back into demand as people are “fed up with downloading”, says Peter.
Recently, Music Man sold three Kate Bush cassettes for £150 – when they could have fetched £5 each if not for the popstar’s Stranger Things-inspired revival.
But Peter did not succeed in his humble enterprise alone.
For the past 30 years on Oxford Road, the 59-year-old father-of-two has been accompanied by a life-size replica of Elvis which stands just outside the shop.
Rarely a day goes by without pedestrians or shoppers walking down Oxford Road without stopping for a selfie with the crooner.
Peter says: “It has become a landmark. I tell people to look for Elvis and they can find me!
Despite racking up some impressive runs on Oxford Road, Peter has no intention of quitting being Music Man just yet.
“Keep bringing your stuff to sell to me, and if you want a good musical bargain, you know where to come!”