A Bombed Out Book Tour of Liverpool City Centre: The Site Of Probe Records.
Above Photo: Pete Burns on the steps of Probe Records (Note the name “Enterprise House” on the steps.)(© Unknown)
A friend and reader of Bombed Out!, my Punk and New Wave Memoir, recently asked to be taken on a tour of locations in Liverpool city centre which I mention in the book. Probe Records was another stop on the tour.
Probe Records, in Button Street, Liverpool, receives many mentions in Bombed Out!, because it was so important to the musical life of the city back then.
Many people still remember being roundly abused by the owners and people who worked in Probe, when they were buying records that they didn’t like. I used to buy my head-banging Punk records elsewhere, and only used Probe for Liverpool band releases or more exotic purchases, for which they were fantastic.
But Probe was much more than a record shop. It also sold clothes and accessories, and many people hung out there, on the steps and in the shop, depending on how ‘in’ you were.
In a great quote in an article used elsewhere on this site, Mike Williams, a former Probe-goer, explained some of the allure of the shop:
“It was inspirational. One afternoon Pete Burns [Dead or Alive] was working there with Paul Rutherford [Frankie Goes To Hollywood]. Ian McCulloch [Echo and the Bunnymen] was chatting to them at the counter when Wayne Hussey [Dead or Alive, and later The Mission, Sisters of Mercy] walked in. My head nearly exploded as a 14 year old fan of their bands. Realizing this was just an everyday occurrence in a record shop in Liverpool city center, it quickly became my weekly pilgrimage.”
Many musicians launched their musical careers in Probe. Mine commenced when I read a “Bass Player Wanted” advert on the shop’s notice board, as I describe in more detail in Bombed Out! Others, hanging around on the steps, got into bands through people they met and conversations they had outside the shop.
Before the time of Punk and New Wave, the building housing Probe had been built as a fruit and vegetable warehouse. You can still see the date of 1887 on the ironwork on the upper floor.
Then it became known as Enterprise House (you can see this name on the steps in the headline photo).
Then it became a clothes shop (Ted Baker), whose name still adorns the roof (see below photo) and now it’s a restaurant called the Smokehouse.
I have never once been back inside the space, since it was Probe, and I don’t need to. I remember how it was and what it was, and time has moved on, but I strongly believe this space should also be commemorated as a cultural icon from that remarkable time in Liverpool’s musical history, by Liverpool City Council.
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