THERE used to be 3,000 record stores 20 years ago. Now there are 300.

I read this fascinating fact in a magazine and got to thinking about when every electrical shop stocked records. When rock and roll burst onto the scene in the 1950s, even the most staid general goods store found space for a few 78s and, perhaps, a record player for customers to test them out.

Then the music revolution really took hold in the 1960s and specialist shops were opened in every high street and Saturday was the time teenagers would get the bus into town in a quandary about which 45 to buy.

Cliff or Elvis? Chuck Berry or Bobby Darin? Marty Wilde or Sam Cooke?

Record stores would have booths in which groups of youngsters would crowd to listen to the latest potential hit before making their final decision to purchase.

Ah yes, who remembers those amazing listening booths?

I always thought they were a product of the 50s and 60s, but the HMV store in Oxford Street, London, introduced them in the 1930s. Always an innovator, they started the trend that caught on up and down the country.

Some shops had booths, others had earphones. Imagine how many ears they had been clamped to during a Saturday afternoon, without nary a wipe of an antiseptic cloth? Health and safety would have had a fit.

Record stores were part of the youth culture at the time. They were the next step between Radio Luxembourg, where you heard the latest records, and the Dansette player, on which you played your vinyl until it almost wore out.

Music seemed to mean more because it was relatively expensive, there was not the proliferation of groups or bands that there seems to be today and a collection could be carried in a case that would hold 40 or 50 singles.

Today, music is available for free from illegal internet downloads and an iPod can hold 40,000 songs.

Whatever happened to selectivity? And those happy hours spent agonising over which single record to buy?

I can’t help thinking that quality and taste have been diluted by technological advancement along with the demise of the record store.