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Music Like Dirt/Featured /Small Wonder Records: Pete Stennett interview Part.1


Small Wonder Records: Pete Stennett interview Part.1

If you were to list the great musical landmarks and locations in London, it would be a while before Walthamstow tripped off the tongue. However in Hoe Street, around the corner from the crumbling art deco cinema where the Beatles once played is a nondescript shop at the very centre of the punk explosion.

Today, 162 Hoe Street provides tasty Kabanos and other Eastern European grub but in the late 70’s kids from across the capital would make a pilgrimage to Small Wonder Records for the latest Punk and post punk sounds. Crass, Bauhaus, The Cure, The Cravats, Patrik Fitzgerald, Cockney Rejects… to name but a few of the bands who had their first release on the Small Wonder label.

As a music blog based in Walthamstow I’ve wanted to talk to Pete Stennett, the famously bobble hatted man behind both the label and the shop for years and last summer I had the pleasure of visiting the picturesque village where he now resides.


This September (EDIT: SEPT 2016) I’m curating an exhibition about Small Wonder (with the help of the folks at Beatroots, Waltham Forest council and countless other people). We’ve also had some incredible donations and loans of Small Wonder ‘artifacts’ and treasures which we’ll be displaying to tell the story of the label and shop and what it meant to people.

Aside from the physical items we’d like to document the oral history of what it was like with the help of those that were there (but also to introduce the sounds and story to those born post punk or even post post-punk). There will be volunteers who’d like nothing more than to hear recollections of Small Wonder and its importance to you so we can save these things for posterity.

Hope to see you at the exhibition in September – email [email protected] for more info or visit our Facebook page for the latest news.

Here’s Part One, beginning with a look at Pete’s musical influences and if you’ve read that then Part Two – focusing on some of the bands that signed for Small Wonder – is here.

Pete Stennett Small Wonder4

Pete Stennett – Summer 2012

Growing up, were there particular people who sparked your love of music?

The most important influence in the whole thing was John Peel, I’d listen to him every night. He was just back from America so he was playing all this new stuff. I was just taken aback by it… It was fascinating and that’s how I got into music.
I actually went to his mews house in London once and painted his portrait. I phoned him up and said can I come round and paint your portrait? He said yeah ok, rang me and gave me his address. So off I went feeling ever so sort of cool because I had all my easel and stuff on the London Underground and I’m going to paint John Peels portrait!
At the mews there were all these women around and they were drinking macrobiotic coffee, whatever the fuck that is!
They kept stepping over me and they weren’t wearing any knickers, it was quite bizarre. Very surreal.

For his 40th I went to a fancy dress do at ‘Nan True’s Hole’ (Peel Acres). Sheila his wife sent out 45rpm singles as invitations. You had to dress up as whatever the single was, and she sent me “Cupid”… Fuck!
I had to dress up as Cupid so I turned up in this flarey shirt thing, regency type with this big arrow stuck in with blood all the way down. That was the best I could come up with!
His kids were little then and they kept coming up saying is that arrow really stuck in you?

Pete at a Peel Session with The Cravats

Pete at a Peel Session with The Cravats

Were your parents an influence?

None at all, no. My dad was a cook for the gas board, and me mum was a machinist.

You just hear stuff and it rings a bell, strikes a chord you know, and the sixties were so exciting music wise. You were used to crooners and the like and then suddenly someone like Dylan came along who doesn’t fit the image of a singer… And you just thought, that’s brilliant.
Sod the voice, lets listen to the words. It just grew from that really, getting into it as a teenager.

Small Wonder Records - 162 Hoe Street

Small Wonder Records – 162 Hoe Street

How did you make the leap from Peel listener to starting a record shop and a label?

I was doing a bar at a fancy dress party that happened to be at Phonodisc, the record distributors and they got me an interview. I ended up getting a job as what was called a troubleshooter. We had to look for records that were no longer where they were supposed to be in the warehouse and I eventually moved up through supervisor and all that rubbish.
Then they had a little competition to write for the in-house magazine and I won it and became the editor. I did that for about four or five years until they decided the magazine was superfluous or too expensive. I was offered either redundancy OR I could become a supervisor in the call centre and I thought sod that!
They gave me about two grand, and I’m thinking what am I going to do now… I’ve got no real skills, so I thought… I’ll have a shop.
At first we were going to have a sort of Rockers cafe but eventually I figured, I’m into music, music’s been my life so let’s open a record shop.

We managed to buy a few records and put these signs up saying we will be fully stocked after Christmas which was total bollocks because we didn’t have any money. We just hoped it would trickle in.

Initially it was just heavy metal, progressive rock because there was nothing that exciting around you know. There was this sort of great limbo between the 60’s really great stuff and the punk stuff… there was this gap so we tried to get into things like reggae and anything that was different, dub reggae and all kinds. There was a black geezer who used to come in with what they called pre’s, pre-releases from Jamaica.
Then all of a sudden I went to see the Sex Pistols at Walthamstow Town Hall and the rest is as they say history.

puncture-mucky-pupI just thought fuck, something’s happened, something brilliant.
Colin Faver who was working for us on a Saturday took us to a gig behind The Roxy at this little youth club and there was this band called Puncture. They were doing the usual gobbing lark and all the rest of it and we just decided we wanted to put a record out by them.
Because Peel was already into that early stuff, I’d heard of a band called the Desperate Bicycles who’d done their own single. It cost em about 500 quid I think and their slogan was “it was easy, it was cheap, go and do it!”. So we went to see them in a sort of smelly teenage bedroom and they told us exactly what to do, so we hired a studio, took Puncture down there and recorded.

So when Small Wonder the label started, the shop changed from stocking reggae etc to punk overnight?

Gradually, punk didn’t just happen, there were people like Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, people like that.. The New York Dolls, The Ramones. It gradually started to grow and then a lot of the English bands suddenly emerged. It was kind of an organic thing, we just went with it because we liked the music, and found the stuff was selling.


162 Hoe Street (2013)

It was the cheapest shop we could find. We went to the bank manager to borrow some money and he more or less said fuck off!
So we just bought the lease off this little childrenswear shop who wanted to retire and went back to the bank manager and said “look we bought the fucking shop, we need some money to stock it” and he lent us the money.
I lived in Stratford, and had been in East London all my life so Walthamstow was almost a suburb but the record company I worked for were in Ilford so it was that kind of an outer east London scene. The shop was in a good position on the high street and we thought lets…what do the Americans say… kick arse or ass.

There was a ladies hat shop next door, and the bakers on the other side and a greengrocers, just your average high street you know and then we turned up (chuckle).
They just saw us as oddities really. We didn’t fit in, we weren’t shopkeepers.

Was there much else going on in Walthamstow in that period?

Bugger All. Nothing at all. We were just out in this sort of satellite thing. The only reason we became what we became was because I suddenly decided we ought to try a bit of mail order because there were kids all over the place that just couldn’t get his stuff.
So we started the mail order and one morning my then wife got up and saw all these letters on the carpet and thought they must be bills! It turned out they were all from kids writing for records. That’s how we became known, by just supplying all over the country and eventually all over the world.
You didn’t have to have a fucking massive shop, you could have a little pokey place like we had and you could sell to thousands of people. And supply them with records they otherwise couldn’t have got hold of.


Mail order came through desperation really, we needed some money and we loved music. We just wanted to share it you know.

In the end it funded the label, because you can only get so many kids in a shop. Kids being kids you’d sit there Saturday morning and wait until about 12 o’clock when the little bastards got up. Then they make that great trek so you’d be working your arse off until 6 in the evening and the rest of the week you’re just sat there waiting for someone to turn up.
That changed eventually, people turned up from all over the world when we were at our zenith.

Kids would come and stand around for hours, meet their mates. You’d get the odd bit of trouble, National Front and that kind of stuff. It was just a meeting place, and a place to buy records, we did second hand and bought records off kids, resold them.

Did you open Small Wonder with any particular mission or grand vision?

Partly because I’ve always been a bit of an anarchist on the quiet, and the music and the attitude stimulated me. You know these kids who were suddenly putting two fingers up to society and thinking lets form a band. We might only know how to play three chords buts let’s do it. They were brilliant, some of those bands were superb and they just you know stirred you.
Fuck, it was just good!

It wasn’t popular with the older people, I know little old ladies complained a lot, particularly about the window displays. I remember when the Derek and Clive record came out… it was absolutely filthy. Every time a little old lady came into the shop, unaware of what we were we’d put the record on with people going you fucking cunt and all that. It was amusing to just to be part of that.

When The Sex Pistols Never Mind The Bollocks came out we put it in the window and somebody complained. Suddenly these two policeman turned up in a squad car, looked through the window scratching their heads and then they buggered off. They returned and were threatening me, like “take that out the window NOW!”, like they are…like they do!
And I thought I’m not going to be dictated to by them so I got a bit of cardboard and I covered the two L’s of bollocks up so it suddenly said never mind the boocks and I thought that’ll stymie them.
They turned up again about half an hour later to check that I’d obeyed their commands and of course they’re just standing there thinking what can we do now, we can’t do him… so they just buggered off.
Subsequently I phoned Richard Branson and he told me that bollocks actually appears in the bible and they were going to fight a court case over it. They won so all in all it was a nice experience really.

People came to Walthamstow from all over London just to come to the shop?

It was one of those places kids went to, it was part of their little sort of weekend. Our main rival was Rough Trade and we always thought they were a little bit exclusive perhaps but we were more down to earth I thought.
If a kid came into the shop and I didn’t like him or he was a twit I’d just tell him to fuck off. You could do that and that generation appreciated that, you didn’t have to say yes sir, can I help you?
What do you fucking want!?

And I heard one guy saying you refused to sell him a record because it was crap?

Yeah that’s true.
We weren’t a business in that sense we were just there and it was ours so if your face didn’t fit then get out, fuck off, bugger off, I don’t care. That was part of the fun of it because you could do that… you couldn’t do that now… imagine going to Sainsburys and somebody saying look fuck off… where’s the manager!?

If someone asked me what I thought of something I’d say you’d be better off without it, its crap, but if he wanted it he’d buy it anyway. I’m only expressing my opinion.
Often records would come out that would sell but you didn’t particularly rate but if people wanted it… you know… people like Tom Robinson… I don’t know I couldn’t see it all. There you go.

So you didn’t just stock music you loved, there was a commercial reality?

Oh there was a commercial reality. Most of what we heard, either bands would come in, like a band like Killing Joke would turn up with a 10” single and say have a listen to this and we’d say right we’ll have 50 of them.
Other times you’d make mistakes, the Boomtown Rats was a prime example, we bought some of their stuff and no one wanted to know.
It was largely what you liked, but then most of it you liked because it was all so bloody good!! There were so many good bands out there.

The shops open, your first release is out label, what next?

Well then people came into the shop, largely at first they were local. Our second release was a band called The Zeros who were from Walthamstow. They just came into the shop and gave me a demo as a lot of them did, and you listened to it and if you liked it you thought right we’ll release this.
Our deals were we’d pay for the record, the recording, the sleeve, the artwork, the pressing all of it, and if it broke even fine but if it made a profit we’d give them half that profit. And that was the case with every single band. Our contracts were ridiculously simple.
We didn’t tie them up to anything, we just gave them money, a lot of it in some cases. Bauhaus made quite a lot because the Bela Lugosi’s Dead 12” sold huge amounts. A lot of them went on to other labels of course but they’d often come back to us for a couple of grand they’d earned from the record we’d released while they were owing the company they were with money, because they were getting 8-10 % whatever it was.

Bauhaus on TOTP – unfortunately featuring that ARSE Steve Wright at the end.

Not the traditional advance and tie them in for a 3 album deal then?

No, No, No. We just put a record out, if it sells it sells. It was like Menace “GLC GLC you’re full of shit”… that just amused me so I thought what the hell. The main reason we put what we put out on our label was simply because we were recognising that these people that were coming to us were giving us music that we liked and we simply wanted to share and we were in a position to be able to do that. We just had enough money to ..it a little indulgence really but it was serious.

How easy was it to put out a record at that time?

It was a piece of piss it really was, you just go to a recording studio, record the thing, you’ve got an engineer there that knows what he’s doing, then you’d get the master tape, take it to some bloke to Porky in London near the BBC and he’d cut the master disk. Then you’d send it to a pressing company, usually in Ireland because they were cheaper and they’d press 2000, 5000. You’d arrange the artwork, usually the band provided the actual basic artwork, you got it printed, you got the labels printed and then you put the records in the sleeves yourself by hand. Sometimes the band would come and help.
That’s how it worked, basic.

I remember the Puncture single got quite good reviews and one of the kids in the band, they were working and he said he did cartwheels across the station when he read the review. I mean if you can do that for somebody.

sw3And Small Wonder…why the name?

Why the name? We had a photograph of an affluent black family with a white wife and a black vicar with a baby, and they were very well dressed in Edwardian clothes. I loved the photograph which I think we got from Kensington market or somewhere…an old sepia thing. We’d had it for years and when we were opening the shop I thought what we gonna call it?

I looked at the photograph one day and thought that’s such a great image we’ll use that! And Small Wonder simply because the baby was of mixed race parentage at a very unusual time, I assume it was in America. Black people in those days didn’t have that sort of status.
So it worked… Small Wonder.. and we were little… and I was.

I read that you found the picture under the floorboards? You found it and thought it must be important to be hidden for so long.

That may well be the case I honestly don’t remember. It’s such a long time ago. It’s probably true.
I read interviews on the internet with like Bauhaus for example, and their memory of when we first signed them is somewhat different to mine. Whether they’re right or I am or it’s a bit of both I’m not sure?

Great cover design is perhaps fading along with the physical record but how important was the artwork to Small Wonder?

The artwork was absolutely vital, partly because it was such a nice thing to look at but with LP’s you could have so much information and lyrics which is the most important thing. If you’re putting out a record that you feel has something to say you want people to be able to read the lyrics. You know you listen to lyrics and often you’re totally wrong about what the lyric is.
Also it was a possession, a thing you could look at and enjoy, it was the whole package not just the music.

Each band did their artwork and then they gave it to us and we said yeah ok or no that’s crap do another one. Usually it was alright and it’s their record that’s the point. I was just supplying the means of producing it, it was their record to do what they like.

It’s unusual to get that sort of freedom from a record label.

Well, we were what we seemed to be.
We were just honest and we weren’t in it for the money.

READ PART TWO HERE but I’d love to hear your memories of Small Wonder. If you’re London based it would be fantastic to do a quick interview if possible but if not please share in the comments or via email. Thanks.

Comments: 57

  • Del Halpin

    Reply Jul 25, 2013 8:57 pm

    I remember the smell of the incense sticks as you went in. Purchasing Sex Pistols records and rumors of being chased out of the shop if you asked for ‘Friggin’ In The Riggin’ as it was double A side with Something Else..

  • facebook_bryan.daniels.397

    Reply Jul 26, 2013 6:29 am

    great interview. A point of order – iirr Pete NEVER wore a bobble hat, it was more like a tea cosy (without the bobble). Now, my story; Have to be careful with the word “allegedly” here, but my abiding memory is too funny not to share. there was always a pungent smell of….. joss sticks in the shop, and Pete always had very small pupils. Could be coincidence, but I was worldly wise enough with my 18 summers to put two and two together. I was on my way into Small Wonder to get my weekly tirade of abuse from Pete about the evils of prog rock (although once, in a moment of weakness, he confessed to being a huge Magma fan) and saw two coppers go in just before I got there. They closed the door and turned around the “open” sign to read closed. I instantly knew, as only a Walthamstow boy could, that they were after Pete and thought “it’s a drug raid”. I never knew for sure if Pete could have been done, but was buggered if I was going to leave him in the lurch. I struggled to think of what to do but decided if I could distract the police, they’d leave Pete for long enough to dispose of the necessary. I went around the corner to Hatherley Road, where there was a phone box, dialled 999 and told the police operator there was a stabbing going on in my house (at a fictitious address in Hatherley Road) and there was blood everywhere. That should get them out of the shop and here in a jiffy, I thought. In no time at all, the address in Hatherley road was crawling with police… but the two cops from Pete’s shop hadn’t stirred. Lesson for me – the drug squad don’t drop everything for crime reports. two different divisions! I watched it all, very confused, from afar – and can only hope that the statute of limitations is up!

  • Steve

    Reply Jul 26, 2013 3:46 pm

    Does anyone know what he went on to do after small wonder ?
    He looks a lot like the guy who used to run Gumbi records in Spitalfields market. Really good record shop, anyone know it or did I make it up ?

  • Walthamstowie

    Reply Aug 23, 2013 7:58 am

    Pete tolerated us entering his shop on our way home from school, so I assume our faces fit to a certain extent. However, you were never immune from a casual insult being thrown at you with a sardonic smile attached and there was always a little sense of walking on eggshells when you entered. We did buy records though and the most valuable record in my modest collection came from Pete, though it was bloomin’ expensive for me to buy at the time. We were lucky to have Small Wonder so local to us I think. It was a bit of a revelation to the area as Pete says and it did have that ‘happening’ feel to it, or maybe that was just the smell of the joss sticks.

  • ray martin

    Reply Aug 23, 2013 3:45 pm

    I live/lived in walthamstow during the small wonder years and have pete to thank for my love of reggae.The first album i bought was Vital dub/well charged….then The Front Line.I used to love that he sold 2nd hand stuff so i had a chance to experiment without too much outlay…..aaah many happy hours being abused by pete but i never liked the sodding josticks he used to burn lol

  • David Gibbs

    Reply Aug 23, 2013 9:41 pm

    Loved your interview with Pete Stennett.
    I honestly thought he was dead – ages ago, great to hear he’s still about – & looks remarkably well.

  • Mark Stewart

    Reply Sep 7, 2013 12:34 pm

    we used to spend almost all our money in this shop. I have every pistols/clash/adverts/x ray spex/etc on original 45’s all bought from the second hand rack he had in the middle of the shop. used to chat for ages if he was empty. we were in there once mooching and he called us over and said that CRASS were playing the week after at markhouse road school. we were dubious but went and they did. great they were. we were all gutted when he moved on and I never set foot in ugly child records. he left at the right time. delighted he is still alive and my band (about to play) have called ourselves THE SMALL WONDERS (our guitarist played with patrcik fitzgerald)for the massive influence this silly little shop had on all the kids of my generation in this area.

  • Chris Gibbs

    Reply Sep 8, 2013 4:13 pm

    As a music obsessed teenager, Small Wonder Records was the centre of my universe really, it’s handy location, just a 10 minute walk from my senior school meant that most lunchtime’s ( and lessons where my presence would not be missed ) were spent within its walls, flicking through racks of LP’s , inhaling the smell of joss sticks and occasionally chatting to Pete.
    It’s fair to say that the majority of my limited schoolboy income was spent at Small Wonder, even if I went in with no real intention of buying anything often Pete would play something that grabbed me and I’d be going without my school dinners for the rest of the week after blowing my dinner money on it. In this way Pete introduced me to loads of bands, including Joy Division, The Cure, Leyton Buzzards, The Dickies etc.
    My memory of him at this time was a little bit different than the persona you describe, I found him to be a quiet bloke, always adorned in his trademark woolly hat, but not at all rude, not to me at least. Most of the kids my age looked up to him and respected his opinion on stuff, and he in return was usually helpful and amiable,he tolerated us lurking in his shop for hours on end, spending very little, I can’t recall him ever throwing any of us out or telling us off. He was a great bloke and his shop was a little haven from the rest of the world.
    He could also be pretty generous, I remember him playing Johnny Won’t Get to Heaven by Killjoys to me one day, and when I told him that I didn’t have any money, he gave me a copy, with the strict proviso that I didn’t tell anyone he’d given it to me for nothing !
    I’m glad to hear he’s still alive and well, and if he can’t remember me , I’m the kid that nagged him into playing Captured City by Praying Mantis non stop until he confessed that he quite like it.

  • Cliff Baldwin

    Reply Sep 10, 2013 9:56 pm

    I was one of the little bastards that plagued his Saturday afternoons.once I spotted a large cardboard”point of sale” cut out of J.J.Burnell in the back room and asked Pete if I could have it.I can’t remember his exact response but he implied I`d make a proper detective when I grew up.Verbally abused and happy as Larry I left the strawberry inscense,J.J under my arm, into a rain soaked Hoe St.Thanks Pete.

  • Rami

    Reply Sep 14, 2013 9:43 am

    Finally it surfaces, thank you!
    I bought Patrik Fitzgerald’s singles from the Small Wonder mail order, always receiving an extra from Mari (where is she by the way??).
    Also wrote a tribute Small Wonder quiz which readers here may enjoy: http://www.funtrivia.com/playquiz.cfm?qid=251564

  • Brian

    Reply Oct 8, 2013 12:22 pm

    The best reord shop ever. I was a fourteen year old who lived in Leytonstone and would go into Small Wonder constantly and bought shedloads of stuff. Records just sounded so good on his hi-fi compared to the rubbish little record player I had a kid. I remeberr being blown away by ‘Girls don’t Count’ by Section 25 and buying it in the grease-proof paper cover.
    A bunch of skinheads were in the shop one day and asked Pete to play ‘Don’t Knock the Baldhead’ by Headline and he replied “Only if you come upstairs and suck my cock”

    He eventually banned the cocky little kid I was and said it was “Rough Trade in future for you”. It wasn’t, I used to hang around outside and get small kids to go in and buy the stuff I wanted. He knew what I was doing. One day I wanted Rose Garden Funeral by Bauhaus, so I got a kid to go and buy it for me, but all I got was the 12″ of Telegram Sam, so I sent the kid back.

    Pete said to the kid “Tell him it’s on the other side” which is what the kid told me!

    Glad to hear I wasn’t the only kid he banned or wouldn’t serve.

    Also glad to hear you’re still around Pete, still have an awful lot of the vinyl I bought from you in the early ’80s. Rough Trade indeed!

  • Rob Mellor

    Reply Oct 17, 2013 6:01 pm

    Great article, and massively overdue. Small Wonder a rite of passage, a little bit of history and a cracking record shop. Look forward to Part II!

    Now, who’s still got their copy of the Mob’s “Let the Tribe Increase”?

  • johnny Heartbreaker

    Reply Jan 21, 2014 8:38 pm

    Have to agree with one of the comments posted. In all the years I went into Small Wonder Records neither Pete, Mari or Colin ever told me (or anyone else) to f*ck off. Far from it in fact. I spent many a happy hour chatting to all three about everything and his kid sister. Well, in-between running backwards and forwards down to McDonalds that is! (I still have a Small Wonder brown single’s bag with one of Pete’s food orders written on it. Suffice to say that it’s still one of my most treasured possessions 30 odd years on). Also spent many a happy hour upstairs at the end of the day listening to Pete’s latest band’s studio demo. The last of these being the Wall’s completed studio tape of their debut LP, ‘Personal Troubles and Public Issues’. Like Pete’ my memory is slightly hazy here but, with regards to this particular evening and LP, I seem to remember that both Pete and the band hated it whilst I loved it! Not long after – and like many people I knew at the time – I moved away from Walthamstow and London. Although for a while I made the odd trip back into London and down to Pete and Mari’s, it was never quite the same and I stopped even making the odd trip, a year before the shop closed its doors for the last time. But I’ve never forgotten Pete, Mari and Colin over the years. Nor the girl on the Leyton Buzzards ’19 and Mad’ single cover, who I never did pluck up the courage to ask out, despite being told by a reliable source – Colin – that she fancied the pants off me lol. God. Were we really that young and shy once?!!! The Small Wonder Record shop, all that were involved with running it, the kids who went in it and the bands who recorded some of the finest punk music ever released for it, are now part of punk’s and Walthamstow’s rich tapestry of musical history and folklore – and quite rightly so.

  • Mick Slaughter

    Reply Apr 24, 2014 6:45 am

    Great interview but where is part 2?

  • Chris Bell

    Reply Jul 19, 2014 2:56 pm

    I discovered Small Wonder Records through an ad in the back of Sounds when I was 13. Where I came from (Far north of England) you couldn’t really get the punk stuff I was after so I was delighted to find that ad. Every Monday morning I went to the Post Office to send my postal order for 3 singles. After a year or so my school ran a trip to London by train and I thought if I go, the first thing I’ll be doing is going to 162 Hoe Street, Walthamstowe. The day came and we got to London, the three lads I was with decided to do things other than just buy records so it was knocking on by the time we got the tube to Walthamstowe. We got to Small Wonder and the shop was closed. We gave a couple of knocks and sure enough Pete came to the door. We told him we’d travelled 350-odd miles to visit the greatest shop in the world so he opened up and let us in. We talked for an hour at least and then Pete said “Have you heard of a band called Crass?”. We said no so he disappeared out the back and came back with four copies of Feeding Of The 5,000. “Here lads” he said “We’re gonna release this in a couple of weeks so you can all have a copy” We were delighted, even more so when we got back to West Cumbria and played them. Still got my copy and as such, a wonderful memory of Pete Stennett. A kind, courteous, gentleman

  • bob morris

    Reply Sep 28, 2014 7:35 pm

    I found Small wonder and hippie pete because there was a model shop on the other side of the road, that sold japanese WW2 figures, Pete used to get things for me like the demo of the Long Tall Shorty single cos i was a baby mod always a diamond, check with him but i think i went in there ionce and brought a Crass single off the band who where doing mail order parcles???? It was quite an adventure getting a bus from Forest Gate as we was at war with the Leyton mob at the time and they were all skins as well as the ‘ Stow lot. But got some great stuff in there like the first squeze ep and the Rejects. Send him my love. bob

  • Ed

    Reply Oct 26, 2014 2:01 am

    I always wondered what happened to Pete, and now I know! I used to go to Small Wonder in the early 80s and hang around for as long as I felt comfortable (which wasn’t that long if I’m honest!!). I went to Waltham Forest College which was 5 minutes away on the bus so used to spend a fair bit of time there, and also go on Saturdays too.

    I also remember being told to fuck off and having records refused, to be honest it was part of the appeal! I went in and asked Pete for 6 Pack by Black Flag and Just Can’t Get Enough by Depeche Mode (which my sister wanted, honest!). You can imagine his response when I asked for the latter. He also refused to sell me Compulsion by Joe Crow. It’s funny what sticks in your head for over 30 years! I think SW must’ve closed in 83 or 84 as I left college in 84 and it was Ugly Child Records by then. I think I only went a couple of times – it just wasn’t the same!

    I shared a few emails with The Shend about 20 years later and I asked him what happened to Pete and Mari. He said they moved to Suffolk so I was always curious as to how they were.

    I wish I still had a carrier bag or 2 (they changed colour at 1 point from sepia to white) cos Small Wonder was a big part of my record buying teens!

  • Ed

    Reply Oct 26, 2014 2:20 am

    BTW, that Bauhaus clip is Riverside, not TOTP

  • Keith D

    Reply Nov 14, 2014 8:37 pm

    Spent hours and most of my youth hanging around and, buying records here ,still have them all,including the puncture first release,signed Patrick Fitzgerald EP!
    And some still in small wonder brown paper bags !!!! And many more now considered punk classics.
    Remember Pete asking us to come in once as a tv crew were filming in there for Dutch TV ( I think)
    We were all local punks at the times, you used to be able to get the tube into london and see all the bands ,just pay on the door,
    Great to see he’s still around.
    Fantastic memories !

  • Matt Smith

    Reply Nov 18, 2014 6:09 pm

    Seriously though mate – where is part 2? You can’t just write up an excellent interview like this and then leave people hanging!

  • colin faver

    Reply Feb 9, 2015 1:43 pm

    they were great days. working in small wonder on a saturday was a highpoint of my week. by the way i did the artwork for menace & patrick fitzgerzld and more. i have lost contact with pete can you give me his number? cheers cf

  • colin faver

    Reply Feb 9, 2015 1:43 pm

    they were great days. working in small wonder on a saturday was a highpoint of my week. by the way i did the artwork for menace & patrick fitzgerzld and more. i have lost contact with pete can you give me his number? cheers cf

  • Arthur Benjamins

    Reply Mar 14, 2015 3:19 am

    I got to know Pete in 1974 when I lived at the famous Waltham Forest YMCA – 642 Forest Road. Pete, single-handedly put me on the road to getting to know all kinds of music, the most lovable ones being Magma.
    The shop became a weekly haunt and if I’d get there early enough on a Saturday, Pete would give me a mug of steaming tea and we’d talk bollocks till the first people came through the door. A pilgrimage for me – and many others, I’m sure. Pete also opened the door for me to “Big ‘O’ Publishing”, who published the likes of icons Roger Dean and Rodney Matthews. Sadly, “Big ‘O’ Publishing” closed their door in 1980.
    When Derek and Clive had their infamous 1st ‘Live’ album, Pete was playing it, whilst standing to the other side of the counter with a large smirk and nursing a fag and a coffee. Suddenly I saw his face turn into sheer horror. I looked at the door and an old lady had just walked through, when over the speakers bellowed, “You F*cking C*nt”.
    I have never seen anyone turn on their heels that quick and disappear again. When Presley died, I stood in the shop when two young lads came in and forlornly asked if Pete had any records of Elvis. “Elvis who?”, came the reply and the two slunk back out again.

  • dave wright

    Reply Apr 5, 2015 2:34 am

    i just about remember it as Ugly child records back in 84/85 I was working in Leyton and on saturdays would go down there and stock up on anything i liked that was available , it was around then i had got into Killing Joke ,Bauhaus and numerous others crass etc miss it big time,

  • trevor aka punky

    Reply Jun 14, 2015 12:51 pm

    hi pete its bin along time.remember you at hoe st with ur lovely wife mari.she always went 2 post office with records and bootlegs 2 send 2 other people.in a basket trolley.u and ur shop woz big thing in my younger day as teenager.it woz great seein u in ur bobblehat and sayin u were the grandfarther of punk?lol..intraducin us 2 new records that i have still got.be great if u can get back in conntact on the e-maill addy abouve.great 2 tx u trevor.

  • graham collins

    Reply Aug 6, 2015 2:53 pm

    Hi to pete if he is still around. Loved the shop and what he created. Visited and stayed many a time. I used to work with pete at phonodisc also as a troubleshooter and helped sometimes with the in house mag. I also drew the small wonder illustration image from
    His original photo for the label. There were only a few of us long haired ‘hippies’ working there, it was sort fun. Obe question though pete if you ever read this. The competition i won once at phonodisc was a signed copy of phil lynotts book of poems. Was it actually signed by him on his visit or was it forged by you? I always wondered, i still have it. Perhaps we can do an handwriting analysis . Does the man still ride motorbikes?Perhaps we can meet up sometime or shall i just fuck off. And where is part two?

    • Pete Stennett

      Reply Aug 12, 2015 1:45 pm

      Great if you contact me.

    • Pete Stennett

      Reply Aug 12, 2015 3:44 pm

      Get in touch mate

  • tracey and paul

    Reply Aug 31, 2015 6:07 pm

    my brother and I were always ordering records from smallwonder back in the day.they would often arrive with a mail order list and a little note from either of the owners,which was a nice surprise.it felt like they were your friends.we always said we would visit the record shop,but never got round to it.i expect we have some rare 45s now the years have gone by.i think they will remember us,paul and tracey from hanwell w.7. hello to you both.hope you are well.xxx

    • Pete Stennett

      Reply Sep 6, 2015 11:26 am

      Nice to hear from you. Sad news today, Colin(Koz) Faver has died. xx

  • kevin

    Reply Oct 3, 2015 3:56 pm

    was always in small wonder in my youth pete would be playing these new records which always sounded great on his record player .he was playing an lp by german band called guru guru which sounded amazing he then told me this story about when he watched this band in germany and how they was passing round acid bread telling me what a great band they was so i bought the record only when i played it at home on my system didn’t have the same effect so as pete bought old records i took it back to him . he took one look at it and said i don’t want that shit , so i said but you told me what a great record it was . he said yeah i like it but no one else does what can you say to that .

  • scott

    Reply Nov 25, 2015 6:04 am

    Cheers Pete. you made a difference, a big difference.

  • Steve Godfrey

    Reply Dec 5, 2015 9:05 am

    I too haunted the shop in hoe street. in fact my band The Zeros as the article points out was Small Wonders second release. Nice to see your still about Pete. Waltham Forest have put 2 blue plaques outside the old shop now. one for small wonder and one for Colin. Its crazy that this stuff is still talked about. i recently did an interview with a french journalist writing (another ) book on the period. people have been asking me about Pete for best part of 40 years. its good to have something new to tell them. Much Love to anyone reading this who remembers those days, they were quite special. Thanks Pete, and RIP Colin.

    • kev

      Reply Sep 23, 2016 2:23 pm

      good ol times steve,still got the zeros single somewhere,i spent a lot of time in pete’s shop too.but we go back further,to when u were in brettenham.

      • Steve Godfrey

        Reply Sep 30, 2016 7:36 pm

        ok you have got me now kev. reveal yourself

  • facebook_Pete Stennett.695059537304077

    Reply Dec 11, 2015 4:10 pm

    Nice to hear from you Steve .

    • Steve Godfrey

      Reply Jan 10, 2016 10:55 am

      Likewise Pete. might be nice (if a little weird) to catch up sometime. its been a lifetime.

  • Nick Clift

    Reply Dec 22, 2015 7:02 pm

    Dear Pete, I am trying to get The Wall’s first two singles re-issued in my ongoing quest to honor the late Ian Lowery and get as much of his recorded output released online. He and I were in the band Ski Patrol together after he left The Wall. Ian’s brother David and I have worked on several re-issue projects over the last few years, and Ian thought the world of you and the label, as you were the first to show an interest in his music and writing. Hoping we can start a discussion. Cheers, Nick

  • Pingback: Small Wonder Records | Louder Than War

    Reply Jan 9, 2016 11:16 am
  • KGW

    Reply Jan 9, 2016 5:50 pm

    I used to love going to Small Wonder. The first records I bought from there were God Save the Queen, Never Mind the Bollocks, Neat, neat, neat and both NY Dolls albums. Not bad taste for a 15 year old I suppose. Pete was such a nice guy and always used to make a fuss of my dog. He thought my name was HG because I used to nick my dads Visa card to buy records with and his initials were HG. Nice to see that Pete is still around. Small Wonder was a lovely place to visit to get some great music. You could tell that Pete was really into something different and relevant.

  • peter

    Reply Feb 1, 2016 4:39 pm

    I went and saw the Damned a while back at the Roundhouse, had my small wonder T-shirt on, went to have a smoke and bumped into the guys who took over small wonder and named it ugly child records…what’s the chance? do miss that shop..

  • Kevin the Milkman

    Reply Apr 2, 2016 11:41 am

    I loved going to Small Wonder on my lunch break Saturday mornings. Pete knew all of us regulars and knew which new releases we might like, that is the way to run a shop. It usually cost me a cigarette to get him to play a record, but that was part of the deal. I remember a suited guy came in, looked round, then inquired “Where is your 12″ disco section mate”? Petes reply “We don’t sell that fucking shit in my shop”! You don’t get that in HMV!! Miss the shop.


    Reply Apr 20, 2016 3:23 pm


  • Anne

    Reply Jun 16, 2016 11:35 am

    oh blimey one of my favourite shops wen I lived in London, near East Ham in the late 70’s

  • Vince Bull

    Reply Jul 9, 2016 6:41 pm

    Great that Pete and Small Wonder are getting recognition. Like others, I have fond memories of hanging around on a Saturday. He was always friendly with a dry wit. I remember an unfortunate lady who entered the shop to enquire as to the purchase of a Bee Gees single. I think the reply from Pete was fuck off we don’t sell that shit in here! Somehow, he said it in an inoffensive way. She left and we all laughed and Pete went up in our estimation. At 14 years of age he was a bit of a musical god to me and my mates. Small Wonder is responsible for my taste in music to this day and I am eternally grateful that I did not sell my vinyl collection which has many Small Wonder releases in it. Pete, if you are reading this, thanks for guiding a 14 year old little punk and confirming that you don’t have to respect authority. Look forward to the exhibition and maybe we’ll get to see you and shake your hand. Where have 39 years gone?

  • Mike Van Praag

    Reply Sep 12, 2016 10:42 pm

    Remember Pete from his Phonodisc days..always a breath of fresh air

  • Andrew Sands

    Reply Jan 13, 2017 11:36 pm

    In the late 70s/80? I and my twin brother, two young black teenagers, were welcomed by Pete and Mari when we into their incensed-smelling shop by Pete. My brother gravitated like a bee to pollen towards Crass and I meandered towards the more mainstream. The shop felt like a gem of freshness in stoic-nothing-happening Walthamstow. No aggro, no racism (NF were selling White Flag in the market some Saturdays), and none of the banal poppy stuff record shops in the market were selling. We had little money, so could only buy a few singles occasionally. We’d linger and listen to what was being played in the shop, and take in the vibrancy, the exuberance difference with the rest of Walthamstow. That shop is one of my milestones. Of living in Walthamstow between 72-82, Small Wonder is one of my favourite memories.

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