Geoff Davies: Probe Records boss and 'giant' of Liverpool music dies

Label boss and record shop owner Geoff Davies, who worked with some of Liverpool's biggest stars, has died.

The 80-year-old co-founded the Probe Records shop in 1971 with his former wife Annie and was considered a driving force of the city's cultural scene.

His death, which was announced online by new wave band Deaf School, follows Annie's own two weeks ago.

Peter Hooton, whose band The Farm worked with Davies, said they had been "giants of the Liverpool music scene".

The couple's record shop, which once saw such musical luminaries as Pete Burns and Julian Cope serving behind the counter, was first located on Clarence Street, off Brownlow Hill, before moving to Button Street, near Mathew Street, in 1976.

With the famous Eric's nightclub just around around the corner, the shop became a regular haunt of the burgeoning talents of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes.

Former Eric's director Ken Testi said Davies helped "build the raft" for other Merseyside creatives "to sail on".

He said the city's "musical creativity and legacy" was built on the "work of Geoff, Annie and others of the time".

The shop's eponymous record label, which later became Probe Plus, was housed above it from 1981 and released tracks from a host of Merseyside artists, including indie stalwarts Half Man Half Biscuit, who put out 14 albums on it between 1985 and 2018.

In 2010, after city centre regeneration, the shop moved to its current location on School Lane.

Singer-songwriter, artist and The La's co-founder Mike Badger said Davies had a reputation as a "straight talker" when it came to discussing music.

"You always remember that guy who turned you on to that band you went on to love, but with Geoff, it was like your whole record collection and bought from his shop," he posted on X.

"He always had a sense of duty, almost a spiritual responsibility to put you on the right track."

The Teardrop Explodes
The Teardrop Explodes were regulars at Probe Records, where singer Julian Cope (far left) worked behind the counter

Writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce said on X that almost everyone who was into music in the city had "a story about Geoff chasing them out of the shop for asking for the wrong kind of record".

"I used to think that was to do with taste and cool, but came to realise that what he was teaching us was the importance of integrity.

"When we came to do our own work, we all had the Geoff test in the back of our minds."

Journalist Paddy Shennan, who knew Davies for almost 30 years, said he "could take people back with his outspokenness" and be intimidating, "but there was never any malice there".

"There was always a great sense of humour and he was such entertaining company," he said.

Pete Burns
Pete Burns, who later found fame with Dead or Alive, was also a former Probe Records employee

Deaf School, whose late singer Eric Shark set up the label with Davies, said he had been "a dear friend, not only to us, but to the entire musical collective on Merseyside".

Hooton said on Facebook that it was "so sad" to hear about Davies "passing away soon after his ex-partner Annie".

"They were giants of the Liverpool music scene. May they rest in peace," he said.

Writer Kevin Sampson, who also played in The Farm, said on X that Probe had been "the gateway to enlightenment", adding: "Go easy, Geoff. Step lightly. Stay free."

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