First logo

It all started with the Earls Court Hippies at the end of the 60's and one of them was Richard Branson who was the editor of a magazine called "Student". He suffered from dyslexia but managed to overcome this by making it his advantage and was good in making contacts and developing marketing. The magazine was a protest against the Vietnam War and the establishment. 

Issues of Student

He decided to start selling records in the classified pages of the Magazine under the name Virgin Mail Order which became very succesfull. The name Virgin was chosen because they were all very new to the music business. The idea came from Tessa Watts also part of the team of Virgin and she was the head of publicity. Together with Nik Powell they had a small record shop called Virgin Records and Tapes on Notting Hill Gate, London. They were specialized in the german Krautrock music and offer bean bags and free vegetarian food for customers listening to the music. 

Record store at Oxford Street

As a result of a large postal strike they decided to establish their first real record store at Oxford Street, London, above a shoe shop. Virgin Records was born. Soon they had 10 records stored all over the UK and a record label was established. Richard decided to acquire a recording studio in Oxfordshire called The Manor. They attracted Tom Newman to join them as producer and engineer in their studio. Simon Draper who was Richard's cousin left South Africa to become the buyer for Virgin's record stores and later helped to contract artists in the 80's.

Richard Branson and Nik Powell

Since they already sold Krautrock records at the shops they contracted german Krautrock bands and also artists from the Canterbury scene. One of the bands of the Canterbury scene was Soft Machine including Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers. Robert Wyatt was contracted by Virgin. Mike Oldfield was the bass player for Kevin Ayers'solo releases and also for the band of the musical Hair. He had plans for his own solo album and Virgin gave him the opportunity to record it. In the early years Virgin was a label for progressive rock.

Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells (!973)

The first album recorded for the label was Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield (V2001) in 1973 than followed by albums for german bands: Faust and Tangerine Dream. They also contracted Canterbury scene bands like Gong and Hatfield And The North. The first single was "Marlene" (VS102) by Kevin Coyne, the second artist to be contracted by Virgin. The first #1 album in the UK was the album Hergest Ridge by Mike Oldfield and soon afterwards Tubular Bells also made it to #1 due to the usage of the single "Tubular Bells" in the movie Exorcist.

Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks

In 1977 Virgin moved to punk rock and contracted the band no other record companies wanted: The Sex Pistols. They already signed a record deal with EMI and A&M but were immediately dropped again by them. More punk bands were signed like: Skids, Penetration and the Ruts.

Human League - Don't You Want ME

In the 80's with the help of Simon Draper the label attracted many new wave band including: Culture Club, Human League, Simple Minds and Public Image Ltd. (PIL). But also still artists of the progressive rock like Phil Collins from Genesis. The first #1 single was "Don't You Want Me" by the Human League.

Simon Draper

In the 90's the label was home for bands like The Verve well known for their hit "Bitter Sweet Symphone" and also Massive Attack know for "Unfinished Sympathy". The label did less well and in 1992 Richard sold it to EMI to fund his new project: Virgin Atlantic, a public airlines company. 

An airplane from Virgin Atlantic

In 1996 he started a new record label called V2 (Virgin 2). That label was then sold to Universal in 2007 and resold to PIAS in 2013. In 2004 Richard founded Virgin Galactic for spaceflight journeys in outer space.

Tessa Watts

In 1986 Tesss Watts founded the programming department for the European launch of MTV and produced music video's. She received a Grammy Nomination for producing the video of "The Living Years" by Mike + The Mechanics. The also commissioned the music video for "Sledgehammer" for Peter Gabriel.

Second logo

The first logo for Virgin was designed by the legendary Roger Dean who also did album covers for Yes and represents to virgins. It was later replaced with the logo we all know (above).



Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells
Peter Gabriel - Sledgehammer
Mike + The Mechanics - The Living Years
Sex Pistols - God Save The Queen