Complaint letters and half-quoted poetry

A close up of Richard Branson smiling, looking at the camera
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 11 February 2016

Last week I took a trip down memory lane with my very first complaint letter, which took issue with the amount of noise we were making in the Student magazine digs. This week, I’ve unearthed another amusing letter from my past.

Image from Virgin.com
Image from Virgin.com

One day short of being exactly eight years since we got that letter about printing presses, slippers and open front doors, I received another letter. It was August 15th 1976, and Virgin Records was in full flow. Mike Oldfield’s Ommadawn was riding high in the charts for us, with Gong joining him in the top 10. 

We were also busily trying to grow the label by signing major stars such as The Rolling Stones, The Who and Pink Floyd. Even more importantly, we were to reinvent Virgin Records by finding the next big thing too. The likes of Dire Straits were round for negotiations, and The Sex Pistols would soon follow.

As you can imagine, the atmosphere in the house sometimes got quite raucous. There were always bands playing, artists hanging around, and parties going on until the early hours. Understandably, this didn’t always go down very well with our neighbours. I found the following complaint letter in my postbox. 

Image from Virgin.com
Image from Virgin.com

Dear Mr Branson,

Would it not be possible for your guests, if and when they leave your house at times up to Two in the morning (as they did in the small hours last Saturday) to go more quietly, and not to shout raucously as they go “Well, make sure they have the marijuana out ready, then,” nor to trill out, as they trip along the Terrace, half-quoted T.S Eliot?

40 years later, I must say the complaint has a poetic note all of its own. I wonder which Eliot was being half-quoted – perhaps one of my own favourites about overcoming challenges: “If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”