When VoxBox opened in 2011 somebody said that it reminded them of Bruce’s in the 1960s. That’s a compliment and a half! I don’t think we’re always there in terms of new releases and we’re not importing exotic beasts but I think we do have the widest range of Scottish independently made records available in Edinburgh. However, I don’t think we or any shop these days can even touch Bruce’s in it’s heyday.
In case you don’t already know, Bruce Findlay opened a chain of record shops in the late 60s and 70s. His older brother was already working in the family record shop but young Bruce was perhaps just a little more charismatic and ambitious and he pushed to expand into other towns and finally became ruler of a small chain of sensibly sized record shops. In fact, by specialising in American rock imports and underground music, they sold the best records in every town they were in. They took on the major high street record shops, had adverts in NME, their own fanzine, promoted gigs and basically took over central Scotland… And they had the best slogan too.
Bruce’s record shop bags were famous in themselves: Red bags with “I found it at Bruce’s” on them. He also personalised their clear PVC record sleeves. When we buy in collections, there are usually some records bought at Bruce’s Record Shop that still have the lovely “Bruce’s Record Shop” in fancy script on the top right corner of the PVC cover. The pride he had in the shop was obvious.
A side effect of having the record shops was that he found out about the talented local bands in need of exposure and he created a wee label called Zoom! In racy italics of course. Zoom! sIgned some of the best local bands in Edinburgh in the post-punk rush and even signed a wee band from Glasgow called Simple Minds. And Zoom! they went… Simple Minds became the biggest band in the world for a while and Bruce was the tinted glasses wearing, hard partying, fast talking, deal making manager. Meanwhile, other shops had copied his business model and finally the shops were sold as he focussed his energy on the band. The is a great wee feature on Bruce’s career here that you can read later. https://stevomusicman.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/qas-bruce-findlay/
Bruce shares his 5 point plan on Razzmatazz. Still holds to this day I think.
Fast forward a decade or two and I first met Bruce at the VoxBox opening party back in 2011 and we have gone on to have some hearty chats from time to time so I’d asked him if he’d like to come to The Holy Ghosts gig for their EP launch last year. The good time rock and roll band’s last release was on our own VoxBox shop label. The support band was Miracle Glass Company and it was the first time I’d seen them. I was manning the merch stall on the night and I sold a lot of Miracle Glass Company’s CD EPs there. A lot of CDs… More in fact, than I’ve ever seen sold at a local band’s gig -and by a long stretch.
Bruce told me he thought Miracle Glass Company were fantastic and asked me if they were signed to the shop label too.
I said “No, but I’m hoping to speak to their manager.” I was a bit coy and said “I suspect they will soon get signed to a proper label”.
“You are a proper label!” he said.
And that stopped me in my tracks.
Coming from Bruce, I was a totally dumbfounded as my idea of “proper labels” are the biggies of the old days like Island, Decca, RCA, Columbia, Parlophone, EMI, Pye, Atlantic, Stax, Motown and the great indie labels, ROUGH TRADE, Stiff, Postcard or indeed Bruce’s own Zoom! label itself. I went away and had a think because to me it sounded a bit too much. The Holy Ghosts’ EP was only our 3rd release and our only one on vinyl. Our first 2 being on cassette tape compilations.
I mulled it over a bit.
To be a label these days all you actually need is a website and a release to plug but I’ve never found that entirely satisfactory.
It takes a while to build up a reputation. VoxBox is into its 6th year of business. 5 Record Store Days. 3 Cassette Store Days. Loads of in-stores. An ear to the ground on what’s going on in the Scottish Music scene. A vote for the Scottish Album of the Year Award. Over the years, VoxBox has been featured in Music Week, The NME, BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC Radio Scotland. We’ve had a double page spread in The Scotsman newspaper and a few articles in the Edinburgh Evening News, as well as coverage in the excellent Skinny magazine and The List magazine who also help publicise and often attend our events. On top we have friends and acquaintances among the local and national music bloggers, labels, fanzines, music distributors, venues, artists, industry professionals, band managers, festival organisers, fellow record shops and glossy music magazines. We’ve also now to date released 7 albums, one EP and a single. It may sound like blowing one’s own trumpet but I’m very proud of this wee shop.
As a label, What we have isn’t even exactly a website with a release to sell- I think it is different from that. The overall ambition is to politely yet enthusiastically kick doors down and to really help an Edinburgh band break out and draw attention to the finest musicians in our city. The fact that there aren’t any major label offices up here is sad as there is so much talent. But while that is the case, with a shoestring budget and a sprinkling of what money can’t buy, we’ll try our damnedest to help.
So thank you to Bruce! A little while after our chat, I had realised that the shop label is as proper as a small label can be these days and I won’t ever talk it down again. And to top off this tale and to make everything a bit weirder and a bit more perfect. We have signed the best guitar band in Britain.
Miracle Glass Company.
“In dreams begins responsibility”