At the end of the year, I like to look back, and as the John Lennon lyric goes, “So this is Christmas, and what have you done?”
What have you done? Hmm, what have you done… A check to see if you have been squeezing as much orange juice out of being alive as you can. E v e r y l a s t
d r o p.
The Edwyn Collins guide to life.
We’ve had a really good year. Each year I think that the VoxBox shop is building and getting a wee bit better. The music industry is in a state of flux and I’ve been actually surprised that records are being made in such big numbers again. Every new release is getting a run of vinyl apart from the X Factor stuff. It is a strange place to be on the periphery of this as a wee shop open just twenty-five and a half hours per week.
It has meant that we have to work more. Heaven forbid! By work I mean we need to order more of the new stuff in order to keep our shelves topped up and stay relevant. The vinyl revival does also mean that pre-owned records get a little harder to source. Don’t worry though, we have some contacts. Wink wink. We can now sell back catalogue items that you never see originals of. This pleases both George, who now can sell his favourite album (Forever Changes) and me (probably The Stooges) quite a bit.
Some of the re-issues do seem crazy as they are often plentiful on the pre-owned market (eg Paul Simon’s Graceland) and the quality of some of the new pressings is a bit dubious (The 4 Men With Beards label) but it would be churlish of me to complain. Edinburgh sold out of turntables in the run up to Christmas! This is great news for our record shops.
The year highlight of 2013 was celebrating our 2nd Record Store Day back in April. Wounded Knee singing his Anti Fascist Rant on our steps was a joy.
“BNP Feck off” (pic by Matthew Toad)
All of the bands were incredible and St Stephen Street was buzzing all day. In fact I was buzzing so much, I couldn’t sleep for three days afterwards. An incredible experience! Other things we have been proud of are starting our open turntable DJ night and our new Fresh Air Radio show, both of which will return in the new year. In-stores from SuperMarioNation’s Steve (for the hell of it) and Black International on Cassette Store Day was great fun. Oh, and the Phillip Taylor (PAWS) new album preview in-store was pretty special too.
The biggest musical disappointment for me was that Iggy and the Stooges new album Ready to Die was so ordinary. Iggy redeemed himself a bit last week with his superb Christmas Day radio show on Radio 6. He’s on again with a new show on New Year’s Day at 1300. I won’t be tuning in live though as it clashes with this Scot:Lands thing which looks too good to miss. Local and Scottish music, Dance & Theatre and it’s FREE. You should come too.
So, at the end of this fine year, what would be the VoxBox album of the year?
Erm, as usual, I haven’t done a list. The MOJO magazine tends to write for the record collector market. Their top 50 albums are here and it’d be hard for me to argue as I’ve not heard anywhere near them all.
There have been some notable albums by big Scottish bands too. Primal Scream, Mogwai, Nina Nesbitt, Texas, Boards of Canada, Biffy Clyro, Frightened Rabbit, Chvrches and indeed one by Edwyn Collins.
I would have added in some of our local bands too although it’s hard to be objective as I’m either friends or on friendly nodding terms with many of the folk below who all released albums this year.
Song by Toad label: Adam Stafford, The Leg, Sparrow and the Workshop
Fence/Lost Map: Kid Canaveral, The Pictish Trail, eagleowl, Monoganon
Chemikal Underground: RM Hubbert, Rick Redbeard
Olive Grove: Randolph’s Leap
Comets and Cartwheels: Quickbeam, There Will Be Fireworks
Soft Power: The Rosy Crucifiction
Other folk that brought their albums/EPs in include: Spook School, The Little Kicks, Delta Mainline, Ziggy Campbell, Book Group.
And there are loads more! So I’d say Scottish music is thriving the noo.
My favourite of those? All are really solid. I’ll try to make up my mind for sure before the Scottish Album of the Year Award next year where we might even get a vote…
So I’ll keep my powder dry until then. I will say that the favourite things I’ve heard this year and have been listening to a lot weren’t even released this year. Glorified Demons by (the mysterious) Siobhan Wilson and Weald by Rob St John. You should check them out.
For what it’s worth, the biggest sellers in the shop over the past year, I think can be broken down like this:
Out of 2013 albums, it’s the Les Revenants soundtrack by Mogwai which is also a contender for VoxBox George’s favourite.
The best-selling new re-issues? That’ll be Love’s Forever Changes.
Out of local stuff, eagleowl’s debut album, This Silent Year I think has sold most. Well done Bart and co.
As to pre-owned stuff, selling by the landslide, it has been and will probably forever be, Rumours, by Fleetwood Mac.
Who’s counting anyway? It’s not a competition. I hope you’ve found something old or new that you really love and listen to it without fear of music snobbery. Make up your own mind and go yer own way.
VoxBox George and I would like to thank all of our customers for coming in and making the work such fun and we wish you all a Happy New Year!
Here’s to 2014.
Hip Hip Hooray!
I moved to Craigentinny a year and a half ago and have been plinking around with DIY in my spare time. DIY tends to be dusty business and dust as we know is the enemy of records.
While mosying around my new neighbourhood I came across a giant tomb. There is no other way to describe it except to use capital letters and the bold function; A MASSIVE old monument with carved marble panels on the sides. In among the 1930s bungalows this was a gigantic thing. A giant thing with a plaque attached.
I love living in Edinburgh, there are lots of plaques everywhere. Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) stayed up the road from us on George Street after he eloped. There’s a wee plaque next to a hairdressers that says ‘Percy woz ere’ or words to that effect. I was sure that this monolith in Craigentinny was a monument to war dead. But which war? That was the question. So I went and had a read…
…and found out that it’s not a war monument to our pro patrium mori at all; it’s a family tomb!! A bizarrely huge gravestone.
This is the last resting place for William Henry Miller (1789-1848). And he’s not going anywhere soon.
I recognised the name because there is a song about this very man by Edinburgh’s very own Meursault and after a wee bit of research, (a really interesting piece) the lyrics all start to make sense.
From the internet: “William Henry Miller was an Eighteenth Century politician, possibly a hermaphrodite, who asked to be buried face down, 40 feet beneath the Earth, under a gigantic mausoleum.”
The Neil Pennycook banjo plinking still doesn’t make sense.*
Bury me face-down…
The joke finishes with “…so the world can kiss my arse!”
A scurrilous rumour began after William Henry Miller’s death that he was a hermaphrodite, partly because of the 6 week period between his death and eventual interment and the odd request to be buried so deep and to be covered with a massive slab. But, no wonder it took 6 weeks, they had to dig a 40 foot hole first!
He was maybe afraid of grave robbers or simply fond of the Pharaohs. I think he wanted buried face down so he could look down on the world when he was ascending, Felix Baumgartner–like to heaven. Cometh the resurrection, I think he’ll be left be, Mr God would need a winch to get the lump of stone off of him and probably wouldn’t approve of his spending of £20,000 on his funeral arrangements back in 1848.
If you like, you can watch this ancient video of Meursault and friends playing their masterpiece at the monument itself and looking strangely coy.
Shop favourites, PAWS have been covering this song live too and there’s a video where Josh on drums looks like a thrashy Ringo. I’ll let you find it yourself. (At the spotty dog.)
However, PAWS front man, Phillip played an acoustic cover of the song at our place earlier in the year too.
And with that, I can tie in a plug for the PAWSault gig on Saturday 21st. Yes it’s a hybrid group never before seen, performing at the Song by, Toad label’s Christmas Party (and celebration of 5 years in the business) at Henry’s Cellar Bar. You can be pretty sure this will be the LOUDEST version yet. Somehow, I don’t think William Henry Miller would have approved. Luckily, it’ll be peaceful and quiet where he is…
The real William Henry Miller. Immortalised in song and stone.
*A gentleman is someone who can play the banjo…. but doesn’t. Copyright, Mark Twain (1835-1910).
The HMV Picturehoose has been bought by JD Wetherspoon with the intention of turning it into a pub. Here is the statement. A massive pub; and I’ve been left a wee bit confused by this. You’d think that a venue that regularly holds 1500 customers who pay to get in and then buy the overpriced beer would make a decent profit. Of course, the ticket money goes to the promoter who then pays for the venue hire or there might be some other kind of deal but the venue hire must still be a very decent slice of the pie.
On top of that, the beer and cider is an unbelievable £4.40. Maybe I’m getting old but 2 pints and you don’t have enough change left from a tenner for a bus fare home. There certainly is not a selection of microbrewery niche ales to choose from and on top of that the plastic glasses are so thin and bendy that they almost collapse in your hand.
It is safe to say that if the HMV Picturehouse is making a profit, then that is not a good sign for the balance sheet of its parent company HMV, [och, since writing this, I found out that the Lloyds Predatory Bustard Division bought the building from HMV last year. They had no intention of running a business, let alone a music business. They only buy a distressed businesses assets with the intention of selling off later on for a quick profit, then they move on. Good grief, the government own 1/3 of Lloyds bank], as you don’t sell off the successful parts of your business unless you’re in a LOT of trouble or asset stripping. Council tax is expensive for large businesses. Who knows, maybe that’s the problem.
Since the Picturehouse’s revamp in 2008 it has hosted a load of great gigs and for a wee while in the last few years it felt like I was never out of the place. John Cale, The Darkness, Frightened Rabbit, The Fall, Adam Ant, Stiff Little Fingers, Noah and the Whale, The Cribs, The Magic Band, Vintage Trouble and The New York Dolls. Perfect record shop owner pleasing music. Some real cool times, so I will miss it as a venue. Often local or smaller Scottish bands get to play the stage in the support slots to crowds they’d struggle to reach otherwise. (The support bands get paid a paltry £100 or so -but that’s a separate issue)
It’s hard for venues I think, for example The Usher Hall (capacity 2200 seated, 2900 standing) is publicly owned and required a £40 million refurbishment which took 10 years. It has recently hosted Jack White, Sigur Ros, my partner’s graduation ceremony (which reminds me, New Order played there in 2012 too) and Blondie. Next year it will be hosting er… Simon Cowell’s Little Mix. So the more the merrier and nobody’s perfect.
The Queen’s Hall (capacity 900 seated) only stays open due to a subsidy of £200 000 per year and has been struggling to get funding for renovation. Therefore, it is under constant threat of closure especially so with this government’s Austerity. I suppose a Wetherspoons is open all day and gets the breakfast market, the lunch market, the supper market, the evening pub quiz market and finally the weekend meat market. Maybe all venues should open as gastropubs during the day?*
I really feel that we risk the slow erosion of these concert halls and venues; a cultural vandalism that we need to confront head on. That is why I would recommend people sign the petition to keep the Picturehouse as a venue. It may not succeed but a firm show of support will let the planners in Edinburgh City Council and the Creative Scotland team see that we are serious about our music and that we will fight for our venues. They might even be kinder to those who act as a platform for live music, at all levels, in the future. – I am keenly await the exciting new and not for profit, Sound House.
The Picturehouse is not particularly close to being my favourite of Edinburgh’s larger venues and I am very aware of the faults of the place. I’m also not against JD Wetherspoon as a company and I’m sure they pay their taxes. It’s only that faced with the choice between access to a very nice and great value Wetherspoon’s 2 for 1 piri-piri chicken main meal with diet coke and no ice please, we’re at table 56; and getting to see The New York Dolls in a venue in my own city, every single time I will turn down the nice food so I can go out and dance like a monkey and get Trashed with the Dolls.
* I’m only half joking. I like the Mono model in Glasgow which I think makes the best use of a venue’s space without losing identity. It’s a café during the day, bar and venue in the evenings while also incorporating one of the best record shops in the UK.
**Yes, I keep my ticket stubs and I am not the only one, check out The Edinburgh Gig Archive for a real jog down Edinburgh’s musical memory close.
My favourite of Edinburgh’s new post post post punk bands are the 2 piece Black International.*
Stewart (guitar and vocals) and Craig (drums) were kind enough to agree to play at our place to celebrate the first ever Cassette Store Day in September. They had a single out on cassette and vinyl on Glasgow’s Electric Company records.
We’ve stocked their debut album, In Debt (on CD with hand made cover) almost since opening.
CSD was almost a tongue in cheek event and was put together by the organisers at quite short notice. Some of the tapes were still being manufactured a matter of days before CSD. I knew it’d be a bit ramshackle, but that’s part of the excitement so we signed up as soon as we got the email. I suppose the day was a tribute to the DIY ethos of the small tape based labels. Just get the stuff out! Tapes are now the cheapest physical format to create. You don’t even need a tape player to appreciate them. It’s a nice piece of the band you get free with a download code. Throw in the often handmade artwork and this could be seen as a new independent punk movement.
This blog post is a tad less spontaneous coming out today in December. -The 2 camera footage was trickier to edit together and my techie dude is a bit more of a perfectionist than me. So not very punk of us. Saying that, the footage we’ve put up is mostly the rough edits that haven’t been finished.
Black International are punky but not ramshackle by any means. Both are graduates of Edinburgh College of Art and their talent shows in the album and single sleeves and posters though they don’t make an “arty” sound. Listen to the lyrics though. Stewart is someone who mumbles a bit in person but enunciates on record and stage. I find this interesting too. It’s a sure sign that the lyrics are important to the band. They are rough around the edges but well, they are a punk band with a (dark) politicised cutting edge. “You only know you exist when you exist is when you want something”.
I only recently found out that they had a BBC Radio 1 session a couple of years ago.
Check them out in their new video for The Gilded Palace single. This is dark. Certainly not Edinburgh in summer. This is the doors kicked in of Edinburgh’s real underbelly. Trainspotting’s answer to the artificially inseminated KISS pandas.
Where do you put this terrifying band? “Stewart plays LOUD” I was warned. Craig pounds the drums with hammers and he eats raw steak for breakfast.
We’ll stick them on in the kinda folksy Antiquary across the road! So everyone can get a beer or cider and, well obviously there’s more room there and they can do a nice platter of food too. Very civilised. Fortunately, Stewart and Craig are also very civilised and instead of bringing electric guitar, Marshall stack and a full kit that would deafen everyone and see us forever banned, it was a rare Black International acoustic set with guitar, knitted jumpers and a box drum.
* It’s hard when you start naming styles of music a New anything. New Wave, New Romantic, Post punk, Modern art. Modern Life is rubbish. The folk doing the labeling are showing how rooted in the present and unimaginative they are. It just confuses the issue. What are Black International? New Punk? What and when would that be? Green Day?
I prefer to use how they describe the music on their website: stripped down, economical, brutal pop songs. I might get a header made up.
Five stripped down, economical, brutal pop songs later and Cassette store Day was a real treat. I think it shows the subtlety of the playing and demonstrates that good punk takes some skill and dare I say it, practice. Those are more than 3 chords too and it helps to have something to say. But hey, do what you like. Craig turned out to be towering but he is the man quickest to smile that I’ve met in ages. A lot of fun and as Stewart might say. mmmmmmmbbllemmnn
Get your motor running!
I am incredibly pleased to be on the panel for the upcoming Born To Be Wide event at the Electric Circus on Market Street on Thursday 7th November. For those of you who haven’t noticed that the nights are fair drawing in, that date is really soon. It’s this coming Thursday. The premise of the event is this:
“A single shop can still sell hundreds of albums by a self-released act or small label, as well as providing promotional support through in-stores and recommendations to other retailers. This discussion will look at how artists, labels and managers can best work with the stores to increase the chances of success. “
So then, it’s a seminar on how artists can engage with record shops arranged by the fantastic folks at Born To Be Wide** -An important and increasingly relevant community interest group dedicated to helping Scottish artists find their way in the music industry.
More about the event and tickets, HERE.
So, Are You Experienced?
There is only so long that George and I can say that we’re a just a new shop learning the ropes. After 2 and a half years we’ve learned a lot about the local music scene and have befriended so many of our customers, several local bands, solo artists and the record company distributors, the SMIA/SAY award team and many small to medium records labels. I think we’re no longer two virgins* and even have a bit of expertise to share from the perspective of an enthusiastic new shop.
Failing that, the incredibly experienced Sandy McLean from Love Music in Glasgow and Rose from Coda on the Mound will be there too to give insights gained from their many years running Scottish record shops. I’m hoping that young artists, labels and bands will attend and use the opportunity to ask some questions and say to hello. [Tom from big boys Fopp have joined and Vicki from the label Comets and Cartwheels is on the panel too]
Questions that I’m thinking might come up are:
Who still shops in record shops? Who looks at the local stuff? Isn’t it a bit cliquey? What do shops know? Who do shops know? How should a band or label approach record shops? Don’t I need a label? Will you stock our release? Will it sell? How to help your release sell in shops. How much commission does a shop take? Instores –are they worth it? What about Record Store Day? What’s selling just now? Should I release on Vinyl or CD when downloads are doing well? I’ve made 15 albums or CD-R, do I just bring them in? Where did you get that jumper?
As a band T-shirt wearing kind of guy, my own point of view is that record shops should have local stuff all the time. We have an open shelf policy towards Edinburgh bands and I’d like to invite any artist or label from Edinburgh and throughout Scotland to get in touch and we’ll put your record or CD on the shelf.
Interestingly, Honeyblood have been featured on Wide Days/Born to be Wide. They are now signed to FatCat and have a single out Monday on pink vinyl with an album coming out next year. The girls played for us and you on Record Store Day this year and we’ll have plenty of in. It wasn’t Wide Days or RSD with us that got them a record deal or onto the stage at T-in the Park but I suppose it works as an example of the symbiosis (yes, symbiosis!) of the music community. Lots of little kicks can smash down big doors. It’s really a small world and it’s sensible that we should all be pals.
This is the strange and floaty video for Bud:
Ask not what your shop can can do for you but what you can do for… Sorry, no that’s not right.
Anyway, I hope to see you Thursday!
* A Lennon and Yoko album.
** Born To Be Wide is a Community Interest Company based in central Scotland which stages regular music business seminar and social events for anyone involved or interested in the Scottish music scene. Born to be Wide is a Community Interest Group aimed at supporting local artists and giving the best advice on how to get along as a musician.
ince April 2008, Born To Be Wide has hosted seminars covering subjects such as How To Get A Gig, Unveiling The Mind Of A Music Journalist, A&R, Music Festivals, Music PR, Record Sleeve Design, How To Get On Radio, Music Management and Booking Agents.
In addition to the regular events, Born To Be Wide hosts Wide Days, an annual two-day convention and showcase event which takes place in Edinburgh in April, as well as delivering seminars for various other music industry events including GoNorth.
Olaf is the blond D’Artagnan of the Scottish music industry has been running this important community event for ages and has become a stalwart of the Scottish music industry.
Lou Reed had a liver transplant a few months ago. He’s doing OK apparently. [Not so, he died 27/10/13, I typed this on 26/10/13]
He got Hepatitis C in the 1960s probably from a shared needle. John Cale later developed Hepatitis C, most likely as a result of sharing the same needle with Lou. I presume that Lou’s liver failure was due to that past infection more than the years of booze that were to follow.
In his biography, Cale described a treatment he received in the 1970s which made him feel unwell and he became incredibly miserable and mean, twisted and unkind. I head that Lou later had the same treatment. I dread to think what Lou became like. Lou is not known for his happy go lucky charm.
I really love the Velvet Underground. So much that I forgive Lou Reed his chronic ego and miserablism. I really love his solo albums too. Mostly that is. Some are a bit shit. But Lou can do anything as far as I’m concerned. Some lucky fella is now dead but has kept Lou alive by donating his liver. Look, I’m not keen on car crashes myself, but if a 10 tonne truck crashes into us… to become a donor to an iconic musician makes the thought of it a bit nicer.
I didn’t used to carry a donor card but hey, now I’m in. For who knows, Iggy might need some bits of me. Failing that, what the hell, any of you lot can have them.
Organ Donation Scotland
PS VoxBox George is looking for spare parts for his knee.
Other musical organ beneficiaries:
Billy Preston, (Funk musician and Beatle’s keyboardist) – Kidney transplant (ironically he had a 1970 album called Organ Transplant)
Jack Bruce, (Cream bassist) –Liver transplant
Freddy Fender (Rock and Roll musician) -Liver transplant
John Phillips (Mama’s and Papas) -Lung transplant
David Crosby (Byrds, CSNY) -Liver transplant. Paid for by Phil Collins!
Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead bassist) -Liver transplant
[Lou has been a fantastic inspiration to me over the years. My love of music owes a lot to hearing The Velvet Underground when I was 16 years old. I'll try write a bit about that later. Right now, I'm popping out for a beer and then going upstairs to listen to some records]
It’s taken me 2 years to realise that hitherto unpronounceable Meursault are not named after Neil Pennycook’s favourite sleepy French town. Is he a fan of their famous white burgundies? I had thought he was.
Meursault is the bloody main character in Albert Camus’ novel, L’Etranger, the title probably best translated as The Outsider.
I read that book when I was at University. The main character, Meursault (mer-so) is the original emo. Like The Cure, he kills an Arab and is pretty ‘meh?’ about it. He’s pretty indifferent to everything actually, including his love life, the killing, the trial and life in general. These days he’d be diagnosed with an existential Asperger’s spectrum thing and have been given extra time in his exams before settling into a job in IT.
If you’re like me and try to read some classic books from time to time, please be aware that when someone asks you if you’re reading anything just now, that Albert Camus was a French Algerian and his name is therefore pronounced Albear Camoo, not Albert Camuss like he was good old Bert from Leith. Be careful too before admitting reading Descartes and Goethe you smarty-pants.
They probably have the same problem in France. ‘Eh? avez vous read le nouvoux Eeon Ronkeen livre?’ ‘Groan, eez appellaiz eez pronouncezd Iaan Rankeen vous eembeecile.’
There is a point to this.
I went to see The Leg at Henry’s Cellar bar earlier this year.
Something that night gave the place the aura of an Amsterdam basement.* A place Jacques Brel would seek out. It had an odd otherworldly feel. The orangey lights and earlier bands had set an abrasiveness that was hard to shake and although 2 pints into the show it felt like a psychedelic coin on its edge. There was even a scuffed and battered piano that couldn’t possibly be in tune on the left of the stage. A good trip or horrorshow ahead??
What’s it to be then, eh?
They’re an odd bunch, The Leg. They’re a total mystery to me too. I never ask about who The Leg are or what else they do suffice to say I’m aware that the 3 individuals sometimes contribute to other bands’ records.
Look like they have been on shore for only a few hours. When resting, they appear intense. lick lipping, lean and meat starved hungry.
The album, An Eagle To Saturn came out a wee while ago. We have it. Yes they came onshore dressed as colourful pandas.
Back in Henry’s, their drummer had shaved his beard off since I last saw the band. The beard had been a statement beard. A long braided Jesus of a beard crucified on Dali’s moustache. A beard so distracting that……….. Anyway, I’d seen someone at the bar and thought who is this guy? For I’d never seen the beardless man’s face before.
Yet, I’d seen him before, hmm I though, then I was distracted a bit more. He disappeared and then on seeing him again, this time him on stage, the centime dropped and I realised that this man is Meursault from the Camoo book; at least how I pictured Meursault in the Camoo book in my impressionable heid all those years ago. All gallic gesture, mood and bones. And he’s drumming in The Leg! Neil from Meursault the band walks by. What the hell is going on here?
There’s a cello and a bearded cellist who doubles as the band pianist. A man with so much talent, that the only way he can play honestly is to add in bum notes to make a tune sound more interesting. He’d make Strauss waltz with a limp.
Then there’s the third man of The Leg. Woolen hat. Angry, shouty, spitty, vicious. Singing songs for the dwarves that never made the big time.
What are the songs actually about? Sea monsters obviously. Great big squid, scurvy, rum, splinters and rowing blisters. Hooks and anchors. Knots for fastening stuff. Knotted and tattooed rope for heave-ho arms. Far off lands, exotic maidens and painful exotic diseases. Missing fingers and teeth and scars from errant squid. Other small bite marks that don’t really heal. Revenge on mutinous crew. Scrimshawed orca teeth. Pirate light-saber fights. Skeletons and skulls with crossed bones. Thousand yard stares, crows nests and eyes squinting into a low sun horizon. Cartoon fish net run-ins with nuclear submarines. Drowning comrades and oil spills. Drowning Kamikaze pilots who missed the boat. Sowesters and sideways rain, 30 metre swells. Fore and aft and a’ that. Pickled food and gangways. Gifts from far off tsars, night guidance by the stars. Eaten sailors, tiger sharks. Cargo of rotting pineapple and ballast and stowaway tarantulas. Poisonous giant centipedes ate the ship’s rats. Ship’s surgeon with a bloody apron that can stand up on its own, stiffened by dead and dried blood from the work. The crew’s excrement and dead comrades thrown overboard, sown in canvas.
Okay, so I really have no idea, the songs are genuinely not of this world.
Shore time. 2 days. Don’t stray far. See if you can find some more crew to replace the stiffs and a few barrels of something that at least smells like limes. So they tidy themselves up a bit. And somehow end up in Henry’s playing this odd music.
A porthole looking into something outside that you are unsure if you even want to see. Frightened, you open your ears and take a peek.
Have a peek at this:
Whatever Happened To The Shrunken Tina Turner
That’s an older album. Track 10 is gloriously rough and a bit sweary, be warned.
A new album is nearing release on the back of this weird single, Chicken Slippers.
The band play at The Pleasance on Saturday night (Meursault on the bill too). There must be an otherworldly ship in Leith docks just now. It’ll be a few months until it comes in again. I’m looking forward to seeing this, I’ll be hiding near the front, sowester at the ready.
* Not a vinyl basement with fetish gear and that kind of stuff, nor a nice vinyl basement full of records and that. There is a true story involving this mix up but you can make one up for yourself. Just wander your character and friends into the red light district and have him say “we’re looking for vinyl”.
The nice people at Waterstones have invited VoxBox into their huge West End store as a pop up shop to help promote a book. That was an incredibly fun email to open and we jumped at the chance and ran and brought them some nice stuff to put in the window.
Yeah Yeah Yeah is the new book on POP by Bob Stanley. POP With capital letters. Bob Stanley is in Saint Etienne, he’s a well respected musician and seasoned music writer and record enthusiast who is now championing the hit parades of the past. As a vintage record shop, that’s our kind of guy!
But what to blazes is pop? I actually though that Saint Etienne were the first “serious” Pop band I was into. I saw them on The Word in 1990 when I was 13. They played You’re in a Bad Way and I fell in love with Sarah Cracknell. That was even the tune and video I picked for our very first song of the day on Facebook just after we opened in 2011.
After reading a few pages of this book it’s dawned on me that I am actually a HUGH pop fan and VoxBox is full of vintage pop. What we predominantly sell is or was popular music and that is a wide field indeed.
It’s all there though. The book is a massive 700 odd pages, so it is actually broad in its scope without trying to be definitive regarding any era. I also keep it by the bedside as a potential weapon in case of burglers. The book takes you from the 1950s crooners and the birth of the chart in 1953 through early Rock and Roll, Elvis, British Rock and Roll, Motown, Phil Spector, Joe Meek, The Beatles, Stones, Soul, Bowie, Bolan through Punk, Reggae, Prog, Hard Rock, Disco and New Wave. Then finally onto the rise of Indie music and Techno, stopping around 2003 with the download age. It basically fits in with 50 years of 7” singles and also I happy to say, is almost identical to our browser headings. The Rolling Stones are pop! Strewth, gimme shelter.
Anyway, while reading, I’ve been pulling out some 45s from our Backroom that Bob writes about. I was surprised to find that there have been a few gems under my nose for more than a few years.
Del Shannon has become a favourite artist. This was 1962 and the sound is pure garage band psychedelia. This was a great find for me. Exciting! The tune had been lost on the the B-Side. Thanks Bob!
So back to the book event! BBC Scotland’s Vic Galloway will be interviewing Bob Stanley in the evening and Bob will be hosting a pop quiz. It’s on Tuesday 22nd October. We’ll have a shop on the 3rd floor by the music books and café. VoxBox George and I will have a mini pop music museum and record shop featuring much of the music in Yeah Yeah Yeah so folk can pop upstairs and have a listen. We’ll have some St. Etienne records old and new too that Bob might sign for you if you’re nice or something.
The talk and Q&A with Bob Stanley and Pop Quiz takes place later in the evening and is ticketed. Get tickets here.
I love a pop quiz and am a record geek, so this looks like good fun. As you’re reading this, you are maybe one too. If you’re only starting out buying records, this book would be a handy guide. Read it or dip in and it’s a gateway into the fascinating field of pop music history and will hopefully open your mind to where modern popular music evolved from (and from where it has so often recycled). I recommend finding the songs he mentions online while you read as there are hundreds of real gems. You can always find your favourites on vinyl later or have a trawl through our Backroom singles.
Bob manages to put the hits of the day in context. The Beatles first album may not be great by today’s standards (I’ll argue with George about this controversial idea later) but in understanding what came before and after, you can appreciate just how ground-breaking and important it was. For a youngster just getting into records, the book is the abridged bible of pop. For seasoned oldies but goodies who can remember the tunes when they came out, there’s nostalgia and the bonus of a nugget of trivia on every page.*
For instance, did you know that the bulk of Please Please Me was recorded in a day during a mammoth 10 hour recording session? Lennon had a cold, sucking on cough sweets and had a ragged throat. Twist and Shout was recorded in one take at the end of the session. A second was attempted but his voice was knackered. That’s why he sounds so gloriously rough!
Basically, I really recommend the book and am happy to plug it for that very reason. Tuesday will be busy, so if you do fancy the event, get a ticket early, or if not but you’re in town, come visit us on the 3rd floor and say hi. Just follow the sound of pop music up the stairs. Thanks also to Waterstones for helping a tiny shop like us. Our heads might even pop, as for one day only we can boast that we’re the largest record shop on Princes Street. (find us next door to HMV). Yeah Yeah Yeah!
I’ll finish with a pic of Del Shannon that I’ve made look a bit like Morrissey. Just for fun and to remind myself to buy more printer ink.
*More POP Trivia: Did you know that Iggy Pop was just plain Iggy Stooge until he shaved his eyebrows (why!?). It made him look like a local character who had a form of alopecia and no eyebrows. That guy was called Jimmy Pop.
Way before that, Jim Osterberg played drums in a band called The Iguanas. Getting called Iggy was probably folks taking the piss as the band wasn’t that good.
After a blog hiatus, I’m very pleased to say that we’re doing a radio show. Not real on the airwaves radio, but internet radio. That’s an oxymoron you say? Ssh!… don’t analyse everything. Edinburgh University have a student run internet radio channel called Fresh Air Radio and from tomorrow VoxBox has a show on it. This is good and fun news. Now, it’s a long time since I left university and I’m certainly not down with the kids, I can’t twerk, I can’t sing, I ain’t pretty and my legs are thin so we’ll just see how it goes down with the young audience. Clearly you don’t need to be a student to listen in but if you like you can always pretend. No one will know.
I had a wee Fresh Air radio show during the festival called Plastic Passion. A terrifying two hour show broadcast live for 3 weeks in August. The shows are now somewhere on the internet and I’ll try to look them out. There were some good bits and some cringe-worthy bits. It is what it was though, and I’m chuffed to bits that I was invited on and given the chance to play at being a Radio DJ for a while.
For the August shows I roped in a radio and vinyl obsessed friend, Dominic to help out. He’s the more serious and professional one and thankfully is much less likely than me to become speechless and stammery with coffee and nerves. P-p-p-p-p-practice mak-k-k-kes p-p-p-p-p. Oh I give up. So Dom will be co-hosting the show again and I can’t rule out a cameo appearance from VoxBox George when he gets back from holiday. It’s exciting times and it feels good to get more deeply involved in the music community.
Our August shows were produced by Elyse and the new shows will be again so I’m hoping for a cozy feel. In August, she told me that it took her ages to come down to the shop. Why so? I was surprised that she had thought she wasn’t cool enough to go into VoxBox. “Now after meeting you, I realise my mistake.”
This NEW show is going for a similar feel as before. Totally uncool and unhipsterish. It’s called The Big VoxBox Radio Show and will be broadcast live on Fresh Air Radio every Wednesday from 1900-2000. I’ll figure out how to keep them as standalone Podcasts and put them up on Mixcloud or Podomatic and get a link up to the website.
What to expect? It won’t be typical music, what would be the the point of that? So, it’s more album tracks, local singles and other odds and ends that Dom and I come across in the shop or from home. Mainly new stuff though and mainly on vinyl.
We’ll make a particular point of playing Edinburgh and Scottish based bands especially if there is a new release on vinyl to plug. CDs, I’m less keen on but if the music’s new, underexposed and great, we’ll play whatever format we can get hold of. Send us your stuff is the mantra. We’ll probably play it.
For instance, this week, to help plug The John Knox Sex Club/Over The Wall split single launch gig on Friday we’ll play it. Record available at the gig, from GerryLoves.com and in your favourite Edinburgh and Glasgow’s record shops.
Siobhan Wilson (self released CD out), Rick Redbeard (album out earlier this year, vinyl sold out although Rick might have a copy or two left for sale) and Honeyblood playing on Saturday? You might remember Honeyblood from RSD at our place. Honeyblood have their debut single out on vinyl on the 21st October and have had a bit of airplay on Radio 6 Music. There’s lots of talent around!
We’ll do our best to help.
*Songs the never play on the radio is the title of a book on Nico. She was someone who made music that was rarely played on the radio at the time she made it and equally today.
I’m totally chuffed to say that we’re taking part in the very first International Cassette Store Day. Is it a gimmick? Yes! Do people still play cassettes? No, not really, you could sell probably sell blank cassettes and never be found out! But they’re still great are they? Yes. Yes they are. Yes. Yes they are. This is not a problem with copy and paste. Tapes are great, yes they are.
Imagine you were one of One Direction. At the moment so confused with the hormones and the copious amounts of new tattoo ink in yer bloodstream. Push FFWD to 80. Once you hit 80+ years, memory failing, getting stiff, hip broken, teeth missing, memory failing, needing to pee five times a night and memory like a … what’s the word for a really fine collander? Your children want something to sell to pay your nursing home fees. Somehow you remember. I’m Harry bloody Styles! I was massive for doing something. Then you start looking for the memorabilia you have…
Not to be confused with One Direction, the Black International folk have been coming in to VoxBox since we opened. I’m really chuffed to have them on board for our 1st Cassette Store Day. They’re normally REALLY LOUD but strip down to an acoustic LOUD too. New single, Gilded Palace oot on cassette tape, 7 inch vinyl, and probably download too. They’re playing at 1600. Expect something like this but with party poppers:
Sending a Scottish lad to art school does not lead to Eric Clapton. It leads to an odd brilliance of arty punky stuff.
We’ll have lots of CASSETTE STORE DAY tapes, but first may I interest you in these?
Randolph’s Leap -Brilliant! That’s not the title. I love the band and it’s brilliant that they are putting out something. We have 6 copies of a super limited run of 20 of their new EP. Twenty! Twenty copies! That’s the equivalent of U2 doing something like 100 cassettes. The fan to cassette ratio that is. Get a tape ASAP.
Adam Stafford EP Millions must work forever. Sold out Record Store Day cassette just found again in among some stuff. x1
An Inaugral Address -Gerry Loves Records, 16 track compilation label sampler. FREE to tape fans.
The Just Joans Live at the Wee Red Bar. They dropped in a few copies of their tape. It sounds like a bit like this:
Any PAWS Tigerlily demo tapes left from after the Mono and Banshee Gigs will be on sale. Basically, go to the gigs to be sure!
The Son(s) -Leviathan. Great debut by the nicest chap you could meet.
Oh, also Randolph’s Leap’s RSD tape. There’s a couple left. It contains the song ‘Crisps’.
A few other odds and sodds I’ve picked up by Garden of Elks, The Black Tambourines, The Perverts, Zaklante/Hazetomb, Roadside Picnic. (?. I know)
As far as official tapes, these have finally arrived.
JJ Doom Key to the KUFFS (Lex)
V/A Collective Hiss (Faux Discx)
Mum Smilewound (Blood and Biscuits)
Efterklang Tripper (Blood and Biscuits)
Dolfinz Pagan Dating (Tye Die Tapes)
Molly Nilsson The Travels (Night People)
Animal Collective Sung Tongs (FatCat)
His Clancyness “Covering Up” (FatCat)
Guided By Voices English Little League (Fire/Bad Paintings)
Xiu Xiu Women as Lovers (Bad Paintings)
The Fair Ohs JAMS VOLUME #2 (Supplex)
The Proper Ornaments Demos (Supplex)
Bright Light Bright Light-Make Me Believe In Hope (Self Raising Records) —->Gold tape!
Let’s Wrestle -Demos (Supplex)
Fear Of Men -Early Fragments
Loom, The Wytches, Polterghost -Sampler (Hate Hate Hate Records)
Potty Mouth The Spins (Marshall Teller Records)
Los Campesinos Live double album (Kissability)
Volcano Choir -Repave (Jagjaguwar)
Casket Girls -Coming from the USA -May be late.
Ambrosia(@) -Cordially Yours (Bomb Shop) -2 track including drone version of Anne Briggs’ “Go Your Way”
Rough Fields -You as You (Bomb Shop) – 2 track
Fierce County -Woodsman EP (Bomb Shop) -4 tracks of modern folk
Rough Fields -The hHarbour Wall (Bomb Shop) -Experimental electronic folk music
Pairs -Summer Sweat (Bomb Shop) -14 tracks thrashy Shanghai duo
God Bows to Math (Bomb Shop) Self titled album. New Zealand trio. Noisy rock music.
Sous Section 5 -Sonsuz (Bomb Shop) endless loop cassette EP (only 50 worldwide)
Mason Clinic -Prisoners (Bomb Shop) Fuzzy guitars and bittersweet melodies. Maybe New Zealand’s best band.
Preslav Literary School/Will Gresson, Analepsis/The Last Tram, split cassette (Bomb Shop)
Phew! More to come.
CHEWED TAPE RAMBLINGS
For a few years now small labels have been putting out music on cassettes. There are only a Tony Iommi handful of companies that still make tapes in the UK. Why have they been doing this? Why keep making tapes when CD-Rs are so cheap and easy to make? That question is probably the answer. CD-Rs are really shit. Vinyl is very expensive to make, especially for a short run of singles. Tapes are cheap.
Old technology is actually new technology to young people too.
They are also usually really limited. A young band may make 50 tapes of a release.
Like the band? Buy the tape! For a start, small bands get paid little for a gig. Buying tapes help bands.
Buying tapes from bands who you think might just make it is great. It helps the band. Tell yer mates about them.
The Flaming Lips putting out a tape limited to 100 worldwide is crazy. I collect records and tapes and have a shop. If we managed to get one and if I was a BIG fan what should I do?
So, like Record Store Day, some tapes are way too limited, but please remember that the day is about cassette tapes, not artists or even record shops really (How many still sell tapes?). The larger bands can create more media interest, but it’s not about the media and other stuff as much as the grass roots bands that have been grafting and making art for these years. I’ve said it. Art. These items really are, at their best, Art, and at their worst a triumph of unemployment over brainpower.
The artwork is often mindbreaking and often with individually hand-written labels and inserts. Sometimes the packaging is better than the music.
Is it a fad for status seeking retro walkman people? Yes, it is. Is it for you too?
Simply answer this question; Do you like tapes?
VoxBox is 2 years and 4 months old and we are due a party. It’s also my birthday on Saturday. There’s a party at our place all day. Food, balloons, cake and other things. Party poppers? Yes. Them too. And tapes. Lots of tapes.