Ah it feels like the start of Summer. For those of you with holidays coming or that simply have the time to get away and leave the rat race for a while. Remember, it’s not a race.
Leave VoxBox at 21 St Stephen Street taking a right.
Take a right and walk downhill to the bus stop.
A 29 bus will take you up the hill and heads east along Princes Street. £1.80 for a single. It’s a 5 minute journey and you could walk uphill in 10 mins… but it is quite a steep hill.
Get off at Princes Street. Cross the road and keep going east toward Waverley train station.
You aren’t actually going to the train station. The airport bus, the Lothian Airlink 100, leaves every 10 mins from Waverley Bridge next to the train station. The bus takes 30 mins to get to the airport. An open return is £7.50.
However for the FUN of it, take the Tram to the airport. The TRAM! They’re every 8-10 minutes and leave from stops in the middle of Princes Street. This will be £8 for a return and takes 35mins. Buy a ticket before hopping on or it’ll be £10. Race the bus. For that extra 50p it bloody well IS a race! Zooooooom!!
Tram takes an early lead!
Phew! After all that excitement, you’re at Edinburgh Airport and have enjoyed a thrilling shiny Tram ride. Get in line and queue. Whistle. Queue. Let your mind wander a bit. Check In. Queue. Go through security. Gosh it’s warm and the juice machine is a bit dear and they’ve taken my own bottle of home made diluting juice away from me. Queue while thirsty. Finally crack and buy two bottles of juice. One for now, one for the plane. And we’re off!
Board an aeroplane to Heathrow (Virgin Atlantic). -Requires booking in advance.
Change at Heathrow for a new aeroplane to Los Angeles, LAX. (Virgin Atlantic) That’s about 15hrs From Edinburgh to LA.
Layover -Twiddle thumbs/meditate/snooze for about 2hrs 10mins.
Board a plane to Norman Y. Mineta Airport. This flight will take 1hr 18mins.
All in all, these three flights will come in at about £800 return.
You are now there. If you believe in zen, maybe not. ‘A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.’ ~Lao Tzu .
In case you were wondering and for future reference… This, dear reader, is the way to San Jose.*
There are a reasonable number of record shops in San Jose.
But if you keep going…
From the airport, board a bus to Santa Carla Caltrain Station. About 5mins.
Board a Caltrain to San Francisco Caltrain Station -1hr 28mins.
Take the San Francisco Municipal Transport KT line. About 30 mins.
Disembark at junction of Carl St and Stanyan St.
Walk north on Stanyan Street -4 blocks. About 6mins.
Take a right on Haight Street.
Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94117, United States
Amoeba Music in San Francisco is one of the largest record shops in the world with a staggering amount of music. There is an even larger one in Los Angeles too. But if you just wanted to pop in there, you’d miss the frivolous and imaginary, longwinded trip to San Jose which seems to be what this blog post is all about…
…or is it?**
*This appears to be the most economical way at short notice. However, if you’d like to save a lot of time and can book in advance, there are direct flights from Edinburgh.
All the information you require for this coming Record Store Day in Edinburgh in one handy blog post. The shop will open at 9am on Record Store Day. We don’t have the Official RSD releases so if you need the Reissues of Bruce Springsteen’s first 7 albums, you’ll have to go to Coda or Underground Solushn. If you are after a nice day out in fashionable Stockbridge, a bit of a browse and a beer or two, topped off with a full afternoon of fantastic live music AND an original 1970s copy of Bruce’s fine double album The River in Excellent condition for £8, then VoxBox will be the place for you.* Music will be between the shop and The Last Word Saloon at 44 St Stephen Street. Kids are allowed in but it might be busy. If the weather is nice, the street is the best place in the world to be. Plenty steps to sit on, boutiques to visit and the Sprio cafe for a panini is lovely. Anyway, here are the timings for a day of the best live music in Edinburgh.
Half hour sets from Supermoon at 12 noon to Garden of Elks at 5 nelks.
I do believe there will be an afterparty at The Electric Circus. Details to follow.
But first, a quick preview of the bands!
“Meursault is dead, and from its ashes rises Neil Pennycook’s new project: Supermoon.
Released on the 27th April 2015, this is a first taste of the new stuff, out on cassette and digital only, building up to a new album in the Autumn. Supermoon material has a bit more tension and needle than later Meursault releases, embracing a darker characterisation, nastier production and a far greater sense of dislocation.
Basically, it’s more minimal, weirder and generally more unpleasant, and I think this is a very good thing.” Yes, it is.
The Holy Ghosts are Edinburgh’s good time rock n roll band. Infused with the finest country rock of 1972. From Gram Parsons to Little Feat via the Rolling Stones. They have 3 EPs and one album of catchy songs under their belt already. The shop label FoxBox released their latest EP on glorious 10 inch vinyl back in March. They’ll play as a stripped down 3 piece.
Tuff Love are signed to Lost Map, Eigg’s finest record label. They played RSD at our place last year. This year they return and have a brand new split single release for Record Store Day. You can listen to “Groucho” above. Which reminds me… Outside of a dog a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.
Ahem, moving swiftly on…
Miracle Strip came into the shop a couple of years ago with their debut single, Girl Gang/Stephanie on the Moon, on glorious white vinyl. It’s great! They are releasing their 1st album soon. Copies will be available on limited edition cassette tape with download code on Saturday. You can listen to the first single from the album above.
Poor Things are following up their 2014 album and a split EP (with Catholic Action) with a new split release on Gerry Loves Records in June. You can hear their song from the release above. They’ll be playing a stripped down set on Saturday, and you may even be able to get your hands on a super-limited test pressing of their new release.
Delta Mainline are my new favourite Edinburgh band. Their debut album Oh! Enlightened came out in 2013. The new one will be released next year. The new single “Vultures” on coloured 7″ vinyl is out at the end of June. The B side has remixes by Remember Remember and Miaoux Miaoux. This will be the 2nd vinyl release on the shop’s FoxBox label. They will play a rare stripped down set. I’ll tell you more about this soon.
Randolph’s Leap played at Kid Canaveral’s Christmas Baubles at Portobello Town Hall last year. The set was recorded and has been turned into round and shiny vinyl. It will be released on Record Store Day. Adam Leap will be playing solo.
Garden Of Elks complete the bill. They have a brand new album on Song, by Toad Records entitled A Distorted Sigh. Available on cassette and vinyl. Check out this tasty review from The Herald. “…They’re bloody marvellous live too.” You can see for yourselves.
There will be a merch table in The Last Word Saloon featuring all of the releases. All of them will also be available in the shop. Do take time to give them a listen. I’m constantly being impressed by the quality of the music being made by artists from down the road. In fact, since opening almost 4 years ago, the local releases section has become my firm favourite. The major labels are really missing a trick. The VoxBox team look forward to seeing you on Record Store Day. I’ve a feeling it will be sunny.
Any last minute changes will be announced on the Facebook event page.
And also on twitter –@voxboxmusic.
*Seriously, I think we’ve 5 copies of The River just now.
The shop will take part in Record Store Day in a stripped back way this year as we won’t be stocking the RSD releases.
Normally, as well as stocking the exclusive releases, we like to use Record Store Day as a platform for local bands and labels that have been supportive of the shop. That hasn’t changed and this year we’ve cut out the official releases but are instead working to promote brand new vinyl and cassette releases by bands that are often based just down the road. A showcase of local talent as a treat for the ears. In terms of limited edition records, we will have a special focus on the many and varied local bands and Scottish labels that we stock and work with. Labels that release limited runs of top quality music all year round and which improve every record shop that stocks them.
The michty Wounded Knee RSD 2013
To celebrate RSD this year we have a showcase of Edinburgh bands playing short intimate sets from noon until 6pm.
Delta Mainline -(New single ‘Vultures’ coming out on vinyl on the shop’s FoxBox label on June 29th)
The Holy Ghosts -Edinburgh’s finest good time rock and roll band. (Vinyl EP was the shop label’s 3rd release and came out in March)
Retro electro-poppers Miracle Strip (Simply Thrilled Records) release their debut album on cassette.
Supermoon (Neil Pennicook of previously of Meursault) -New album on cassette out early April on Edinburgh’s Song, by Toad label.
Garden of Elks -New album on vinyl about to be released on Song, by Toad.
Coming through from Glasgow and playing later in the day are:
Randolph’s Leap (Lost Map Records) who are releasing a Live EP on vinyl for RSD
My apologies for not updating Facebook and Twitter and so on very much over the past few weeks, I’ve had a topsy-turvy month and haven’t even really been in the shop for the past fortnight.
Inquisitively, as my friendly next door neighbour says; “So… what’s your news?”
There’s loads of stuff to shout about and, I’m chuffed to now find out that absolutely everyone on the street received the same letter from the council warning about putting garden waste -leaves and clippings and such- over the back fence into the council nature reserve bit. Ahem, we have allegedly stuck a Christmas tree (now 2 years old) in a gap to kind of block the burglars.
Enough of this, there are lots of shop and record related things to be excited about in 2015 that I’d like to quickly share just now.
An excellent find only last week was Kathryn Joseph. She has made a really wonderful record, called bones you have thrown me and blood I’ve spilled. She played a launch gig the other day and I’m already smitten. The folk that put out Frightened Rabbit’s first record have resurrected their Hits The Fan label to put the album out. We managed to have a wee chat after the show too and (unusually) I didn’t say anything too stoopid.*
“I’d love to have some for the shop”. “I only had 250 made and I’m running out”. “Shucks, that’s ok, best sell them yourself then. Erm… Get a repress ASAP please… and we’ll stick them on the shelf”.
Someone could make her very famous indeed. If that’s you – Please do it!
In other exciting news, the already pretty famous Twilight Sad have arranged to play a series of record shop in-stores during February. I am incredibly happy to say that they are playing in VoxBox on Saturday the 14th of February at 4pm. They have had such a great 2014 and we are all very humbled to have them play here. This Facebook Event link will have the up to date info in case of any last minute changes. They are releasing a limited edition picture disc available only through participating shops and the band’s own website. They have just won the BAMS award for best album and have been top of every Scottish music bloggers list for ‘album of 2014′ with Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave.
The shop is a bit wee… The Twilight Sad are quite popular… Arrive early… Bring a tipple… Buy the single… Support the band… Have fun… (In a piece of arch capitalism, I can guarantee entry to fans that buy the single and even then the earlier the better).
March sees the shop’s spin-off label, FoxBox Records’ 1st vinyl release. A big ten inch… record of a band that plays the blues**.
The Holy Ghosts have a new release and it’s a fine thing! It’s FXY003 and it is a four song EP called End Of The World And Other Multifarious Destinations. Expect more of the good time rock and roll that the Edinburgh band have become famous for. If you liked The Stones circa 1972, then this could be your new favourite band! If you come to the shop on Wednesdays and Thursdays, you may even recognise the poncho wearing chap below.
They play launch shows in Edinburgh at The Caves on Friday the 13th March supported by [the incredible] Miracle Glass Company and in Glasgow at the Record Factory on Saturday the 14th.
Sooner than that, there is a free show at the Electric Circus on the 3rd February before a tour of France.
So a few nice things to look forward to there.
All trumped for me at least by the biggest release of 2015. Already! What was this musical beauty?
Nowt musical I’m afraid… On the 16th of January, Mrs VoxBox had a release and I became a poppa. An heir to the VoxBox empire maybe? Who knows? He’s a bonny wee guy. I hope he likes good music and I hope he grows up to like records (only after he’s a toddler). On that though, I don’t really mind. Mostly, I hope he finds eventually something he really likes and can get stuck into for a while. At the moment he likes sleeping a little bit more than music.
Indeed, I hope I still like records when I’m covered in possets and all manner of baby deposits.
Our wee lad came 8 weeks early and because of that he still needs a lot of visiting, but with a wee bit of luck the shop should manage to stay up to date. All is well with him and it looks as if VoxBox Aiden will manage his first shift at VoxBox with his pops later in the year.
“What’s a VoxBox Pops?”
* Oh bugger. I did let it slip out that I was a big Tori Amos fan circa Under The Pink
If you read the blog last year you’ll know how uncomfortable I am with these end of year lists. You should read all the proper Mojo, Uncut, NME lists and the online magazine lists and the blogger lists, have a wee read of the odd review and then, finally write the names of the bands on pieces of paper and stick them all in a hat. Every year I have a look at the lists and think wow… that’s a lot of albums. And also, wow… that’s a lot of albums that we’ve never even had on the shelf… I’m surprised at the number of quality albums that are made every year. Especially so, the amount of quality albums made on our doorstep and I suppose that is the focus here.
I’m happy to say that out of the Sunday Herald’s top 50 Scottish Albums of 2014 we stock 25. (We also stock albums that never made that list too and a few are listed below.) Nothing omitted out of any snobbishness. Simply that there might not be a physical release or that the labels are small and they maybe don’t know that the shop exists so that neither of us has been in touch with the other. To remedy the situation, I’ll work on getting hold of the ones we are missing in the New Year. We have an open shelf policy for local music on CD and Vinyl.
So, the VoxBox favourite albums of 2014? It’s hard to pick one favourite album of the year. But this time I’ve compiled a LIST! Not one that goes over the Mojo territory with The War on Drugs and St Vincent and so on although we do stock them. This list is a mixture of my own preferences of the local/Scottish releases that we stock (and what gets played in the car) with extra weight given to our top selling artists of 2014. Bearing in mind that in our shop vinyl sells much better than CDs. Why 29? Well, it was supposed to be a top 20 and I kept finding more that couldn’t really be left out. The FoxBox compilation tape sold the most and I obviously really like it but I honestly don’t think it was the best thing released this year so it’s there at the bottom as an addendum.
It’s just a list. And this slightly embarrassing photo kind of sums up the year we’ve had. So without further ado. Ahem.
Vashti meets her 2 biggest fans.
1. Vashti Bunyan –Heartleap (Joyous completion of a trilogy which began in 1971 -more on this later)
2. King Creosote –From Scotland With Love
3. Bastard Mountain –Farewell Bastard Mountain
4. Withered Hand –New Gods
5. PAWS –Youth Culture Forever
6. Honeyblood -Self Titled
7. The Twilight Sad –Nobody Wants to be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave
8. Stanley Odd –A Thing Brand New
9. Mogwai -Rave Tapes
10. Remember Remember -Forgetting The Present
11. James Yorkston -The Cellardyke Recordings
12. Young Fathers –DEAD
13. Andrew Pearson and Lovers Turn To Monsters -Everything We Miss
14. Yusuf Azak –Peace In The Underworld
15. Randolph’s Leap –Clumsy Knot
16. The Phantom Band –Strange Friend
17. Owl John -Self Titled
18. We Were Promised Jetpacks -Unravelling
19. The Son(s) -The Things I Love Are Not At Home
20. Broken Records –Weights And Pulleys
21. The John Knox Sex Club –Oh Wow Must Be The Devil
22. Colonel Mustard And The Dijon 5 -Party To Make Music To Party To Make Music To Party To 1
23. Call To Mind -The Winter is White
24. The Amazing Snakeheads -Amphetamine Ballads
25. Paulo Nutini -Caustic Love
26. Penguins Kill Polar Bears -Building Homes From Broken Bones
27. The Last Battle –Lay Your Burden Down
28. Hamish James Hawk -Aznavour
29. The Jellyman’s Daughter –Self Titled
[Gah! I forgot Jo Mango -Transformuration. She belongs on the list too.]
FoxBox Presents Post__Nothing Sessions (Various Artists CSD Release) has sold really well.
Other favourites of the year:
1. GOAT –Commune (Swedish wah-wah heavy psychedelic guitar grooves)
2. Songs Ohia –Didn’t It Rain (Reissue) (Just discovered this guy this year and his back catalogue is huge)
3. SLINT Spiderland (Reissue) (Best album of 1991 but I only heard it this year. Why didn’t someone tell me!)
4. Insect Heroes -Apocalypso (On Lost Map this year but technically out earlier than 2014)
5. The Meanest Creature Ever Known –You, Having Fun (Download only but he lives around the corner and the album is great.)
Other records that have sold loads:
01. The Twilight Sad –Fourteen Autumns Fifteen Winters (RSD Reissue)
02. Pixies -Indy Cindy (RSD)
03. Led Zeppelin I, II, III and IV reissues
04. Arctic Monkeys -AM (2013)
05. Fleetwood Mac -Rumours (as always)
06. Sparrow and the Workshop -Murderopolis (as always)
So that’s that. If you don’t recognise many of the albums above, you could look them up, come in and ask… or you could get 29 small bits of paper and a hat.
Thanks to all of the bands that bring in their records and CDs -we are a better record shop for having them.
This is perhaps a duller post than I’d like to put up but I’ll see if I can find a cheery picture to put in the middle as a distraction. I’ll explain the post’s title nearer the end. Anyway, I just attended a meeting organised by Edinburgh Council to discuss live music in Edinburgh with the title Live Music Matters. For those of you on twitter #livemusicmatters. Around 100 people attended and all of the available tickets were all snapped up within 2 days. –For a Monday afternoon meeting this was a great turn out. It was in an upstairs meeting room and there was free coffee. It lasted for 2 and a half hours but the time flew in and it still seems there is a lot more to discuss.
I really went as an observer as there were plenty of venue owners/managers, musicians and promoters there to put forward their case. I was able to pitch in a wee bit though.
I think the Young Fathers’ interview in the Guardian following their Mercury Music Prize win has struck a nerve with Edinburgh City Council. Synopsis: “Edinburgh Council are really fucking bad”. And in hip hop bad doesn’t mean good anymore. Well, the main Council representative certainly coyly alluded to it. Young Fathers do make some helpful suggestions in another interview with the Evening News.
The focus of the meeting was to be how the Council can help to improve the pop/rock music scene as there have previously been discussions with classical music representatives and I suppose there were 2 main groups present. The mid-sized venues like The Queen’s Hall and large promoters like Regular Music; and the grass roots comprising smaller venues such as Sneaky Pete’s and Henry’s Cellar Bar, labels, managers, bloggers and bands too. It was the latter that made up the bulk of those who attended. Young Fathers are in Berlin working on a new album.
After some short initial speeches we were split into 4 groups of 20-25 and then split into sub-groups of 5 or so. We’d then discuss what problems there were, what was being done well and then were asked to suggest improvements. We then fed back to our larger group before all 4 large groups feeding back summaries to all present. There were Council representatives in all of the larger groups.
I wasn’t taking notes at the time but this is what I picked up, in no particular order:
A major concern of the venues was with noise complaints leading to the threat of closure. Specifically the hypocrisy that during the Edinburgh Festival pop-up venues are able to create plenty of noise late into the night for an entire month without fuss whereas one complainant in February can cause a venue to be monitored and threatened with closure. Some have already spent a fortune on soundproofing but still get complaints. It was asked if the Council could provide grants to help with this or work more closely to ensure the correct things are done. Oh and there was a mention that Edinburgh is the only city in Europe that operates a “zero audibility clause”. I don’t know if it’s true about other cities, but the clause certainly exists.
The Queen’s Hall recently had one complaint about its external signage that led to them having to remove it all. -Some of which had been present for the last 15 years. Much of it had been present over the past 5 years. That this had actually been enforced by Edinburgh Council shows why this meeting has been so important. The Council also provides some funding to subsidise The Queen’s Hall so it seems odd that they’d choose to work against them. There needs to be some leeway in the law or some common sense applied.
Restrictions needn’t be so stifling.
There was some disagreement as to whether we have too few small venues and rehearsal spaces. I was in the camp saying that there are probably enough small venues and that they are not used to their maximum potential. Some will argue against that. The owners of small venues that are currently doing a great job probably wouldn’t welcome too much extra competition. There was consensus that we should be supporting the ones we already have.I suppose there is not a directory of useful music related places and so unless you have decent contacts everyone has to work out simple things for themselves.*
There was discussion of the difficulty getting people out to gigs. That there are tens of thousands of students in the city but getting them out to local bands is incredibly difficult unless it’s for The VengaBoys and cheap beer.
Another point was that some large promoters don’t put gigs on big gigs in Edinburgh anymore. Not even during the festival. For example, the Murrayfield/Meadowbank Stadium gigs that Tennent’s Lager’s “ T on the Fringe” sponsorship helped to happen. The lack of big money sponsorship was noted but no suggestion came as to how this could be attracted in the future. Changing attitude to alcohol etc.
We discussed the value of live music to the city economy; That if we could get some figures together to actually value it, it would highlight the importance of supporting the live music sector. We also touched on how to get information about live music to tourists without coming to any conclusion. A point was made that a city with a reputation for it’s music will become a draw for tourists.
The creation of a hub of live music focusing on one area of the city was touted without a definite answer given. However there was appetite for the Cowgate with the hope that it could be tidied up a bit too.
The council have been looking to create an arts space off King’s Stables Road. It’s not clear how that would help with live music though. Possible cheap rehearsal space maybe.
A lack of larger venues. No-one was asking for an out of town arena to be built though. People of Edinburgh do want to see big bands. There aren’t enough spaces that can accommodate them. (eg With the Picture House closed there are instantly 52 fewer Saturday gigs in Edinburgh for 1000 people at a time. And, they would have gigs all week too.) An interesting finding was that it’s standard for bands to tour the biggest venues 1st then mop up the remaining fans in smaller places with a second sweep.
Something that wasn’t mentioned was that big touring bands will often get local bands in as support. The pay is rubbish (The Picture House would pay about £100) but the exposure is very handy.
Olaf Wide gave a good wee speech. I’d almost suggest that his organisation, Wide Days/Born To Be Wide be made Edinburgh’s official music focal point but wouldn’t want to load him with extra work. He’s been doing it for 10 years already and Olaf won an award from Creative Edinburgh last week. The “Anchor Award”. I suppose that is what is needed. Some stability, a solid base.
Olaf gets the Creative Edinburgh Anchor Award
How do Edinburgh’s record shops fit in with all of this. Erm, I forgot to make a case. I wasn’t there with an agenda. Maybe next time. But the music scene is a little disjointed in that there are several scenes that don’t talk to one another (indie/rock/hiphop etc ) and within that several venues, promoters, bands and so on. I suppose as a shop that sells indie, rock, local releases, jazz and classical to a varied customer base across all ages and backgrounds, I have a decent overview of certain things without being expert in live music as such. But it’s the music industry and we’re all connected. I have to say that this initial meeting was really useful if only as a focal point for getting a disparate bunch of passionate musos together that can add different perspectives to the debate.
There were more issues discussed than eventual solutions but as a sounding board it was very welcome and the initial pledges from the council were encouraging. These aren’t the official minutes by the way, so I hope I’ve picked everything up ok to avoid any confusion.
1. The council pledge to take the issues raised seriously and to help where they can. She’ll be titling the project “Music Is Audible” (a tongue in cheek suggestion by, presumably, a venue owner with noise complaints).
2. Specifically, they hope to create a “one stop shop” to help advise venues, promoters and musicians. This already exist apparently but is more for larger acts/promoters/venues.
3. Look into creating formal arbitration between venues and noise complainants. A longer term plan to look at new residents in an area next to a venue having less rights over noise complaints. (I think this hits a grey area in Human Rights Law).
4. The recent Picture House closure was noted and the Council will look into how to protect venues from being sold and converted to different businesses as happened to The (fabulous) Venue a few years ago and The Picture House last year. This could involve the creation of a “Live Venue Trust”.
5. The council will liase with their counterparts in other cities in order to better emulate good practise for creating a music city. They are already in contact and Austin, Texas (who have the annual and massive South by South-West [SXSW] music festival) and they have agreed to help.
6. A plan to meet again in 4 months.
7. Other. I’m sure I’ve missed something.
It was nice to see the Council acknowledge that Edinburgh’s music scene hasn’t yet been held up as something to be proud of and that it needs formal support. That the scene exists at all, despite the lack of formal support so far is a good sign. Although this is very early in the process, I’m quietly optimistic.
In the meantime get out to a gig or two. Some artists are on reasonably big labels (eg Sub Pop) and come a long way to play here (eg from Vermont in the USA) often in smaller venues that consistently punch above their weight. The least we can do is make the effort, right? May I suggest King Tuff tonight at Sneaky Pete’s?
Um, I believe you can pick up the new King Tuff album from all good record shops.
* PS I almost forgot… Edinburgh musicians, Bart from eagleowl and Rob St John (eagleowl/Meursault/Water of Life) have compiled a handy guide for those wishing to put on gigs in Edinburgh/in general. It’s written by numerous people and is full of handy hints for those starting out. It’s called Don’t Make a Scene. I suppose it’s also the kind of thing that the Council could help support as I feel a series could be in the pipeline if this one is a success. You can read more about it here: http://www.dontmakeascene.co.uk/ Also available from good record shops (hopefully fairly soon).
I went to Manchester for 24 hours the other week and checked into the Manchester Arena Central Travelodge for the night. I was given Room 13 on the 3rd floor. The Joy Division Floor. The room was really nice and the bed and sheets totally fine with an en suite and so on. Joy Division are, of course, a famous band from Manchester so naming a hotel floor near a large venue after them makes sense in tribute [Gary Barlow has floor 4]. As a record shop kind of person with more than a passing interest in the group I felt a tad uneasy.
OK, why the unease? I maybe read too much into it at the time but frontman Ian Curtis came up with the name ‘Joy Division’ after reading that it was the name given to brothels in some Nazi concentration camps (women were forced to work there). Joy Division. Others think the name came from the gallows humour of those who had to fling the corpses into pits; calling themselves (the) Joy Division.
I actually played Joy Division’s Closer album in the shop during a bright Summer’s day last year and had to turn it off mid-way through side 2. They have some great upbeat songs… But not on Closer. The sun retreated over the tenements leaving darkness on the inside.
Ian Curtis of Joy Division hung himself, while/after listening to Iggy Pop’s The Idiot: An album recorded in Berlin before the wall came down. It’s industrial sounding, drudging in places and was recorded in glorious black and white. It’s one of his best but there’s a time and a place for this kind of thing. Not so good when you’re away on your own. I thought about the Black and White artwork on the Joy Division records (And the Grey of Still). I thought it was ironic in a way as they weren’t binary at all -You always hear 4 things listening to Joy Division. Guitar/synth, Bass, Voice and Drums. Each part distinct. You get the odd keyboard and other bits and bobs but there aren’t many bands like that; that have a different riff for each instrument. The Stone Roses [Floor 2] managed something similar 10 years later but it’s an uncommon feat and I wondered if that was a key to success.
I wondered what the surviving band members thought of this mundane tribute with no sense of style. A black and white sign would at least be a wee nod and a wink. I then imagined what might happen if they started piping Joy Division into the hotel bedrooms. A hotel manager trying to save money on the morning breakfasts.*
Finally I realised that I was in the wrong bloody hotel! The Manchester Central Travelodge is not the same as the Manchester Central Arena Travelodge. So I left and everything was fine.
In a 1987 interview with Option, Stephen Morris (JD Drummer) commented on how he would describe Curtis to those who asked what he was like: “An ordinary bloke just like you or me, liked a bit of a laugh, a bit of a joke.”
* There have been a few studies into hotel suicide. click here
You might have just heard that Young Fathers have won this year’s Mercury Music Prize for their album Dead. The band’s history requires a little explanation as they’ve been making music for the past ten years but rather than me type away, you can click this link for a short history of the band and a pre-Mercury interview conducted in a cafe on Leith Walk. Or to sum them up, as they say themselves on their website:
‘This is known: Young Fathers are three young men from Edinburgh and Liberia and Nigeria, all at the same time. Their journey has taken them through various incarnations and styles but they are still only in their mid-twenties. And… and this is important: they’ve chosen to kill the past – their own past, even – to make their own future.’
That’s not a bad outlook at all.
You should also be aware that they won the Scottish Album of the Year Award earlier this year for their last album, Tape 2. Tape 2 wasn’t my choice but I don’t think anyone who voted really could disagree and there weren’t any serious grumblings afterwards. But awards are funny things and you can’t please everyone. Saying that, I think Dead deserved to win the Mercury Music Prize. But why?
…Because IT IS INTENSE.
This song and video is genuinely terrifying:
We played some of Dead on the VoxBox Vinyl Show this year (The Show is returning soon). It’s a daaaark album in places. Holy sheezus. It’s a wide eyed, claustrophobic, aggressive and moody record. But what do you really expect with a record called DEAD? The music they make has been called hip-hop but I don’t know if it is. It feels more like metal or hardcore with Gil Scott-Heron poetry thrown in. I do know they don’t like to be pigeon holed and they might some day kick me in the nuts for saying this but if you wanted me to come up with a genre, for this Hallowe’en week, I’d call it Dark Soul.
The great thing is that a load of people will listen to this album on the back of the win and maybe hold it up as art for a while. A dark sermon.
I sense that the Young Fathers don’t feel much affinity for places, but I’d hope the Mercury Music Prize win will ignite some outside interest in the compact Edinburgh music scene, in particular and most obviously, that The Young Fathers’ good friend LAWHolt gets signed up by an ambitious and forward thinking label and the chance to put an album out soon.
And although VoxBox stock the Young Fathers releases, I had nothing at all to do with their recent success and have never met them, I’m nevertheless very proud of their achievement.
Young Fathers are from Edinburgh. But in reality they are an international band that make music that hits you like a dark basement crack on the head that reminds you that you must pay attention: Something special has arrived.
The big day fast approaches and I have to admit, this has been very exciting, exhausting at times and ultimately, hopefully worthwhile. But of course, this Cassette Store Day divides opinion.
Cassette Store Day is the 27th September and there are many gigs from 5pm at The Last Word Saloon at 44 St Stephen Street just across the road.
The bloody referendum…
I’d like to add the record shop point of view to the debate (I don’t have anything to say on the bigger politics that has not been said already). The debate has been fierce but overall in good humour and I’ve been posting the odd item in favour of a Yes vote on Facebook and Twitter as that is my personal preference. I posted a link to a Guardian article by George Monbiot on Twitter which led to a chap telling me he was going to boycott the shop. I have since been a little uneasy about saying anything publicly as I certainly don’t wish to lose any customers. For example I put up a Green Yes poster on Saturday and I don’t think we had any Orangemen in despite the reported influx. Keeping politics and business separate seems a sensible idea.
Usually, but in a once in a lifetime debate…
In this case, does a wee Edinburgh record shop have a role to play in the big debate?
Oh yes, if large businesses, millionaires and celebrities on all sides are allowed to wade in then I suppose here is the place for my tuppence worth. I don’t honestly think independence will change the VoxBox shop much at all in the short term. That’s it. Over the longer term, a VAT reduction for arts/music sales would be nice and perhaps even achievable. Would independence offer greater protection to small shops from Amazon? Maybe aye, maybe no. The White Paper did suggest support for medium and small businesses… All a bit vague. Corporation tax going down would help a bit too but I don’t mind paying my share. A record collecting MP might come to the shop one day… and I’ll get a record museum… and I’d be really happy then; seems a bit far fetched.
Under devolution, the current SNP policy of the Small Business Bonus has helped keep many small shops open up and down Scotland and indeed without it, I’d have to have a very long think about keeping the shop open. I might decide to sell it to Wetherspoons. The Small Business Bonus is a really handy piece of legislation that devolution has delivered and shows the SNP in a fairly good light. Without it, the recent financial disaster would have been a complete Scottish town centre and St Stephen’s Street small business disaster. But of course, the referendum is not a vote for the SNP at all and I’m not a fan of baby-kissing party politics.
In the future? Well, no side has made any claims about the benefits of independence to record shops let alone to the broader music industry of bands, labels, venues and festivals or even the remaining HMVs in Scotland. I do think Independence would be good for the arts. It’s telling that so many creative people prefer to vote Yes. The vast majority I’d think. There has even been a petition for Yes signed by over 1400 Scottish artists.
Scotland’s largest record label, Chemikal Underground is pro Yes. Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite is particularly eloquent and Edinburgh’s only full time record label Song, by Toad wrote a massive piece supporting Yes the other day.
Mogwai have played a pro Yes show on this Sunday past at the Usher Hall; “A Night For Scotland” with Franz Ferdinand, Frightened Rabbit Eddie Reader and the fabulous Stanley Odd among others.
The number of Yes bands seemed to outnumber the no bands by a great deal so yesterday I started a Yes shelf, a maybe shelf and no shelf all depending on what was in stock. I ran out of room very quickly for the Yes side. Edwyn Collins and Kid Canaveral and Adam Stafford should be there too.
Fence founder, King Creosote is a notable No which is very slightly ironic as his new album from Scotland With Love looks like a beautiful piece of Nationalist propaganda. It has sold really well as a beautiful album should. Fellow Ex-Fence records Fifer James Yorkstone says Yes.
By far the majority of music people I know have been enthusiastic for Yes, I have to say that there are a load of not-saying bands too. From the Yes/No/Dunno shelf it’s clear that more musicians are for independence than against by a huge margin. When letting in musicians from the rest of the UK for the No side you get flooded with the likes of Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Cilla Black, Cliff Richard, Bob Geldof and Gordon Sting which feels like a really inappropriate Band Aid appeal. Only Bono and George Michael are missed.
So I was thinking that if the VoxBox shop as a business interested in only in itself had to vote, what would it do… and decided that it would vote the way of the majority of the bands we work with.
With that in mind, the politics…
The idea that a Scottish parliament would have voted to go to war with Iraq strikes me as absurd although the leaders of the No campaign, Alistair Darling, Douglas Alexander and Jim Murphy did all vote on our behalf for the Iraq war to happen despite the largest protest march in UK history asking them to not. Referendum and music aside, these are either warmongers or idiots.
Would the rest of the UK have went to war without Scotland? Maybe… Probably even. Who could know? You can bet it would have been less likely.
I do think the world will be a little bit safer with a weakened rUK military. I certainly want as little to do as possible with an economy based on arms sales and selling torture equipment to dictators. If that makes me poorer, I deserve to be poorer. It seems fairly simple ethics in my child-like brain and it transcends the business of selling records. But it would be wrong to say that music hasn’t influenced my thinking.
Not the Corries’ Flower of Scotland, not Frankie Miller’s Caledonia or even Deacon Blue’s Dignity.
Dylan was spot on with Masters of War in 1963 when he pilloried arms manufacturers.
Lennon was right to Imagine a dream where War is over if you want it.
Bob Marley told folk to Get Up Stand Up.
John Lydon said Rise.
There are so so so many.
Prior to them, the great Pete Seeger singing the most important verse in a song for a much greater struggle. “We are not afraid.”
Are these naïve and childish songs? No I don’t think so. I took these songs seriously when I was a lithe young chap and I do more so now. So I have great hope and that we’ll come out of this a better country. Independence offers less war and protection from economic decline.
Meanwhile what I hope Independence will bring is a nearness, literally and culturally, to the politicians that actually have the power to help change your life and those less well off for the better.
So it’s a yes. And a declaration that I am not afraid of independence. At all.
For positivity, click here:
This is good news. Old news now but worth a mention. The St Stephen’s Church at the end of our street has been bought and will stay as a community orientated building. Indeed, I would think it is likely to be used more often now.
Over the past few years I’ve walked past the tower of St Stephen’s church on the way down Frederick Street to the shop. It’s a formidable sight, an architectural colossus. Those are big hand cut stones. It’s nice and cuboid too, unlike the disgraceful Broughton St Mary’s at Bellevue. Edinburghers, you know what I’m talking about…
Broughton St. Mary’s Parish Church
As with so many religious buildings, St Stephen’s church is tremendous. Imposing from the outside and incredibly grand inside with plenty nooks and crannies for Batman to hide in. It is of Gotham proportions. So there is plenty space to be used. A factoid that crops up is that it has the longest pendulum in Europe… Well I suppose if I had a big pendulum, I’d drop it into the VoxBox advertising as well.
Phallic towers, gigantic swinging pendulums and no doubt massive organs (there is one). It seems the Georgians liked a Carry On.
So anyway, back to the best potential venue in Stockbridge.
For the previous 2 years Northern Stage Theatre Company and St Vincent’s Bar had taken the church over in August. This year it was empty again in August due to the sale going through. Due to the uncertainty, the theatre company found another venue. The Festival doesn’t really come to Stockbridge which is kind of nice is some ways but frustrating if you have a nice selection of independent businesses that tourists would be interested in. It’s certainly bizarre that some small areas are mobbed and some nice streets just round the corner are neither up nor down. St Stephen’s Church has certainly been missed when it has not been used.
It’s sad to see a Church going.* But on the other hand there was probably a whole pew for every Edinburgh resident for 2 centuries. There was an interesting exhibition by Nathan Coley a wee while ago based on the fact that Edinburgh had 286 places of (Christian) worship listed in 2004’s Yellow Pages.
I actually started buying lottery tickets when I first saw that it was for sale with the idea of splurging the winnings on the church and opening a record museum. – A museum of music with a wee venue attached. Some cruel or- maybe complimentary -so and so said I already had a record museum -the fiend! It’s hard to buy a grade A listed church though. Even sticking in better toilets means a visit from Historic Scotland and a change of use is incredibly difficult. You can only get planning permission to open a community centre, gallery, museum, youth club or erm… a church, so in rare praise to Edinburgh’s planners, it could only really be bought by a nice person or cult leader.
Leslie Benzies, one of the chaps responsible for the Grand Theft Auto cult lives locally and has bought the chvrch. So crack dens, prostitution, ultra violence, gold teeth and flash cars beckon! Too good to be true. No, silly! It’s been announced as a philanthropic venture so we won’t be getting the dirty cash high rollers coming down the street but instead, pensioners, dancers, karateists (is that a word?) and chess clubs. Or who knows, maybe something very different. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store. He’s a bit of a private guy so a committee will run the place with the community in mind.
I’m not expecting a record museum but with the huge space available, there is real potential here. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming.
So many thanks to Mr Benzies, it’s such a nice and Rock and Roll thing to do.
VoxBox Music became the newest record shop in the world on May 21st 2011. We buy and sell vinyl and other formats of music. We are independent and sell mostly pre-owned records although we are slowly branching into new vinyl too.