It is that time of year again. This is Record Store Day’s 10th year and this will be our 6th year taking part. The backroom is full to the roof with empty cardboard boxes and only half of the records have arrived so far. We now have the largest Record Store Day event in the UK with 14 bands and one book launch. On top of that we will have most of the exclusive Record Store Day exclusives and a good allocation of almost all of the most sought after titles. The shop opens at 8am on Saturday -an hour earlier than in previous years.
VoxBox Andy has put on An Evening of The Grateful Dead tribute gig (starring The Workingman’s Dead) at the Voodoo Rooms that night. Two live 45 minute sets of cosmic rock music. “Come down and have a long strange trip.” An Evening of the Grateful Dead Tickets
This is the list of RSD artists we are stocking. All the acts playing live on the day have recent releases so please check them out too.
12 Stone Toddler
Alfonso Noel Lovo
Alice in Chains
Alien Sex Fiend
Aqua LP and single
Art of Noise
A Thousand Horses
Atomic Bomb Band
Banks & Steelz
Ben Folds &WASO
Bonnie Prince Billy (May not arrive)
Boogie Times Tribe
Brian Jonestown Massacre
British Sea Power
Bruce Springsteen Box
BP Fallon & David Holmes
Bullet For My Valentine
Catfish and the Bottlemen
Cleaners From Venus
Cocteau Twins x2
Coheed & Cambria
Crazy World of Arthur Brown
Curtis Knigh & Jimi Hendrix
Cure (Acoustic and Live)
David Bowie BOWPROMO
David Bowie Cracked Actor 3LP live album
David Bowie No Plan 12” single
Dead Naked Hippies
Dear or Alive
Devil Sold His Soul
DJ Pierre Presents
Dr Robert and PP Arnold
Drive By Truckers
Eyelids (feat Gary Jarman-Cribs)
Fall –Live album and the single
Fat Freddy’s Drop
Fleur de Lys Box
Fleetwood Mac (also have the Stevie Nicks)
Flower Travellin’ Band
Follkazoid ft J. Spaceman
Future Sounds of London
Glenn Jones & Matthew Azevedo
Goo Goo Dolls Box Set
Graham Parker & the Rumour
Grateful Dead Live
High Contrast –Shotgun Mouthwash –from T2 soundtrack
Hopetown Lewis/ Vin Gordon
House of Joy Box
Iggy Pop Post Pop Depression Live (very dear)
Inna Baba Coulibaly
Iron and Wine
Jaco Pistorius Box
Jah Screechy & SL2
Jarvis Cocker & Chilly Gonzales
Jason Isbel and the 400 Unit
Jimmy Page & the Black Crowes
John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers
John Renbourn/Wizz Jones
Julian Cope LP and DOPE compilation
Ken Boothe/Dillinger/Smart x1
Klaus DingerKrome and Time
Lovebirds ft Galliano
LSO Percussion Orchestra
Manic Street Preachers
Marc Bolan/T-Rex live 1977
Moody Marsden Band
Moton Records Inc
Motorhead BOX and Pic discs
Ocean Colour Scene
One Summer/Spirit/British Summertime/Can’t Stop…
Paul McCartney x 1
Pauw and the Mystery Jets
Pink Floyd live album and the 12” EP
Placebo & David Bowie
Prince 12“ all 6 singles. 7” Pic disc awaited.
Procol Harum EP
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – The Queen Symphony
Ryo Kawasaki Box
Say Sue Me
Slaughter and the Dogs
Small Faces 10” and LP
Son’z of a Loop Da LoopEra
Sorrows –may not arrive
Spacemen 3 –all three albums
Spencer Davis Group
Sun Ra LP and single
Super Furry Animals
Swet Shop Boys
Television Personalities –all 4 releases
Thelonious Monk Box
The Who Quadrophenia and single
Townes Van Zandt
To Kill a KIng
T-Rex Electric Warrior and single
V/A Bollywood Psyche
V/A Function Underground
V/A Live in Naija
V/A Mellow Mellow Norther soul split single
V/A Acid RevolutionV/A Motown Funk
V/A Northern Soul
V/A Soho Scene/New Orleans/New York/Texas/others
V/A Southwestside Story
V/A Salsoul Reedits series one and two
V/A Africa Express Presents Orch of Syrian Musicians
V/A Close to the Noise Floor
V/A Here Comes the Night Owl
V/A Scared to Get Happy
V/A Greater Manchester Punk Vol. 2
V/A Tighten Up
V/A Psyche France
V/A The Magic Cube
V/A Girls in the Garage
V/A Insane Times
V/A Oxfam Presents: Stand as one (Glastonbury Live album)
V/A Let The Children Techno
V/A Soul Jazz Nigeria Soul Power Box
V/A Soul Jazz Studio One Box
V/A Come to the Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets
V/A Test Card Grooves
V/A Voidoid Artpack Box
Vangelis – Blade Runner
Wild Willy Barrett
Zombies EP and Single
OST Don’t Look Now
OST Quartermass and the Pit (2 releases)
OST Legend of 1900
OST Blade Runner
OST Doctor Who
The Coroner’s report on George Michael’s death on Christmas Day has finally been released: The post-mortem found that he had dilated cardiomyopathy and myocarditis. That means that he had a dilated and enlarged heart that would be less efficient than it should be and tat there was also some inflammation of the heart muscle itself. There are a handful of common causes of this kind of problem. He also had a fatty liver as a lot of us overweight Scots will also be living with. Eat more fruit and veg and cut out the bread… I was a doctor before I opened VoxBox six years ago and am still. Maybe because of that, I was never happy with the initial reporting that George Michael may have died of a heroin overdose and I mentioned the shoddy reporting by The Daily Telegraph in the last blog. The worldwide press had already quoted and spread the Telegraph’s report.
My reasoning that he died of something other than a heroin overdose was simply that heroin addicts tend to die quickly when they overdose. They will stop breathing shortly after injecting or snorting and they will therefore have the signs of drug use around them. A needle and syringe and a tourniquet won’t be far away and that would be seen by the police. An addict in recovery who has been prescribed methadone can overdose with nothing suspicious seen around the body. However, the pharmacies and his GP could quickly establish if he was prescribed this. Street methadone is harder to obtain than heroin but not impossible. However, George Michael’s closest relatives had quickly said that he was not using opiates. Opiates can usually be found rapidly on toxicology testing.
I’m no Columbo but George Michael was very candid about drug use to the press and presumably to those close to him. The family’s immediate response made me think that the opiate claim was going to be wrong. It is pretty difficult to hide heroin addiction from close friends and family. Close friends and family will usually know that something isn’t right -Not always, but the story didn’t sound right to me.
And another thing… They are also likely to be aware of other things that could have been much more likely to have caused the death. Their instant refutation made me feel that they were likely to be right and should have been listened to.
This doesn’t look like heroin to me. Maybe we should wait for the toxicology.
Anyway, with the Coroner’s report hot off the press, I’ve written a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation for the first time in my life. I feel they breached their code of practice. I had wondered about offering alternative reasons as to why he could have died but it’s not the right thing to do and The General Medical Council and other ethical bodies say that doctors shouldn’t publicly speculate about diagnoses of people in the public eye. (For example some Psychiatrists are excusing diagnosing Donald Trump with various neuroses as being for the good of the world). If I were to have speculated as to the cause of George Michael’s death on this blog I’d be in real trouble with the GMC. And rightly so. I believe that when a journalist quotes an unnamed source and creates a wave of worldwide gossip that they should be held to account. They can’t just say “he told me so” or “well he told me they were related” and then publish these things.
This is not a subject I wanted to have to blog about but I respect George Michael a lot and grew up with some of his songs that I really didn’t like (Mostly Wham) and wasn’t much interested in the charts in the Careless Whisper period. But I was impressed by the huge comeback circa 1996 with the Fastlove stuff which I thought was great.
We don’t sell many Wham or George Michael records but I liked the man a lot and his struggle for control of the use of his music against his label in the 1990s was eyeopening as to how the music industry works. It’s all on Youtube. But ultimately, I’d like to try to stop this kind of lazy speculative reporting. Instead of informing us, it really makes us all dumber. Is this “Fake News”?
Sorry about the miserable subject of this.
Lots of good things to come but I just had to get this off my chest.
Here’s the email sent to IPSO today. I hope they act on it. Click on the tune below before you begin to read as it is a dull read and you may well need something to help you as you go through it.
My complaint is regarding the publication of two articles by The Daily Telegraph following the death of singer George Michael. The first article appeared on the 27th December, two days after his death. This speculated that he may have died of a drug overdose. The journalist quoted an anonymous source who had allegedly said that George Michael had been using heroin, had been rushed to hospital earlier in the year with an overdose (without saying what drug he allegedly overdosed on). I can’t find the original article online. The later article was published on the 30th December following a post-mortmen that had failed to find an exact cause of death. This article actually refers to the earlier Telegraph article when the journalist writes, “More tests will be conducted on the star, who, it has been claimed, has battled heroin addiction this year, and are expected to take a number of weeks.” This rehashing of the original anonymous source published by the Telegraph adds emphasis to the speculation. The fact that the people who perhaps knew George Michael best -family, friends and legal team, all denied that he had used heroin in the weeks prior to his death was acknowledged in the article but the stress of the article was not the diagnostic uncertainty but the speculation.
The first line is “Singer George Michael’s death could be linked to heroin”! The singer’s death could also have been rumoured to be linked to careless whispering or having free drinks at Club Tropicana but unless they are corroborated they should be reported on as speculation (or ideally not at all). The story was picked up by the press worldwide who could then honestly report the speculation by saying “it has been reported that George Micahel was using heroin”. All due to an anonymous source quoted by The Daily Telegraph. The Coroner’s report is now available and he has been deemed to have died of “natural causes”. Toxicology that would have shown opiates in his system was negative. I feel they have breached the Code of Practice: i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text. This information was poor quality and corroboration with people that knew him well could have prevented this error and the following wildfire of speculative coverage. I believe that his cousin may have been revealed now as the source. Although family, he would surely have had to prove that he was close to George. I have 16 cousins many of whom I haven’t spoken to in many years. It would be absurd for anyone to quote them about circumstances of my untimely demise without checking the closeness of the relationship. It simply reeked of poor reporting.
The second complaint was regarding IPSO 6 which states: “In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.”
The media circus following George Michael’s death would have been difficult for his family and friends to endure. The false accusations of heroin addiction and perhaps the stigma attached to drug addiction led to them feeling the need to challenge the speculation publicly only two days following his death. I’m sure that if the close family and friends had been told about the speculation that was about to be published they would have been distressed and pleaded that it was untrue. -and it has now been proven to be untrue. I feel that the reporting has put George Michael’s family under unnecessary stress and with no sympathy or discretion at a time of deep personal grief and upheaval.
I am glad that the family have been vindicated following the Coroner’s report. However some of the public will always think that he was a heroin addict at the time of his death. Some will still believe that he died of an overdose. George Michael was always candid about past drug use but I think he never claimed in an interview to have ever been a heroin user. I’m not a fan as such but I have a small record shop and a love of music and I despise shoddy reporting like this. The initial story never rang true to me and now that the Coroner’s report is available, I think that now is the time to raise a formal complaint.
Thank You For Your Complaint
*A few parts of the email sent to IPSO have been edited for the blog post to help with clarity and the odd spelling mistake. But let us see what happens.
O Death. These blog posts actually started with Whitney Houston’s early death in 2012 and there is a wee bit mentioning the death of Monkee Davy Jones but I didn’t want it to be an obituary blog so hadn’t mentioned several high profile music stars passing. I broke this when David Bowie died. However many of us mere mortals will have had some bad news this year and yet life goes on and the clock keeps ticking steadily away like an old undertaker’s hammer driving the nails into a new coffin lid.
This past year had seen a proven spike of high profile deaths. It is normal to ask ‘who’s next? The (remaining) Who?’ Could it even be that we are approaching peak celebrity death? I don’t think so: There is a lot more to come… Television and radio made many more people stars and reached a global audience from the late 1950s onwards. Not just seeing photos and hearing the music but the whole thing. From the inception of Radio 1 to television and then Top of the Pops to the birth of the music festival. The mass production of records was a major factor also. Photographers and film crews followed artists, the music documentary was born. Heroes were becoming more accessible and you now knew what they looked like and what they sound like talking. Their personalities can shine through and we have become emotionally involved in an awful lot of people. It is heartening that most of the heroes from the 1960s are actually still alive. A lot of heroes from the 1950s’ Rock and Roll Boom are still alive too and the greats Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, with a combined age of 255, are still gigging.
Is it better to burn out or fade away? Sometimes you get a warning… Country music legend Glen Campbell did his farewell tour in 2011 following a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and although still on the line, he is now nursed in a care home. He is reported to be in the end stages but doing fine. It is difficult to sell his records today. Maybe it will be easier when he has gone. It is sad to see that artists can sell really well after death but also nice that they get recognition. It’s a uncomfortable sensation. Should a shop display your recently deceased artists more to take advantage? We don’t in VoxBox really; maybe we should. After Freddie Mercury died in 1991, an Edinburgh record shop (Hot Wax) put all the Queen and Freddie Mercury solo records in the basement. Customers who came in and asked for them were treated to “If it wasn’t good enough to buy when Freddie was alive… You’re not getting it now he’s dead!” Bert was one of the great Edinburgh record shop owners. An archetype and it is a great anecdote but not a sensible business model then or now.
It’s remarkable that many great 1960s bands are still in one piece. All of Black Sabbath are still alive and a Rolling Stone hasn’t faded away for almost 50 years. Despite a diet consisting only of fags and Shepherd’s pie, Keith Richards is alive and climbing coconut trees. Saying that, these superstars and the MOJO Magazine sellers like Bob Dylan and Neil Young can’t last forever although the ability of these two in particular to create albums has accelerated. Maybe they feel the pressure of time. Perhaps it’s simply to pay for their recent divorces. Dylan got the Nobel prize which I think was well deserved and I think he has a while to go and I do want to read the sequel to his Chronicles: Volume I biography. I have a theory that he wants to die on stage hence the never-ending touring. Anyway the point of this is that I always think that the wrong time to celebrate a musician is after they are dead.
Maybe the media is just more focussed on reporting deaths just now. I remember watching the Six O’clock News waiting to hear the piece about Edinburgh guitar maestro Bert Jansch passing away a few years ago but it never came. I hung on through Reporting Scotland at half past. Nope. Then I watched the Channel 4 news hoping in vain. These days, I like to think he’d get a mention. It is not without irony that a man who wrote about the dangers of opiates should die of lung cancer. Those great old pics would often have a cigarette hanging from his lips. In drug terms, nicotine is the biggest killer of them all.
As an aside, there does not appear to be an excess of illegal drugs and even then, it is not usually ‘hard’ drugs that are killing musicians these days. Many of the premature deaths were of smokers and smoking is known to take an average of ten years off your life. Prince is now known to have died of a fentanyl overdose. Doctors are being warned off prescribing opiates like this for chronic non-cancer pain. Studies have shown they simply don’t work in the long-term so it seems an accident that should not have been allowed to happen. As to a doctor prescribing propofol to help a patient sleep? That is lunacy (Michael Jackson’s cause of death).
The Patch of Death?
I was not surprised to find out that the BBC actually keeps a whole stash of pre-written obituaries and some musicians will have had their obituary written for decades. What Is Shane MacGowan up to these days? Does anyone care about him today? Van Morrison doesn’t look too healthy: Better play Astral Weeks again. Have you visited your granny enough this year? It must be a strange experience knowing there is an obituary and a collection of clips ready for playing once you are dead. Shouldn’t you be allowed to see it for a fact check? Hell, you could add an interview. That would be weird but compelling. “Hi, I’m David Bowie and this is my BBC death montage.”
The BBC actually produced a documentary on Shane MacGowan in 1997:
An older friend of mine has stopped buying the Grateful Dead box sets he loves as he might not have time to listen to them all. He was joking as he already has more Grateful Dead than he can listen to but illness can focus the mind. Not always in a healthy way so we need to be able to deal with knowing and caring about the life and death of more people than any group of humans have had to before. Working in the NHS some describe “compassion fatigue” and I can see that happening for celebrity deaths too. Will even more celebrity deaths be the saviour of newspapers as they knock out the 12 page spread on the dead stars in their souvenir editions or will we all get bored of mass grieving? In the future I’d like to see some newspaper journalists chased down for the disrespectful, often made up/speculation coverage. A “source” was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying George Michael was a heroin addict. He wasn’t though. Was there a source or was it made up? After the toxicology is out, if negative, I think the author of the article should be investigated.
Ach I don’t know, maybe we shouldn’t act so shocked; “Grandpa died last week and he’s buried in the rocks, everybody still talks about how badly they were shocked…” (Dylan). We should celebrate the life and the successes, the 30 album glorious careers and the successful careers and burn outs of so many that have led chaotic lives in a harsh music industry. I was touched by Leonard Cohen’s letter written to long time muse Marianne when he found out she was ill and it is this kind of beautiful and poetic reflection that can help you take a step back and find a way to come to terms with loss.
For the year ahead, let us celebrate the career geniuses and the one hit wonders, the bums the punks, the old sluts on junk. And do it now. Dig out your favourite albums and play them. We don’t always do that enough. Keep in touch with those you care about as you never know if there is a double decker bus around the corner. Some of your favourite artists who were once superstars could easily now be answering their own emails these days. You can drop them a line and let them know what they mean to you. We are truly lucky to be able to share the planet with such talent. To be missed shows you have been doing something right.
Luckily, if you are 65 just now, you will probably live to be 85 or so and the odds are that if you are alive just now whatever your age, you will more probably than not, still be alive at the end of next year.
You can make tiny changes to Earth in 2017.
Start by quitting the fags again. We’d like our customers, like our rock stars, to stay alive those extra 10 years.
Happy New Year!
‘Well Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road’ Leonard Cohen
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.
Owners Brian Findlay and Bruce Findlay with the distinctive red carrier bag ‘I Found It At Bruce’s’ outside Bruce’s record shop in Rose Street Edinburgh in November 1972
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.
Bruce’s classic red singles bag
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.
Thanks to the filmmakers Studio Canal, we are excited to have two tickets to give away for the premiere showing at Edinburgh’s Cameo Cinema on September 15th. It is for one night only and will be followed by 30 minutes of newly re-mastered Beatles Live at Shea Stadium footage.
Everybody knows that The Beatles were a phenomenon in their day, but having split such a long time ago, in 1970, a tattooed and bearded barista today may well find it difficult to know what all the fuss was about and the context in which the Beatles arrived and then adapted and changed pop music forever. And they bloody did! They weren’t just lazing about in the sunshine…
The film uses live footage and interviews and it begins in Hamburg then takes us from 1962 with the release of their debut single Love Me Do to around the time of the Revolver album in 1966 when they stopped touring. -Someone had thrown a firecracker onto the stage during their last American tour and they were spooked. They were also sick and tired of being unable to hear themselves play due to the screaming.
In the four years following their first single, the band would release seven groundshifting albums, a tonne more singles and starred in 2 films. They wrote their own songs, they wrote other bands’ songs, they boxed Muhammed Ali, they electrified Dylan. Judas! Got stoned with Dylan and then experimented with the jewels and binoculars of songwriting. To paraphrase Bill Hicks: They got so high that you had to scrape the band from the ceiling with a rake… and they even let Ringo sing some songs! Then there was their personal lives in which they were shagging like Austin Powers. One was already married, two others went on to marry and another one threatened to maybe get engaged yeah, and led the world on for ages. In the UK it created careers for everyone that could either sing a wee bit or hold a guitar. It spawned the greatest mass uptake of instruments the world had seen since the zither phenomenon of 1949 (See end of post) and wouldn’t be seen again until the advent of Punk in the late 70s.
To say they were busy during this time is an epic understatement and to put this whole shebang in context, a popular band now will spend over 2 years recording an album and touring it -and so for the Fab Four to write, record and release seven albums of original material in four years is totally phenominal (Unless you are a 1960s jazz musician). They were also busy busy busy touring when they weren’t recording and perhaps didn’t have time to take it all in. I think that they were just getting on with it thinking that this was what you were supposed to do. So they saw the world and the world in return saw them in their fully fledged spunkiness; cheeky, funny and charming.
It is all before John met Yoko Ono; before Apple records and Allen Klein; before India and Transcendental Meditation; manager Brian Epstein is still alive and dealing with the finances. George and Ringo still were still ok with their publishing royalties. They also weren’t yet giving the Rolling Stones a cold every time they sneezed and with Revolver out of the way and a lot more available time for the studio; the stage was set for the experimentation of Sgt. Pepper which was becoming a little bit more than just a twinkle seen on the outside of their increasingly large pupils.
Ron Howard’s film captures the fab four in the midst of their unguarded early stardom. This is made more poignant knowing the darkness to come. It’s a must see film if only to hear John Lennon say “I’m Eric” to an interviewer that asks him which one of the band he is. It makes me want to be Eric too. Here’s the trailer:
Here’s the film preview:
“February 9th, 1964, 8:12pm EST – after a brief commercial break, four young men from Liverpool step onto the Ed Sullivan stage, changing culture forever.
Seventy-three million people watched The Beatles perform that night, the largest audience in television history. But it is what the band did next that would introduce them to the entire world, permanently transforming the music industry and forever engraining them into the fabric of popular culture… They went on tour. By the time the band quit touring in August of 1966, they had performed 166 concerts in 15 countries and 90 cities around the world. The cultural phenomenon their touring helped create, known as “Beatlemania,” was something the world had never seen before or since.”
This is the not-to-be-missed story of the band’s exceptional touring years – an intimate portrait of the band, and a behind-the-scenes look at The Beatles on tour. Exploring the effect it had on their relationships, as well as their musical evolution, and looking at how they transformed the world of music, the film features interviews, unheard music and exclusive concert footage from the biggest band of all time.
Stay in your seat after the film to experience 30 minutes of footage from the legendary 1965 Shea Stadium performance, presented for the first time in a digitally restored 4k transfer with remastered sound.
The Shea concert footage includes audio remastered at Abbey Road Studios by Giles Martin and Sam Okell. This has allowed the performance to be heard more clearly over the other background noise including the screaming fans. For the first time ever the viewer is able to experience the concert as it was meant to be seen and heard and to appreciate how extraordinary this band was live given the challenging technical conditions under which they were expected to play.”
AND NOW THE COMPETITION QUESTION…
Which Beatle complained of working ‘Eight Days A Week’ inspiring the song of that name to be written?
When a collection of 45s from the 1960s comes in my pulse begins to race. Boom boody boom. I love singles you see. But there is a problem in that all too often they come in all higgldy-piggledy in a box and worse still they are nearly always in the wrong sleeves. It happens naturally when you’re listening to singles and I do it myself often during a listening session. The discs get taken out of their sleeves to be played and to save time when you change records, you don’t immediately re-sleeve the record you have just taken off. At the end there are records everywhere and you just want to protect them before going to bed so you stick them into the nearest sleeve. This was much more likely to happen when six at a time could be stacked on a Dansette multi-changer or when swingers were bringing them to parties in the 1960s. They rarely come in looking neat and tidy like this:
When you’ve been around singles for a while you start to notice the major differences with the company sleeves. And then there are the minor differences which is why you shouldn’t do what I have started to do. The Rare Record Price Guide has long informed collectors on the particular Parlophone sleeve variation that each Beatles single belongs in. -The Beatles are a well-documented special case. Unfortunately, I have since found a website that documents virtually all of the UK company singles sleeves and when they were used. If you collect singles, for your sanity, don’t look at it.
With a collection of 100 records I can easily force VoxBox Andy to spend a tedious half an hour reuniting artists with their label sleeves. The Beatles with Parlophone sleeves and the Rolling Stones with Decca Sleeves and Cliff and the Shadows with Columbia. The Pye sleeves with Donovan and so on. The blue Pye ones are particularly fragile and had a tendency to hold onto grime. You don’t usually end up with a complete match either. Although a self-contained collection should in theory have the right records and sleeves somewhere among them, it is not always that simple; you can easily end up with a stack of 45s without sleeves and a bunch of spares leaving you wondering what the real story behind the collection is. It can seem that if your records weren’t stolen or ruined in the 1960s , you weren’t there. (The last box of 60s singles to come in arrived in a suitcase and had no sleeves at all!)
And then, if indeed they are in the right company sleeve; if say a 1963 Cilla Black single is there in a collection with a 1964 Billy J. Kramer one and both are of course on the Parlophone label and they each should have a different sleeve variation. Then I could look at the website and check what is probably right –which single belongs where. Or I could simply sod them both, put them in plain white sleeves for the Backroom and harvest the Parlophone sleeves so that two divorced or bereaved (and more valuable) Beatles singles can be happily re-married to the matching pair. Some sleeves will be even be worth more than the record inside them and no doubt, many a Mint condition Adam Faith single sleeve has run away with an original copy of The Beatles’ Love Me Do. Another cruel blow as his successful ballading career was effectively destroyed by the Fab Four’s arrival.
Adam Faith -Love Me Don’t?
For some bands, it matters a lot less… Firing The Shadows’ singles into random different styles of Columbia sleeve for the Backroom I can totally accept but for the front shop records it presents a quandry. I like them to be perfect you see. For some sleeves I don’t yet know the company that made it, let alone the band that it belongs to but armed with the knowledge of what is and is not right, it is becoming much more difficult to unite a nice company sleeve with an otherwise naked single. To knowingly put a record into the wrong sleeve feels like being an accomplice to infidelity. Especially so if it is a rarity.
Admittedly, some of the sleeve differences are so subtle as to be utterly tedious. For instance I draw the line at making a distinction between the seven CBS variations between 1972 and 1979 but would still like the records before 1972 (eg. Dylan, The Byrds, The Tremeloes) and after 1979 (Blue Oyster Cult) to be in their right, more distinctive sleeves. It’s not an exact science at all as sleeves and records weren’t produced in equal numbers so you do get overlap. Also the companies at the time didn’t know people would be bothered by this so the record keeping is not great. In fact, some differences can be as subtle as the way the sleeve is glued or if the paper at the top is wavy or straight and the site can’t actually tell you which records went into Columbia sleeves 9 and 10…
Spot the difference, sleeve 9 on the left
It seems that if you were a band in the 1960s then in order for your records to still look good sixty years later in the VoxBox record shop, it will help to have been on a record label that had some very popular artists that have since become unfashionable. For example, there is no excuse for any Animals record to have an untidy sleeve as shops will tend to throw out the Cliff Richard records (sorry Cliff) and keep his Columbia sleeves for… basically the Animals or the Yardbirds or the impossibly rare Vashti Bunyan Train Song single that virtually no one bought. (Red wavy top hairdryer Columbia in case you’re checking)
Labels that had a greater proportion of artists with kudos longevity have sleeves that are harder to come by, especially in Excellent condition. Favourites include the Ex-Stones manager, Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate label with the wonderful typeface and cheeky “at better record shops everywhere” tagline (Humble Pie, Small Faces), Vertigo has a swirl that makes my dealer friends incredibly excited (Black Sabbath, Juicy Lucy) and Harvest (Deep Purple) with its Roger Dean designed logo. Trojan and Chess don’t turn up very often either. So many have become iconic (if only to a select group) and can even now be found on T-shirts.
(Still available?) at better record shops everywhere
So, keep an eye out for a nice sleeve but please don’t do what I do. – It takes ages. Some super purists will buy their record an appropriate company sleeve but still want to keep the original one even if it is tatty to the extent that it’s falling apart. They’re crazy right? They themselves are probably single but as so often is the case, I’m sure if we look hard enough, there will be a match for them somewhere.
* Praise to Erling Mehl (a Scandinavian!) who did a phenominal amount of research and created the website. Sadly, Erling died last year so the archive is not yet complete. Could it ever be? Lucky for us it is kept ongoing by BigBoppa, a company specialising in selling sleeves.
I just opened what I thought was an ordinary ‘record request’ email a couple of days ago. They are often from Europeans looking for pretty rare items and I imagine they must contact a lot of shops and only get a handful of replies to say no, sorry, that record is indeed incredibly rare. So I was chuffed to read that this Swede was in search of something else.
I collect 45 rpm record adapters.
I wonder if you happen to have some that I can buy?
I attach some photos of what I am looking for.
All colour variation are welcome.
Please send a photo if possible.
Many thanks & Best regards“
This was a ‘do you have’ request that got me thinking a bit and rummaging around in drawers. A bit like watching Antiques Roadshow and thinking you recognise the line drawings of a Lowrie and are positive you have one in your loft. I’ve definitely got one of those somewhere!
He (for it is almost always thus) was after those odd inner plastic bits that fit into the centre of singles. American singles were made with a large centre hole so Jukebox records could find the spindle more easily (among other reasons) and so these adaptors were made by various companies so that us Europeans could play American singles on our record players. In return, UK singles were made with centres that could be popped out for play on US turntables. Numerous companies patented their own design and some have become design classics in their own right. Many are incredibly elegant. Some are chunky. Some also have sticky-out bits that will ruin any records you store them beside and they usually come in black but can be found in all colours. You can appreciate their appeal.
I had a really good look for one of the ones he was after. Not because I thought I could be in for a fortune but because I had actually started a very wee collection of my own a little while back without really realising it. A good record shop will tend to pop these things out to protect the record sleeves from sticky-out-bit damage as I mentioned -and we keep a bag of them under the VoxBox counter for giving away- but the more interesting ones we come across, I put in my inners box at home.
On close inspection, I was surprised to have 5 different types of a certain style of record inner when I had previously thought they were all the same. To imagine Dara O’Brien’s response if he cared enough: “I was shacked to foind dat dey were all different!”. Sorry, I think Mock the Week must have been on in the background when I started typing this.
My modest inner adaptor collection
So to cut a long story short, I didn’t actually have any of the inner adaptors that the Swede was after but you can see the photos of his wanted inners at the bottom of the post. If you have any of them or come across them and are willing to help a collector out, let me know. If you have a massive collection or some unusual ones and aren’t selling to anyone please let me know too – I’m genuinely interested! I was elated to find out there was someone else with a collection. It makes me feel a bit more normal or, ahem… well-centred.
Here are the inners he is appealing for. Some have names/manufacturers marks on them: Viny Guru, Riccardo, Raydor, Centratore…
Sought after inner adaptors for 45s
PS Some people call them/sell them as “spiders” but I’ve never heard them called that.
PPS In the next post, in the theme of the nuances of collecting, I’ll show you something that a collector of old singles should never ever see for it will drive them crazy. Be afraid…
I was just asked if we could do some more listening events like we did with the new Prodigy album, The Day Is My Enemy last year. It was quite a lovely event but due to a last minute date change it wasn’t too well attended. The label had sent 30 tote bags, loads of stickers and posters… And 100 cans of lager. Not the usual tipple of Prodigy fans but very good of them all the same. So a small Voxbox shop full of people enjoyed a beer and we all heard the new record which was classic and pure Prodigy. It was a brilliant day and I’m grateful that we had it.
I’ve been working away from Edinburgh for long spells over the last year doing my other job (I’m a Medical Doctor/Geriatrician) which is why Canadian Mike is lookng after things at VoxBox on the weekends. I’ve been working in the Isle of Man for a bit this year and it is a nice place with a bit of strangeness. The TT Racing has just finished and working in the hospital during it is quite exciting although I don’t do any A&E or front door medicine anymore so it didn’t really affect my workload. Saying that, getting routine scans during the TT is more difficult as the scanners are kept free during practice sessions and the races in-case major trauma gets helicoptered in.
They bring in a freezer during the TT Racing to store the extra bodies.
According to a colleague, there were at least 12 deaths this year. Five Professional riders which get documented in the race stats. The non-professional riders, race marshals and other odds and sods don’t get added to the official TT related death lists. It’s also hard to keep track of the riders that are sent to Liverpool for specialist care that end up dying. The paralysed aren’t really counted nor the simple leg or pelvis fractures. But the TT racing offers freedom and speed for so many and the Island economy does ok from it. The average speed around the island track is about 135mph but they get to over 200mph in places through the mountain road and village streets. I was here last year too and then the riders were asking that spectators be reminded that selfie sticks projected onto the track are a bad idea as the riders were almost hitting them.
Formula 1 has focussed on safety for a long time and lives have been saved by introducing certain measures. On the other side, people have a right to risk their lives. One taxi driver actually said that without fatalities the race wouldn’t attract the same crowd! Something I don’t believe. I’m not wanting an argument with bikers or TT fans as I appreciate the need for speed and personal freedom. Fair enough, if you carry Donor Cards I’ve no objection. The riders are modern day superheroes as are the doctors. The speeds and relexes are phenominal. Watch a bit… It’s amazing!
Anyway, I saw Keith of the Prodigy at Isle of Man airport 2 weeks ago (He actually owns a successful motorracing and TT team called Traction Control) and I wanted to say thanks for the beers and stuff but decided I didn’t want to bother him. (It was the label/distributor that sorted it out) So I just killed time in the airport shop but then saw a Q magazine on the shelf had a “modern classic albums” feature. I flicked through as the Prodigy were bound to be in. They are a modern classic after all. I flicked through and finally… 1997… Fat of the Land was there with a page spread actually dedicated to The Prodigy with an interview with Keith and a large photo so I went to buy it so I could maybe get it signed or something. As an Aberdeenshire Scotsman, before I bought it, I checked the waiting area first and saw Keith had already left to board his flight. He was gone. The magazine in my hand was £5.50 and full of articles on music I’ve grown up with. Great stuff but I lived through it… So I put it back on the shelf, sat down for a bit and waited for boarding.
A brilliant medical lecture by motorcycle doctor and anaesthetist John Hinds…
I have had a good look at the Edinburgh International Book Festival listings and there are a fair few events that will interest the muso in you. Some will sell out in a day so I would like folk that read this to have a head start. Tickets are on sale at 0830 on Tuesday 21st June. There are too many good events to see and as much as I would like to plug one of my childhood hero’s new book (Chris Packham of The Really Wild Show and Springwatch), I’ll try to stick to music based events.
14th Chris Packham, ‘My Love for a Kestrel’. Ach well, he seems like a really nice chap. He has a memoir called Fingers in the Sparkle Jar that does look worth a read.
14th Billy Bragg, The Milkman of Human Kindness. An annotated collection of his best loved songs. A chat with the BBC’s Vic Galloway.
14th Alexei Sayle Surreal Socialist Stand-Up. Plugging his second memoir Thatcher Stole My Trousers. He’s calmed down a bit – I actually just heard him on Just a Minute on Radio 4! Music Folk may remember him from Ullo John Got a New Motah!
16th Pilgrimer- Joni’s Journeys Reimagined. This was performed at Celtic Connections and is a collaboration between author James Robertson and musicians Karine and Steven Polwart with Donald Shaw. A Scottish take on Joni Mitchell’s 1976 album Hejira exploring the themes of migration, freedom and loneliness.
16th Ian Rankin, Rebus Gets Up to His Old Tricks. The famous Edinburgh crime writer, record collector, rock fan and friend of the shop talks about his new bestseller Even Dogs In The Wild.
17th Sing-Along with Nick Cope (The Candyskins) Acoustic folk-pop for children.
18th Neu! Reekie! Present #UntitledTwo, a double album of collected music and poetry. 30+ tracks. Neu! Reekie! has become an Edinburgh underground cultural institution and is always well curated. 10 acts/poets will perform. Some musicians are poets right? If anything like Untitled One, this will be super.
18th David Moody, The Deluded Idealism of Ezra Pound. There’s no music here but Dylanologists might want to learn a bit more about Ezra Pound. From Dylan’s song Desolation Row “Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot are fighting in the captain’s tower, while calypso singers laugh at them and fishermen hold flowers”. Whaaaat? Yep. You need to go.
18th Tim Burgess with Ian Rankin. More Tales of a Charlatan These two are good friends and they will have a discussion/chat on Tim’s new book (Tim Book 2) about the joy of records and their passion for music. Tim shares vinyl recommendations from friends including Iggy Pop and Paul Weller that he has tracked down from across the world.
20th Brix Start Smith From Fall Guitarist to Fashion Expert I know, I know, we’ve all been in the Fall at one time or another (I was in the band in 1990 playing bongos on The Infotainment Scan*) but Brix was actually married Mark E. Smith. So there’s a tale to tell here.
20th Gregor Fisher & Melanie Reid Tough Childhood of a Comedy Hero. Title is pretty blunt but the memoir of the man who played Rab C Nesbitt is worth a mention.
20th Daniel Rachel In Praise of Protest Songs Political protest seems to happen more in other countries nowadays, but in the 70s and 80s Britain was awash with activism, both on the streets and on the musical stage. In this event, Daniel Rachel discusses the golden era of Rock Against Racism, Red Wedge and 2 Tone with Vic Galloway.
21st James Kelman, A Road Trip Through America. I found James Kelman as a teenager and have been buying his books since. He won the Booker Prize a long time ago for his novel How Late It Was, How Late. There’s not much ‘music’ in the books (other than fine dialects) but the language and humanity is beautiful and authentic.
22nd Open Book on the Short Stories of James Kelman. See above. The short stories are great snapshots of the Scottish working class. I love his paragraph of a story, Acid. In fact as it is so very short, here it is:
In this factory in the north of England acid was essential. It was contained in large vats. Gangways were laid above them. Before these gangways were completely safe a young man fell into a vat feet first. His screams of agony were heard all over the department. Except for one old fellow the large body of men was so horrified that for a time not one of them could move. In an instant this old fellow who was also the young man’s father had clambered up and along the gangway carrying a big pole. Sorry Hughie, he said. And then he ducked the young man below the surface. Obviously the old fellow had had to do this because only the head and shoulders – in fact, that which had been seen above the acid – was all that remained of the young man.
Now that’s a short story! Copyright James Kelman. You can hear Kelman himself reading it here.
23rd Susan Calman, Depression and how to Laugh It Off. The brilliantly funny lady has a book called Cheer up Love. which reminds me on the time I met Peter Hook at his autobiography signing a few years ago. A friend of mine was a fan but couldn’t make it so I had a book signed for him. I said he was having a hard time with depression. Hooky wrote “To_______, chin up”. I’ll leave that there. Dum de dum de dum…
23rd Wilko Johnson Defying the Doctors. Ian Dury cohort and Dr Feelgood guitarist discusses his life with and without cancer. He had been given 10 months to live in 2013 due to pancreatic cancer. After a farewell tour and album with Roger Daltrey he still wasn’t dead. A doctor fan pointed this out and he recently went on to have a curative operation.
24th Ian Rankin, Rebus Gets Up to His Old Tricks. Another chance to see Ian talk about his new book. He should really have his own tent at the Book Festival this August. I just looked it up and bloody hell, a Rebus tent exists! Although it is for putting over bombs and IEDs rather than hosting book events.
REALLY get to know the author in the new bomb proof Rebus Tent
25th Paul Morley Bowie: Life of a Legend. Musician, critic and talking head on lots of TV shows, he also helped curate the Bowie exhibition in the Victoria & Albert. He talks to the BBC’s Vic Galloway about his new book Age of Bowie.
26th Kevin Barry John Lennon’s Bad Trip. An imagined John Lennon in 1978 trying to pay a visit to an isle off the coast of Ireland that the real life Lennon bought in the 1960s.
26th Don Paterson Sonnets and Songs. Multi-prize winning poet has a collection of 40 Sonnets out. Some will be performed with his band.
26th Stuart Cosgrove Why the Northern Soul Beat Goes On. The broadcaster and author is promoting his new book, Young Soul Rebels. Part personal musical journey and part Northern Soul biography. He also compares Northern Soul with later underground music movements (Mod, Punk, Rave etc)
27th Irvine Welsh Begbie: Scarier than Ever. The Trainspotting author returns to Edinburgh to talk about his new novel about Begbie, The Blade Artist. This will sell out really quickly. Trainspotting 2 is coming out soon. The last film’s soundtrack became iconic so I’d love to hear an Edinburgh band on the new one… Otherwise I’ll have to put out Tramspotting, The Alternative Trainspotting Soundtrack…
28th Tom Lanoye and James Yorkston, Bittersweet Tales. 2 authors present their new work. Three Craws is James Yorkston’s debut novel. A gorgeously atmospheric quirky story of broken dreams and longing. An early Fence Records Fifer, we keep a steady supply of his records in the shop.
29th Zoe Howe A Punk and a Gentleman With R&B punk band Dr Feelgood returning to public consciousness thanks to the story of co-founder Wilko Johnson’s battle with cancer, writer Zoë Howe believes it’s a good time for recognition to be given to the band’s other co-founder who died aged 41. In Lee Brilleaux: Rock’n’Roll Gentleman, she argues for a long overdue appreciation of his legacy.
29th Fraser Doherty The 48 Hour Start Up This isn’t musical but I was intrigued. At the age of 14 Fraser set up a jam business and became very jammy having sold the business to Waitrose. He attempts to create a business in 48 hours and he shares successes and mistakes. Could be rubbish, but worth a punt.
Also look out for Unbound! Every Day from 2100-2300 at the Speigeltent is a feature of words and music from the finest talent that has come to Edinburgh. At the time of writing, the line-up is still TBC but they usually feature a free dram and some live music from the best Scottish, local and touring musicians.
Also worth a mention as they will be popular are Scottish poet Liz Lochead, authors Val McDermid, Ali Smith, Kate Tempest, Erica Jong, Ray Mears, Alex Schaffer & Julia Donaldson (of Gruffalo fame) and Frederick Forsyth (with Ian Rankin of course) who all have events that will sell out quickly. The Amnesty International Imprisoned Writers Series is important too. But have a look at the website and brochure for the full listings. If there is anything I missed please get in touch.
Vic Galloway is hosting a good few events so it is worth mentioning that he authoured a book called Songs in the Key of Fife a couple of years ago that documents some of the important musicians and bands to come out of Fife including King Creosote, James Yorkstone, Pictish Trail, The Beta Band and KT Tunstall. It’s a great read! Vic was also kind enough to host a Q&A with Graeme Thomson, the Edinburgh based author of Phil Lynott biography Cowboy Song for Record Store Day this year.
Photo by Trevor Pake
So there you go. Plenty to do but be sure to have a look through the brochure as the website is a bit tricky to browse and if you fancy something be sure to get a ticket quickly as the big to medium events sell out very quickly.
Also glad to finish a blog post featuring Irvine Welsh and James Kelman that has avoided using a word rhyming with luck- showing the kind of restraint that those two in particular are not known for. Tsk tsk.
A friend of mine, Rich Ferguson came to film The Gramophone Emporium and its customers during the final days. This was the last shop of its kind as far as I can tell, anywhere. Who knows, with a bit more notice, a campaign to save the shop could maybe have been arranged backed by an appearance on the One Show or even some Lottery funding. It ever a shop was a working museum it was The Gramophone Emporium. It was run on the love of the music and the machines. Ah! Antiques and curios in oak and mahogany and in all shapes and sizes… but enough about their customers! With it now closed, the hub of knowledge and the wonderful club for vintage men is gone and I still miss looking out the VoxBox window towards the shop across the road. Being open 3 half days a week was never really financially viable but they made a go of it for decades and had something that money can’t buy. A customer in the film says that the shops closure will create a haggard void. Perfect words.
Bill, the shop’s owner had a humungous stock of 78s. However, not all records are worth anything and I was told that one time he disposed of 250 000 hard to shift records that were taking up storage space. A quarter of a million shellac discs were used to help create a breakwater for a harbour somewhere. It’s nice to think that this could give some future Time Team a glorious headscratcher. The shop had a decent trade but ultimately the bills were paid by the most valuable records being sold online. Good records would sometimes come in from people’s boxes from the attic but more and more often the better records would come from whole collections that would become available as elderly collectors died. Some were friends and customers. There’s a creeping similarity with vinyl there.
Two men, Ken and Billy ran the shop essentially for free as I don’t think they ever were paid or asked for money for their time and were both supposed to be retired. They were and remain true enthusiasts with unsurpassed knowledge. Like any experts, they were snobs in their own way, but nice with it. Billy would chuckle to himself if you played a record with the wrong size needle or brought in a machine that had the wrong horn. As a boy, Billy told me he had played the same record once every day for a year just to see if the sound quality would deteriorate. Played with a fresh needle every time, it didn’t! Their love of the format was certainly contagious. Saying that, they could also be brutal when it came to worthless records. Jimmy Shand records would be smashed before being disposed of. Otherwise, very often the very boxes that they had thrown out would be rescued from the bin by a kind soul and be brought back to the shop for a valuation.
Mark and Ken inspect a vintage Edison style cylinder player.
I do miss the stories. Mark, who appears in the film but sadly doesn’t say much (he is a wonderful talker) is a retired teacher and a part-time clock restorer that accidentally became the shop’s Gramophone repair man. He had walked past the shop when it was located where VoxBox is now, something like 20 years ago and heard a gramophone playing. He thought it sounded terrible and came in only to let the owner know about it. “That sounds awful. The sound-box has really seen better days.” And as an afterthought… “I could fix that.” So he was allowed to take it away. When he brought it back spick and span the following week there was a large box of knackered sound-boxes waiting for him.
As Billy says in the film, the earliest records were recorded live. This is pure analogue and if played through the right machine, you can actually feel the air around you vibrate and for a few spine-tingling minutes you will be in the room with Caruso himself. Rich never managed to spend as much time in the shop as he would have liked as the stress of the impending closure was taking its toll on the team. However, in this short film he has managed to capture a wee glimpse of a wonderful place the like of which may never be seen again.
A few afterthoughts:
Billy still curates Oxfam’s 78s on Raeburn Place. That’s a good place to bring your 78s from the loft.
I set up The Gramophone Emporium Facebook page when we opened and posted a few photos but I never really had time to do much with it. It was taken over and has been kept alive and thriving by Graeme; A Gramophone Emporium customer and gramophone DJ. Have a look here! There are lots of photos and also links to the new Scottish Gramophone Group that meets regularly. There is an old shop blog post from 2012 about The Gramophone Emporium called The Last Shop Standing. He DJs under the name Lord Holyrude and is available for events and weddings and the odd Torture Garden appearance… His contact details are here.
We only really deal in Jazz and Rock and Roll but I’m always happy to look at a collection. As a general rule, Scottish and religious records are usually worthless. Pre-war British pop are also hard to sell as is Bing Crosby and even Frank Sinatra. Cliff Richard 78s are still very collectable despite his bad press and there are some Indian Beatles records that are sought after as are many foreign records. Classical 78s are usually not worth much but unfortunately, some are worth a fortune so don’t throw anything out. Look out for odd things. One sided 78s are earlier and usually sellable and a record with the title scratched out could be a Jamaican DJs floorfiller. Some people managed to record their voices on privately pressed discs so you can have one of a kind unique items that are nevertheless worth little but have great historical value and should never be thrown away. But mainly, if you get the chance, do try to play them. You could quite easily be the first person to have listened to that recording in over 50 years and that is a lovely and special feeling. I might do a wee piece on shellac in the future if I have the time.
Beatles on Beetles
The Shellac that the 78rpm records were made from is a product of the Lac beetle. They create a resin that they secrete on tree branches that protects their young. This is scraped off the tree and put in a pot before being melted, purified with added ingredients and turned into a record. The beetle is found in India among other places. As Britain had its Empire back then, we had access to the best Indian shellac and therefore made the best quality records. The vinyl 45rpm disc was at least in part invented in America due to a shortage of shellac during WWII. In India, 78s were made well into the 1960s so keep an eye out for the Beatles on Beetles.
Finally, here’s a clip from the RCA vaults showing the complex process of how records were made.
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.