Monday, 10 December 2012

Monorail Music's 10th birthday

In a Brighton a few weeks ago I had a fun (we were wailing at each other above some polite folk music played at Stooges-appropriate volume) but ultimately gloomy conversation with the proprietor of Borderline Records.  While complimenting him on his shop - it's great, if you're in town it's well worth a visit - I told him that even now I judged a town or city by the quality of its record shops.  His resigned response was that it was just as well that I had come in 2012 as Borderline and some of the other independents may not be there in 2013 due to the harsh trading conditions and proposed rate rises by the City Council.  When I said, "How will I judge towns when all the record shops have gone?", he replied, "They'll all just be shit, won't they?".  It may have been a bit melodramatic, but he was right.  Given this, the recent 10th birthday of Stephen Pastel and Dep Downie's much cherished Monorail Music seems even more like something worth celebrating.  

When Monorail Music opened in 2002, I couldn't have been happier.  Glasgow was in desperate need of somewhere for people to buy new independent records.  John Smith's bookshop had closed their fabulous record department and Missing Records wasn't what it had been.  There was talk for a while of Rough Trade opening a shop in the west end but those plans foundered due in part, I believe, to Glasgow's prohibitive business rates.  I've been a regular customer since it opened and it's impossible to overstate just what a positive influence it's had on my life.  I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that it's been good for my mental health over the years.  The staff are uniformly lovely and have become friends and I've lost count of the number of brilliant records which each of them has brought into my life.  One of the things I love about Monorail Music is that it's spotless; it's the kind of place where you want to spend time.  The records are displayed lovingly (card stiffeners, plastic sleeves, not crammed into the racks) and the staff handle them respectfully - none of them has ever cockily slam-dunked my precious vinyl into the bag.  For me, Monorail Music makes Glasgow a better place to live and, if the testimonies from the many bands (Crystal Stilts, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Vivian Girls etc.) and friends from out of town are any guide, a better place to visit.

Last night Monorail took over Mono and held a party to celebrate its first decade.  It was a great occasion.  It felt like most everyone who should have been there, was and was smiling.  There was a real feeling of a community coming together and I, for one, left with a renewed resolve to support Monorail Music and the culture I love so much.. After all, I'll never get excited by an mp3 the way I do for a perfect little 7" single.  A lovely evening of DJs (Monorail's own Mark Hillier and Russell Elder) and bands (a particularly eccentric/funny Richard Youngs, Moon Unit, Sacred Paws) culminated in a full on set by The Pastels.  Maybe it was the sound mix, but Katrina appeared to be really pounding her drums with venom.  "Baby Honey" was just colossal.  I was honoured (and I do mean 'honoured' because in a city like Glasgow there are lots of more talented, proper DJs who would have played wonderful sets) to be asked to play some records afterwards.  Here's what made it from my trusty "Buba Box" onto the turntables:

Chin Chin - Stop! Your Crying (53rd & 3rd)
September GirlsGreen Eyed (Soft Power)
The Tidal Waves Farmer John (HBC)
SpectrumHow You Satisfy Me (Silvertone)
The Gentle TouchBe Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy (Kapp)
Woollen Kits Out of Town (R.I.P. Society)
The Revolving Paint DreamFlowers In The Sky (Creation)
Bettye SwannLonely Love (Money)
Ortheia Barnes –  Never Ever Leave Me (Kent)
The Concretes You Can’t Hurry Love (Licking Fingers/EMI)
The White WiresPretty Girl (Trouble In Mind) <--- on loan from the lovely Soft Power kids - thanks G & B, you rule!
Lung LegMaid To Minx (Southern)
The Balloon Farm A Question of Temperature (Laurie)
Charles DouglasSummertime (Great Pop Supplement)
Heaven Bound - He'd Rather Have The Rain (MCA)
Lisa Miller The Loneliest Christmas Tree (Canterbury)
The Mynah Birds It’s My Time (Motown)
Redd KrossSuper Sunny Christmas (Waterfront)
Jeff PerryLove Don’t Come No Stronger (Go Ahead)
Rainy DayI’ll Keep It With Mine (Rough Trade)

I had planned to finish on Joan Jett and The Blackhearts' "I Love Rock and Roll" but Russell got the timing just right and dropped it just as The Pastels took to the stage.  Thanks to everyone who said kind, supportive things about my selections - it was very kind of you!  The Tidal Waves' rowdy, frat-rocking take on "Farmer John" sounded particularly great turned way up loud.

Happy birthday Monorail Music!  Thanks for being there for the last 10 years.  Lang may yer lum reek!!!

Read my pal Krister's thoughts on Monorail Music over at Record Turnover,

1 comment:

  1. Amen to absolutely all of that! I had a (not entirely successful) go at writing about it yesterday, and took a similar tack, comparing Monorail to Avalanche, which seems so sapped by indifference. It makes me sad that all my favourite Birmingham record shops are gone - even Swordfish, I think, which would have been the last. But none of those other shops take / took quite the care over curating and caring for the stock that Monorail do (Piccadilly Records does, maybe), and generally making it a nice place to be. Dep's new 'Some Songs' box seems to sum up their approach: it's a beautiful object, a treasure trove, and precious stones need a bit of burnishing now and then, and a trove to sparkle in. We're so lucky to have them.