Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Always Different, Always the Same

Three unrelated artists came to mind while I was watching The Fall in concert a couple of nights ago. 1) James Brown. OK, so this comparison isn't between Mr Brown and Mark E Smith themselves, but more so between The JB's and the sterling work of Elena Poulou, Dave Spurr, Pete Greenway, Keiron Melling and Daren Garratt. Both combos so tight that you couldn't get a rizla between them and in each case leaving the front man free to improvise, safe in the knowledge that they'll be right where he left them, when he chooses to reconnect with the groove. 2) Miles Davis. In later years Miles, like Mark E Smith, enjoyed amending the sound and positions of the band while on stage, physically pushing them forward or pulling them back as they played. During 'First One Today' the other evening, Smith pushed Peter Greenaway to the very lip of the stage, turned Dave Spurr's bass amp up so that his playing briefly became a deafening funky rumble and then unaccountably walked off with one of Melling's cymbals. And Number 3? Chuck Berry. Legendary for not overstaying his welcome in the live arena, invariably clocking off within the hour. Similarly, The Fall gave us 59 thrilling minutes and were gone.

The current Fall line-up is the longest serving in the group's 39 year history and is about to release a new LP, 'Sub-Lingual Tablet'. Listen out for the epic centrepiece ' Auto Chip 2014-2016' when the record hits the streets in May. Meanwhile, this is 'Dedication', filmed in concert late last year.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Saturday Scratch #45 - Winston Heywood

I can tell you very little about Winston Heywood, other than the fact that he was accompanied on his slim catalogue of 1970's singles by, at various times, The Hombres, The Soul Hombres and The Shoemakers. Two of Heywood's singles were recorded at the Black Ark in 1976 under the supervision of Lee Scratch Perry and, as it's been a fair while since the last Saturday Scratch, this one is the appropriately titled 'Long Long Time'.

Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Friday, 24 April 2015

You Can't Get the Staff

By the time I became a Manager in 2002, the Coffee company for whom I worked had established a very strict recruitment procedure from which we were instructed not to deviate, comprising of an extensive, structured interview and the diligent completion of a hefty written assessment of each and every applicant. I would always sneak a question or two about musical tastes into every interview though - it had to be done. If I had my way, I would never have employed anyone who didn't at least like The Buzzcocks and The Ramones, though on reflection, the implementation of this policy would probably have left our stores extremely short-handed for most of the time.

Here's a less frequently aired favourite from each of those great bands.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Creeping Danger

Snug as a bug in a rug, this collared dove has built a nest in a temporarily comfy, though ultimately unwise location - a neighbour's gutter. With heavy rain forecast in the second half of the week, we fear the worst for her eggs.

French musician Nino Nardini enjoyed a 40 year career, predominantly composing and recording library music, which was used on radio, TV and film. His large catalogue has been much sampled by DJ's, though 1971's 'Jungle Obsession' is the only album I own. From 'Jungle Obsession', and with the fate of our friend the collared dove in mind, this is 'Creeping Danger'.

Monday, 20 April 2015

This is Radio Cash

About a month ago, Swiss Adam over at Bagging Area, pointed me in the direction of a streaming Andrew Weatherall NTS radio show (here). It proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable if expensive couple of hours. I already owned or knew of half a dozen of Mr Weatherall's selections that day, but still managed to buy two albums and a single before the show had even finished and another two albums off the back of it in subsequent weeks. On Saturday Swiss Adam let it be known that a new Weatherall NTS show was up for grabs on Mixcloud. Flexible friend at the ready, I'm going in.

This was one of my purchases from last month's programme. 'The Sacrifice' by The Pattern Forms is the b-side of a 7" single, 'Fluchtwege', which out now on Ghost Box.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Battered Cheese - What's Not To Like?

On Tuesday evening, in preparation for our trip to the coast the following day, I sat at my laptop perusing a selection of online pub-lunch menus and stumbled upon a dish that caused my eyebrow to creak upwards in the manner of Roger Moore's Spitting Image puppet. Vegetarian Fish 'n' Chips. Intrigued, I read on. The 'Fish' was actually halloumi, deep-fried in chilli, coriander and lime batter. I closed my laptop. We had a winner. There was no further research required.

Apparently, Chicago singer/songwriter Daniel Knox enjoyed a full English breakfast on every stop of his recent UK tour (the best was in Coventry, in case you're wondering). I'd be interested to hear his opinion on the merits of my veggie Fish 'n' Chips. Maybe next time. Daniel's 'Blue Car' is easily my favourite song of the year so far and to be standing immediately in front of him as he sang it, a couple of weeks ago, was one of those, never to be forgotten, concert moments. Check out more of his remarkable music here.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

55 From 55 - 2014

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my far. 

This whole shebang started on a whim. A few tunes, each with an attached few lines of waffle - 55 posts, bob's yer uncle. Once I got into the groove though, the thing took on a life of its own. For some of the years I struggled to come up with anything and it probably showed, while for others I had more memories, tunes or photos than you could shake a stick at. So I've got a little backlog of stuff to dip into, going forward (one for all you Buzzword Bingo fans out there).

One of the unfortunate by-products of my devoting so much spare time to 55 From 55 (as well as being laid low by an absolute stinker of a cold last week) is that I've fallen way behind with all the excellent blogs I follow myself. Normal service, on all counts, returns henceforth. Next time I post, it'll no doubt be regarding some of the newer stuff that's been tickling my fancy over the past couple of months. 

Thank you to everyone who has dropped by to support this little endeavor, it really is very much appreciated. Right, I'm off out for a spot of Birthday lunch with Mrs S. Catch you later. And remember - age is just a number.


As is the way of such things these days, many of my favourite albums of 2014 don't actually enjoy a physical presence here at Swede Towers. A case in point was, until recently, 'Unlikely Mothers' by Big Blood, where the only physical release was of the 'Limited Edition Coloured Vinyl Double LP' variety, which of course I was too slow off the mark to snap up. Fortunately for me, a second limited run of 150 appeared early in 2015. This time I was off like a shot and managed to bag a copy.

I can't recommend Big Blood highly enough and I shall return to them more fully at some point in the future. If you have any space in your head and heart for a gothic acid psych folk hybrid, then I urge you to check out 'Unlikely Mothers' here and if you like what you hear, you're in luck. The band have a wealth of music going back 10 years, all available to consume at the Free Music Archive (here).

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

55 From 55 - 2013

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my far. 

When he was young, fit and able, Dad loved to walk. The chronic leg problems he suffered in later life were a particularly cruel blow. By the end he was struggling to even shuffle around the house. I, on the other hand, would rarely walk if there was some form of transportation available. I was lazy and I didn't see the point. Gradually, though, during my late 30's and early 40's, I began to see the point. And now, getting out and stretching my legs is a fundamental part of my day. Even if I don't have a planned destination, I do it just to walk, something I wouldn't have dreamed of when I was younger, fitter and more able..

Over the past year, hugely inspired by similar posts from blogging chums C and Singing Bear, I've taken my camera out with me upon occasion and shared the results. Here's a walk from July 2014. The reason I mention this now, is that during the course of my research for this series I unearthed a set of photos taken on the self-same circular riverside route 16 months earlier, in January 2013, not long after a coating of snow. You might even be able to recognise a few of the locations if you flick between the two sets. Our part of the world has been almost entirely snow-free since then. Click on any of the shots to blow 'em up.


In this series I've featured Pop, Rock, Reggae,Dark Country, Minimal Techno, Motorik Madness and Jazzy Post Rock, so since we're nearing the end, how about a little 21st Century Prog? 'The Mardi Gras Turned Ugly In Seconds' is taken from Regal Worm's debut LP 'Use And Ornament'. Hear more of this band's incredible music on their Bandcamp page (here).

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

55 From 55 - 2012

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my far.

My self-imposed rules going into this series (I do like a self-imposed rule) were; a) No tunes that have previously graced these pages, b) No appearances from any of my all- time favourite bands, c) One song per artist, d) No photos I've shared before and e) No stories I've told before. As '55 From 55' winds down, I can say in all honesty that while none of the above rules have been badly broken, some of 'em have taken a bit of a bending. We're now into the years where I was really having a proper crack at this blogging lark after initially just playing around with it and therefore I realise that I'm at a greater risk of repeating myself, so these last few posts will be more in the nature of a general rounding-up of present day life in and around Swede Towers.

A while back, I found myself musing (here) on the total number of places I've called home so far in my life. In October 2011, after a few frustrating legal delays, I, along with Mrs S, moved into what I calculate to be my 14th home. We're in a small village, though just a mile across the marsh from the nearest town. Our house used to form part of a much larger one, but the two were divided in a roughly two thirds/one third split. We're in the one third bit and we call next door 'the big house'. In the second half of the 19th Century the building was the village shop and close inspection of the brickwork, internal and external, shows the ghostly outlines of where original configurations of doors and windows once were. This is how the it looked back then.

I'm currently sitting at the window above the lamp, which is presumably positioned to light the shop window. The lamp is long gone, as is the window. Below me now is our street door.


Baltimore's Lower Dens have just issued their third LP, 'Escape From Evil'. The record is the follow up to 2012's 'Nootropics', which featured the fabulous motorik driven 'Brains'.

Monday, 13 April 2015

55 From 55 - 2011

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my far. 

In the 48 hours following Mum's passing in December 2010, I received a series of warmly appreciated condolence messages from virtually everyone I worked with, the notable exception being the Area Manager, my immediate boss. I heard nothing from him for 5 days. When he finally called, he offered no words of consolation and merely attempted to get me to commit there and then to a return to work date. He also informed me that I wouldn't be returning to my own store, but was required to take over a new unit that had opened during my sabbatical.

In spite of a general unease about life in the corporate sector after so long in small business, I worked hard and diligently for the company because a) I had debts to pay off and b) If I take something on, I don't believe in giving half measure. I worked very long hours, rarely got my allotted two days off per week and never once in ten years came close to using my full annual holiday entitlement - as a salaried employee, these were 'use it or lose it' elements of my contract, with no overtime payment option. I'm not complaining. For much of the time I enjoyed the challenges of the job - no two days were ever the same, that's for sure. But I was now at my lowest ebb and it was only by the grace of Mrs S's steadying presence that I was able to function at all. I had hoped for at least a little compassion. Business is business though.

A man on the move, 2011.

I took a good look at myself - the distance I'd travelled, the amount I'd stretched my own abilities and the success I'd achieved within the company, culminating in being named brand Manager of the year in 2010. I was nearly 51. Was I really in any state to dive back in and run myself ragged all over again? My sabbatical, Mum's passing and now the conversation with my boss had given me perspective. In January 2011, I handed in my notice.

Mrs S and I had been considering a move before Mum's health issues put all plans on hold. In the Spring of 2011, after we'd finished clearing Mum's house, we tentatively started looking for a new place to live.


Death Cab For Cutie are one of those bands that only turn up once in my collection. The album in question is 'Codes and Keys' from 2011. I like this record a lot, but for some reason I've not yet checked out very much more of their output. The brilliant 'You Are a Tourist' was a favourite in the house all year. This official video for the song is the first ever live, scripted, one-take music video shoot.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

55 From 55 - 2010

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my far. 

In 2010 I hit 50. It was a year that began with an unexpected work related triumph and ended in deep personal sadness. In the Spring, at the company's annual conference, I was named store manager of the year, in front of 3000 of my peers. The award was a complete shock and came with a significant financial reward. On the day, though grateful, my mind was elsewhere. After Christmas 2009, Mum's condition had deteriorated sharply. Up to then she'd still been quite active, but now she couldn't walk more than a few steps and was unable to leave the house unaided. Her medication was no longer keeping her illness under control.

Mum encouraging me to take my first steps in 1961.

I applied for a period of unpaid leave from work, which was eventually granted, and spent the next 6 months staying with Mum for 4 or 5 days a week, while professional care was given by daily visits from District Nurses. I bought a collapsible wheelchair that I could throw in the back of the car and, when she felt up to it, took her out for country drives, trips to the coast and pub lunches. Throughout this period her health waxed and waned and she spent a number of short spells in hospital, 'to recharge the batteries'. It was a privilege and joy to be able to share so much time with Mum during those months and when she passed away in December, the grief was, and is, exceptionally crushing. 


My most prominent musical memory of 2010 is from Friday June 25th, when Mark E.Smith strolled onstage at Glastonbury, wearing one glove, to join Damon Albarn, half The Clash and the rest of The Gorillaz for a storming, glamtastic, 'Glitter Freeze' from the 'Plastic Beach' LP. It's just perfect, from Mick Jones' welcoming, '..alright Mark?', onwards. The only thing missing from the performance is MES's classic spoken intro to the studio version of the song - 'Where's North from 'ere?'.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

55 From 55 - 2009

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my far. 

My Cousin and I, both only children, grew up in the same house in Walthamstow from her birth in 1963 until the mid-1970's, her family lived upstairs and mine downstairs. Over the intervening years we've remained as close as brother and sister. Since the late 1980's she's lived in New York where she and her husband now have three fantastic kids of their own.

Our local, when we're in New York.

Each Summer the New York contingent of the family come over for a couple of weeks to visit my Cousin's Mother, who's now in her mid-80's. In 2009 they spent a week of their stay at Centre Parcs and invited my Mum along to share their holiday. Mum had a great time, still in relatively good health and was clearly invigorated by spending time with the kids.

Road trip. Driving out over Brooklyn Bridge.  

In October of 2009 Mrs S and I took ourselves off to New York once again, to catch up with the family on their own patch. I'd finally cleared all of my record shop debt over the previous couple of years and our belts weren't quite so tight. The pressure for continued financial growth at work was immense though. The company expanded at an alarming rate, results were everything - and needed to be achieved by whatever means necessary. I could do the job and do it quite well, but I was increasingly uncomfortable in the corporate world.

Manhattan from the road.

While in New York, Mrs S and I caught several concerts, but were frustrated to note that Vic Chesnutt was playing the Bowery Ballroom on October 26th, the night we were due to fly home. We'd seen Vic live a couple of times on previous visits, though this time he was touring on the back of his new LP, 'At the Cut', with a fine band comprising members of Thee Silver Mt. Zion and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I hoped for snow so that our departure might be delayed and allow us to attend, but we flew out, as planned, on a mild clear evening. Maybe we'll catch him again next time, I thought.


'At the Cut' is an intense piece of work, dark and raw, nowhere more so than on 'Flirted with You All My Life', a song only matched by Nick Drake's 'Black Eyed Dog' in terms of its utter bleakness. Tragically, there would be no next time to see Vic Chesnutt. He took his own life two months later, on Christmas Day 2009.

Friday, 10 April 2015

55 From 55 - 2008

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my far. 

Mum showed remarkable resilience after losing Dad in 2007. Her broken hip recovered well and she kept herself very busy. She'd always been the outgoing one and now threw herself into voluntary work in the WRVS cafe at the local hospital and at a couple of charity shops in town. She also built on strong friendships with several near neighbours. I kept Dad's car and drove down to stay with her at every opportunity, taking her shopping once a week and to the hospital once a month, for a consultation with a Myeloma specialist. Outwardly she was coping well with being alone after over 50 years of marriage, though an Aunt let it slip that Mum had mentioned that she found the deafening silence in the house very difficult to adjust to. Dad had always been a very noisy man! He sang, whistled, drummed and generally crash, bashed and walloped his way through life. Mrs S will be happy to vouchsafe that his son is following in his Father's noisy footsteps!

Unshaven scruff. 2008.

I was busy too. I'd been given yet another coffee shop branch to open (this one on a trading estate) with another newly recruited team. On my many drives to and from Ipswich to visit Mum, I listened to a lot of spoken word - audio books, comedy, Radio 4. On the rare occasions that I actually played music, it was usually a Minimal Techno compilation. 'Enfants' by Ricardo Villalobos is minimalism taken to the Nth degree and the perfect tune to take out on the road when your brain is full to overflowing. The looped sample is taken from Christian Vander's 1995 choral reworking of Magma's 1973 prog-rock classic, 'Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh'. This one won't be for everybody.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

55 From 55 - 2007

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my far.

When Dad's car failed its MOT at the end of 2006, the garage told him that it was beyond repair and, after a few months cogitation, he bought a tiny second hand Daewoo Matitz to replace it. He was initially reluctant buy another car at all, finding driving increasingly tiring, but at 76, unable to walk more than a few steps and too stubborn to entertain the idea of a motability scooter, a car was the only way he could leave the house and go anywhere with Mum, who had never learned to drive.

Mum & Dad in 1953, two years before they were married.

One afternoon in May of 2007, after Dad had pulled up in front of their house, Mum started to get out of the car, but caught her foot in the seat belt and rolled, rather than fell, onto the grass. It was a drop of around nine inches, but enough to break her hip. Until this point Mum had been a very active 73 year old. As a result of standard tests before her hip surgery, it was discovered that Mum had Myeloma, failing kidneys and a weak heart. Serious problems, but manageable with medication, at least in the short term. Dad nursed Mum with great tenderness as she convalesced after her hip operation, which was difficult for him given his own poor mobility. He did his best to hide it, but I could see that he was really shaken by her accident and subsequent diagnosis. By the November of that year, however, she was recuperating well and was walking again with the aid of a stick.

Riding a miniature railway. 1964

I was alone at work on the evening of November 25th, cashing up at the end of a hectic day in the coffee shop, when I got a call from Mum's mobile phone. The line was very poor and it took her several attempts to make me understand what she was saying. Dad had been taken ill. She was with him at Ipswich Hospital. Come quickly. Then we lost the line. I was 45 miles away and didn't own a car. I threw the takings into the safe and headed to the train station, arriving just as a train was pulling out. It was a 30 minute wait until the next one. 45 minutes later my phone rang again. It was Mum, the line even worse than before. She was in the back of an ambulance. Dad was being taken to Colchester Hospital, a further 20 miles away. I heard the siren wailing in the background, then we lost the line again.

Their last holiday. Cromer 2005

I left the train at Ipswich and got a taxi across town to pick up Dad's car from outside my parents' house, then drove on to Colchester. Throughout the train journey I'd been trying to get hold of Mum again with no joy. I tried and failed once more when I reached the car park at Colchester Hospital. It had been nearly two hours since I'd spoken to her and I had no idea where in the hospital she and Dad were. The staff at reception couldn't locate them at first either, but were very helpful and phoned around various parts of the hospital for me. Finally an orderly called me over and asked me to follow her. She ran off quickly, which alarmed me, and I struggled to keep pace. We ran down corridors and up stairs - I'd never been inside Colchester Hospital before and was completely lost. She suddenly stopped running and opened an unmarked door. Inside was a tiny room where Mum sat in the corner cradling a cup of tea, a nurse at her side. Mum looked up as I entered the room. She was pale, wore a blank expression and seemed terribly, terribly small. She was in shock. As I stood in the doorway, catching my breath and looking at Mum in a state of confusion, another nurse, standing to my right, put her hand on my shoulder. '.....I'm very sorry.....' she said, '.....we lost him 10 minutes ago.....' I was too late. Dad was gone.


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

55 From 55 - 2006

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my far. 

In late 2005 I was shunted from my comfy nook in the bookshop to open a new coffee shop branch, situated within the walls of a soulless shopping centre. I recruited a brand new young team for the job, all of whom wanted Radio 1 on in the staff room - Radio 1! I hadn't listened to daytime Radio 1 since...., well since I was their age! It was awful! I initially considered gouging my eardrums out with a rusty spoon to alleviate the tedium, but over time I eventually managed to relegate the majority of the aural wallpaper to the background of my consciousness.

Taken by my Cousin's 6 year old Daughter. 2006.

A Radio 1 programme that I did actually quite enjoy and which was the soundtrack to our late close every Friday evening, was Pete Tong's Essential Selection. Tong was no John Peel, but after the daytime drivel I'd been subjected to for hours on end, some of the tunes he played sounded positively cutting edge. Occasionally, Tong would spin a genuine cutting edge selection. One Friday evening in 2006 for example, he introduced me to 'Simpler' by Pete Heller, a minimal prog-house classic that still gets me dancing in my head every time I hear it. Mind you, if you think this is minimal, wait til you hear what's coming up in 2008.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

55 From 55 - 2005

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my far. 

Something I obviously never experienced during my years working in record shops was corporate jargon, though as a store Manager in a rapidly expanding coffee business, I quickly found myself bombarded from above by all manner of meaningless mumbo-jumbo. This was a company where every thought was encouraged to be of the blue sky variety, wages were ring-fenced, conversations car-parked, staff incentivised, meetings facilitated, changes action-planned, information cascaded, coffees up-sold and cakes on-sold. Goals were achievable, stretch targets attainable, but progression was, ultimately, glass-ceilinged. Oh, and woe betide any person caught thinking inside the box.

I've been a fan of The Sea and Cake for a very long time, but my absolute favourite Sea and Cake related LP is 2005's 'Who's Your New Professor', nominally a solo album by Sam Prekop, although ¾ of the band contributed towards its making. It's a platter that matters here at Swede Towers.

Monday, 6 April 2015

55 From 55 - 2004

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my far. 

Though it might initially appear an extravagance, a trip to see my cousin and her family in New York worked out to be far more affordable than a holiday in the UK. I was in the fortunate position of being able to pick and choose travel dates to ensure the cheapest combination of flights and when I arrived in Manhattan, I ate with the family and slept in their spare room - free bed and board!

On a one-man mission to eat all the snacks in my Cousin's apartment. 2004.

My main indulgence while in the Big Apple was, not surprisingly, music. There are always so many gigs going on - and all in such close proximity. Also, at that time there were still a lot of great record stores in town, all of which had cheapie bins to lose hours rummaging through. My general rule of thumb was to not spend more than $1.99 on a CD. Though I'm sad to note that it has since closed down, Bleeker Bob's was never one of my favourite stores, the staff were legendarily surly. That being said, while wading through a pile of dusty cardboard boxes in a darkened corner of Bob's during my 2004 trip, I did unearth a promo copy of 'The CBC Sessions' by The Hidden Cameras for the princely sum of 89c!. My kinda price.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

55 From 55 - 2003

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my far. 

On moving to Norfolk in 2002 I met Mrs S, though at the time we were both otherwise attached and it would be another three years until we became anything more than just chums. We began exchanging music tips almost immediately though. The brooding 'Down Below Him' by Chicago's Low Skies was one of the first tunes she pushed my way.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

55 From 55 - 2002

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my far.

In January 2002, after 18 months with the coffee company (and in a echo of my first record shop job in 1981) I was offered the opportunity to manage my own store in Norfolk. The branch was located within a bookstore, the perfect environment. Occasionally, authors stopped in to sign stock while on promotional jaunts, in some cases hosting a reading and Q&A event in the evening. If I was on shift, I'd be sure to offer them a cuppa. Here I am with Our 'Enry.

Friday, 3 April 2015

55 From 55 - 2001

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my far. 

By the time my record shop closed in March 2000, I was in considerable debt. When asked, I always say that I had 10 really good years and 4 of increasingly swift decline. I should have pulled the plug around 1997, but when you're in the middle of it, you can't see the wood for the trees. And you always think it's going to get better.

In the Summer of 2000 I managed to secure employment in a newly opening branch of a modest sized national coffee shop chain. (15 years later, the same company is now a massive global brand.) As some regular readers might be aware, I am something of a coffee nerd and while my new employer's particular blend is nothing to write home about, I was really looking forward to working as a regular team member, able to leave work at the end of every day with no stress or worries. It lasted three days. The store's Manager walked out mid-shift, never to return and, purely because of my age, I was asked to take responsibility for the store (and ten staff) until a replacement could be found. I knew nothing about the company, ordering procedures, rotas or budgetary constraints. I'd barely even learned how to make a cup of coffee, but somehow I struggled through for a few weeks until a new Manager was recruited. 

New York, October 2001.

After the uncertainties of the latter years of my business, it was a joy to receive a weekly pay packet and have a regular holiday allowance. I had debts to repay, but, with careful budgeting, I planned a trip to see my cousin and her family in Manhattan at the end of October, coinciding with a couple of Bob Dylan gigs. One morning, on the way to work, I stopped off in our local Lunn Poly travel agents to book the ticket for my flight to New York. The date was September 10th 2001.


Halifax Pier formed in Kentucky in 1998 and, by some accounts, are still musically active, though the last recordings I have by them date back to 2001. 'Lightly Noise' is from their second (and last?) LP titled 'Put Your Gloves On and Wave'. If I made you a CD, Minidisc or Cassette compilation at any point in the early noughties, this tune would've been on it.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

55 From 55 - 2000

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my far. 

Dad drops by to see if there's any Frank Sinatra records in the sale!

Making the decision was by far the hardest thing. A friend who was with me, swore that she actually saw a weight visibly lift from my shoulders when I said the words out loud for the first time - I'm closing the shop. I informed my landlord, accountant and bank manager who were all incredibly supportive. At the end of trading a few days later, I removed the Oasis, 'Standing on the Shoulder of Giants', window display and replaced it with three words, each letter printed on an A4 sheet of paper for maximum impact - Closing Down Sale.

The photo from my last piece of local press, under the headline, 'End of the Road for Mr Music'.

Over the next few days I was genuinely overwhelmed by the number of kind comments, phone calls and good luck messages I recieved from customers old and new, some of whom no longer even lived in the town, but had shopped with me in the past and had somehow heard the news. Three pieces were written about the shop in the press and I was also interviewed on local radio. A chap of a similar age to me, with whom I'd only recently been discussing our mutual love of red wine, came in on the Friday afternoon and handed me a bottle. 'I've been saving this for a very long time' he said, 'but I want you to have it, with my best wishes for your future'. It was a 40 year old bottle of Rioja. I eventually opened it a year later and it remains the finest wine I've ever tasted.

Behind the counter, or where it used to be, after everything was gone. I spent 14 years of my life in that little space.

On the evening of Saturday March 25th, after a hectic and emotional week, I closed the door for the last time and sat in the old place in silence. The following morning, I started dismantling the racks, boxing up the stock and generally stripping the place bare. It took the best part of a week to complete the task. I'd been 26 years of age when I started the business and now I was three weeks short of my 40th birthday. 14 years, gone in a flash. It didn't seem possible.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

55 From 55 - 1999

55 songs in 55 days - one for every year of my far. 

Promotional bits and bobs. The ridiculous amounts of stuff that record companies gave away. Quite apart from advance copies of singles and albums, in my time I was given bottle openers, pens, writing pads, bottles of plonk, hip-flasks, towels, cameras, denim jackets, cuddly toys, mugs, tea-pots, mouse-mats, baseball jackets, hats, sunglasses, presentation discs, concert tickets, hundreds of t-shirts, thousands of posters and many more strange and unconnected things that were used to plug the latest releases. Most of these items would come decorated in the band's logo or a sleeve design and the majority of them I would give away to genuine fans of the bands in question, as a thank-you for their custom. I often wonder how many of those freebies subsequently found their way onto eBay, when they were discovered at the back of a cupboard, years later.

1999 was my last full year of trading. HMV and Virgin were busy undercutting each other, supermarkets were selling CD's for less than cost price and a new phenomenon called file sharing was beginning to take hold. It was a very stressful time. No-one knew the full extent of the financial hole I was in, other than my accountant and bank manager and they were both pleading with me to throw in the towel. As midnight approached on December 31st, I took a walk along the prom, which was buzzing with people who were out and about to usher in the new millennium. I left the crowds behind and wandered to the quieter end of the beach and looked out into the darkness as the waves crashed in. I still hoped for a miracle, but in my gut I knew that the game was up.


In 1999, ace UK post-rockers Fridge briefly signed to Go! Beat Records, who released the band's third album, 'Eph', as well as a couple of EP's. Kieran Hebden of Fridge later found great success trading as Four Tet. From the 'Of' EP, this is the fantastic 'Remix'.
('Remix' was nowhere to be found online, so this is my first attempt at using Box. Please let me know if I've uploaded this incorrectly!)

Fridge - 'Remix'

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