Friday, April 1, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter B, Part 13)

Today's selection is all about a great memory of purchasing the album in 2012. Not only did I pick it up in Scotland, the home of BMX Bandits, but I plucked it from the shelf of Avalanche Records, and those are the very blokes that released this wonderful compilation of the band's recordings done for legendary Scottish label 53rd & 3rd Records between 1986 and 1988.

I found that when flying from Seattle to Edinburgh (or across any ocean, for that matter) it's crucial to stay awake once you get there. Get on their clock! When we landed, it was dark, cold and rainy. Yes, it was a typical February afternoon in Scotland. I wanted to sleep very badly but only spent a few minutes at the hotel to drop off bags. Then I had a brisk walk to Avalanche. By the time I got there I felt euphoric, not tired.

Even though I already owned many of these songs, I'm so glad I picked up 'The 53rd & 3rd Years' because it afforded me the chance to speak with one of the fellas that run Avalanche Records. He was working the counter that day and was delighted with my choice. We had a long and lovely chat about the band and other 53rd & 3rd mates like Stephen Pastel, Talulah Gosh, the Vaselines and Shop Assistants. Before I knew it it was nearing the dinner hour. I was going to be able to stay awake after all.

I have kept an eye on Avalanche ever since, and it seems that after 30 years as a brick-and-mortar shop the doors may be closing for good. Even though I'm many thousands of miles away and I only walked in off the street that one time, this news fills me with sadness. I hope it's not true. Let's brighten the mood with a song from the double-A-sided "Sadness"/E102". This was the first single from Duglas T. Stewart and Co. My trusty book 'Indie Hits 1980-1989' tells me it peaked at No. 8 on the chart in the spring of '86. Here's what Stewart had to say about this early recording:

...Stephen Pastel asked us to make a single for 53rd & 3rd Records in Edinburgh. He wanted "The Day Before Tomorrow" to be the A-side but in the studio we made a mess of it so the other two tracks we recorded became the double 'A.' "E102" was a gloriously dumb twee anthem and an old pretty flowers song of mine. The other side was a different story. "Sad?", I felt was a real mess as soon as we got the tape home but it seemed, with the exception of Mr. Pastel, our new label liked it a lot better. Fortunately Radio One's Janice Long knew what was what, adoped "E102" and probably would have succeeded in making it a hit if they could have pressed enough copies to keep up with the demand. On reflection I think we had a close escape.

Enjoy the kazoos.


Note: This album is on translucent blue vinyl. Sometimes, translucent vinyl gives my linear-tracking turntable fits. It can't read the grooves. That is happening today of all days. So, for the time being, since I have gone to all of the trouble of putting together this post before ripping the record, you are receiving this song from - gasp! - one of my CDs. I will rectify this problem ASAP.


drew said...

Unfortunately it is true Brian. Cockburn Street used to be a great street for music, now sadly only Underground Solu'shun survives. When my office was in Edinburgh I used to frequent Avalanche on a weekly basis. Some weeks more than once. Incidentally I plan on giving Mr Pastel's shop,p, Monoral a visit on Sunday.

Brian said...

Drew, Was hoping I was wrong. I know Avalanche had talked about closing a time or two in the past. I guess there will be no more crying wolf. Enjoy your trip to Monorail. One of the finest shops I have ever visited. Absolutely no filler in that place.

The Swede said...

I too have only ever visited Edinburgh once, in 2006, and naturally stopped by at Avalanche on that trip, picking up a Shins album, if I remember correctly. It sounds as though your own visit was particularly memorable Brian.
I'm very sorry to hear that Avalanche are no more. Reading that final post on their website rekindled some sad memories of my own, from another time and another place.

JC said...

Avalanche is sadly missed.

The Glasgow 'branch' however, is still around of sorts. There was a dispute between Kevin of Avalanche and Sandy whi ran the Glasgow store, and in due course Avalance Glasgow became Love Music. It is still there on a side street next to Queen Street Railway Station.

Duglas is still of course going strong after all these years and still playing E102 in the live setting. Great fun.

kevinpat said...

That's a sweet rock and roll story. Record stores, baseball stadiums, neighborhood bars, movie theaters and perhaps for some folks malls(???) are all places that feel like home to certain people. The heartbeat slows a bit right after the initial sigh. And in Scotland no less. My travel experience is very limited, very limited...but I have a bunch of friends who just rave about Scotland. Just the idea, it's location, the accent sounds wonderful to me. I must admit I was anxious to listen to the song...until I got to the kazoo warning. Uh oh. That scared me. That's like saying I made this lovely pie for you and threw some mustard in at the end because it was on the counter. (I HATE MUSTARD. ) Hahahahahaha. But because the recommendation comes from a highly respected source I will listen (and probably enjoy!!) I just have to wait to get the thought of that brownish/orange condiment out of my head first.

charity chic said...

Sad news re Avalanche
I have frequented it on occasions on visits to Edinburgh but not as often as the Glasgow band

Brian said...

JC, I have enjoyed some recent music from Duglas, particularly BMX Bandits in Space. I had lost track of him for a while.

Swede, I also read those last blog posts from Avalanche, and they were sad for me to read too. I can see how this would be particularly tough for you. Interesting how there was no kick from the vinyl resurgence.

CC, Sad indeed, but you still have some nice shops over there... and not just of the charity variety either. I found some great selections at a Glasgow Oxfam with JC while I was there. In fact, I may be spinning one from the letter Bs not too long from now.

Kevinpat, What can I say? Go to Scotland if you can. A very special place.

George said...

Brian, I'm always keen to hear songs with the kazoo. I'm sure there's a Fall song with some kazzoo-ing in it. This track put me on mind of Hefner, by the way

Brian said...

Hefner, well done, George.