The Eclectic Audio Lab

Welcome to my new music themed blog- The Eclectic Audio Lab!

As in my previous blog page, I often added my ruminations on whatever music I was listening to at the time of writing, but never fully explored or expounded upon my playlists. ‘The Garret’ blog had run its course and the time was right for something new, a music themed blog, giving my thoughts on my favourite music from across the generic spectrum. In retrospect it was Richie Brown’s ‘Personal Stereo’ features on his website that really helped to rekindle my love of music related writing. With ‘Personal Stereo’ I was given the opportunity to chart ten years of my life with the music that sound tracked it. I relished this and delved into my collection with gusto, rediscovering records I had forgotten about and in doing so recalled one of my previous existences as a jazz critic for the newsletter of Aberdeen Jazz Society back in the early 1990s. That was quite a challenge for me, but in those pre-Internet days, I did my homework and researched the music I was critiquing and I managed to get people interested in the music I was reviewing also, and in the process enjoy the works of Coltrane , Miles Davis or whoever it was in a given week.
I hope to bring my views on music of all kinds to you in the next while and who knows, I might even be able to expand a few minds and convert people to music they wouldn’t normally listen to

The Only Card I Need Is……

003Someone I was talking to recently said that the first music you really got into in your teens stays with you, I have no idea who said it , but they were absolutely right.
I was browsing through my voluminous vinyl collection the other day and I came upon some of my old singles from back in my early days of music fandom, some real curios.

Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’ was the first to go on the turntable, and yes it still plays pretty well after more than 30 years!. Floored by the thundering bass/drums intro , I am catapulted back to 1980 , back to a very different Aberdeen , and I suppose a very different me, on the cusp of adulthood , my last year at school.
‘The past is a different country’ as someone more famous than I once said.
I actually met the legend that is Lemmy Kilmister and ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke back in those days, on my seventeenth birthday; I was in town to see Motorhead on the ‘Ace Up Your Sleeve’ tour and had gone to the long closed Balmoral Bar on Aberdeen’s Union Street for a quick pint before the gig at now legendary Capitol Theatre. A gig by my then favourite band on my birthday, how good was that. Motorhead, who seemed to straddle the genres of metal and punk and who paved the way for what in a few years would become thrash metal, were at the top of their game, riding high in the charts on the back of the album ‘Ace of Spades’. Way back then rock stars mixed with the fans, different times, different financial climate and all that, so I met Lemmy and Eddie and got a few album covers signed by them, said a few words to them and they to me. They played Space Invaders on a table top machine, I noticed Lemmy’s lighter which had the Motorhead logo engraved on it. How cool was that?. They played a blinder of a gig ,some of which was recorded for the live album of that year ‘No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith’, and I recall my ears ringing for a while after the gig as me and my mate were up at the front of the stage. I swear that I am one of the folk in the crowd pictured in the inner cover of that album, I might be wrong. I proudly wore my tour badge in school the day after, and the T-shirt lasted many years until it faded to grey, like most things do. I still have the signed albums and singles, and they have stood the test of time as has the music they contain , in my opinion.
Its great to be able to define a moment in time by the music that was being played, and I think I can say that with a lot of the music in my collection. I can say what I was doing when whatever music was released for most of them, which can only be a good thing.

My Life As A Musical Commentator

036I was rather pleased to be described as a ‘musical commentator’ recently by Haworth Hodgkinson and that really set me thinking back to where my life as a musical commentator started.

So let me take you back through the mists of time, to the pre-Internet era of the late ’70s, a time of austerity , just at the time Margaret Thatcher came into power, it was a very different world, there were strikes everywhere, money was in the words of the song ‘too tight to mention’, and if you wanted to buy records, as I did, you got yourself a part-time job or hounded your parents to give you records or tapes for birthday or Christmas presents.

I delivered papers for my money, while still in secondary school, and as a keen young rock fan, I discovered the now legendary musical weeklies ‘Sounds’ and ‘NME’. These papers , along with the network of school friends who lent about their albums and swapped cassette recordings , fuelled my passion for music which remains undimmed as I reach the fabled ‘certain age’, my favourite album so far this year is Primal Scream’s ‘More Light’, which is absolutely brilliant.

Every week we would consult ‘Sounds’ or ‘NME’ to see which bands were coming up to Aberdeen and when their new albums were due out. My old mate Graeme Petrie always seemed to be the first to get the latest heavy metal albums , which back then was pretty cool. If you wanted to get your album before everyone else, it always helped if you had friends working in record stores and if you didn’t , there were always mail order companies. Music fans back in those days had fashions which went with the music , I suppose it’s bizarre when you think of this in the terms of 2013, but if you were a metal fan , a punk , mod or whatever, there was a ‘uniform’ that went with the music. In retrospect it was all about identity , about finding yourself and your place in the world, which clearly was not the world our parents had grown up in, the changing world of what would become known as ‘Thatcher’s Britain’, times of strife and anger , which it would be fair to say was reflected in the anger of some of the music of that period. Anyway , we would also comment on what the critics said about the albums and bands we liked, and this certainly shaped my musical tastes. My favourite critics from Sounds were Sandy Robertson and Edwin Pouncey , and they certainly sent me off on my course of discovery of music of all kinds. In my schooldays, I vacillated between the not so different musics of metal and punk (which my favourite band of the time, Motorhead, I reckon embodied). Once in my twenties , I delved deeper into music, taking in blues, psychedelia, folk, reggae, and basically all points in between.
So flashing forward to to 2013, things have changed beyond recognition , the way we buy our music has changed, and records stores , once the social hub and place of discovery, are a dying breed. I still mourn the passing of the legendary record store One-Up , which sadly closed in January of this year, and have resorted to buying online, at record fairs and charity shops.
I still love musical journalism, which is found online more than anywhere, and I have a bookcase full of musical criticism, by the likes of Charles Shaar Murray, Nick Kent, Greil Marcus, John Sinclair, Simon Reynolds,Jon Savage, Lester Bangs, to name but a few. I often comment verbally on music and am equally comfortable commenting on modern indie music as I am commenting on the likes of the avant classical Kronos Quartet or Sun Ra , purveyor of ‘out there’ jazz. I will be commenting or reviewing music in the coming months within these pages. Watch this space.