Sunday, September 29, 2013

Retail Therapy 4: Avalanche Records/Love Music, Glasgow

Another regular train journey I made during my years of living in Scotland in the early Nineties was the one that took me out to the bosom of family living in Coatbridge, about half an hour east of Glasgow, in an area known as the Monklands. The not-so-picturesque Glasgow Queen Street to Coatbridge Sunnyside, return, was made at least every couple of weeks.

On the fringes of Queen Street station, in Dundas Street, was a shop called Avalanche Records, perhaps THE prototype indie record store, a genuine throwback to a bygone era, and very much a serious distraction for me on those occasions I wasn’t running for the train. It isn’t called Avalanche Records these days. It’s called Love Music, but at last sighting the shop was very much alive, and it remains in that very convenient location.

I’m not sure if it is still owned and operated by a guy called Sandy McLean, but when I was there most recently in 2008 – or it may actually have been as recently as 2011 – it was like walking back in time. But in a good way. And it wasn’t only a sense of nostalgia driven by my relationship with the shop 15 years earlier, or the vague whiff of familiarity, it was the sense that the shop had successfully retained its soul, its independence, and a most charming point of difference from the chains and superstores surrounding it.

Back in the mid Nineties that meant Tower Records, HMV, and Virgin. All had megastores within shouting distance of Avalanche Records, but none offered the warmth and quiet passion offered by the comparatively tiny side street shop. Selling used and new, vinyl, tapes, CDs, everything was sorted into some semblance of order, yet there remained a prevailing sense of chaos – something which becomes unavoidable when at any moment a used copy of a long deleted title can jump right out at you and greet you like its long lost owner ... or owner to be.

The walls of Avalanche weren’t about being bombarded with the latest major label favourite either. Rather it was more about the retro, the obscure, the low budget, and the unique. And when I finished scouring the racks and bins for that rarely sighted old soul 45, I could flick through magazines, pick up a fanzine, or get local gig information by perusing the multitude of flyers left laying about.

I think I probably spent more money on gap-filling CD singles, mixtape fodder, rather than anything else when I regularly shopped there back in the day. But the last time I was in the store a few years ago – I’m pretty sure it had become Love Music by this time – I came across a used (but mint) Lee Scratch Perry CD that I’d never seen before, and an album often omitted from many of his “official” discographies: ‘The Essential Lee Scratch Perry’ on Mastercuts, a series more renowned for its retro dance music collections and various artist titles.

I’m not so sure that CD – picked up for a mere £3.99 – correctly identifies the truly essential Perry but it does at least showcase some of his best work from the Seventies. It remains my most recent purchase at the shop, and it felt quietly satisfying and no less fitting to find it there.

Here’s a clip from the album:


No comments:

Post a Comment