Sunday 30 December 2018


Between 1994 and probably until 2004, I must have spent a high percentage of my lunchtime's visiting HMV on Sauchiehall Street. My first job in Glasgow was along at Charing Cross so I'd skip along at lunchtime to browse and buy. I then moved to 301 St Vincent Street to work in the huge Abbey National building and befriended a couple of other music nuts and Monday lunchtimes would see us religiously head to HMV to check the latest releases.

At the height of Britpop I'd be buying 2 or 3 releases a week, often singles due to the sheer volume being released at that time and also due to the cheap pricing. 7-inch singles tended to be 99p in the first week of release to get a chart position. I even picked up very limited 7-inch vinyl by the likes of Elastica who pressed 500 or 1,000 of some of their first singles. Bargain!

The 90's was the era of the CD and for £1.99 you could pick up a 3 or 4 track CD single/EP. B-sides meant something, Oasis had gems like The Masterplan, Fade Away and Rockin' Chair on them, other bands used it to experiment or play covers.

I don't recall buying many vinyl albums from HMV. I tended to buy them from Missing Records on Oswald Street or when they moved to larger premises on Washington Street. I don't know why, Missing always just felt like more of a vinyl store for me. Although I did buy a lot of 7-inches from HMV.

And it was always HMV for me. Tower Records was an occasional treat, usually after a few drinks in town killing time before a train back to my home town of Carluke, but it was too expensive. And I never really spent much time in Virgin. HMV was conveniently placed close to my work and it just became the place I went to for music.

I still have all my CD's. I must have spent thousands and thousands of pounds on them, so even though they are pretty worthless (in monetary terms), I refuse to throw them out due to the memories and the fact that I spent so much time with them and money on them.

It must have been years since I set foot in an HMV, let alone buy something. In 2004 I changed careers to start working in the voluntary sector and moved out to work at Maggie's first Glasgow centre at the old Western Infirmary, near the foot of Byres Road. So I wasn't in the city centre  that much, I tended to head up to FOPP in Byres Road for releases and around that time I really started buying a lot of older vinyl second hand. I didn't fall in love with as many new bands so I really didn't have a reason to visit HMV.

FOPP were also selling back catalogues of artists like Neil Young for £5 a CD album. They quickly became my record/CD shop of choice for a while.

There would still be the odd venture into the Sauchiehall Street store but then along came the likes of Monorail where you could browse, discover, buy and then grab a beer and/or lunch.

The world was changing and I was older. Where I once religiously bought the music weeklies Melody Maker and NME, listened to the Evening Session and Peel and bought things on the strength of a written review, I was now digging more into Uncut and Mojo magazine and discovering older music, also record shops like Mixed Up Records on Otago Lane - a cracking record shop with a fine selection of second hand records.

I never got into file sharing or Napster. Firstly, they were illegal, secondly, the music world seemed to be against it. I was on the side of the musicians.

So much was changing, along came MySpace and all of a sudden artists seemed fine to have their music out there for everyone to stream and download for free. It helped to break artists like Lily Allen and the Artic Monkeys, but people were still buying physical copies.

I moved out to work in Springburn, so I was in the city centre even less. That was in 2011 and I think I must have rarely set foot in HMV since then. The days of walking up a few lunchtimes a week were long gone, now my record shop of choice was Monorail and I went through a long period of visiting a couple of Monday's a month after work before playing five-a-sides.

My friends and I used to (half) joke that it was impossible to visit Monorail without buying something. I would rarely visit without spending a minimum of £30 on CD's, vinyl or the occasional ticket.

iTunes came along, Spotify, Amazon, Discogs, Bandcamp .... there were more ways than ever to discover and own music. And I haven't even mentioned Ebay! I went through a big Ebay phase, tracking down records I couldn't find in shops.

In some ways the ease of which you could consume music hurt me. A record collection and a knowledge of music really meant something. And I had invested in it! Vinyl, cd's, bootlegs, imports, magazines, books, videos .... now someone could stream, illegally download and view on YouTube. They could read about an artists history, reviews, setlists, access press releases ...

That ease was one of the reasons I refused to explore Spotify for a long, long time. I stuck with iTunes and downloaded legally, I still bought CD's and vinyl on a monthly basis and supported artists by attending countless concerts and buying merchandise at their shows.

Then Spotify, which had been kind of illegal for a while, became legal. I thought I would check it out although I was extremely late to the party. And ... to my horror ... I really fell in love with it.

Now if I am reading a book, let's take Meet Me In The Bathroom, a book about the New York scene from 2001-2011. I can check out a song or artist that is mentioned immediately. My thrill back in the day of FOPP selling back catalogues for a fiver an album was now replaced with the fact I could check out entire back catalogues any time I wanted!

Spotify, for me, is user friendly and for £10 a month I have more music at my fingertips than the teenage me could ever have even dreamed of. A friend and I used to wish we could work at Missing Records and access all their music all day long at work, or even just buy the store. Now I had access to even more music than Missing could ever have held.

I've always loved making mixtapes or cd's and giving them to family and friends. Now I can share mixtapes (playlists) with the world! Speaking of which, I hope you have checked my regular Never Ending Mixtape playlist on Spotify which I add to and blog about monthly.

I do still buy the odd CD and record, but nowhere close to the volume I once did. My peak vinyl/CD buying years were a long time ago. Now, with two kids and a busy job, it is a treat to actually get time to go to a record store. Whereas once upon a time visiting HMV was convenient for me, then FOPP and then Monorail, now it is convenient for me to stream. I'm guilty as charged! Some months I don't buy any physical releases at all, it's my £10 a month for Spotify that keeps me in music.

But enough about me, enough about my history with record shops and buying or listening habits.

HMV looks like it is going to close for good. God bless HMV and all who have sailed in her and God bless the 2,200 staff currently sailing who are set to lose their jobs.

I hope it can revive itself to keep going, but it's not looking good. It's great that vinyl sales continue to rise, but CD and DVD sales are not enough to keep HMV in its prime retail space locations open, nor is their move into the headphone, speakers, t-shirts and accessories market.

Many have shared memories about HMV online, but, very sadly memories are not enough to keep their stores open and relevant. Maybe a knight, or knights, in shining armour will appear and refresh this once great brand to keep it going.  But, for me, the competition is simply too fierce and it looks like it will be R.I.P HMV.

Monday 24 December 2018

Gerry Cinnamon, Barrowland Ballroom, December 2018

Gerry Cinnamon blitzed the world famous Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow last night and he’ll be back to delight his army of fans and do it all over again tonight.

The Barrowland Ballroom was packed long before Cinnamon took to the stage and the pre-show build up was more fun than most bands/artists actual shows. The pre-show setlist pumped out classics from The Temptations, Oasis, Dylan, Bob Marley, Neil Diamond and more, sing-song after sing-song to ensure that the crowd was in fine voice for Gerry taking to the stage. Hands were in the air, people were on shoulders, people had their arms around their mates and strangers and people sang from their hearts with smiles on their faces. As I said, this was pre-show.

The last song on the playlist really got things going though as KC and the Sunshine's Give It Up blasted through the speakers and the crowd chanted Gerry Cinnamon, Cinnamon, Gerry Cinnamon to  the tune. 

Dramatic music took over and Cinnamon took to the stage with the usual twinkle in his eyes and smile on his face. The ovation he received was incredible. Check the video from YouTube below.

I mentioned Oasis earlier in the blog. The way Cinnamon is connecting with people, the way that kids are picking up acoustic guitars to learn his songs, the way people are singing them like terrace anthems, is comparable to the way Oasis and Noel Gallagher connected with kids in the 90's.

I was fortunate to attend the two Oasis Barrowland shows back in December 1994 as an 18-year old and those shows will stay with me for the rest of my life. I looked around the audience last night and saw plenty of young teenagers hanging on to every word from Gerry's mouth in the same way I did as a teenager. I saw the way they went crazy to the songs, singing, jumping, punching the sky - and me and my mate Robbie joined them, lost in the music and the atmosphere, young at heart and feeling euphoric.

Robbie is another person that Cinnamon has encouraged to (re)pick up the guitar, only he is considerably beyond his teens!

What a show! Cinnamon was on fire, bounding around the stage, shouting to the crowd are we in? and then positively answering his own question with a loud yyyyeeeessss and cackling his beautiful laugh that made the whole Barrowland Ballroom know that he was enjoying himself as much as the crowd. Audience and artist were one last night, it was pure and powerful, there was total euphoria, an incredible atmosphere.

Cinnamon played his album in full, including a couple of tracks he rarely plays live and one, War TV, that he said he had never played live before.

Highlights? Well it was all one big euphoric high of a show. The chorus of Lullaby was sung as loud as any I have heard at the Barrowlands in 25-years of shows there (showing my age). Sometimes is a real favourite of mine, the looped guitar riff, beat and run of memories flows superbly.

Fickle McSelfish was a personal highlight for me though. I love the way Gerry sings the chorus with one line answering or expanding the line before it. And I love the line then you pulled on my hair and bit on my lip 'til it bled, f**k the notion of living without you I'd rather be dead

There is a moment in new song Canter where Cinnamon declares here comes the rain and it is euphoric, the place goes mental. And that's after a delightful pause and kiss off in the chorus. Another new song, I think its is called Darker Days, sounds really promising, I look forward to hearing it recorded.

Belter was sensational, it's a song that I've now heard buskers in Buchanan Street playing. It touches people. Cinnamon wears his heart and soul on his sleeve and remains true to his roots and beliefs. That comes across on stage and on record. Cinnamon’s album has been out for a little over a year and for me, and from the reaction last night, it has grown stronger in that time. It’s only 9-songs long yet it goes deep; there are memories, observations, there is humour, social commentary, love, hurt and dreams. He packs a lot in.

Cinnamon was always quick to thank the crowd and a couple of times he raised his glass to declare them his band. We were all certainly backing singers last night.

The encore was superb. Keysies is a real favourite of mine, Gerry really paints a picture with his lyrics and his voice is rich and soulful. A cover of Fairytale In New York was festive and euphoric before the place went crazy for his cover version of Discoland (which will be my next cover version of the month feature).

What better way to end a night at the Barras than with Cinnamon's love letter to the city, Diamonds In  The Mud. Gerry talks of places, of haunts and characteristics, his humour shines through, as does his clear love for the city.

Gerry declared that he just wants to play shows and release music. I'm not the only one looking forward to his next release. I'm pretty sure that there will be something in 2019.

Cinnamon ends the year by playing Edinburgh's Hogmanay party and there are lots of others shows already booked in Europe and across the UK. Look out for festival announcements coming - there are bound to be a few.

Saturday 22 December 2018

Never Ending Mixtape part 30

Welcome to the latest additions to my Never Ending Mixtape playlist on Spotify. I've listened to a lot of music since the last update, so there is actually more on the playlist, but I'll save some of them for the next blog.

We begin with an epic from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, we have (relative) newbies from J Mascis and Bill Ryder-Jones, we travel back with The Creation, Love, Flying Burrito Brothers and Gene Clark, we have some beautiful indie guitar songs, new discoveries like Sam Evian (pictured below), and plenty of older tunes I have enjoyed discovering.

Check the sublime instrumental by The Byrds and the blissful Should I Take You Home by Sunny and the Sunliners, while The Pastels tune with Make Up is absolutely stunning.

You can search for the playlist on Spotify by typing in Everything Flows Never Ending Mixtape. Play from the start, the middle or scroll towards the end for the latest additions. Or do what I love to do - press shuffle and enjoy.

There She Goes, My Beautiful World - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
On The Roof - The Feelies
O My Soul - Big Star
Elastic Days - J Mascis
One - Carole King
Recover - Bill Ryder-Jones
Home and Dry - Tracyanne and Danny
Hey! How Does Everybody Know - Arthur Russell
Try And Stop Me - The Creation
Older Guys - Flying Burrito Brothers
Easy Come, Easy Go - Grant McLennan
Dying Day - Orange Juice
Near You - Teenage Fanclub
Sugarcube - Yo La Tengo
Tiny Spark - Brendan Benson
Love Lots Of Lovin' - Lee Dorsey
Now It's On - Grandaddy
Easy - Mesadorm
Tell Me When It's Over - The Dream Syndicate
On Her Own - Gene Clark
Stranger in a Strange Land (instrumental) - The Byrds
I Really Love You - Dee Dee Sharp
Should I Take You Home - Sunny and the Sunliners
I'm Begging You - Chicago Pete
Heartaches - Art Neville
Nowhere Near - Yo La Tengo
Need You - Sam Evian
The Train - Los Brincos
One Step Ahead - Aretha Franklin
That's How Heartaches Are Made - Baby Washington
Gather 'Round - Love
Handle With Care - Traveling Wilbur's
End Of The Line - Traveling Wilbur's
Silver Lining - Rilo Kiley
Beat Control - Tilly and the Wall
Do the Whirlwind - Architecture in Helsinki
Crawl Babies - The Pastels
Rough Riders (Make Up Remix) - The Pastels and Make Up

Saturday 15 December 2018

Paul McCartney at the Hydro

Beatlemania is a alive and well if last night in Glasgow is anything go to. Scotland's largest indoor arena was packed by fans of all ages and fans from across the globe, eager to witness 76-year old Paul McCartney romp through 3-hours of hits with the odd surprise thrown in for good measure. 39-songs!

McCartney was in sparkling form from the off. The huge Glasgow ovation that greeted him seemed to inspire him and his fabulous band. McCartney had a gleam in his eyes and a wide smile on his face as he launched into the timeless pop of A Hard Days Night, a Lennon number. Well they are all Lennon and McCartney songs, they are our songs.

Sir Paul and his band skirted effortlessly through his back catalogue; we had lesser known numbers like Junior's Farm from his Wings days sandwiched between the opener of A Hard Days Night and Can't Buy Me Love. We had new numbers like Fuh You and I was surprised that was the melody I woke up with in my head this morning.

And I mentioned surprises. We had Lennon's Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite over any of his own Pepper gems other than the title track, Macca stepping on to a platform in front of the stage and being raised to the roof to play Blackbird and Here Today in memory of John.

And we did have the odd (for me) forgettable moment. My Valentine, dedicated to wife Nancy in the crowd and then in the encore McCartney's seasonal offering Wonderful Christmas Time. Only memorable for the children's choir and the fake snow confetti falling from the ceiling.

But make no mistake, this was a wonderful 3-hours. I'll move on to my personal highlights.

Firstly there was the fact that my brother had managed to get us tickets 4 rows from the front, centre stage. We were in with some of Macca's staunchest fans from his fanclub, people from Canada, from Japan, people in Sgt Pepper costumes, people in retro t-shirts, people in new merchandise and people just completely in love with the man and his music.

Then there was Paul himself. He looks fantastic. He had a super cool navy jacket on to start off and I made a silent pact with myself to try and look that sharp if I make it to 76!

And McCartney was clearly enjoying himself, switching between bass and guitar, running to behind his piano, fingers dancing effortlessly over keys or frets. His guitar playing was top drawer.

His long serving band were magical. Drummer Abe Laboriel Jr beat his kit as if his life depended on it, he was incredible to watch. Guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray flanked McCartney and the three of them gelled with ease, while Paul 'Wix' Wickens was superb on keysand accordion. All helped with backing vocals.

Before I get to my personal song highlights (many!) I have to mention McCartney's personality. I've mentioned the twinkle in his eye, his smiles, but he was full of stories of watching Hendrix (there was a nice nod to him with an instrumental take on Foxy Lady) , there was the story of the Quarrymen recording for a fiver then all taking it in turns to have the demo acetate of In Spite Of All The Danger for 1-week, only for the drummer to then keep it for 20-years and sell it back to McCartney for a much, much higher price. And lovely memories of The Beatles and Linda.

McCartney was warm, charming, cheesey and someone who just loves to show off. In that sense he hasn't changed a bit since the early days of The Beatles. The others quickly tired of Beatlemania, it was McCartney who kept them together and drove projects like Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, Let It Be and Abbey Road. It was McCartney who hit the road playing Universities in the 70's and just kept on going. He loves to play, needs to play and will always write and sing.

His energy and enthusiasm is infectious. As is his vast cannon of pop and the Glasgow crowd lapped it up.

My highlights;  an unexpected blast through Got To Get You Into My Life, a powerful blast of Let Me Roll It, the beautiful guitar riff and raw natural I've Got A Feeling, the section where the band all moved to the front of the stage to play the aforementioned Quarrymen song, the pop perfection of From Me To You, the modern Macca delight of Dance Tonight, the stunning Eleanor Rigby and newly Fuh You was fun.

There is more.....

Something was sensational. Stripped back on a ukulele at the start before the band came in. The section you're asking me how my love grows, I don't know, I don't know was performed perfectly on stage and off, the crowd were in love.

Macca was off on a sensational run of songs. Band On The Run was joyous, so playful, so melodic, so classically McCartney. The backing films shown on the screen were superb, Macca assembling his gang for the cover shoot, elsewhere we had Paul looking super cool on his farm in Campbeltown with little Mary wrapped in his jacket, rare Beatles footage and lots of psychedelic art.

Live And Let Die was epic. Indoor fireworks and fire blasted from the front of the stage and 4 rows back my brother and I could feel the heat! And then we had the sing song of the night, a sing song to end all sing songs, we had Hey Jude. It was magical, every single person in the arena was singing and McCartney took time to conduct the crowd.

Phew, it was far from over! McCartney and his band came back on waving flags.

Birthday, Sgt Peppers and Helter Skelter were powerful blasts of rock. Helter Skelter in particular was a real highlight, the on screen graphics really took the crowd on a trip.

And we ended perfectly with Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight and The End.

What a show. This was my third time seeing Sir Paul. I sincerely hope there is a 4th.

Tuesday 11 December 2018

2018 albums of the year

2018 has been a good year for music, I've probably listened to more than ever - thanks to falling for Spotify (I know, I know!!!), lots of traveling with work and generally just making more time to stick my headphones and get lost in an album, or trawling through Spotify to discover new music.

And Nothing Hurts by Spiritualized probably wins the title of my favourite album of 2018. Jason Pierce's ability to find a melody, to layer sounds, to let things flow ... is sublime. Rumours are that it might be his last. Everything about it is beautiful - playing, production, feel, artwork and packaging.

Elsewhere I fell for 2 Australian artists; Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are a 5-piece playing with urgency, passion and raw energy, while Courtney Barnett is uniquely brilliant, sounding like she is lost in her own little world while viewing ours.

The Orielles are a young band that released their debut on Heavenly Recordings, Gruff Rhys continues to melt my heart with his beautiful voice, Robyn has produced another wonderful LP with real depth to it, my sister Carla has had an exceptional year and is developing at a fast rate of knots, while Primal Scream have dug what may prove to be a career defining album out of the back of guitarist Andrew Innes' cupboard!

So here are 14 songs from 14 albums I've enjoyed through 2018. I hope you enjoy this podcast.

A Perfect Miracle - Spiritualized from the album And Nothing Hurts
Talking Straight - Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever from the album Hope Downs
Need A Little Time - Courtney Barnett from the album Tell Me How You Really Feel
Dreamers On The Run - Carla J Easton from the album Impossible Stuff
Selfies In The Sunset - Gruff Rhys and Lily Cole from the album Babelsberg
Ever Again - Robyn from the album Honey
Blue Flowers - L Space from the album Kipple Arcadia
Let Your Dog Tooth Grow - The Orielles from the album Silver Dollar Moment
Heatwave - Snail Mail from the album Lush
Big Jet Plane - Primal Scream from the album The Original Memphis Recordings
Love You So Bad - Ezra Furman from the album Transangelic Exodus
Loving You - Starry Skies from the album Be Kind
And Then There's You - Bill Ryder-Jones from the album Yawn
Lake Zurich - Gorillaz from the album The Now Now

Thursday 6 December 2018

James and The Charlatans, Glasgow Hydro

It’s been a long time since I left work and immediately headed out to a gig. Too long. Last night I skipped through the streets of Glasgow towards hip and happening Finnieston after leaving work at 6pm, headphones on, feeling like a teenager, giddy with the excitement and the anticipation of two of my favourite bands playing together.

The roads shimmered in the lights from cars and street lights and the buildings looked incredible in the night sky. Always remember to look up in Glasgow.

My teenage-esque giddiness was quite apt, as it was a 15-year old that I discovered both these bands through school common room mixtape. I remember only having enough money in Missing Records on Oswald Street to either by Goldmother by James or Out of Time by R.E.M. I chose James and never regretted it. I thought back to that moment on the walk to the Hydro and again when they played 3-tracks off that album during their sensational set.

And it was as a 15-year old that I fell for The Charlatans and their frontman Tim Burgess in particular. He seemed effortlessly cool, brilliant hair, great style and in his own little creative world. Between 10th and 11th was out and songs from that album would mix with songs from their debut as mixtapes were swapped. Along with Teenage Fanclub, The Charlatans are the band I have seen the most – well over 30-times, possibly approaching 40. In fact, maybe I have seen them more than Teenage Fanclub!

The Charlatans kicked off the night. The Hydro looked a little quiet when they came on stage, but I think that was largely due to the weather, traffic and train cancellations. They bravely opened with Totally Eclipsing from their recent EP before really getting into the groove with Let The Good Times Be Never Ending. Burgess patrolled the stage, urging the crowd on, hands in the air, conducting crowd and band. The place had filled and band and audience quickly became one.

Then we had what could easily be described as the holy trinity; One To Another, North Country Boy and Tellin’ Stories from the LP with the same name as the latter. One To Another soared, the energy from that song is incredible. North Country Boy swaggered and sparkled as cheekily as it did upon release and the crowd lapped it up. Tellin’ Stories was beautiful, melancholic and then in your face.

Different Days and Plastic Machinery fitted effortlessly into the set, the latter was the best I have heard it – classic Charlatans with Burgess singing of how at times it is good to be rejected.

And then the Hydro erupted as the band fired up and into The Only One I Know and several thousand middle aged men endulged in a spot of Bez/Dad dancing and reached for the sky singing everyone’s been burned before, everybody knows the pain.

I wasn’t expecting Impossible and it sounded all the better for being a surprise. Nor was I expecting the falsetto funk of You’re So Pretty which grooved superbly before Weirdo took things higher. I wasn’t sure if the band would end with traditional set closer Sproston Green but I was glad they did. The moment the lights turned green set my heart on fire and they slowly but surely built the groove before leading the crowd on a song and dance for a good 10-minutes. The band and Burgess were in brilliant form.

After a quick trip to the bar we were back down the front for James. The 8-piece band entered to a huge ovation and they wasted no time in highlighting they are not and never will be a heritage act by tearing into 2-songs from their 15th album Living In Extraordinary Times that was released this year.

They then took things up a notch with a glorious Waltzing Along and a rip roaring Tomorrow. The band were on fire, they tore into it and the energy they radiated was exceptional.

James don't play Sit Down that often these days, so it was a real treat toes and hear them playing it. It is HUGE and the crowd sang along with all their heart and soul.

Stutter was another song where the band were really on fire, Tim Booth vibed off his band and they responded in return. Out To Get You was tender, beautiful and soulful before the band delivered a stunning version of Just Like Fred Astaire. I'd forgotten about this particular song but I have listened to it a couple of times today after last night.

Leviathan is a particular highlight on the new album for me and the band played it superbly with Booth advising and lecturing f**king love, before they drop the bomb make sure you get enough.

Booth was absolutely sensational last night, dancing his heart out, patrolling the stage, in the audience, standing up on the barriers and generally inspiring every single person in the venue, on stage and off.

As a young teenager I loved How Was It For You for the huge chorus and the way it flows and I felt like a teenager again as I danced and sang my heart out.

The band always seem to find something extra in Sound, its a special song that allows the band to play and explore, Booth again was utterly mesmerising. The opening synth riff from Come Home was embraced warmly and it sounded huge.

I imagine that James could have played for hours, but there was a curfew and we had time for 3-songs in the encore. Many Faces from their new album was beautiful and the crowd sang along with Booth and after he had finished causing him to smile widely and wildly.

Then he was down at the crowd right where we were standing to sing on of my favourite James songs, the brilliant Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) before finishing with yet another of my favourites, the truly soulfully beautiful Sometimes.

Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes, I swear I can see your soul

I haven't felt so good after a gig in a long, long time. Both bands were in incredible form, I would say that is the best that I have seen James and i have been going to see them for over 20-years.

James have announced a new tour with a Scottish date in Edinburgh. I suspect many of those at the Hydro last night will be trying to get tickets. Better be quick tomorrow.