Clive Munro’s record shop has always been the last in Britain, or at least the northernmost. It has been my favourite, too, for the quarter of a century I’ve known and used it.
That was mainly due to Clive himself, the same age as me, with similar tastes in music. His recommendations could be trusted. His tendency to stock obscure Nick Lowe box sets, not to mention every jot and tittle of the Costello oeuvre, was wholly admirable. He is one of only two people I know who can talk knowledgeably about the work of Californian singer-songwriter Peter Case.
I helped Clive with his stall at a couple of early Shetland Folk Festivals, watched vinyl vanish from his shelves (the second-hand tapes he once dealt in at two previous, tiny locations, had already disappeared) and was happy to spend cash when he moved to large Commercial Street premises, where computer games and DVDs featured heavily. A branch in Orkney opened and closed quickly. But Clive’s in Lerwick would go on forever, surely? On our remote archipelago, we needed, deserved a great record shop. How would we get the good stuff otherwise?
Then came Amazon. Then came iTunes. Play.com. A big new Lerwick branch of Tesco. And now Spotify. For me, deluged with free CDs due to the radio show, and with a Spotify Premium account as well, my CD purchasing fell away to almost zero. Clive announced that the shop would operate using half its floorspace, concentrating on specialised material, local folk, country and with a range of new vinyl too.
But it didn’t work. History is against shops like Clive’s, and especially in Shetland, the internet has revolutionised shopping. Now we can have DVDs and CDs winging their way from one island (tax-free Jersey, where Play.com is based) to the Greater Zetlandics in a flash, and at prices less than Clive was paying wholesale. Or we can stream and download, listen and forget in less time than it takes to say: “How much diesel will I use getting into town and back?”
So it’s nearly over. The shop doors will soon shut forever. There’s a closing down sale, but I’ve been avoiding the place, because I didn’t want to look like some kind of scavenger, having spent so little there in recent months. Today, though I went in, bought a DVD, and found Clive in positive mood, looking forward to a new start doing – well, he knows not what, as yet.
He has been a musical mentor and guide, a shaman for hundreds, maybe thousands of Shetland’s music fans. He has stocked indie releases by local bands, put up posters, sold tickets and been a crucial force for all that’s good in the world of twangy guitars and great lyrics.
The last record shop in Britain will be sorely missed. But not enough, and by not enough people, for it to remain open.
|At the finish: Last but only slightly embarrassed|
|James with his free fish supper and milkshake|
I felt sick. It could have been the over-abundance of granola and porridge (carb loading, on son James’s advice) or simply nerves. This morning was Shetland’s, and my, first cycle sportive, in aid of the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea fishermen, organised by local (and Britain’s most northerly) chip shop, Frankie’s.
I wasn’t nervous because I was competing to win the thing. At nearly 56 and a lover of bikes and their ability to get you legally to and from pubs, rather than actual cycling, that was never on the cards. It was just that having been sponsored to the tune of £200, I was very uncertain that I had the stamina or fitness to actually cover the required 40 miles. Yes, there were 10 and 20 mile options, but 40 seemed only right.
James, on the other hand, fresh from a term of fixed-wheel endurance cycling and triathlon training, thought he had a good chance. He wasn’t far wrong. Only a half-hour puncture repair hiatus (I had the pump; he had to wait for me, and I was last) stopped him (he claims, and I agree) finishing in the first bunch. He hauled back a good swatch of the field and finished in two and a half hours.
It took me an hour more than that. There was a nasty incident with my rear derailleur (jammed chain) which took 10 minutes of oily hands and swearing to fix. But by the time I’d finished the first 20 miles ( we were doing a double loop from Brae to Voe, then up Dales Lees to Firth, over to Sullom Voe then back to Brae via Voxter; 1000 feet of climbing )I knew I could manage 40, and fuelled by sultana cake and Ribena, I kept going through some of the best Shetland Sabbath summer weather this year.
The wind was as friendly as it could be. The long, near-eternal climb up Dales Lees was unbelievably easy, but by the time Scatsta airport arrived for the second time, the windsock was pointing straight at me and it hurt. Bad windsock!
I was last in of the 40-milers (all of us male, which was surprising; there are some great woman cyclists in Shetland). But I claimed my free fish supper and milkshake with some gusto. Pain? A few back twinges but my 20-year old Brooks B17 saddle had done its job supremely well.
Thanks again to all who sponsored me through Just Giving and with real cash. Finally, some of you may wonder about the choice of RNMDSF as a charity to support. Those who live or have lived in fishing communities won’t. The ‘Mission’ does a unique and wonderful job without any kind of proselytising, and as a journalist reporting on fishing tragedies in Shetland and elsewhere I was always gobsmacked by the commitment and service to the survivors and the bereaved shown by Mission staff.
The move towards ‘more speech’ on the radio show I present (BBC Radio Scotland, 14.35-16.00 weekdays, except Fridays, when it starts at 14.00) has not meant I simply talk more. It means, basically, that I talk more to other people.
We’re booking what are various called ‘guests’ or ‘contributors’, mostly musicians, who come on because they have product (gigs, CDs, downloads, their own bountiful personalities, charitable endeavours, chains of boutiques, ranges of wine) to promote. Yeah, I know the Beeb’s good and decent and doesn’t do product placement. But the truth is, you don’t get guests with nothing to sell. Unless you pay them. And we’re MOST reluctant to do that, except as a last resort.
So anyway,we’re widening things out to include comedians, authors, journalists and indeed anyone who might give good guesthood, on a show which is still basically about music. Speech. We like it.
We review albums, preview gigs, examine people’s record collections, talk about golf, cycling, food (always a favourite on the ever-hungry TMS) plumbing, roofing and about Scotland; we sift nostalgically through our pasts. Memory works well on the wireless.
Only very rarely am I face to face with any guest. I work for the most part out of a tiny self-operated studio (basically a microphone and a PC) in Lerwick, Shetland, some 200 miles from my producers in Aberdeen and the Big Huge Box that plays out all the music. The music, by the way, is mostly gleaned from what’s called ‘The Radio Scotland Daytime Playlist’ – it takes a few cues from Radio Two, but there’s a distinct Scottish dimension and me, the producers and our various contributors have a hand in what gets played too. In particular, anything I’m passionate about, and that fits into our general, uh, vibe, man, can usually be shoehorned in. No Crass so far, though.
This week, among others, we’ve had Ryan Adams on, promoting his new album Ashes and Fire, and Joan Wasser, who is/is in Joan As Policewoman. Check them out on iPlayer if you want. I found myself asking Ryan how it felt to perform sober (“It’s nice not to feel…sick’) after which he became virtually monosyllabic; and horrifying Joan with the tale of the Dave Matthews Band’s tour bus driver, who accidentally emptied the tour bus’s toilet tank while on the top deck of a road bridge. Pity the guy immediately underneath was driving an open-topped sports car…
American artists, even ‘difficult’ creatures like Ryan, know how to play the promo game, and are mostly used to the long-distance remote interview, where all the cues have to be auditory. No body language to help. It’s ears and brains only.
But then, that’s what the wireless is all about. Ears. And voices. Brains. People talking to each other. Telling stories. And playing records.
Here’s the (very rough) video for the song Non-Interventionist God….which assumes some poignancy given events at Wimbledon.
This is from the new live show My Bad Gospel: The Backslider’s Songbook Vol 1, due to debut at this year’s Belladrum Festival. YouTube video (with a tune!) will be up in due course.
NON INTERVENTIONIST GOD (A mother’s prayer for Andy Murray)
Hallo Andy I heard from your mum
She’s most concerned about what you’ve not become
The people of Scotland, they’ve been calling too
I’m not sure there’s a lot I can do for you
I suppose I could send some sort of plague
On your opponents, but that seems pretty vague
I could turn Nadal into a pillar of salt
But everyone would guess it was all my fault
And I’m a non-interventionist God
I’m a non-interventionist God
People laugh, and say it’s odd
But I’m a non-interventionist God
The thing is Andy, what people don’t get
I can’t help you get the ball over the net
I’m trying to make it plain, believe me it’s true
When it comes to racquets, it’s all up to you
Prayers are nice, praise is so rare these days
It’s always good to see you on your knees to pray
But my advice is to hone your skill
I’m saying God won’t, but maybe you will
Frankly Andy, your hope is quite forlorn
My interventionist days are all but gone
I don’t feel at home on a tennis court
I much prefer golf.
I invented that sport.
…most Morton stuff is happening at http://beatcroft.net
It was sunny when Lulu made her decorous entrance to the back garden and decided that yes, she remembered what this white stuff was, deep down in her genetic make-up…but it’s dark now (15.40) windy and freezing, as well as much more snowy. Susan didn’t make it into Lerwick – she gave up in a white-out at the Ollaberry junction – and since then we’ve been priming the generator for the inevitable power failure, tending the two stoves that are consuming peat voraciously, and stoking ourselves with caramel KitKats and coffee.
Susan’s practice night out has been cancelled, and so we’re able to go to the Hillswick Hall 75th anniversary dinner dance. It’s a mile along the road. I doubt the Alan Nicholson Band may struggle to get there, and attendance generally may be depleted. But still, it should be fun.
…here’s the official announcement:
Tom Morton to advise Council on communications
HILLSWICK-based broadcaster and journalist Tom Morton is to advise Shetland Islands Council on its communications, as part of the Council’s ongoing improvement programme.
The former Shetland Times and Scotsman reporter, who now hosts a weekday afternoon show on BBC Radio Scotland, will spend three mornings a week for the next four months providing advice, support and expertise to the council. He will continue to broadcast in the afternoons from BBC Radio Shetland’s Pitt Lane studios.
Chief Executive Alistair Buchan said this morning “I think that it was very important for the council that we got someone with media background to help our team develop our communications function and strategy. Communications in many ways goes to the heart of everything we do as a Council. So, I’m very pleased that we have someone with Tom’s experience on board and look forward to working with him in the next few months”.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be helping the council communicate more effectively,” Mr Morton said. “The SIC’s commitment to openness, transparency and accountability means that everyone in the Shetland community should feel informed and involved in what it decides, and what it does. It’s a privilege to be part of that process.”
Mr Morton began his journalistic career in specialist construction journalism in Glasgow, before moving into music reviewing, freelance writing and TV production. He first moved to Shetland in 1987 as news editor of The Shetland Times, before setting up the islands’ first independent news agency, and subsequently becoming The Scotsman’s Highlands and Islands Reporter. He won a Bank of Scotland Press Award for columns written about the wreck of the tanker Braer.
Since then his career has included two stints at BBC Radio Scotland, two more at The Shetland Times and work throughout the world on various radio and TV programmes, newspapers and magazines.
It has popped up on my radio show once or twice, but I really didn’t expect to see a vintage tin (carton, really, in its latter years, as the ‘tin’ was made of cardboard) ever again. Let alone taste it. But the power of nostalgia is immense. It has become an iconic Scottish retro-brand, like Mother’s Pride bread and Irn Bru, to the extent that you can get T-shirts and bags bearing the logo.
Then last week, I received a package from a Robert Kelly in Larkhall. Inside was…my precious…a tin of Creamola Foam. The real deal, albeit the late cardboard version with the plastic top. The contents were, it must be said, a bit lumpy and brownish. But still, chemical analysis would surely be possible. I could recreate Creamola Foam for a new age! It would live again!
But. Yesterday, walking down Byres Road in Glasgow, I passed the sweetshop I Love Candy, and a blackboard outside was advertising…tubs of ‘Creamola foam’. Three quid. THREE QUID? Anonymous plastic tubs, they were, marked Krakatoa Fizz. I bought a raspberry version and took it home.
“They analysed the original and it’s been phenomenal” said the shop assistant. “People have been buying one and the coming back for more. They’re making cocktails with it!”
As it turns out, a company in Dumbarton which specialises in vintage sweets seems to be responsible for gazumping my half-formed business idea. originally available in Edinburgh as ‘Kramola Foam’ the Krakatoa version is made from sugar, tartaric acid, extract of quina, citric acid, sodium bicarbonate, stabilisers and natural colour. I missed, somehow, the Scottish Parliament motion from Rob Gibson in January that the ‘new’ Creamola Foam was going to bring about revolutionary change, independence and a revival of the full set of dentures of 16-year-olds…but see this story.
I have to tell you, although it foams in exactly the same way, Krakatoa Fizz…