First Person - with Paul McCabe

Paul McCabe
Paul McCabe
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A NEW event has sprung up recently which I’ve only just become aware of but which sounds like my idea of heaven.

Music snobs, of which I am most certainly one, are gathering for ‘Classic Album Sundays’. The idea is that fans of a particular album meet up on a Sunday afternoon, talk about said classic album, listen to music of a similar ilk, before listening to the album in its entirety. And if that wasn’t wonderful enough the album is listened to on vinyl from a top-of-the-range system. Nerd nirvana.

It was started in London by DJ Colleen “Cosmo” Murphy and her husband Adam Dewhurst and it’s quickly spread to other parts of the world. From ‘Hounds Of Love’ by Kate Bush in Oslo, to ‘Wish You Were Here’ in New York, the Sundays are spreading fast. Of course, the definition of “classic album” is entirely down to your own tastes. Personally you’d have to nail me to a chair to get me listen to any post-Syd Pink Floyd album, but should a favourite of yours get picked then there’s no better way to spend an afternoon.

Now, I’ve admitted to being a music snob. Fine, no problem with that, but I’m no sound geek. Look at the comments section of any re-mastered album on Amazon and have a quick read at those who give it just one star.

Waffle

Guaranteed at least one of those will claim to love the album, but then will waffle on about analogue masters, compression, sonic disasters, digital distortion or other technological bilge that none of us are remotely interested in (Neil Young does this a lot in interviews, yet neglects to mention why he’s sung out of tune on every album since about 1995). But, and this is without doubt a generational thing, I do prefer listening to vinyl. So here we go again, the screen goes wobbly, tinkly music plays, and I wallow for a few paragraphs in early 80s reverie.

When I were an Edinburgh lad it was vinyl or cassette - that was your lot. And from around the age of 11 on most Saturdays I would head into Princes St with a pound in my pocket with fellow scruffy music-minded mates to buy a single. Back then we were spolied for choice, there were a whole load of record shops to choose from. If memory serves there were three Bruce’s, two John Menzies, Boots, WH Smith, Phoenix on Hanover St and if you could be bothered going all that way, The Other Record Shop on the Royal Mile.

But my favourite of all was Virgin. It wasn’t the shiny red and silver DVD-only abomination that it was just before it closed, this was full-on indie cool. It had a turnstile as you went in, it was dark, there was punk bondage gear on the walls and imports and picture discs on display behind the counter.

Exhilirating

It was scary and exhilarating in equal measure. I’d happily spend hours in there and once we’d bought our singles we’d head for Littlewoods cafe for a cup of tea and eagerly pore over the singles’ covers, devouring all the information and storing it to annoy people with in the pub as adults.

Now all my vinyl and hi-fi stuff is in boxes up the loft. Heart-breaking, but true. However I do have a plan, which will probably never come to fruition, to get it all set up, put the vinyl back on display so that its true aesthetic beauty can be acknowledged, and I can have my own (freezing) listening zone. Images of Christopher Eccleston in ‘Shallow Grave’ immediately spring to mind.

So in the interim, ‘Classic Album Sundays’ are probably my best chance of hearing a vinyl album and the good news is they’re creeping north of the border. There was a ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ (no comment) recently in Edinburgh and there’s an upcoming Blue Nile ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’ coming up in Glasgow. But be on your toes, they sell out fast. And when they inevitably get round to Bowie I’m the one droning on for 90 minutes about Mick Ronson.