Intro: In my last post I mentioned that I had discovered The Twilight Sad by accident. This is that story.
It’s a fresh and bright Saturday morning in late April 2014. Record Store Day sees me boarding a train at 7:42am and travelling the 26miles to Auld Reekie to indulge in my recently re-ignited passion of collecting vinyl records.
Twenty six minutes pass and I arrive at Waverley Station. Under the cover of the Victorian glass roof the grey pigeons scavenge the crumbs left behind by yesterday’s travellers. Outside the sun is shining but the cold of the previous night still hangs like a chilling blanket on this city as it awakes from it’s slumber. Exiting the temporarily dormant train station via the redundant access ramp and then turning left to walk up Cockburn Street, I pass Underground Solu’shn where a queue of eagre vinylists has firmly established itself in the cool shadow of the building that houses the record shop door, but my destination is Avalanche Records. This old favourite of our kind, for I now class myself with the non-digital groupies, has temporarily set up a stall in the middle of The Grassmarket as part of the established farmers market. This arrangement came about after they had given up the lease on the property located in the prime site at the east end of this old town market. A move forced on the proprietor by the double edged sword of rising costs and stagnant record sales. Unlike the enthusiasm of those queuing on Cockburn Street, there is no sign of a gathering outside the pop up tent that now houses this world renowned vinyl record shop.
I check my phone speculatively, to see if Facebook holds the answer and indeed it does. Avalanche are not opening until approximately 11am. With 2 and a bit hours to kill I wander aimlessly through the detritus of Friday’s revelry. Diligent street sweepers prepare the home of Rebus and 007 for the day to come and Saturday’s early openers arrange on-street seating, holding onto the forlorn hope that the Scottish weather holds off long enough for them to benefit from this break in the drizzle which has been a constant for the past week. I stop off to buy a packet of crisps and a can of Red Bull for breakfast, then continue my meandering route around the backstreets to the south east of The Grassmarket, passing the statue of Grey Friars Bobby, moving onto Chambers Street, past the National Museum of Scotland and onto Richer Sounds before turning North onto South Bridge. Eventually I find myself outside the Tron Church just off North Bridge, before making my way along the cobbled road leading to world renowned Edinburgh Castle and finally descending to Granny’s Green, overlooking the front of the now empty aforementioned shop. The “FOR LEASE” sign juts out into the early morning air like a flag of surrender. The sun is now finding some strength and a modicum of warmth is being delivered by the weak solar rays. I find a dry patch of sandstone wall and sit to eat my crisps and drink my Red Bull. A feeling of ennui overcomes me and lying with my back on the wall, head to the side, scanning the rabbit purl strewn, green grass in front of me, I drift off to a calm and soul-saving place. Images of streets much walked and a myriad of strangers faces engulf me fuelled by the caffeine laced sugary drink……..
I awaken to the sound of chattering children as they pass by, skipping down Granny’s Green Steps. An hour has passed and whilst checking the time on my phone, I notice that the battery has depleted to below 10%. In case of an emergency I summarily switch it off to save energy.
Before going to bed the previous night, I had downloaded, printed off and marked up a copy of the extensive RSD list, identifying my targets for the day. Delving into my inside pocket, I find that the list is gone. A frantic check of the remaining pockets in my clothing yields nothing. This day which started so full of promise and anticipation has taken a sweeping downward turn. “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” by The Clash becomes an ear worm.
After descending the same well worn steps as the children and then slowly moving up through the Grassmarket, fighting hard with the compulsion to utilise my return ticket there and then, I decide to opt for a conciliatory seat and a pint of Deuchars IPA in a local public house. A modest line has started to form outside what passes for Avalanche on this spring morning and I experience a raising of my spirits at this sight, before entering through the open doorway of Maggie Dickson’s.
The tattooed bar tender, sporting a pierced nose and tongue, welcomes me with a cheerful smile and a “good morning sir” before asking what she can get for me. I ask for a pint of IPA and decide to try my luck enquiring if she has a “Samsung compatible charger behind the bar”. Leaving the pint to pour itself, she checks in the corner under the vodka optics. “Yip!” comes the reply and I eagerly hand over my phone which she plugs in before returning to the now almost full pint glass, professionally topping it off and gleerfully announcing the price.
Over the next 45 minutes I sip on two pints of Edinburgh’s finest ale and watch the silent but free Sky Sports channel on show above the bar. Tiger Woods and Lewis Hamilton are the subject matter most of that time, although I’m only mildly interested. I retrieve my phone after approximately thirty minutes and spend the next quarter of an hour searching through the downloaded RSD listing, looking for inspiration. Borrowing a pen and utilising a paper napkin from the box placed next to the black straws on the bar, I note down a shortlist of half a dozen potential purchases, the cost of which would be in excess of my budget for today. I’m not confident that everything will be in stock despite the fact that my earlier negativity has now fully receded courtesy of the alcohol and my new friend behind the bar. I bid this establishment and it’s fine staff a heartfelt goodbye and walk the short distance to the boxes of vinyl arranged around the owner of Avalanche Records.
My improvised wish list is produced from my back pocket. From the truncated collection of six items; a David Bowie picture disc, a Gil-Scott-Heron 12″, a Ramones 10″, The Pixies – Indy Cindy LP and a duo of Rolling Stones EPs, only the last 3 are available. I duly take ownership of the discs, parting company with the commensurate amount of my hard earned cash, before inquiring if there are any other recommendations, preferably of a Scottish nature. “The Twilight Sad have re-released Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters with a second disc. I’m not sure about the second disc but the album is worth a listen!” he replies holding the cartoon cover up for me to see. I’d heard of this band from Kilsyth but had not heard them. The image in front of me hints at twisted family relationships portrayed in the style of 1950’s US advisory cartoons aimed at helping everyone get over the great depression and the horrors of a World War that’s not in the too distant past.
I buy it.