If I was from Glasgow I’d be able to tell you how the Vesuvius label fits into a great musical culture of the city, stretching back many years. However, I’m not, so I can’t. But I do know that it does. This was their first release, a proper indie job with photocopied insert, hand-stamped labels and no concessions to The Industry. To be honest the musical quality is variable, but it’s more that this represents the ability of people to release records on their own terms that makes me like this kind of thing. Plus, the 10″ format is always a delight.
On here we’ve got Melody Dog, Manxish Boys, Sally Skull, Hello Skinny, Lung Leg, Cotton Gum, The Yummy Fur and Starstruck. Not particularly a list of legendary names, I’ll grant you – except for The Yummy Fur of course, members of whom went on to form Franz Ferdinand and blah blah blah. Anybody who was deeply entrenched in the mail-order-driven world of indie-pop in the mid-90s will probably recognise the names, as they graced many an A6 flyer for a fanzine or a record that would get stuffed into an envelope before sending out, er, a fanzine or a record. Happy pre-internet days.
Once when visiting my friend Marceline in Glasgow we were wandering through town and she pointed out to me a doorway that apparently led to the organisation run by Pat who used to run Vesuvius. You know what though? I’ve no recollection of what that organisation is. And I’m not being enigmatic, I’ve just got a rubbish memory.
Can’t remember where or when I bought this record, but I do know that it was some second-hand record shop where I got excited about stumbling across it – along with another Shoppies single ‘Big E Power’ – not only ‘cos I like the band but also ‘cos the sleeve is sooo much the perfect instance of indie pop packaging. Fold-over sleeve, two-colour printing, crappy quality, it’s got it all. And – joy of joys – it even includes a free flexidisc! This kind of magic just doesn’t happen any more. Hell, the sleeve even states ‘Thanks to Stephen Pastel’!
The Shop Assistants were a great band, emerging from the mid-80s C86/indie-pop scene with all the requisite items in place. Jangly, fuzzed guitars? Check. Soft, slightly off-tune female vocals? Check. They represent a time before indie-pop grew up, and when ‘indie’ meant something rather than a style of music. Avalanche Records was, I believe, a label that grew out of a record shop – and whilst I never visited the original Edinburgh store, I’m sure I’ve been to an Avalanche in Glasgow and presume that it’s connected. (However, this was in the late 1990s and therefore the store was rather more CD-focussed than I’d prefer…)
My tip for playing flexidiscs: place a 10p piece on either side of the central spindle hole. This’ll stop it flapping about and/or slipping around on the turntable. I’ve been doing this for so long now that my 10ps are the old-fashioned, larger ones that are now out of circulation! Happy days.