When Record Store Day first began, it was a great idea. Those who were regulars at independent record shops like Avalanche in Edinbugh and Resident in Brighton could potentially get their hands on very limited, exclusive items. It was a celebration of record buying culture, more than anything. Over the years the event has grown. After all of the major labels sensed a potential cash cow, it increasingly became about reissuing stuff en masse at inflated prices.
Record Store Day has become an event full of mixed feelings. There are now tales of people not actually visiting their local (and favourite) stores on RSD as the crowds of unfamiliar faces have made the experience quite stressful. People queue for hours in the hope of finding one of the many artificially created rarities – a lot of which seem to appear on ebay just hours later at even more inflated prices. In recent years, there have even been dealers “pre-selling” their RSD wares on the internet up to two days before the event that was supposed to get people into their shops.
Looking back, the three years between the disco and pop oriented sounds of 1976 and the majestic jumble of influences that fill 1979 are a huge gulf. By 1979, disco was on it’s last legs, punk had firmly given airtime to what we now think of as new wave and the pop music of the day was about as strong as it had been since 1975.
At an unspecific point in 1979, my dad arrived home from work carrying a long playing record. It turned out to be the new Police album. At this point, ‘Message In a Bottle’ had been all over the radio and I knew I liked this new music. My mum, on the other hand did not have quite the same enthusiasm; she’s a bit put out that this does not have ‘Roxanne’ on it. Presumably, the album – like others – had been purchased at Barnaby’s, a record shop (no longer there) very near my dad’s then place of employment; a giant tin shed in which he worked with dangerous acidic chemicals and little regard for health and safety. That Police album (‘Reggatta De Blanc’) got played a lot. If I think hard, I can still see Dad sitting by his Fidelity stereo system lifting the needle onto the record and playing the title track over and over and I remember thinking how fitting it was that the word emblazoned on the front looked a bit like the word fiddle. That piece of music must have spoken to him: decades later, he would still attract my attention by calling my name to the tune of that track.
The sight of my dad coming home with new music in this way was not entirely uncommon.
In 1991, Motörhead realeased the album ‘1916’, an album on which they sounded more alive than they had in years. The songs were sharper than their late 80s efforts and the band sounded like they’d regained a lot of their spark. There was a surprise too: the title track was a cello backed ballad, where Lemmy crooned about young men joining up to fight for king and country in the First World War. Nobody saw that coming…and they say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.
“I don’t do regrets. Regrets are pointless. It’s too late for regrets. You’ve already done it, haven’t you? You’ve lived your life. No point wishing you could change it.”
From his breakthrough with Hawkwind in the late 60s, Lemmy was a man who lived with little to no compromise, reinvented how the bass could be played and gave us music that would endure the ages. While his formative years with Hawkwind would shape him as a musician, it was with his own band Motörhead he would change the face of rock music. Black Sabbath had laid the foundations of metal with heavy monolithic riffs, but Lemmy bought speed and no-nonsense aggression, without which we would never have had any of the 80s thrash or hardcore metal that followed. In Lemmy’s vision, of course, it was all one thing: rock ‘n’ roll. He just played it faster and louder than his heroes and predecessors and set a new benchmark in the process.