One of the great delights of building a music collection is when the opportunity arises to play selections for other people and it can be even better if they introduce you to some of their favourites too.
Book groups have flourished up and down the country, offering interested people the chance to get together to explore new titles and discuss the merits, or otherwise, of what’s on offer.
Recorded music hasn’t received much of this sort of attention. Although, apparently there’s a Duke Ellington Society in London who get together to listen to the great man’s records and occasionally play other jazz titles.
In the spring I glanced at a HiFi magazine which told of a record club in deepest Derbyshire, where people got together to play vinyl recordings and talk about them. What a great idea and such a pity it wasn’t on my doorstep. I mentally filed it away in the ‘Good idea…But…’ section of my mind.
Luckily, somebody else also decided that what they had read about was a great idea. But, in their case, they were prepared to do something about it. In my home town of Macclesfield there was (in September 2014- as of January 2016 it now operates online only or by appointment) independent business where you can chose from great retro furniture and accessories. Simon, the proprietor, has a background in hi-fi, DJing and ultra high-end audio installation. So it was only a small leap for him to start to sell records and then to add simple retro record players to his stock.
Over time, local music lovers passed through the store, DMJ Vintage, enjoying entertaining conversation and, in my case, purchasing a Matmos Jelly Light. Simon had read the same article and decided to host a record night in the comfortable upstairs room of Mash Guru, an excellent and stylish local bar.
I was delighted to be able to attend the inaugural meeting last week.
Macc Record Club was advertised by word of mouth and text of Twitter. Like the Booker Prize, a few records were short listed and a main title was selected by public ballot, to be played in its entirety at 8pm sharp. Prospective attendees were encouraged to bring at least one track of their choice, of about 5 minutes in length, to play to everybody else.
Although it would have been relatively easy to put together a very high-end hi-fi, Simon, wisely in my view, decided to use a relatively simple and extremely affordable system based around Rega’s entry level turntable, arm and cartridge.
7.30pm arrived and five people had assembled. As I’d come quite a long way I was invited to play a tune. So it came to pass that the first record played at The Macclesfield Record Club was Blue Mitchell’s version of Hi-Heel Sneakers from his Down With It set. You may perhaps wonder why I chose that? Or perhaps not!
After that, we had Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited before all ears tuned to the album of the night, which was The Stone Roses first album. Drinks flowed, the conversation was rich and Scandinavian House, Steppenwolf, Now That’s What I Call Music Vol 35, Dr Dre, a track from a compilation of computer games backing tracks and Kenny Burrell’s Montono Blues (which you can listen to here) merged seamlessly. One by one we played our tracks and the first-night attendees swelled to about a dozen.
A memorable night was had. Unfortunately, time came for the closing tracks. Wigan Casino had the amazing three before 8 but Macc Record Club had its own show stopper: a selection from an ancient compilation of bands from Milton Keynes.
To that point an entire genre of music hadn’t featured- Country- but Simon put that right with the ballad of a father who baked a banana birthday cake for his lil (sic) son.
The narrative ran something like this: The said son thought that his dad had forgotten his birthday and ran out of the house, slipping on a banana skin (from the cake) into the path of a juggernaut, which ploughed into the house killing his mother too. What an amazing confection the cod cowboys of MK had conjured, presumably while tending their stone cows (next to Stone Roses?). Now that’s what I call country.
The format worked wonderfully and Simon and his co-producer, Peter did a brilliant job in turning a good idea to tangible reality. Macc Record Club deserves to flourish and I’ll be back from time to time. I had a dead good night and made sure the jazz flag flew proudly amidst the cornucopia of tunes. There was ‘No Elvis, Beatles or The Rolling Stones’ in 2014 Macclesfield and sadly no Clash either, but The Modern Lovers and Patti Smith did make an appearance.
If you like the idea of what you just read about, why not start your own record club at a venue of your choice? The only requirement was set out by the sage of Hampstead, George Michael: a willingness to LISTEN WITHOUT PREDJUDICE. Men and women of the world, it’s time to get out of our sheds and dens and share those big tunes.
You can read about the continuing adventures of Macc Record Club here.
DMJ Vintage can currently as of July 2016 be found here.