‘It was an exciting time for music’ – new exhibition celebrates Glasgow’s record shops of the 80s and 90s

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FOR Ken McCluskey, of chart-topping band The Bluebells, Glasgow’s record shops were where the band received their ‘musical education’.

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A new exhibition at Glasgow’s Riverside Museum takes music fans back to the city’s record store heyday – at one time there were around 130 outlets selling vinyl, cassettes, CDs and more.

Ken and David McCluskey and Robert Hodgens of The Bluebells, who reached number one on the UK charts in the 90s with their hit Young At Heart, officially opened Spinning Around – Glasgow’s Remarkable Record Shops, a celebration of the many stores that flourished in the 80s and 90s.

Ken said: “Glasgow’s record shops in the 1980s were hugely important to me and The Bluebells; they were where we received our musical education and where we met and hung out.

“It was an exciting time for music and the emergence of many of Scotland’s finest bands and artists during these years grew out of the town’s record store scene.

“It was a pleasure to donate some rare items in the band’s name to this brilliant new exhibition, which celebrates the importance of Glasgow’s record shops to the city’s musical heritage.”

In the late 1980s and early 1990s Glasgow was home to businesses such as Bruce’s, Gloria’s, Listen, Rub-a-Dub, 23rd Precinct and Volume, and as curator Neil Johnson-Symington explains, they were seen as more than just places to buy music.

“Glasgow has always been known as a city of music, even before official UNESCO approval in 2008,” he said.

Glasgow Times: Neil Johnson-Symington, curator of the new Glasgow music shop scene exhibition at the Riverside Museum in Glasgow on Wednesday.  ..Pic Gordon Terris Herald & Times..2/3/22.

“However, this exhibition is not inspired by the city’s unparalleled concert halls, but by the dozens of record stores from the 1980s to the mid-1990s that were instrumental in shaping so many local bands. incredible. They weren’t just places to buy records, they were creative hubs that inspired new music, club nights, recording studios and independent labels.

As crucibles for the growth of the city’s nascent music scene, Glasgow’s record stores served as launching pads for the careers of several successful Scottish bands, including The Bluebells, Deacon Blue, Orange Juice and Simple Minds .

Glasgow Times: Detail of a new exhibition dedicated to Glasgow's music shop scene at the Riverside Museum in Glasgow on Wednesday.  ..Pic Gordon Terris Herald & Times..2/3/22.

The new exhibition is the first to open at the Riverside Museum – run by Glasgow Life – since 2019. Made up of 134 objects and housed in the museum’s former 1950s pawnshop, it reflects the work and success of major groups of Glasgow like Teenage Fanclub, Primal Scream and Texas.

In total, over 60 Scottish bands and artists active between 1980 and 1995 are represented through records, cassettes, CDs, posters, t-shirts and other musical memorabilia.

Glasgow Times: Blubells Bobby (Hodgens), left, with David and Ken McCluskey, right, at the opening of a new exhibition dedicated to Glasgow's music store scene at Glasgow's Riverside Museum on Wednesday.  ..Pic Gordon Terris Herald & Times..2/3/22.

A host of bands and musicians supported the exhibit by donating and loaning items, and record labels and record stores, such as The Creeping Bent Organization and Fopp, also donated items.

Among the main attractions of the exhibition are the gold records of The Bluebells and Simple Minds; a fan-shaped screen-printed scarf dedicated to the Bluebells; record store bags connected to some of Glasgow’s best-loved vinyl venues; rare club flyers, including the legendary Volcano “Partick Passport”; and a 1956 Lambretta LD 150 scooter bought by Alex Kapranos, lead singer of Franz Ferdinand, to toast his first recording contract.

“It was Alex’s bike that made us think an exhibit like this could be really good,” says Neil. “Glasgow has always had such a love affair with record stores, similar in a way to its love of cinemas, and we wanted to capture that through a variety of different displays.”

Glasgow Times: Neil Johnson-Symington, curator of the new Glasgow music shop scene exhibition at the Riverside Museum in Glasgow on Wednesday.  ..Pic Gordon Terris Herald & Times..2/3/22.

Visitors can try their hand at ‘crate digging’ and browse an interactive record rack containing around 100 LP and 12-inch sleeves, or try to find Glasgow’s 130 record shops, which are dotted around a hand-drawn drawing meter hand. square card created by renowned local illustrator, Adrian McMurchie.

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Visitors can also watch a series of short interviews with musicians, DJs, record shop owners and staff as they tell their favorite stories from Glasgow’s record shops, as well as scan a QR code to access to a video listing all records, tapes and CDs featured in the display, including details from cover designers and record labels.

Hidden among the records are lesser-known musical facts about Glasgow, such as the most successful band and the identities of the city’s oldest record stores.

A nearly six-hour playlist of bands and artists featured throughout the exhibition provides a seminal soundtrack.

“We had to put some music on,” Neil said with a smile. “We were also very pleased to be able to include images of Harry Papadopoulos, the famous music press photographer.”

He adds, “I hope people will look at this exhibit and see not just a collection of ‘things’ but also the people and stories behind it all, and truly understand the sheer volume of creative and musical talent that has arisen in the city and surrounding areas.

Spinning Around – Glasgow’s Remarkable Record Shops will be refreshed each year with new items and donations. The visit is free during the opening hours of Riverside.

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