Sock drawers don’t feature strongly in the history of pop. Berry Gordy Jr’s presumably remains hidden and unreported in the Motown vaults, while in LA, the sandbox-domiciled Brian Wilson had no need of socks or, indeed, shoes.
But in Glasgow, they played a vital part in the history of the tiny independent label Postcard Records and its Velvet Underground-loving founder Alan Horne.
The short but influential history of the label is lovingly retold here by Simon Goddard, whose sparkling prose seems in danger of tripping over itself at times. One paragraph starts with: “It was one of those cold, crisp bright December days where the miracle of the human respiratory system could be seen in the choo-choo train wisps dancing from the lips of every soul on every street.”
The basic premise: music-mad entrepreneur Horne meets equally music-mad musician Edwyn Collins and a partnership, part Laurel and Hardy, part Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais, is born.
Bands are formed, added to, broken up, given new names and – when all other avenues seem blocked – recorded by Horne. Improbably named characters such as Brian Superstar, Derek Diddums, Jimmy Loser, and even Janice Fuck sashay in and out of the narrative and a slogan, “The Sound of Young Scotland”, is adopted.
Receipts, bills, payments all find a place in the sock draw of Horne’s Glasgow apartment, which probably accounts for the short life of the label. But out of it, against all the odds some would say, comes some great music. Great pop records such as Orange Juice’s “Falling and Laughing” or Aztec Camera’s “Just Like Gold”.
The book almost ends in 1981 with all that youthful entrepreneurial spirit gone and Horne rueing lost chances to sign the Bluebells or lease Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman”. But then there’s an uplifting postscript from two years later with the intervention of Collins and the promise of a new label, new acts and a new life in London. Surely there’s another book in the making here, especially as Horne himself says in an afterword: “Those were my sort of normal years.”
It’s a short book, but as endlessly entertaining as a Postcard’s greatest hits album. It also comes with a fully annotated discography for the nerds among us, and photographs. And, finally, watch out for the drumming cat.Reuse content