This Is Happening: Farewell, One Up

‘You spend the first five years trying to get with the plan / And the next five years trying to be with your friends again.’

So here it is. It was one of those things that had been on the cards for a while now, but I guess I just didn’t want to be around to see it. Tomorrow evening, Thursday 31st January 2013, One Up on Belmont St. will close its doors for the final time. From a small stall in the late 70’s through various shop venues in the city centre, One Up has served the public of Aberdeen with the best in new music. But, unfortunately recent years have taken their toll and the shop announced its foreclosure mere hours after HMV went into administration.

When arriving in Aberdeen just over three years ago One Up was one of the first places I discovered that made me feel excited to be here. Compared to the small town I came from which had a small HMV that didn’t offer much variety from the standard fare, One Up felt like a place where you could actually discover music, both new and old, local and foreign. Fred and the gang were always friendly and knowledgeable, while I was often surprised by the goodies nestling in the shelves. It became a place to meet friends or duck into on payday. Inevitably when homesickness would set in, going in and browsing through the shelves always helped. Music has always been a coping mechanism for me so having a place to find it was a real comfort. Suffice to say, One Up made me feel more at home in Aberdeen.

Last one Up Purchase

Last One Up Purchase

When I went along recently, the shop felt a lot smaller with all the downstairs material shifted upstairs. The racks were barer, but the atmosphere was still positive as people came to support a store whose commitment to decent music has garnered them an appreciative customer base over the years. I’m not ashamed to say that I had a bit of a lump in my throat as I left the shop for what is probably the last time. It seems strange to have formed an emotional attachment to a shop and I guess I’m just a sentimentalist at heart, but over the years the shop has come to mean a lot to me.

So unfortunately, music retail in Aberdeen is not off to a good start 2013. With the imminent loss of One Up and HMV later, the only places left to buy new releases in Aberdeen will be supermarkets. Cavern Record Store on Belmont St. is still open, but as a 2nd hand vinyl store I’m not sure how much longer its admittedly niche appeal and loyal customers can keep it afloat. On a side note, I was also disheartened last year to hear of the closure announcement for Avalanche Records in Grassmarket, Edinburgh, another favourite haunt of mine when I’m in town. It’s a sad state of affairs. Also, the announcement that Aberdeen City Council are considering using the premises as their base for the Aberdeen City of Culture Office seems nothing short of opportunistic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice that the Council recognise the cultural significance One Up has had in Aberdeen and that it should be used for something positive and constructive, rather than another shop taking its place. However, the timing of the announcement just seems a bit insensitive and the phrase ‘dancing on your grave’ comes to mind. Not to mention the irony that the business rates set by the council have been a contributing factor for the foreclosure of many high street vendors, One Up included. You really can’t make this stuff up

But putting all of that negativity aside, I will always have fond memories of One Up. So go along while you still can and show your support for the best record shop I’ve ever been to. And thank you One Up, from the bottom of my heart, for all the pleasure you’ve given me these last few years and the people of Aberdeen since 1979. See you on the flip side.

One Up 2

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[Cover Me]: Poetry Special

So, I thought I’d do something special for this edition of Cover Me for Burns Night. Poetry is strongly linked to music, but it seems that all too often when musicians turn their hand to setting poetry to music you end up with something that is less than the sum of its parts. Since I came across three songs recently that defied that norm, I thought I’d chuck them in here for your enjoyment.

Beth Orton – ‘Poison Tree’ (by William Blake)

Taken from Beth Orton’s fantastic Sugaring Season, this track perfectly captures the eery atmosphere of William Blake’s cautionary tale. Blake is one of my favourite poets and I can think of no other voice (apart from maybe Mark Lanegan’s rumbling growl) better suited to articulate his poetry than Beth’s stirring vocals. Amongst stripped back guitar, piano and scraping violin which err on the side of unresolved tension, Beth delivers Blake’s lyrics in a way that is simultaneously beautiful and undeniably sinister.

The Waterboys – ‘The Stolen Child’ (by W. B. Yeats)

W. B. Yeats is another one of my favourite poets, and Mike Scott and co. recently made an entire album, An Appointment With Mr. Yeats, recently that set his poetry to music (see my review on Hercules Moments over here). However, this track comes from the 1988 album Fisherman’s Blues and is their first attempt to set Yeats’s words to music. Oddly enough this early poem, about a child being taken by fairies, seems a lot more eery on paper, but The Waterboys manage to create an ethereal yet optimistic song that feels like an elegy for those that have gone. Alongside the rumbling piano and flutter of pipes, the spoken word sections by Tomás Mac Eoin are a nice touch. Yeats’s words are given a nice sense of authentic tradition in his sean-nós burr, while The Waterboys give Yeats a more contemporary twist.

Rachel Sermanni – ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ (by Robert Burns)

And to finish off, a song a little closer to home. Released today in support of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy, Aberdonian Rachel Sermanni’s rendition of Robert Burns’s ‘Ae Fond Kiss‘ is just impeccable. Burns is a poet that is understandably often much-maligned because he is ubiquitous in Scotland and quoted to the point of nausea. Same goes for Shakespeare, they’re unavoidable and this can lead to their work being neglected. So since Burns Night is upon us, it’s nice to come across a song by a local artist that recaptures the poignancy of Burns’s heartfelt farewell and reminds you why he is revered as Scotland’s national poet in the first place. Please check out her wonderful album Under Mountains, you will not be disappointed.

Happy Burns Night all!