Stuart Braithwaite’s new book, Spaceships Over Glasgow, recalls life before Mogwai, when the bands he listened to changed his world
When I was young I was lucky to be surrounded by some brilliant people. My family always encouraged my sister and me to do what made us happy, not just what would make us money. My dad was Scotland’s only telescope maker, and the house was a magnet for weird and wonderful people. I feel so grateful for having been shielded against normality.
When I was about 12 I started getting guitar lessons from an amazing guy called Harry who lived above an Indian restaurant in Hamilton. He played me Heroin by The Velvet Underground and it blew my tiny mind. I didn’t know anything could be so powerful. The chaos, honesty and the sheer beauty of the sound opened up a world that I didn’t know existed. I lived in rural Lanarkshire so didn’t have a clue about drugs, New York or anything that contextualised the music, but I loved it all the same.
When I found out that the demonic noise John Cale had conjured on the record was the same noise that swamped Psychocandy by The Jesus and Mary Chain I wanted to get an electric guitar so I could try and make some of it myself. Finding out that the Mary Chain were from East Kilbride – a short drive from where I went to school in Strathaven – piqued my curiosity furthermore. Knowing that the creators of this endlessly intriguing sound spoke like me and walked the same grey Lanarkshire streets as me planted a seed of possibility. If they’d done it, why couldn’t I?
My big sister Victoria had great music taste and it was by taking her record collection that I found my way in music. She was into The Stooges, Pixies and biggest of all for me – The Cure. I obsessed over all of The Cure’s albums, and by the time they were about to release Disintegration in 1989 I was a fully fledged fan. I counted down the days till its release like Christmas, even dreaming about what it would sound like. Disintegration was the first record I ever bought and it didn’t disappoint. It was a work of utter majesty. The Cure were the first band I ever saw.
That summer I went to see The Cure in Glasgow at the SECC, my first-ever concert. The experience literally changed my life. I’d watched live videos, but nothing compared to seeing the band live in person. The sound was bigger than anything I’d ever experienced and just being in the same room as so many like-minded people was transformative. I lived in the countryside, and rock’n’roll was an escape into a different world. Music was an obsession for me and all I thought about every day.