Monorail Music opened in December 2002 after a sometimes epic three year long journey in search of a location and a way to make it all work. Glasgow then was a vibrant music city with something important missing, a great record shop, which we optimistically felt that we could provide. Operating from modest premises in a former Mexican restaurant, we’ve tried our best to provide the kind of record shop that we would like to visit on our travels.
We always had an idea that our shop would not be strictly retail and that by taking a more community-based approach, we’d be able to make people feel part of it. At grassroots level we wanted people we respected in the music community to feel that it was their shop too so we’ve always had an extremely close relationship with Optimo, Chemikal Underground, Teenage Fanclub, Belle & Sebastian, Mogwai and many others. It goes without saying that we’re close to our friends next door in Mono and although the two businesses are separate we’ve often been able to collaborate on events.
Our first priority was obviously our shop, the 3D space, and making that work, but for a while it’s felt that we’ve got that down and that we’re ready to turn our attention to our website. At the moment it's going to be impossible for us to represent online everything we've got going on in the shop. So we're going to prioritise some of the new releases and reissues that we love, the music that we’re most closely connected with (groups, labels, projects) and other key Monorail items. In other words, independent, focused and friendly, like we’ve always tried to be.
MONORAIL FILM CLUB
Since 2007 we’ve operated the Monorail Film Club in collaboration with the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT). Generally screenings take place once a month involving an invited guest introducing a film of their choice. We try to screen films which are not necessarily obscure but have maybe one way or another fallen through the cracks.
We’re really proud to have screened a series of Tim Neat films including Play Me Something (David Mackenzie introduction and interview with Tim), Bill Forsyth’s That Sinking Feeling (Stuart Murdoch introduction and interview with cast members), and to have premiered three Paul Kelly films - Lawrence of Belgravia (Q&A with Lawrence and Paul), Dexys: Nowhere Is Home (Q&A with Kevin Rowland and Paul) and How We Used To Live (live Saint Etienne performance). In 2012 we asked Vic Godard to choose one of his namesake’s films (Pierrot Le Fou) and come along and talk about it.
The name Monorail Music comes from the Milngavie (or Glasgow) Monorail, an incredible futuristic transportation system pioneered by George Bennie in the inter-war period in the north-west of Glasgow. Monorail Music is situated under a single track siding (disused), and when we were deciding on a name, it seemed perfect that we acknowledge, and be inspired by, Mr Bennie's small piece of Utopia. Transy Grove took himself out to Kilmardinny to hang out under the art deco buildings, and tell the story.
George Bennie, the inventor of the Glasgow Monorail was born in Auldhouse, Glasgow, in 1892.
A photo taken on the 23rd March 1928, shows Bennie demonstrating a model of his monorail system to representatives from Australia (4 men, 3 wearing bowlers and 1 a homburg, and 1 woman, wearing a cloche). The group are gathered in a slightly dingy workroom, where lightbulbs on strings float just above their hats. A metal stair in the background leads to other rooms. All the visitors are staring downward at the model, only Bennie has squinted up to the camera, his face challenging the photographer, convinced of the possibility.
What they made of the monorail is not recorded, but looking at photos today you can still see and feel the beautiful futuristic gleam of this amazing invention. And this was no dream, the monorail test track was launched in 1930, and Bennie had plans to run a line from Glasgow to Edinburgh. The design was such that it could reach much faster speeds than conventional rail transport, and provide a smoother journey too. For a while after the launch, at Burnbrae, near Milngavie, people were allowed to have a shot on this new invention, one shilling for adults, half price for kids. The tummy sensation and shake in the legs must have been immense for those children walking up the steps to the capsule, something fantastic from inter-war adventure books. Sitting in the seat looking out the window, a small sweaty hand holding tightly to dad's finger. High up off the ground, seeing banks of grey cloud and a clear strip of blue, silver sky and a bit of pink, as the sun's rays came streaming through...the capsule started to move.
The monorail was a beautiful fuselage design, with a single propeller at the front and rear. Propellers, which at speed created a flickering light effect in the drivers cabin, similar to the flicker of early cinema. Its average running speed 120 mph. In 1930!
Despite demonstrations, and appeals to benefactors and investors the monorail system was never taken up, the depression of the early thirties, and later, impending war, both strong contributors to this missed opportunity.
The power of Bennie's vision, the individuality, the imagination, is upheld by the fact that long after the project faltered the monorail hung rusting in the wind and rain, still as beautiful as the first day. Gradually becoming more neglected it eventually lay on the ground as the hanging track was dismantled. But all who passed or came across it accidently were struck by this strange object's beauty. Later it was sold for scrap, taken away in bits by lorries.
The project bankrupted Bennie, and he died in 1957. If you pass there now, the terminus for the monorail still stands, the original roof now buckling, used by the company Kelvin Timber, and several of the concrete stumps which supported the pylons for the track can be found dotted here and there in wasteland, long grass, and ferns. Planes pass by directly overhead every so often on their way to Glasgow Airport. Poignant remains of an unconventional and inspired idea. But the story doesn't need to end there. We can close our eyes and hear the engines thrust, the propellers rotating whizz, let's hold hands, climb the steps, next stop King Street
Transy Grove, January 2004