500MH Loves: John Myers’ Middle England

John Myers Middle England

This weekend I went out for a balti to Birmingham’s Sparkbrook area: a round trip of some 250 miles necessitating an overnight stay, but last night’s balti was delicious (thank you Adil’s).

After breakfast this morning – overlooking the splendid canal system – we headed for the Ikon Gallery with nothing more in mind than killing an hour before catching the train back to London. What a delight then to see the small-but-perfectly-formed photography exhibition John Myers Middle England.

Myers is a Yorkshire-born, Midlands-based artist and academic, who throughout the 1970’s took an extraordinary series of photographs of his local Stourbridge area. The portraits (see above) have a haunting oddness that lingers in the memory but it was the people-less subtopian landscapes that really struck a chord with me – including a series devoted to electricity substations.

Being of an age to remember the 1970’s, the photographs brought back the stultifying feeling of boredom, or boring-ness, that I associate with large parts of that decade. I write also as someone who as a youth wandered around the outskirts of town with his own camera, taking “artistic” shots of cooling towers and the like. Those shots won’t be troubling the gallery curators anytime soon, but John Myers’ work is definitely worth a trip to see (and don’t forget the balti)…


500MH Loves: The Michell GyroDec

Michell Gyrodec

A Michell GyroDec turntable has been sitting in Casa 500MH since…well, sometime in the mid 90’s. In that time it’s seen some ups-and-downs: it’s been stoled, ignored for years in favour of rival turntables but, like Barry Manilow, it’s made it through the rain and is now back as the heart of our vinyl-ripping operation. In the following homage to this classic piece of audio engineering I’ll strive to avoid hi-fi speak (“a trace of sibilance in the transients” etc.) and just tell you what matters.

Firstly, it looks brilliant. The above pic isn’t mine, but a photo from the Michell Engineering site. It was taken (for unexplained reasons) at Borehamwood railway station and shows a GyroDec Mark III, the same model that I originally bought – though mine was finished in silver rather than bling-tastic gold. Some people will tell you that a GyroDec was featured in the film A Clockwork Orange, but that was an earlier Michell turntable, the Hydraulic Reference. Still, it does look pleasingly “far out” and I can’t deny that my decision to buy one was partly based on aesthetic considerations – though I did audition some alternative options, including the classic Linn Sondek LP12. Suffice to say, the Gyro looked the best and sounded the best.

On to my history of GyroDec ownership: the Mark III sat happily in my “system” for a few years before being stolen in a burglary (along with a number of other treasured possessions). When the insurance money came through, I replaced it with the lastest Mk IV model – visually similar to the above but with a standalone, rather than deck-mounted, motor (in the photo, that’s the gold cylinder on the left-hand side which drives the platter via what can only be described as “a rubber band”).

All was well for a while, but when we moved to an open-plan house, I couldn’t find anywhere to get, what you might call, a proper setup. And when I later realised my long-time ambition of getting an in-house vinyl-based DJ setup (2 x Technics SL1210 + mixer), the Gyro started a long fade into obscurity. Until now.

A project (men must have projects) is underway to put the GyroDec back to work – initially for vinyl-ripping, but ultimately to listen to records in the manner that God intended: decent system, leather armchair, gin & tonic, possibly wearing a smoking jacket. And a fez.

Thus far I’ve replaced the rubber band (a very reasonable £15 from the excellent Analogue Seduction) and levelled-up the equipment stand that it resides on – five minutes work with a spirit level. And that’s about it for Phase 1 (this project has very tight budget). So, armed with laptop and soundcard I can now make high-class vinyl rips that – in theory – should put to shame those done on the Technics.

And if any of that’s whetted your appetite, here’s a rip that I made today of Perri’s 1988 cover of Steely Dan’s Caves of Altamira.  Oh, it’s uncompressed AIFF format, of course:


Download Perri – Caves of Altamira (right click)

Michell Gyrodec