Long before guitarist/vocalist Stuart Braithwaite made a name for himself as the frontperson of Mogwai, the formative industrial post-punk band from Glasgow, Scotland, he was a deeply enthusiastic music fan. In the late ‘80s, his favorite band was the Cure—“Lullaby” was on repeat, and Disintegration was just about to drop on May 2, 1989, the week before his thirteenth birthday, no less.

Braithwaite had heard that Robert Smith was experimenting with a darker sound, not too unlike earlier Cure albums like 1981’s
Faith and 1982’s Pornography. Without having even heard Disintegration, Braithwaite knew it was soon to be his favorite—it was the first one he’d ever been aware of prior to its release, after all. Below, as excerpted from his forthcoming memoir, Spaceships Over Glasgow, Braithwaite details the days before Disintegration, and just how much the record changed his life. Pre-order his book, here.

The cover of Stuart Braithwaite's memoir, 'Spaceships Over Glasgow.'
The cover of Stuart Braithwaite's memoir, 'Spaceships Over Glasgow.'

Hamilton was the town I spent most time in as a teenager. Grey, post-industrial and fifteen miles south of Glasgow, it was where my mum practised as a GP. I’d get the half-hour bus journey there after school and wait for my mum to finish work, before getting a lift home with her. I’d spend hours perusing its small town centre, going from shop to shop and starting all over again, looking through the magazines in John Menzies (“The newsagents?”), and scrutinising the records in Woolworths, Our Price, and the independent shop, Impulse. It was in Our Price that I pre-ordered Disintegration.

Finally, the day came. Knowing that after school on 1 May I would be going to pick up Disintegration, I was even more distracted than usual from my lessons. Not that I wasn’t often distracted – I’d gone from being one of the best pupils at my primary school to suddenly being far less interested in schoolwork, preferring instead to have a laugh with my new pals and gabbing non-stop about music. I had already made my choice. If the choice was between education and rock and roll, then education was going to lose.

A photo of young Stuart Braithwaite, posing in the woods.
Photo by Adele Bethel
Don't whistle until you are out of the woods.

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