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My Record Collection: Mark McCaughrean on Yes, Frost* and Moon Safari

By day Mark McCaughrean is Senior Science Advisor at the European Space Agency. But by night he’s pondering spiritual transportation via Mahler, Yes and Chvrches…

“Iwas born in 1961 which was a great year for space exploration! We moved from Plymouth to Newcastle to Sussex, following my dad around for his job working for Rothmans cigarettes after he left the Navy, and ending up in a mansion house by the river in Buckingham, Oxfordshire.

I was into Top Of The Pops and chart stuff for years. I had a habit of taping whatever was No.1 off the radio each week using a little cassette recorder that my mum had for her teaching job. In 1973 my dad brought home a bunch of cassettes that he’d been given and one turned out to be YesThe Yes Album. I remember nights on end under the bed sheets listening to that on the cassette recorder. I had no connection with what was going on beyond the charts but I loved this album and had no sense of looking for much else to listen to until 1977, when we went on a school trip to North Wales. On the bus up there, one of my friends had a music mag with a two-page spread about Going For The One. I looked at that and thought, ‘It’s them, I know them!’ I didn’t know what else I’d missed out on, but I knew I needed to find a record shop – which I did, the very next week – and bought it, on red vinyl. That October Yes played at Wembley Empire Pool and I went down with a friend. That was my first ever rock gig, aged 16.

My second gig was Buzzcocks at Aylesbury Friars, which my younger brother Ian took me to. Punk was dangerous for middle class, locked-away-in-the-countryside boys. Halfway through the gig, Pete Shelley said, ‘If you lot don’t stop gobbing at us, we’re off!’ – cue gob overload. So there was punk and there was prog. My brother went punk, and got into art, and I went prog. Two years later at university in Edinburgh, I had the whole Yes back catalogue and was seeing a lot of gigs, and because of my location and the time, a new wave of bands like Orange Juice, TV21 and Aztec Camera were on my radar.

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