Trapped in an office in Berwick Street, Soho, for a day of interviews, newly-married Scottish pop singer Patrick Kane can find time to gloat over the fact that there are some things that the relatively-affluent Southerners still have no control over.
‘They couldn’t even stop it raining in Soho. You’d think they might start salting the clouds or something. Get Saatchi and Saatchi to do something about it, but naw. They should put up a big classy perspex dome. Keep out all the proles and the rain, eh?’ he bellows, to anyone in earshot. Later on, when his press officer decides we’re over-running and asks Pat to wind up the interview, he raises his voice again. ‘I’m in the middle of a brilliant theory here. Do you mind? My Goad!’ It all sounds very good-natured to me, but I can understand how he earned his title as ‘the grumpiest man in pop’ from the timorous Daily Mirror. As it turns out, he’s ‘delighted’ with the reputation, and I think he tries to live up to it as much as possible. ‘I‘ve a certain unwillingness to play the game,’ he admits, ‘not to go along with traditional careers and personalities.’
Patrick Kane is shaping up to be the latest in a distinguished line of pop theorists, or, as his brother Gregory would probably say if he was here, ‘an over-educated wanker.‘ Hue and Cry, though now a full band, is centred around the brothers Kane, and despite their legendary mutual animosity they have managed to produce a series of excellent singles and become nationally-known pop personalities.
The lines between the brothers are as clearly-drawn as they were between George Michael and Andrew Ridger before Wham! broke up: Patrick, the vocal, thoughtful one and Gregory, hung up on fast cars and women. (Unlike Ridgely, though, Gregory has shown he can play.) Their about-to-be-released debut album was originally going to be called Ferraris and Dictionaries to accommodate both their tastes, but will now go out under the title Seduced and Abandoned, after a book by the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard concerning the difficulties of rational argument in the face of being bombarded by product. One of Patrick’s ironic little twists.
He was never a typical resident of Coatbridge. Now a film studies graduate, the first band he formed with his brother was at high school, a punk- jazz group that specialised in swing arrangements of Clash songs. Pat was always more into Latin-American music and Sinatra than rock’n’roll anyway. You can hear it in the dramatic sweep of Hue and Cry’s music, the best example so far being their single ‘Labour of Love’, where anti-Tory sentiments were married to a steamy Latin beat, and sent spinning into the upper reaches of the national charts. Pat’s strong and clever lyric enabled
‘Labour of Love’ to slip through the net that ensnared The Blow Monkeys’ anti-Thatcher single and
6 The List 16 — 29 October
banned it from the airwaves in the weeks leading up to the election. Pat confesses to being ‘bamboozled’ by the record’s success, and doubts that the ‘cogs will lock’ again possibly for another couple of years, if ever. His theory, he thinks, is borne out by the fact that the follow-up ‘Strength to
Strength’ failed to reach the same heights, though with the talent the
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Alastair Mabbott discusses pop and politics with Pat Kane of Hue and Cry, one of Scotland’s rising bands, and, opposite, investigates what the forces are behind
the continuing surge of success and popularity for Glasgow rock bands.
boys have at their fingertips I doubt it will be that long.
‘Labour of Love’ has been the best example of what Pat had previously referred to as ‘trading in ambiguities
‘The thing about trading in ambiguities is basically this; it’s the recognition that to be The Redskins is not to be successful and not to be good pop. Because the point is you
are working in a medium where logic takes second place to emotion, and reason takes second place to sensuality. People always hear the music first. as an enjoyable sound, an exhilirating memory, rather than as a lyric. The way Hue and Cry do it is just to take a strong intellectual idea and generate metaphors out of that. Like ‘Labour of Love’ has taken images from industrial struggle, ‘Strength to Strength‘ is trying to pan the Yuppie culture, and it’s taken images from these quite strong social analyses. Trading in ambiguities is basically doing that.‘
It sounds like Win’s idea of ‘sugar-coated bullets‘.
‘That’s exactly what it is. People maybe only get the significance ofit after they’ve heard it eight times—in the office — over their Kit-Kat — and they listen to the line, “Ain’t gonna work for you no more".’
What brother Greg would think of Pat’s references to ‘social analyses’ and ‘generating metaphors’ I’m not quite sure — possibly make an obscene gesture and stalk off to the nearest car showroom — but there’s no doubt that Pat is an engaging talker. Every upwardly-mobile pop star worth his salt these days wants the world to know he’s got a brain as well, but usually the opinions spouted by this new section of society are embarassingly naive and cut-and-dried. Pat Kane may ramble, use big words and occasionally be pretentious, but he’d rather think for himself, even ifit means falling ﬂat on his face sometimes, than have some anonymous manifesto-writer to do it for him. Lately he‘s been quoted as saying he supports the SNP. but finds the dichotomy between that and his fascination with the music and culture of America hard to resolve.
‘It’s quite difficult if in your non-musical life you‘re quite passionate about things like the Caterpillar dispute and the way that control over Scottish society and Scottish economy have been wrested away from the people who‘re actually involved with it — it’s quite difficult to reconcile that fact with the fact that you‘re driven mad by a culture which is probably responsible for a lot of the ills on your patch.‘
America, ofcourse. Pat asks me if I’ve heard the Chain Gang single, recorded by an amalgamation of various members of the Scots pop fraternity in aid ofthe Caterpillar workers.
‘It’s like . . . being a pop practitioner in Scotland, interested in Scotland’s future, dying to do something about it, but finding out that a lot of the means whereby something can be done about it are really not the best tools to grapple with the problem, y’know? I think The Proclaimers obviously do it better than anybody at the moment, because I think they’re taking the same jump that Billy Bragg took. Stripping down to the basic minimum. They’re culturally anti-American by singing in Scottish accents.’
Things are, alas, never simple, and the obvious drawback rears its head.