‘There is a problem as to whether there is a distinct Scottish culture to defend. It might express itself electorally, and it might express itself negatively, saying, “We are not English, we are Scottish, we do not accept the Thatcherite government”. But it never gets positive. It never gets to the point where someone says, “These are the good qualities of Scottish cuiture”.
‘And I think that kind of positive affirmation of Scottish culture is something that pop practised in Scotland should be interested in. Because what they’re actually doing, the people they’re actually selling records to are the people whose nationalism should be stoked up. But you can’t compel people to learn Gaelic and be involved in Gaelic culture, when there’s the difﬁculty of learning another language.’
The conversation turns back to The Proclaimers again, and the Scottish brogue with which they naturalise the idioms of their beloved Hank Williams and Merle Haggard.
‘The first thing you notice about _ them is how accessible the songs are because they are from an American idiom, and secondly, the actual linguistic unity that it creates between the audience and the performers. They resolve the dichotomy.’
The Proclaimers are one of the best new acts to emerge from this country, and Pat’s given a fair account of their appeal. But they’re only a duo. Any quest for a modern Scottish identity through them would just lead us up a blind alley. How could the problem be approached?
‘There have to be ways whereby all the great talents that are at large in Scottish culture, like image-makers and music-makers, have to be press-ganged into a common interest and to serve a Scottish Nationalist purpose. I don’t know how. It was quite interesting, the experience of the Chain Gang record, which came out long after the event, that made it look like something like a Scottish Red Wedge might be useful. Not as an arm of the Labour Party, but as a cultural front. By the time the Chain Gang thing came about the dispute was virtually over — the propaganda battle had been lost and there was not enough outrage amongst enough young people. So was it simply not quick enough? A group who could respond quickly to things like Ravenscraig might be useful.
‘Someone’s got to grasp the thistle.’
Agreeing that an increasingly- fearful Radio 1 might grow wary of the political messages in Hue and Cry’s songs and just stop playing them (they did the same to The Boomtown Rats when the grisly stories behind ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ and ‘Diamond Smiles’ became common knowledge), Pat does think that ‘as a tactical manoeuvre, it might be quite prudent to release a dilly-daily pop single’, though ‘it’s not necessary to discuss dialectical materialism in a funk song, but mindlessness has never appealed to me.’
He’s not kidding.
‘li they want hip,’ sneered a derislve lan McCulloch of Echo and The Bunnymen in the early 1980s, ‘they should go and see a Scottish band. The minute one of these bands plays to an audience that hasn't read the right articles they’re going to be In trouble.’ ' . McCulioch was ‘ ._; talking in the early “T ‘ days of the
a t ‘ Postcard boom, 5 when Orange
3 Juice, Josef it and g Aztec Camera
direction of the Warhol-styled supremo oi the Postcard label, Alan Home) revived the sounds and styles of The Velvet Underground and The Byrds to press adulation. Simple Minds had started their rise to domination oi the world’s stadiums, and in London John Peel put on a demo sent to him by a young Glaswegian band called Altered images, whose singer Clare Grogan was about to be launched as an actress in the film Gregory’s Girl by the then-obscure director Bill Forsyth. The first song on the tape was ‘Dead Pop Stars' and, within half a minute oi the start, Peel had one oi his periodic ‘Saul on the road to Damascus' experiences. lie resolved to play Altered Images to death on his show.
Up in Edinburgh, home oiThe Scars, a snotty gang called The Dirty Beds metamorphosed into Fire Engines and jerked edgy splinters of noise out of their guitars in best Captain Beefheart style; except that Fire Engines were young, new and fresh. Their first LP, Lubricate Your Living Room, was recorded in a day.
in 1907 two Eire Engines were still making music together, in the band Win, and that band’s debut took a lot longer to bring out. Uhl Tears Baby was a steak and glossy package which both
celebrated and satirised consumerism, and it stifled. Unconfirmed reports say that of the 15,000 copies sold, 13,000 were in Scotland. Their record company suggested they find employment elsewhere. The consumer is not there to be made the butt of trendy Scottish jokes. it was a hark back to the old days, when journalists and AGR men flocked up to Scotland to investigate the seemingly endless stream oftalent, but couldn't sell it to the punters.
A few made it into the charts in the early days, mainly Altered images. Orange Juice, alter several line-up changes, eventually got there too, and The Bluebells. But the enjoyable thing about those bands was their eccentricity; one felt they were almost having hits in spite oi themselves; had the ghastly aura of ‘novelty' hanging around them. Things have tightened up a lot more since then, and now it’s even harder for an idiosyncratic band to slip into the national airwaves.
Now take a look around: a new generation of Scottish bands are rising to the challenge. Leaving Simple Minds, Big Country, Lloyd Cole And The Commotions and The Waterboys aside for the moment (the old guard already7), there’s iiue And Cry, Wet Wet Wet, Danny Wilson, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Love And Money (who haven’t been quite as successful as everyone seems to think, or as good as
they'd have us believe) making regular forays into chartland, no doubt to be followed by Jesse iiae, Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, The Bathers, The Lift and possibly Primal Scream and The Shaman, who have been doing good business in the indie charts. I personally wouldn't turn a hair it I saw The Crows supporting U2 on their next tour, and if the idea of The Proclaimers as hit singles artists strikes you as odd, remember, a lot stranger things have happened in pop music than that.
Perhaps the most surprising name on that list is The Jesus And Mary Chain, the only group who were old-fashioned! cool/canny enough to courtthat old rock ’n' roll cliche outrage; iorwhom it seemed that attitude was all, and any semblance oi music was to be buried under an avalanche oi ieedback. Not so, for when the curtain oi feedback was swept aside we heard the sweetest oi melodies, and the same three chords that had built every great rock 'n' roll song.
There’s surprisingly little rock ’n’ roll in the current batch of hopefuls. The first glimpse the chart-following nation got oi the dominant Caledonlan influences was when Hipsway’s ‘The Honey Thief' struck it lucky. lilpsway, like Love And Money, were trad enough to stick plenty of rock guitar into the brew, which basically consisted of varying degrees of soul and 70s’ funk, with each group throwing in little spices of their own. Wet Wet Wet, for instance, would love to be a black soul band, and Love And Money approach funk from almost exactly the same angle as David Bowie did in the mid-70s.
No one's quite sure where this peculiarly West of Scotland obsession comes from. Not even the Glasgow Herald's rock columnist Dave Belcher. Wasn’t the old idea that Glaswegians, like Liverpudllans, were into American music because both cities were ports?
‘Dh yeah, it came over on the Gulf Stream. Somebody else told me the old Motown records came over as ship's ballast. . . . Probably Motown and soul music got to Scotland later than other places, because in Manchester in the late 60s, early 70s it was much more alive than it was in Scotland at the time. Scotland at that time was more into a rougher 8&0 type of thing. People like Maggie Bell were perfonnlng regularly. it kind of arrived in Glasgow later. idon't mean that in any insulting way, but it permeated at different rates in different areas.’
' Coming from - Dundee, hometown ~ of ex-Associate Billy McKenzie, Danny Wilson seem to have ingested a different set oi inspirations, quite unashamedly namechecklng Steely Dan, whose influence can be heard allover their debut long player ‘Meet Danny Wilson'. Funniiy enough for a group with no discemabie image, whose distinguishing marks are hard to recall only a few minutes after their appearances on Hold Tight or some
other pop programme, Danny Wilson have so far gone the farthest in
America. There seems no real explanation as
to why this Scottish wave is happening now. The number of venues putting on live music in Glasgow certainly helps (the largest number of venues outside London), in that it gives bands the experience of playing live and an opportunity to build up an audience. The famed ability of the people to deflate with a single word anyone who entertains delusions of grandeur certainly helps musicians keep a realistic perspective. But Dave Belcher has his own theory, and he's quite serious about it.
‘l think rough gravelly Scottish accents frighten English Adrii men into signing more Scottish bands than they might normally do from other areas of Britain. i’m sure it’s true: a lot of London-based Southerners have a quilt complex about Scotland, and they're easily overawed by Scotsman growling at them, particularly Glaswegians.’
liue and Cry’s Pat Kane likes that one.
‘I think that's probably true. i think what they find even more intimidating is an articulate Scotsman.’ Please 2 ' note: Pat Kane himself is nothing if not articulate. ‘i think people always regard Scotland as being like Liverpool, some province of England, forgetting the fact that it's every right to have lots of bands coming out of it because it's a nation unto itself.’
The idea that mass unemployment has been a tremendous breeding ground for creative talent has always been popular.
‘lt's the one that’s always cited. i suppose it is, but I can’t get too wortred up about the idea. Yes, but i don’t know what evidence you would have to support it. The other one on those lines is that so many Glaswegians who get involved in bands get to the top because all these West of Scotland people are real fighters and they always get to the top. And i can’t really cope with that idea either.’
if there is an ~ -‘ answer to that ’ question, then it’s probably a . , . ‘ combination of all the above plus “ , several others , nobody’sthoughtof ‘\"\ yet. But a strong Scottish element in the charts, if not a ‘Scottlsh wave' has been predicted forquite a few years. As Dave Belcher puts it, the attention paid has ‘a self-perpetuating momentum. it started four or so years ago. People began to listen to Glasgow and come up to Glasgow and i think they just continued to do that. The pattern had been established.’ Let us not forget the ones who fell by the wayside in the perennial search for the perfect pop beat: Usually signed up for vast amounts of money long before they were ready and then falling into obscurity. Bands like Hey! Elastica, The One D’Clock Gang, ",0, Set The Tone . . . the list goes on and on.
For every one that makes it . . .
The List 16 - 29 October 7