I’m a King Kong man, I’m a voodoo man, Oh I’m an apeman

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This week I got round to buying English Weather, the latest collection compiled by Bob Stanley (this time together with Saint Etienne mainstay Pete Wiggs). The album focuses on that post-Beatles, pre-glam early 1970s era of British music that is seldom remembered with any particular fondness.

Grabbing a copy of the album wasn’t one of my better ideas. There’s an awful – and awfully long – Daevid Allen track that begins: ‘I met a man, a wise old man’ and there’s also a band represented here called Aardvark.

Do I really need to say anything more about anybody that ever thought calling themselves Aardvark was a good idea?

Worse still is Til The Christ Come Back by Bill Fay, which has been described as ‘spiritual heavy rock’ and contains this couplet: ‘Alas, said the cloud, what have we here? I believe it’s the world and it’s covered in fear.’

Jesus wept.

Admittedly a couple of track are excellent: John Cale’s Big White Cloud and O Caroline by Matching Mole, and there are also a number of intriguing enough listens: Moon Bird by The Roger Webb Sound is nicely atmospheric and could have been lifted from a not very frightening English horror film where sexy lesbian vampires are never far away and there’s a pre-Pilot band called Scotch Mist with a song called Pamela, and oh, oh, oh it’s far from Magic. Or January.

But I much prefer this gloomy folk number to their lightweight pop though.

The dawning of the new decade might conjure up images of boys and girls in badly knitted tank tops; Please Sir!, Queenie’s Castle and Magpie and pints of mild served up in dimpled pint tumblers by an Alf Ramsey lookalike, probably known as something like Cyril or Selwyn. For me it’s when I began to develop an increasing interest in music, big chart singles like In The Summertime, My Sweet Lord and Spirit In The Sky.

Released towards the end of the year (and even better) was The Kinks’ Apeman with its catchy calypso tinged feel and amazing lyrics – ‘I’m a King Kong man, I’m a voodoo man, oh I’m an apeman’ and with one of them, John Gosling, dressed up as an ape while he pounded the piano on Top of the Pops.

This was as good as it got for an eight or nine year old.

From the snappily titled Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One here is Apeman:

 
Slightly before Apeman came out another single I loved was released: Ride a White Swan by T. Rex. This took it’s time to head up the hit parade, spending eleven whole weeks before peaking at its highest chart position, number two, by which time we were into 1971.

Ditching incense and Tolkien and embracing satin and tat (and electric guitars) proved a masterstroke for Marc Bolan and it wouldn’t be long before the term T. Rextasy was coined, reflecting the band’s phenomenal rise. Pop was becoming very important to me and my fellow children of the revolution, mainly thanks to Ride a White Swan, a ‘boogie mind poem’ that helped kick-start glam rock.

‘Over and done inside two minutes,’ Bob Stanley noted in his book Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop, ‘it was simplicity itself and genuinely exciting.’

Something that you couldn’t say about a single track on English Weather.

With the kind of crazily catchy three note riff that even the giants of rock and roll would have envied, here is Ride a White Swan:

 
For more on the The Kinks click here, and for more on Marc Bolan/T.Rex, here you go.

On Impulse

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Many of the vinyl buying brigade and even some record sellers have now turned against Record Store Day.

“Clearly it would be unrealistic not to have expected things to have gradually changed over the last ten years,” Kevin Buckle of Avalanche wrote this week in the Edinburgh Evening News, “but truth is, what was a very well intentioned idea has become commercialised and distorted to a point where it is unrecognisable from those early years.”

As I’ve said before, there’s no way that I’m ever gonna queue all night for the chance to buy some horribly overpriced records that I probably already own whether on vinyl, CD or MP3 and even if I don’t already own the tracks I want then I can always (in all likelihood) download them somewhere online but if RSD still appeals to you, then good luck finding whatever you’re after. To quote again from the same article: “Support high street record shops, support new music and if possible support new music in high street record shops.”

And here I’ll add my own far from original advice: On any day of the year you fancy.

By coincidence, while cleaning out a cupboard this morning, I came across a bunch of old albums collected together in a record shop bag from Impulse Records & Tapes, which certainly brought back some memories and prompted this rather impulsive post.

Carrier bags like this have over recent years – and for reasons that I can’t fully understand – started to become collector’s items and some apparently fetch reasonable sums of money when auctioned off on eBay although when I just looked none were going for anything above twenty quid. I seem to remember hearing that a book consisting of photos of old (and possibly some new) bags from British record shops had been published and a few articles have also appeared in the press about the phenomenon.

And so for anyone interested, here’s my old bag which is chanky to the extent that I really thought it best to set to a high contrast when assembling in Paint Shop Pro:

Impulse Records & Tapes bag

Impulse started out in Hamilton before adding a second branch in East Kilbride town centre in the summer of 1977, the grand gala opening involving a helicopter and several Radio Clyde DJs. I remember heading over in the early days during a school lunch hour and being given a Jam poster and badge – a very big badge from memory.

Before then in East Kilbride, records and cassettes were available in Rockabill (closed years ago) John Menzies (now WH Smith) and Boots, which is still Boots albeit there’s no racks of vinyl nowadays.

Saturday morning trips into Glasgow and shops like Listen, Bruce’s and Graffiti continued but it was good to have a record shop within walking distance and I did spend many hours flipping through the Punk and New Wave box on the counter, stacked with singles by the likes of The Adverts, The Damned and The Clash – and bands like Motorhead, The Count Bishops and even Loyd Grossman’s old band Jet Bronx And The Forbidden – in other words, records that didn’t really belong in a punk or new wave box.

Today, the unit – which I think is now a pet store that is actually set to move shortly – shares the same row as a carry-out shop, a chippy, a bookies and a boozer, so you never have to stray more than a few yards to keep the vice or carbohydrate levels up. Sadly though, if vinyl is your addiction you’re out of luck.

*

Okay, here’s a track from one of the albums I found in the bag. From the disappointing No More Heroes album, this is The Stranglers and the far from disappointing title track:


Record Store Day 2017 will take place on Saturday, April 22.

For more on Mono click here and for more on Love Music Glasgow, here you go, although as I write the site is still about to go live so here’s the shop’s Facebook page too.

Simple Minds & Secret Goldfish

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Pub rock in Glasgow in the late 1970s wasn’t any big deal. Due to restrictive licensing laws which the Church seemed to have a big say in, boozers didn’t have the option to charge admission for gigs and when acts were booked for places like the Dial Inn they were usually of the human jukebox variety.

Okay, the Burn’s Howff might be considered an exception but that was a rockers joint, full of hairy arsed hippies and bikers wanting to hear Lynyrd Skynyrd or Nazareth soundalikes – actually Nazareth themselves played there back in the day. Maggie Bell’s Stone the Crows also took to the Howff stage and Alex Harvey first met up with the future members of SAHB there. Later, the Mars Bar became another exception, famously boasting the early career of Simple Minds by giving them a Sunday night residency in 1978.

Simple Minds were neither a human jukebox nor longhaired rockers and in comparison to these types of acts they looked as if they came from another planet (Mars or otherwise). Pub bands just didn’t wear make-up or have a well thought out visual identity; they didn’t have any (albeit minimal) light show, introductory Eno-esque tape, dancers and they seldom took themselves so absolutely seriously or if they did they certainly wouldn’t show it.

NME’s Ian Cranna watched them that October and enthused about the ‘magic fusion’ of their arty old wave favourites with ‘the fertile firepower of the New Wave’, concluding, ‘they create not just startlingly good rock music but a whole show, an event.’ He couldn’t recall the last time he’d witnessed such an exciting yet thoughtful talent, likewise his NME colleague Glenn Gibson soon joined in the rush to heap praise on the hot new band, calling them astonishing after watching them support – and outshine – 999 at Glasgow Uni.

Before the year was out Simple Minds also filled in as support act for The Only Ones at the Astoria in Edinburgh, The Stranglers in Aberdeen, Ultravox and then Squeeze in Grangemouth and Siouxsie and The Banshees at Glasgow’s Apollo.

Not surprisingly, several major labels began sniffing around including Arista. Bruce Findlay, who’d only recently signed a licensing deal with that label, allowing them to distribute his Zoom releases, had an brainwave: Jim Kerr had told him that he wished they ‘could get the money and clout that a major label could give us but with the independence and kudos that being with a small independent label brings,’ so Findlay asked Arista if they would give him the money to fund Simple Minds. They agreed and so he lured them on to Zoom, then home to The Zones, Nightshift and The Questions.

Once signed, the boys wasted little time beginning work on what would become their debut L.P, originally intended to be called Children of the Game, before being re-titled Life in a Day.

Here is the title track:


And just in case you were wondering who else was featured on the Old Grey Whistle Test that night then here’s your answer and I’m guessing a few Springsteen fans might have been slightly pissed off by whoever compiled that day’s Evening Times TV listings:

Simple_Minds_OGWT_1979

Simple Minds also played the Third Eye Centre back in 1978, a venue that after much renovation evolved into the CCA, which still hosts live music including last summer an evening featuring The Secret Goldfish, whose new album, Petal Split, is just out on Creeping Bent.

Secret_Goldfish_CCA.png

The Secret Goldfish arrived like a breath of fresh air during the peak of Britpop with a breezy indie pop sound that brought them quickly to the attention of John Peel, who invited them to record a couple of sessions for his show and perform at the Meltdown Festival he curated in 1998.

Before the end of the 1990s they’d released a number of singles, split singles, EPs and a couple of albums.

Then they went all J.D. Salinger.

So, it’s been eighteen years since their last album but within moments of opener O. Pioneers kicking off Petal Split, listeners will be reassured that the band haven’t misplaced their knack of making great music.

That bright pop pulse rarely gives way all the way through to the closer, their version of the Edwyn Collins penned Ain’t That Always The Way which recalls Nouvelle Vague fronted by a Scottish Sarah Cracknell – some bloggers out there will likely disagree with this opinion but I do prefer Katy McCullar’s cute coo here to Paul Quinn’s cowboy croon on the 1985 original.

In between these tracks there’s plenty of zippy guitars, flouncy melodies and uplifting choruses that display the band’s love of everything from 60’s girl groups to C86 – oh and their version of Vic Godard’s Outrageous Things is pretty much irresistible and a real highlight although my favourite track (at least at the moment) might just be Winter Tears #2, a melancholy nugget that ends before even reaching the two minute mark.

This is the lead single from the album, Amelia Star, a track I liked on first hearing and which I’ve liked even more on each subsequent hearing:


For more on Simple Minds click here and for more on The Secret Goldfish, here you go.

Radio Stars Think Inside the Box

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Coinciding with their fortieth anniversary, Friday saw the release of the entire collected works of Radio Stars in the form of their first ever box-set, Thinking Inside the Box.

Out on the Cherry Red imprint, the package comes in the shape of 4 CDs together with a twenty four page booklet fully illustrated with cartoons by Phil Smee, photos, contemporaneous ads, clippings and extensive notes penned by Dave Thompson.

Thinking Inside the Box includes the two officially released Radio Stars albums Songs For Swinging Lovers and The Holiday Album along with a shedload of singles, rarities, previously unissued John Peel sessions and some live recordings and, to celebrate its release, I invited bassist Martin Gordon (formerly also of Sparks and Jet) to select some favourite songs featured in the collection and give his thoughts on them.

Big thanks to Martin for agreeing to the idea.

If you want to hear any of the tracks chosen – and you really should – click any underlined song title for a link to Spotify.

RADIO-STARS boxset

Make Your Mind Up

What a naughty boy! Various forms of Beastliness


The Beast of Barnsley (CD1 Songs For Swinging Lovers track 3)

The Beast of Ankara (CD3 Singles & Rarities track 22)

• The Beast #2 (CD3 Singles & Rarities track 10)

The Beast of Barnsley dealt (directly) with one Reg Chapman, mass rapist of that ilk, and indirectly with the gutter press who lasciviously documented his exploits. We recorded and mixed the tune, and prepared it for release on Songs For Swinging Lovers. Then the Beast’s solicitors got wind of the fact that Reg was to be immortalised in song.

They scrutinised the lyrics and found that, in the song, his mother had apparently been accused of trying to chop her son’s head off with a meat cleaver. ‘His mum tried to chop Beasty’s head off with a cleaver….” went the lyric. There was no denying it, that’s what it said. This, m’learned friends pointed out, was incorrect, inasmuch as she had indeed considered chopping his head off with a meat cleaver but hadn’t actually done it.

Her omission was beneficial to Radio Stars, of course, otherwise I would have had to write a song about something else, but still. Taking the legal point, I changed the line to ‘Mum considered chopping…” as instructed, and honour was satisfied. Andy Ellison sang a replacement and we had to remix the thing all over again.

Various elements of the media picked up on this development, with the Daily Telegraph running it as a front page item. Some months later, a person claiming to be the Beast’s cousin came up at a gig and proudly declared his family connection. He was rather hurt at the band’s response, or lack of it.

Just for fun, we ran off an alternative version, which would in later years have been considered unplugged given that it featured an acoustic guitar, albeit flanged. This was used as a B-side and termed Beast No.2.

In more recent times, various other Beasts have emerged, and a Turkish Beast in particular. In 2016, the song was revisited in order to document The Beast of Ankara. It leads off with some tasty baglama saz, just to get you in the right oriental, but beastly, mood.

Old Grey Whistle Beast Test:


More about the Beast: http://martingordon.de/radio-stars/the-beast-of-barnsley/

Unaccountably Blue


Accountancy Blues then (CD2 Holiday Album track 7)

Accountancy Blues somewhat later (CD3 Singles & Rarities track 13)

The Holiday Album included the words to Accountancy Blues but unaccountably not the music. This came as rather a surprise to me, discovering it as I did only when examining the rear sleeve of the finished product. It turned out that certain parties were not convinced of the song’s integrity and rather effectively just removed it. No further discussion was necessary.

Some years later, I discovered an edited version, wherein some of the introductory silliness had been removed; obviously some effort had been made to make the tune more sensible, but without success. The truncated slightly-silly version is now restored to its original place on the Holiday Album, with the full-length extremely-silly version appearing in CD3.

You Think It’s All Over? It is Now


 It’s All Over album version (CD2 Holiday Album track 13)

It’s All Over truncated radio edit (CD3 Singles & Rarities track 15)

The full-length motor-biking drama of It’s All Over required some 5 minutes to tell the full story. Management thought that the tear-jerking tale might make a single, so some exploratory edits were conducted to make it radio-friendly. Whether they did or not was never actually put to the test, but both versions are included here. The user can decide. Please do not run into a wall in ecstasy as the tragic tale unfolds.

Radio Stars Extrapolated – Can’t You Just Make It Longer?


Radio Stars original version (CD2 Holiday Album track 1)

Radio Stars single (CD3 track 11)

I was by now accustomed to being asked to make songs longer. It had happened in Jet (Song for Hymn was under one minute), and I had refused. This time, I was a sadder but wiser beaver. The original Radio Stars was also about a minute long, serving as an introductory piece on stage. The record company liked it and wanted to release it as a single, but complained that it was too short. Possibly uniquely, we had to edit in more material to make the tune more radio-friendly.

Accommodatingly I wrote a new middle section. The original recording sounded great, especially Ian Macleod’s guitar, so I proposed to just record the new section and stick it in the appropriate place. This is exactly what we did. The eagle-eared, and indeed the cloth-eared, will no doubt notice the join, as the drums and guitar sound completely different in the middle section, but no matter. We performed the elongated version at Reading Festival in 1978; it seemed to go on for ever but some people like that kind of thing.

Where Have All the Russians Gone?


No Russians in Russia from Stop It (CD3 Singles & Rarities track 3)

No Russians in Russia revisited on the Holiday Album (CD2 track 12)

We recorded No Russians at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, with the marvellous Neil Richmond engineering. The sound could have been better however, and indeed it was better by the time we later recorded Songs for Swinging Lovers in the same studio. For the Stop It EP, we achieved what we could, even I thought it sounded a bit on the tinny side. For the Holiday Album, recorded in the more lavish Kinks-owned Konk Studio in Hornsey, we had another go at the tune and beefed it up with brass and additional Cyrillic vocals. There is also a third version extant, rendered as reggae, but perhaps the less said about this the better.

Why There Are No Russians in Russia: https://formalcontentsonly.wordpress.com/tag/no-russians-in-russia/

Buzz Off


• I Got the Buzz (CD3 Singles & Rarities track 18)

• I Got the Buzz (John’s Children/Black and White)

I Got the Buzz (Blue Meanies/Pop Sensibility)

A plethora of versions. The original was recorded by the Blue Meanies and sung by occasional Radio Stars sax player Chris Gent, the second by a reformed Radio Stars in their cello-and-keyboards-to-go phase, and the third by John’s Children long after some event or other. The only thing they have in common is the bass – neither the chords of the structures are consistent across all of them, although not for want of trying.

RADIO-STARS-box-front-cover-500x500

For more on Thinking Inside the Box, click here and for more on Martin Gordon, here you go.

All Hopped Up and Ready to Go

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Ramones: Sheena is a Punk Rocker (1977) Sire Records.

7-by-7-1977-logo-2016

Sheena came out in Britain in the early summer of 1977 and as Charles Shaar Murray noted in his NME review: ‘Look, all The Ramones songs sound like hit singles and then don’t sell, but this is so flat-out delightful that not even the nasty boring dull-as-bleedin’ ditchwater Britpublic will be able to resist it.’

He was right. Helped by their British tour that summer which included a date in Glasgow, Sheena became the first Ramones single to make its way into the British top thirty, joining the likes of God Save The Queen, Peaches and, em, We Can Do It by the Liverpool FC football squad – which luckily I have absolutely no memory of.

Something I would like to be able to say about another hit of the time: The Eagles’ Hotel California.

Ramones - Sheena is a Punk Rocker sleeve & ad

The Bruddas might have sold enough records to make the charts with a song that surely couldn’t even offend someone desperate for offence but still the idea of the band playing a show in Glasgow was being resisted by the authorities in the city.

Local Lord Provost Peter McCann had went out on a high not long beforehand, hitting out at a version of Dracula at the highly respected Citizens Theatre that contained male and female nudity: ‘To put on a disgusting play like this where school children might go in is scandalous.’

Of course, he hadn’t seen it.

Some did entertain the idea that the anti-punk witch-hunt in Glasgow might end with his departure but this was soon proved to be wishful thinking. May ’77 saw the announcement of a new Lord Provost, a pensioner called David Hodge who immediately nailed his colours to the mast.

For the second time in a year The Ramones made front page news in the city’s Evening Times, this time with the headline: NEW PROVOST IN PUNK ROCK ROW; Hodge declaring he’d do everything in his power to stop the debut of the New Yorkers in Glasgow at Strathclyde Uni.

Up until the night of the students only (so no me) show on Saturday 22. May, many concert-goers suspected that they would be denied the chance to see The Ramones, fearing a last minute ban would be enforced but in the end, the nearest threat to a cancellation occurred when the PA blew out after support act Talking Heads’ afternoon soundcheck. Opening their set with Blitzkrieg Bop, the band even played Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue, the song that had given them their first Evening Times front page.

Punk Rock 1 Glasgow City Council 0.

Here it is live, Sheena is a Punk Rocker:


Times change. Twenty one years later a punk comedy/musical called Sheena is a Punk Rocker was performed at the Glasgow’s bastion of populist entertainment, the Pavilion, Scotsman critic Mark Brown describing it as ‘more Val Doonican than Iggy Pop’. I didn’t bother paying good music to see it myself.

For more on The Ramones click here and for more on The Ramones and Glasgow related punk rock rows, here you go.

Concubine & Big New Prinz

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As someone who was very fond of the music of Casual Sex, I was pleased to hear that three former members of the band – Chris, Samuel and Pete – have reconvened in a new act named I. Solar. Well, it makes search queries a lot easier, doesn’t it?

The sound of I. Solar is not surprisingly related to that of Casual Sex, retaining that 1980ish feel that instantly makes me think back to nights spent in Glasgow clubs like Maestro’s and the Ultratheque.

Signed to Little Tiger Records, a new independent student run label based in Busby, they’ll be playing their first ever show at Glasgow bar The Hug and Pint on April 28 with support from labelmates Fenella who impressed when they were on the bill at Vic Godard & the Subway Sect’s Club Left show at the CCA last year.

With a video directed by Chris McCrory, this is Concubine, the debut single from I. Solar:

This week saw Mark Edward Smith celebrate his sixtieth birthday which gives me a good excuse to feature some Fall. Not that any excuses for that are really necessary.

What can be said about The Fall mainstay that hasn’t been said before?

Well BBC Music Twitter account came up with a new one, erroneously announcing a few days ago that the Manc music legend had croaked it.

Of course, reports of his death were much exaggerated.

I am Kurious, Orange

Length-wise, The Fall did enjoy a just about unparallelled spell in its longevity as one of Britain’s most exciting and innovative bands from the late 1970s right up till fairly recently. I’ve seen the band live many, many times over the years, sometimes their shows have been fantastic, sometimes frustrating. Very frustrating.

The first Brix era is my own highpoint for The Fall and their Barrowlands show from 1988 was definitely one of their better shows. From this era comes this this – with a great stomping intro, Smith’s trademark pub drunk bark and a video featuring Aberdonian punk ballet star Michael Clark (that’s him in the wig), this is Big New Prinz, the opener on the 1988 album I Am Kurious, Oranj:


For more on The Fall, click here and for more on Little Tiger Records, here you go

Big Gold Dream: Play To Win (The DVD)

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big-gold-dream-dvd

Just out in DVD this week is Big Gold Dream, the feature length documentary that I reviewed in roughcut form back in the autumn of 2015.

To the surprise of the team behind the film, the first batch of DVDs completely sold out in just over 30 minutes and when a second, larger batch was put together it sold out in under 24 hours. Deservedly so as this really is a must-see ninety minutes for anybody with an interest in the punk/post-punk/independent scene that developed in Scotland during the late 1970s and 1980s.

As Neil Cooper puts it in his blurb on the back cover of the DVD: ‘Everything you hear today, tomorrow and knocked into the middle of next week started here. Indie-Disco, Art-Rock and Difficult Fun are all in the mix.’

If you want to purchase a copy, here’s your link and if you want to hear about the sequel of sorts made by the same the team, click here for my interview with director Grant McPhee.


Here’s a re-post of my review:

Big Gold Dream: Scottish Post-Punk and Infiltrating the Mainstream

I’ve rewound to the early days of 1979. By this point independent music labels have started springing up in Scotland; there’s Sensible and Zoom in Edinburgh for instance, Boring in Glasgow, NRG in Dundee and No Bad in Dunfermline but they’re still a real rarity.

I’ve rewound to the early days of 1979. By this point independent music labels have started springing up in Scotland; there’s Sensible and Zoom in Edinburgh for instance, Boring in Glasgow, NRG in Dundee and No Bad in Dunfermline but they’re still a real rarity.

In an NME article titled Product Packaging, and Rebel Music, I read about the most high profile addition to this trend, Edinburgh’s Fast Product, whose first releases, singles by The Mekons and 2.3, had came out around a year earlier.

Bob Last, a former architecture student and theatre set designer at the Traverse, is interviewed and writer Ian Cranna concludes that: ‘Last has the potential to be what Brecht was in theatre,’ a statement that sounds mightily impressive even though at this point in my life I know as much about concepts such as Bertolt Brecht’s alienation effect as I do about quantum mechanics.

Nowadays I’m reasonably up to speed with Brecht and, although I’m still pretty mystified by the science behind the big bang theory, I think I can at least say that according to the new feature length documentary Big Gold Dream, the nearest musical equivalent of any big bang exploding the whole punk and independent movement in Scotland into life would be The Slits and Subway Sect performing on the Edinburgh Playhouse date of The Clash’s White Riot Tour.

‘It was a real Year Zero moment,’ Davy Henderson explains in the film. ‘It was incredible.’

Many young fans were certainly galvanised that evening and a bunch of them would quickly gravitate to the artistic hub of the Keir Street tenement flat of Bob Last and Fast co-conspirator Hilary Morrison, where they would discuss music and literature, try out some William Burroughs style cut-ups and eat a lot of toasties.

Fireengines_KeirSt_sittingroom

Fire Engines, Keir St. Sitting Room: Photo by Hilary Morrison

‘Glam punk’ Morrison is an always particularly entertaining presence in the film, talking of her delight at Johnny Rotten telling her that he despised her when she asked him to sign a Sex Pistols single in Virgin Records in Edinburgh and recalling the tale of having to break into somebody’s uncle’s remote Borders cottage in order to record the first single by The Mekons. I won’t though spoil the ending of her very amusing story about a photoshoot that involves various Fire Engines, £15 worth of meat from Safeway, baby oil and a visit regarding a break-in unrelated to any recording session.

Alan Rankine also made me smile while relaying a meeting between American impresario Seymour Stein and The Associates, where the Sire head honcho offers them the moon unaware that Billy Mackenzie was far from the average rock star and more interested in whippets than whopping advances, especially if the money involved world tours.

Fast Product release a string of stunningly inventive tracks by The Mekons, Gang of Four, Human League, Scars, Dead Kennedys and even as part of their one-off Earcom series, Joy Division. They also turn down any chance of Joy Division signing to Fast due to their problematic name, turn down the chance to release Human Fly by The Cramps and somehow manage to sell rotting orange peel. The label mutates into Pop:Aural and brings out records by local acts including a Fire Engines single called Big Gold Dream.

A new kid on the block independent makes its presence felt very quickly in Glasgow and the inter label rivalry between Fast/Pop:Aural and Postcard Records is explored. Yes, both labels share the belief that Scottish acts shouldn’t have to up sticks and move to London in order to have a shot at success but they disagree about so much more with Alan Horne branding Fast ‘pathetic’ in one music press interview – although Bob Last denies the feud involved him sending any death threats to his west coast adversaries.

Glad to hear it.

Notably, Alan Horne, a kind of West End of Glasgow Warhol in the early ’80s, passed up on the chance to appear here and I’m sure that, if he is even anything like the spectacularly acerbic young man of the Postcard era, director Grant McPhee could have had great fun intercutting between the pair as they aimed a few digs at each other – like the footage of Alan McGee and Kevin Shields in the documentary Beautiful Music.

‘He was condescending and dismissive of musicians’, Campbell Owens of Aztec Camera complains although David McClymont from Orange Juice remembers him as being ‘a lovely guy’. But only very ironically.

A happier relationship existed between Bob Last and Tony Wilson with Last even offering Wilson advice when he was setting up Factory. It would have been interesting to learn Wilson’s thoughts on Fast but at least we get to hear what the ever reliable raconteur Peter Hook has to say about the two men.

Scars doing pix for single sleeve2

Scars doing pix for single sleeve: Photo by Hilary Morrison

Anyone who read my Scottish Post–Punk Top Ten a few weeks back won’t be too surprised to learn that I’m very happy that Scars are one of the most heavily featured acts here, with Douglas McIntyre of Creeping Bent Records going as far as to argue that Horrorshow and Adult/ery were Scotland’s Anarchy in the UK but if there is a heart of the documentary it’s probably Fire Engines singer Davy Henderson, later also of Win, Nectarine No. 9 and The Sexual Objects. Henderson is always fascinating, often funny and obviously still haunted by his decision (urged on by Bob Last) to break up Fire Engines. ‘One of the biggest regrets of my life,’ he admits.

Around this point it’s time for the infiltrating the mainstream part of Big Gold Dream, some of the film’s participants achieving this ambition more successfully than others.

Win seem to be on the verge of a real commercial breakthrough after their uber-pop single You’ve Got The Power is used in a very imaginative ad for a third-rate Scottish lager but they’re cruelly denied a place in the top 40 due to the track being chart weighted as such a high percentage of sales were concentrated in one part of Britain.

Aztec Camera, Strawberry Switchblade and The Bluebells fare better as do Orange Juice, who move from Postcard to Polydor, while Alan Horne is offered his own label by London Records which he names Swamplands – the cutesy pussycat Postcard logo replaced by a prowling panther (something I’d strangely never picked up on until Allan Campbell mentioned it here).

It’s Bob Last, however, in his role as manager (or Executive Manipulator) of The Human League and Heaven 17 who is involved in the most stratospheric success aided greatly by his decision to help split the original Human League line-up in two and bring former Rezillo Jo Callis into the shiny new version of the band and later insisting that the shiny new version of the band release Don’t You Want Me as a single despite pressure from Phil Oakey not to.

Despite the global success of Dare and the undoubted influence of Fast Product, Bob Last didn’t go on to equal in music or any other medium what Brecht did in theatre, which is hardly a disgrace. And he did also go on to co-produce one of the most magical animated movies that you could ever wish to see, The Illusionist, which also incidentally features music by Malcolm Ross and Ian Stoddart – who both appear in Big Gold Dream – and Leo Condie in the guise of beat combo, Billy Boy and the Britoons.

Big Gold Dream won the Audience Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and so far reviews have been highly favourable: my fellow blogger the Vinyl Villain, for instance, calling it ‘a joy to watch’.

Richard Jobson, though, isn’t much of a fan, tweeting: ‘Just watched Big Gold Dream rewrite history to fit a story and Bob Last’s ego – fuck off.’

I thought myself that at least some mention of The Skids could have been made – likewise Johnny and the Self Abusers/Simple Minds, but just don’t ask me what I would have cut to make room for these suggestions as there are so many great interviewees here such as Fay Fife, Billy Sloan, Jill Bryson, Vic Godard and Tam Dean Burn to name only a handful.

The film is a vast improvement on the fatally flawed BBC Scotland doc Caledonia Dreaming (no Hue and Cry and Wet Wet Wet for starters). In fact, it is easily the best documentary on Scottish music I can think of and one of the best music documentaries made in the last decade or so and the good news is that a sequel Teenage Superstars: The Fall of Postcard and the Rise of 53rd & 3rd Records will follow on, hopefully in the not too distant future.

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