The Skids: Charles (No Bad Records) 1976
I won’t need to remind anyone reading this blog that 2016 witnessed an unusually large number of deaths of musicians and music industry figures: David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Brett Smiley, George Martin and Dale Griffin of Mott being just a handful of names of talents that spring to my mind. The high list of casualties has even led some music journalists to stupidly speak of the year having a hex on it as if strangers to the notion of coincidences.
Locally, one name whose death came back in April has remained largely under the radar. Sandy (Alexander) Muir might not be the most important figure in the history of Scottish music but the owner of Muir’s Record Shop in Dunfermline’s Queen Anne Street did play a vital role in the rise of Skids, managing the band for a spell as well as setting up a label to put out their first record.
No Bad Records, like two fellow Scottish based independents of the time, Sensible (The Rezillos) and Boring (The Exile) wasn’t a name to automatically excite, more a self-deprecating joke at the label’s expense – and I should point out here that the no here is short for not, as in when asked how you are doing, you might answer, ‘Aye. No’ bad.’
The basis of The Skids’ line-up was supplied by two former members of a covers band called Tattoo, a key feature of whose sound belonged to self taught guitarist Stuart Adamson, who’d become almost effortlessly efficient on his instrument while still at Beath High School, where his pal, bassist Bill Simpson, also attended.
Next to join was a granite-jawed punk with raccoon striped hair who could sing (kind of), had charisma in bucket-loads and who even wrote lyrics. The son of a miner, Richard Jobson had been given little encouragement at school and could easily have embraced the punk cliché of ‘no future’ at a time when many of his contemporaries were leaving school and either signing on the dole, starting a life as factory wage slave, or else, often in order to acquire an apprenticeship, signing up for a spell in the army, usually in locally favoured regiment, the Black Watch.
To complete the band, one final part of the jigsaw was required and found via an ad in the Dunfermline Press: ‘DRUMMER wanted for new New Wave band young and energetic. no hairies please.’
Tom Kellichan evidently did not have hair down his back and was in.
A new band name was required and after a run of daft suggestions such as Dr. White & The Plastic Bags, they settled on The Skids and under that name played their debut show in the summer of 1977 at the weekly Friday rock night at the Belleville Hotel in Dunfermline, where they supported the memorably named Matt Vinyl & the Decorators, an Edinburgh outfit whose punky R&B riffs proved reasonably popular when I saw them later at Satellite City in Glasgow, albeit they never looked likely to make any kind of real breakthrough.
Playing with a mix of borrowed and hired instruments, Richard and the boys excelled, unleashing their energetic rough and ready, though already distinctly Scottish, punk/new wave sound.
One interested member of the crowd at the Belleville gig had been Sandy Muir, who the band had personally invited to come along.
Muir was no punk aficionado but was immediately struck by the band’s talent and potential, in fact, so impressed was he that – after discussions with Bruce Findlay, the man behind Zoom – he agreed to help out the band, speedily setting up AIM Enterprises Ltd to promote them and No Bad to release material by them.
Some punky pseudonyms were adopted and used in press releases – Alex Plode (Bill), Stevie Cologne (Stuart), Tom Bomb (Tom) and Joey Jolson (Richard) – and these names were how the band members were known for a time, such as when they were being lauded in early issues of Fife fanzine Kingdom Come, where the photo below is taken from incidentally, although by the time of the release of Charles they had reverted to more conventional handles.
Three Stuart Adamson compositions were laid down at Edinburgh’s REL Studios (produced according to the record’s back sleeve by ‘Skids etc’). The Charles E.P (NB-1) was launched in March ’78 with Reasons and Test-Tube Babies making up the three track single.
Best-selling crime author and Fife boy Ian Rankin was an early fan, admiring the lyrics of Charles with that that twist at the end. ‘Charles’ was about a guy who worked in a factory like the one I worked in,’ he told Stuart Adamson biographer Allan Glen in the book In a Big Country. ‘It was about the kind of life waiting for most people in Fife back then, It was saying, ‘Don’t get stuck in a rut, don’t think that’s the only option – be bigger and braver’. Their songs were exciting and anthemic – and from very early on you knew they were destined for great things.’
According to Ripped and Torn fanzine Charles was ‘the best punk record to come out of Scotland yet’.
The song helped create a real buzz about the band with John Peel yet again becoming an early champion.
Within a year of their formation The Skids agreed to sign with Virgin. Sandy Muir telling the local press that the boys had been given, as big, if not a bigger break than Nazareth to prove themselves in the world of rock music, Nazareth just in case you don’t know being a successful band that had also been formed in Dunfermline but who would never have advertised for no hairies.
2017 will see The Skids back touring, dates including Edinburgh Liquid Room, Glasgow O2 ABC (where I’ll be going to see them), Montrose Town Hall and the Glen Pavilion in Dunfermline, Scotland.
Burning Cities, their first album in thirty five years should also be out sometime next year. For more on that, click here.
For more on The Skids, here you go.
No Bad continued after The Skids departure to Virgin, although with acts that would never enjoy the same level of media profile of The Skids, releasing a single from Biocar, a Dunfermline five-piece rock act whose other main claim to fame was supporting Girlschool at the Kinema in the summer of 1980, and a couple of albums by folk act Heritage, Some Rantin’ Rovin’ Fun (1980) and When the Dancin’ It’s A’ Done (1981) neither of which I have heard.
An episode of Andy Stewart’s STV early evening show Hear Here was devoted to Heritage in March of 1982, while When the Dancin’ it’s a’ Done made Scotsman critic Alistair Clark’s best folk albums of the year list. The band are still on the go.