Jock Scot Albums

During the week I watched Saint Jack, an under-rated Peter Bogdanovich movie from 1979 that starred Ben Gazzara as Jack Flowers, a fatalistic Italian-American washed up in Singapore. Here he makes a living taking care of the needs of English-speaking expats and visitors, mainly American GIs, touring and whoring while on leave from Vietnam.

Filmed on location, Saint Jack was produced by Roger Corman, who’d given Bogdanovich his first directorial break on the 1968 movie Targets.

Gazzara, Bogdanovich and Corman, that’s a combination of talents you’ve got to like the sound of.

The movie doesn’t offer that much in the way of a plot and it could be accused of lacking real tension until its final act when Jack’s offered a wad of money to take uncompromising photos of an anti-war American Senator. But I do like Saint Jack a lot, mainly due to Gazzara’s performance.

A Korean vet who’s handy with a quip, generous with a tip and fond of a Scotch, Gazzara’s role as Flowers shares many similarities with his turn as Cosmo Vittelli in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and in a fairer world, he might have found himself with a Best Actor Oscar nomination for at least one of these parts.

Saint Jack, incidentally, was banned in Singapore, due to the seedy portrayal of the country although this ridiculous piece of censorship was rescinded in 2006. Here’s the trailer:


Watching Saint Jack inevitably got me musing on the 1995 album of the same name by The Nectarine N°9. Released on the reactivated Postcard label, this was one of the best Scottish albums of the ’90s despite being routinely ignored by many on its release.

It could easily be argued that Postcard Mark II, like Gazzara, was underestimated. Back then Alan Horne was still at his irascible best, fuming about local bores like Deacon Blue; the media (which was the ‘most evil thing in the world) and indie groups – telling Tom Lappin in The List: ‘They all tend to come across as public schoolboys who want to be in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.’

Whether you agreed with him or not, it was a pity that albums like Saint Jack and Vic Godard’s The End of the Surrey People failed to garner the critical kudos experienced by Postcard in the early ’80s especially when you think of all those journeymen Britpoppers like Gene and Shed Seven who, as Saint Jack hit record stores, were being feted with two page spreads in the music press and singles and albums in the charts.

On Saint Jack, NN9 were joined in the studio by Jock Scot, who memorably contributed Just Another Fucked-Up Little Druggy On The Scene.

Jock’s poetry might have struck some as simplistic but therein lies a big daud of his talent, making the difficult look simple. Autobiographical, unflinching and literally laugh out loud funny (LLOL?), he only ever published a single poetry collection, 1993’s Where Is My Heroine? Jock, though, was always more of a performance poet and took as much inspiration from the everyday world as from traditional poets. Think a madcap mix of Chuck Bukowski and Matt McGinn.

I remember seeing him live at the Gilded Balloon during the Edinburgh Festival in the second half of the 1990s, a raucous night where most of the audience was every bit as drunk as Jock, myself included. A fun-filled evening as enjoyable as any standard concert I attended around this time.

A patter merchant par excellence, Jock immediately struck me as the sorta guy that you would have loved to spend a night in the pub with (or maybe an afternoon and night with). A close pal of The Clash, Libertines and Ian Dury, I bet he would have supplied many reasons to be cheerful.

My Personal Culloden from 1997 was the final album released by Postcard and like those two albums mentioned earlier, it failed to generate the interest it clearly deserved. Heavenly Recordings reissued it in 2015 with an option of vinyl for the first time and a recommendation from Irvine Welsh: ‘Jock Scot is, along with Iggy Pop and Paddy Stanton, one of my all-time heroes. A Musselburgh superstar.’

This time round the reaction was more favourable with Uncut praising it as ‘a minor masterpiece of Scottish independent rock’ and Mojo magazine declaring him ‘Alba’s Greatest Poet’.

Sadly Jock died from cancer last year. His funeral in April 2016 was attended by a large and varied cast of mourners including senior Pop artist Peter Blake, drinking buddy Shane MacGowan, author Will Self and designer Pam Hogg.

Jock’s Mod Poem is one of only two poems I could recite, the other being Burns’s My Heart’s in the Highlands, drummed into me as a child in the early seventies – one every twenty odd years, maybe it’s time to add a third to the memory banks. Maybe it’ll be another one of Jock’s.

Apparently written in less than 6 minutes while waiting on the Underground, here is Mod Poem from The Caledonian Blues, the album he collaborated on with Gareth Sager:

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