The Other Sound of Young Scotland (Glasgow 1980 – Part One)


Simple Minds & Berlin Blondes

Siren guitar. Absolutely granite bassline and phosphorescent synth. Bring on the drums. ‘Overground / Underground,’ a voice sings with a hint of the unhinged. ‘Pulsating through / Street Parade / Day arcade / No cloning you.’

I’m back in Scotland just in time for Hogmanay and New Year and it’s time for some fun. On my return, one song keeps getting played every time I go out dancing, whether I head up the hill on Scott Street to Maestro’s or end up in some dive selling watered down lager, where blootered neds love to get their fists flying over any flimsy excuse. ‘Are you lookin’ at ma burd?’*

Already available on their second album Reel To Reel Cacophony, Changeling comes out as a single in the early days of the new decade. Simple Minds have a wide range of supporters from John Peel and NME to Smash Hits, who even reviewed the album twice, firstly giving it 8/10 before awarding it 9 1/2. ‘Strong melodies, vivid imagination, intensive atmosphere and the unique stamp of Jim Kerr’s dark genius.’

That January, I see Peter Capaldi’s band The Dreamboys at the Third Eye Centre. According to a pal I see them again supporting Dexy’s at Glasgow Tech although I can’t remember much about that show, due to an excessive day on the booze. If only the last but one Doctor Who could transport me back in his Tardis to refresh my memory. I see a number of bands in the Countdown and, best of all, I see Simple Minds at Tiffany’s.

Changeling somehow fails to chart but anybody who sees them live that night at Tiffany’s knows it is only a matter of time before they will emerge as bona fide stars and chart regulars. Here they were a couple of months earlier at Hurrah (which I always thought was Hurrah’s) in New York:

Music is changing at an amazingly speedy rate as the 1970s moves into the 1980s. A punk-tinged version of ska has been pioneered by The Specials, and something called rap has just started appearing in the British singles chart with acts like The Sugarhill Gang and Kurtis Blow although some speculate that that’s a novelty that will never last. Another big trend is the rise of the synthesizer.

Tubeway Army demonstrated six or so months earlier that electronic pop had the potential to provide huge hits but success like Numan’s is still a real rarity for the synth brigade at this point. The Human League have yet to commercially take off and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and John Foxx haven’t yet dented the charts. But again, it is only a matter of time before they will.

In Glasgow, it wasn’t only Simple Mind Mick MacNeil who embraced the synth. There was Modern Man, who released a couple of Midge Ure produced singles and an album later in 1980; there was Teutonic Veneer, who in between practising and playing likely listened to Trans-Europe Express on repeat and visited the Glasgow Film Theatre whenever a Fritz Lang movie appeared. Then there was The Berlin Blondes.

Berlin Blondes

Orange Juice’s anti-macho image might not have endeared them to Glasgow’s more traditional rockers but with their lacquered hair, lippy, eyeliner, and perfectly contoured cheekbones, The Berlin Blondes made the Postcard boys look like a bunch of Possilpark brickies. And on the singles front they got out the starting blocks a fraction quicker. Snapped up by Britain’s biggest record company EMI, in January The Berlin Blondes released their debut 45 Science, a month before Falling and Laughing officially kicked off ‘The Sound of Young Scotland.’ I bet Alan Horne despised them.

The band did divide opinions. Some viewed them as bright young things with the vision to embrace the brave new world of the synthesizer and electronic pop music. Others judged them narcissistic poseurs and believed that Steve Bonomi’s highly mannered vocals made Gary Numan sound positively soulful.

Once signed, they decamped to London, where they recorded an album with Mike Thorne, a producer best known for his work on the first three long players by Wire.

By the time the album hit record shops, David Rudden had said ‘auf wiedersehen’, going off to help set up Endgames, while Jim Spender decided to try his luck elsewhere too, opting to join Altered Images and become Jim McKinven.

The album failed to sell in the quantities envisaged by EMI, who quickly dropped the Blondes. The band did recruit some new members and continued on but released only one more single, Marseille, on the Scratch label in the summer of 1981.

A crunching slice of futurism, in the early days of the 1980s, this was zeitgeisty as hell, with that glinting synth intro and those galloping basslines. Here is the track that kicks off the band’s self-titled album, their second single Framework:

*Glasgow, incidentally, has sometimes been compared to San Francisco. Obviously not for a famous flower power/peace ‘n’ love vibe but for the hilly terrain of both city centres. Glasgow even stood in briefly for the Californian city in Hollywood movie Cloud Atlas.

An A to Z of Scottish Fanzines #3: C is for… Cripes


Okay, after a long break, the return of my far from definitive series on Scottish fanzines, the delay being caused by my inability to find the very first issue of Cripes from the summer of 1977, which I have now finally located and scanned (well, the pages that remain anyway).

Cripes No 1


Cripes never actually claimed to be a fanzine, instead it billed itself simply as Bruce’s Newsletter, Bruce’s being Scotland’s best known independent record shop chain which started out in the late 1960s and at one point during the following decade had branches spread across Scotland in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Falkirk, Kirkcaldy, Clydebank and Kilmarnock. Older readers may well remember the very distinctive red ’I Found It At Bruce’s’ bags.

Edited from the Shandwick Place branch in Edinburgh, Cripes was put together by Bruce Findlay and Brian Hogg of the hugely influential ’zine Bam Balam, along with a number of other Bruce’s employees.

The newsletter was given away free of charge and according to #1: ‘CRIPES or whatever it may be called at any given time, is really an information sheet on the alternative or underground record scene, and will include lists of new releases and charts to keep all you vinyl junkies titillated and amused.’

Issues came out on regularly and along with those titillating lists of new releases and charts, each issue would include an editorial which became known as Havers; a regular column by Brian Hogg known as Split Ends; local music news; details of upcoming gigs in the central belt of Scotland and live reviews; ads and the occasional interview. Over time, the Bruce’s top twenty singles chart, based on sales across the chain, was split into a shop chart and mail order chart – where records like Buzzcocks’ Love You More, Smash It Up by The Damned and Where’s the Boy for Me by The Revillos all made it to number one.

Album charts became another feature and there were often one-offs such as a page of New Wave Resolutions at the tail end of ’77, that included seeing the Pistols live, improving Cripes and getting The Valves to number one in the UK – oh and each of the acts signed to Findlay’s excellent Zoom label such as The Valves and The Zones featured prominently (as you would kinda expect), as did other local acts like Another Pretty Face and The Rezillos, while front cover stars included Rich Kids, Gang of Four and on more than one occasion, Simple Minds.

That latter band found themselves increasingly appearing in the pages of Cripes as 1978 progressed. #61, for instance, urged east coast social secs and promoters to check out one of their Sunday night residency shows at Glasgow’s legendary Mar’s Bar*, where punters were already being turned away an hour before they took to the stage. Brian Hogg reviewed them several times, penning a fairly lengthy and highly enthusiastic piece on their Astoria gig in Cripes #70, where he concluded: ‘To be excellent and have potential is no mean thing. Simple Minds are a great band.’

Bruce Findlay obviously agreed with this assessment and quickly went on manage the band and sign them to Zoom; indeed the fanzine eventually bit the dust after two and a half years when Simple Minds, already with a second album in the can, began to really take off while on their first European tour, meaning Bruce had to devote more and more of his time to the group and the label.

‘That’s all for now,’ he declared in #110. ‘Hopefully this will not be the final Cripes. But it is certainly the last on a regular basis.’

So was this the final Cripes? I don’t know as by this point I was living outside Scotland, so if anybody knows the answer to that one, feel free to enlighten me.

* Googling the search query ‘Glasgow Mars Bar’ can be a bit frustrating as the information that tends to turn up is on which chippies in the city sell the culinary delight that is the deep fried Mars Bar. Yum.

For the whole of Brian Hogg’s Simple Minds review see Dream Giver Redux, the unofficial Simple Minds website.

For more on Cripes have a look at the Rags and Fanzines pages of The Edinburgh Gig Archive.

An A to Z of Scottish Fanzines - C
C is also for:

Can I Bring My Dog?: I haven’t even ever seen this one but am assured that it was produced by fans of Dundee United.

(The) Celt: Another one I know little about other than it was first published in 1983 by George Sheridan and Eugene MacBride and largely concentrated on the history of the Glasgow club.

The Champions: Elgin City. I assume that the title is ironic but maybe not as they have been champions of the Scottish Highland League on a number of occasions although they now compete in Scotland’s League 2.

Cheers: One of a surprising number of Meadowbank Thistle fanzines. The club was admitted to the Scottish Football League in 1974 and played their first match against Albion Rovers with half-time entertainment being provided by a go-go dancer called Wanda. Meadowbank later morphed into Livingston and they currently play in the Scottish Championship where I’m guessing their current half-time entertainment will be a little less racy.

China’s: Again, no real knowledge of this Dalry Thistle football fanzine although I have just learned that Dalry is apparently known to some as China Town due to the large number of old China shops that used to exist there once upon a time, hence the title.

Claggan Gold: Produced for fans of Fort William FC, a team that play in Claggan Park and who joined Scotland’s Highland League around thirty years ago. From this cover at least its design feel could be described as ’basic’.

Clyde-O-Scope: Clyde FC. The issue above features Pat Nevin on the cover and Pat, who by coincidence popped up on BBC Four’s Music for Misfits: The Story of Indie the other night, might get another mention in the future here for an interview he gave for Slow Dazzle, an alternative fanzine from Greenock.

Clyde Underground: Another Clyde FC fanzine.

Cranked Up: A Dundee fanzine from the first half of the 80s which concentrated on music but also found room for cinema, TV, poetry. politics and theatre. Acts featured included Vic Godard, Altered Images, Aztec Camera and local bands like The Scrotum Poles. Cranked Up ran for eighteen issues. The main contributor was a guy called Jock Ferguson, who also DJed locally and who now occasionally works as a Sean Connery lookalike. For more visit the Retro Dundee site.

Crash Bang!: A couple of copies of this fanzine, which actually styled itself as a comic, went for over a hundred quid each on Ebay recently. Crash Bang! was produced in Airdrie and gave some of the very first coverage anywhere to groups like The Exile, Johnnie and The Self Abusers and James King’s first band The Backstabbers. There was also a Reader’s Chart, gig reviews and interviews with the likes of Jean-Jacques Burnel and Tony James of Generation X. A great read.

Crying Time Again: A Hamilton Accies zine that the Glasgow Herald once claimed had a great astrology column and which also contained a very popular cartoon strip called Frank the Multi-talented Ginger Bottle. Don’t ask.

Cult: Early ’80s punky zine from Livingston. Described by Liverpool’s Sign of the Times as: ’Crammed full of news and views but scrappy in places. But well worth it for the avid reader.’


And finally Collusion is often thought to be another fanzine from Dundee but the Collusion I know was London based. Cool might have been produced in Edinburgh but I’m not absolutely sure, while City Lynx was never really a fanzine but an Edinburgh based publication that covered the local music scene and at one point was published on a weekly basis. Finally Alan McGee’s Communication Blur, although its editor was a Scot, was first produced when he was already living in London, so is not really Scottish.