Inspired by Rip It Up, Scottish authors share their favourite music memories
- Brian Donaldson
- 11 July 2018
This article is from 2018.
Chris Brookmyre, Marisa Haetzman, Olga Wojtas, Lin Anderson, Peter Ross, Stuart Cosgrove, Denise Mina and Alan Parks wax nostalgic about Scottish pop
To coincide with the Rip It Up exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, we spoke to a number of authors appearing at the Book Festival about one moment in Scottish pop history that sticks in their memory.
Ambrose Parry aka Chris Brookmyre & Marisa Haetzman
Big Country performing 'Fields of Fire' on Top of the Pops in 1983
Like everyone was quietly tiptoeing around with a hangover after punk's party, the early 80s felt like an insipid pantomime of synth pop and New Romantic poseurs until Stuart Adamson decided he'd had enough and reinvented the guitar. We both had the same experience, sitting in our living rooms reading with TOTP on in the background. Then came a skirl of noise like nothing we had heard before. It sounded like bagpipes, except it was guitars, which is a good thing, because bagpipes are awful. And there were checked shirts and neckerchiefs, a bold 'sit down, son' to all the Bowie wannabes stinking up the charts. Safe to say we were instantly sold. Before we met, we had bought the same albums and been to the same shows. We bonded over Big Country, and that song still gives us tingles.
26 Aug, 5pm, £12 (£10).
On Alex Kapranos delivering the Edinburgh Lecture in 2005
One of my jobs as a higher education correspondent was to cover the prestigious Edinburgh Lectures, sponsored by Edinburgh's universities and council. Speakers included Stephen Hawking, Mikhail Gorbachev and FW De Klerk. And, one glorious year, Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand. He was fabulous: witty, knowledgeable, engaging, thought-provoking. He had taught English and IT at Anniesland College and was also involved in the college's work in assimilating asylum-seekers into the local population.
Musicians and lecturers should share a similar interest in performance and delivery, he said. 'If you want to get ideas across to people and the facts to stay in people's minds, you have to entertain them to some degree.' I went back to the office warbling 'It's always better on holiday / so much better on holiday / That's why we only work when / we need the money.' But sometimes work isn't half bad.
15 Aug (with ES Thomson), noon, £12 (£10).
Glasgow University Men's Union with Gerry Rafferty and Billy Connolly appearing as The Humblebums in 1971
It was the only occasion I ever saw Gerry live, but I bought and loved his music. He was said to have learned Irish and Scottish folk songs from his mother, just as I had, and he was heavily influenced by The Beatles and Bob Dylan, another match.
I loved his mellow voice and beautiful lyrics and, of all the songs, I think 'Baker Street' is still unbeatable. Though I have a very big soft spot for The Humblebums' number 'Her Father Didn't Like Me Anyway'. That night was my first date with my future husband, and I had the feeling my father 'wouldn't like his hair' either.
20 Aug (with Antti Tuomainen), 5.15pm, £12 (£10).
Gerry Cinnamon at Barrowlands in 2017
It was four days till Christmas, Black Friday, and the Barrowland sign shone down on the bevvied punters queueing for the show. Necking Buckie dregs, banging the shutters of Bairds, they sang Gerry Cinnamon's name to the tune of 'Give it Up' by KC & The Sunshine Band. An hour before the gig and already we had hit the sweet spot of reckless, feckless and couldn't-give-a-feckness.
Inside it was, as one must say, pure mental. Beautiful mayhem. Perhaps the rowdiest crowd since the sainted days of The Pogues. Gerry C, in Dylan cap and trackie top, played 'Diamonds in the Mud', a hymn to this city and these people, falling to his knees, tears in his eyes, overcome by the moment and the sentiment and the love. Those stars on the ceiling, man: they had nothing on the stars in the room, the star on the stage.
19 Aug (with Tania Skarynkina), 3.30pm, £8 (£6).
Average White Band triumphs over the Godfather of Soul in 1975
I am a passionate advocate of answer records, the great tradition where hit singles are either reprised or mocked by rival artists. In February 1975, Tayside's Average White Band (AWB) defied orthodoxy and raced to the top of the R&B charts in America with their evergreen party tune 'Pick Up the Pieces'. Their success was an anomaly in what were still racially-profiled record sales, and so it came to pass that a Scottish group, then signed to the iconic Atlantic Records, became the first white group to top the black charts. It was a song that resonated with me as AWB's Alan Gorrie had been at my school and had once fronted Perth's best beat band, The Vikings.
But as I basked in Scottish success, the Godfather of Soul James Brown raged incandescently. He rush-released an answer record 'Pick Up the Pieces (One By One)' by AABB (The Above Average Black Band). Much to the Godfather's disgust, his record sank like a stone and was hidden away for years until it became an underground rare groove classic. It's not often that Perth bum-rushes the ghetto so I relish the story to this day.
Spark Theatre, George Street, 22 Aug, 8.45pm, £12 (£10).
An off-chance meeting with 'Alan McGee' in 1987
In 1987 I went to see The Mighty Lemon Drops at the QM. I had just started law school and was struggling to make friends. I forced some classmates to come to the gig, which was great. They were polite but baffled. Afterwards, walking home, feeling friendless, Alan McGee stopped me and asked if I knew where he could get something to eat.
'Down there,' I said. 'Grosvenor Café.'
'I used to know this place.' He looked into the mid-distance. 'I used to live here … '
It was friendly overture, a conversational opener, but I was massively offended by his hair style*.
'Fuck off,' I said.
And that attitude, I realized, was probably why I hadn't made any friends.
*I don't know if it was Alan McGee. It was well before he was famous and I don't want to falsely accuse him of having had a ponytail.
Spark Theatre, George Street, 14 Aug (with Liam McIlvanney), 9.45pm, £12 (£10).
The Amazing Snakeheads in 2014
The dressing room is chaos.
Too many drugs, too many people, too many bottles of Buckfast.
Too many cracks beginning to show.
Dale, William, Jordy.
Hyped up. Angry.
There's a phrase, 'like catching lightning in a bottle'.
That's what they did that night.
It was genuinely shocking.
I've never seen or heard a band perform like it.
Some unholy trinity of Link Wray, The Birthday Party and someone playing a James King & The Lonewolves record in another room.
Rock and Roll, maybe something more than that.
Two days later William broke his leg.
The dominos started to fall.
The cracks got wider.
They never played together again.
19 Aug (with Claire Askew), 8.30pm, £8 (£6).
All events at Charlotte Square Gardens unless stated, 0345 373 5888.