Tearing down the walls: An extract from Vic Galloway's Rip It Up

This article is from 2018

'Rip it Up' extract: Tearing down the walls

BBC Radio Scotland DJ's book accompanies the major exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland

Wherever you look this year, Rip it Up will be there. An exhibition, a publication, TV documentary, special gigs and Book Festival event, there's no avoiding the colourful story of Scottish pop music. To get into the spirit, here's an extract from Vic Galloway's book of the same name, about Scotland's vibrant post-punk live scene and the rise of an iconic Glasgow venue.

At the end of the '70s with the arrival of punk, a new set of grassroots venues appeared. The music was back-to-basics and groups were still trying to find their feet. Like its emerging DIY label scene, Scotland truly began to blossom at this time. Initially Glasgow held on to its dirty-denim, hard rock reputation for a while. But with the Lord Provost banning punk from the city, if you couldn't get over to Edinburgh for your new-wave kicks then the main supporters of the scene were to be found in nearby Paisley. The Silver Thread Hotel and Bungalow Bar are now recognised for their illustrious punk credentials with Generation X, Buzzcocks, The Rezillos, and other acts, passing through their hallowed doors.

Edinburgh saw the cream of the crop play its mid-sized venues, revelling in its reputation as an international tour destination. Previously known as the Pentland Club in the '60s, Tiffany's in Stockbridge became a hive of punk, reggae and new-wave activity with Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello, Steel Pulse and the Two Tone Tour playing its stage. The White Elephant Club, which had booked acts such as Slade and Writing on the Wall, changed its name to Valentino's to play host to bands like Adam & the Ants, The Cure and The Fall. Spoilt for choice, Edinburgh also had Clouds (later known as Coasters and then The Network) and The Nite Club on Greenside Place next to the Playhouse, welcoming to Scotland U2, Depeche Mode, Ramones, The Damned, Dexys Midnight Runners, and many more. Perhaps the most influential of all punk gigs in Scotland took place in the Edinburgh Playhouse itself. The Clash's 'White Riot' package tour in 1977 saw The Jam, The Buzzcocks, Subway Sect, The Slits, as well as the headliners, instigate a Scottish post-punk revolution in its grand surroundings. Members of Orange Juice, Josef K, and The Fire Engines were all in attendance and experienced an epiphany.

Taking the place of The Apollo in the hearts of Glasgow audiences is the Barrowland Ballroom ('Barrowlands' or simply the 'Barras'). A venue with three separate lifetimes, it was originally built above its famous market in Glasgow's east end in 1934 to house the dance bands of the era. In 1958 the venue shockingly burned to the ground, but reopened again in 1960 to nurture the rock'n'roll generation and beat boom with a sprung dance-floor and star-encrusted, curved ceiling. Falling into disrepair due to stiff competition, it was mothballed by the late '70s, though very briefly revived as a roller-disco in 1981. When Edinburgh promoters Regular Music were on the hunt for somewhere to stage a concert and video-shoot for the Simple Minds' breakthrough hit Waterfront in 1982, the dusty, vacant Barrowlands and its spectacular neon sign were ignited once more.

The Barrowlands has continued at pace to this day, with innumerable gigs and very little refurbishment. Its atmosphere and vibe have gained a worldwide reputation with artists as diverse as Foo Fighters, Steve Earle and Public Enemy all singing its hallelujahs. Various songs have been written about it, and the Ulster rockers Stiff Little Fingers have played there on St Patrick's Day every year since 1992. All Scottish bands of any standing would rather play the Barras than anywhere else on earth, and recently Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad, Young Fathers and streetwise songwriter Gerry Cinnamon have had that honour. It is a veritable Glasgow institution and if ever threatened with closure there would be riots on the streets.

Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop

National Museums Scotland and BBC Scotland are coming together to tell the story of Scottish pop music in a major collaborative project that explores the musical culture of a nation over more than half a century.

Vic Galloway

Rip it Up tells the story of Scottish pop music from the 1950s to now, taking in Lonnie Donegan, Simple Minds, Cocteau Twins and Franz Ferdinand. BBC Radio broadcaster, journalist, author and all-round music devotee (as well as musician) Vic Galloway shares his material in the enthusiastic and informed manner which has…