Two years ago, I was lucky enough, courtesy of Jacques the Kipper, to find myself at the world premiere of Big Gold Dream, a documentary film that told the story of the Scottish post-punk scene. Some of you may even recall my review of the film. It can be found here.
Fast forward two years and once again JtK has come up trumps and gotten his hands on tickets for Teenage Superstars, the second part of the filmmakers’ project. This time round, it focussed on how the scene developed from the end of Postcard Records through more than a decade to when Britpop came into being. It was an era of some of the finest ever music to come out of Scotland; indeed it could be argued that a ten-part series would be required to do full justice to the subject matter and so trying to squeeze it into a 110-minute long feature was a tall ask.
The director Grant McPhee, co-producers Wendy Griffin and Erik Sandeberg and editor Angela Slaven skilfully get round things by focussing in the main on the Glasgow/West of Scotland scene and the music which emerged from the brain of Steven Pastel and from the mining town of Bellshill. As with the earlier film, it proved to be a hugely entertaining watch, filled with great humour from just about everyone who was interviewed but also made room for the occasional piece of pathos from those who were an important part of the story but who were ditched before their bands made it big.
It is also incredibly informative. Who knew that the BMX Bandits based part of the design of the sleeve of their debut single on something they literally ripped off the back of a Sigue Sigue Sputnik 12”? Who had any idea that, of all the individuals to come out of Bellshill at the time, Sean Dickson of the Soup Dragons would be the one who was the most creative and most driven to be a success? Who would have thought Douglas Hart of the Jesus and Mary Chain would prove to be full of gentle, self-deprecating humour about his time working with the Brothers Reid? Who realised that over the years, there have been 28 different members working alongside mainstay Duglas T Stewart in the afore-mentioned BMX Bandits; or that Eugene Kelly, having brought an end to The Vaselines, was so down on his luck that he worked as a barman on the same street as where I had lived for the first 9 years of my life (it’s a big street, admitedly).
Others would certainly have known this, but it was news to me that the reason AGARR came into use as the catalogue prefix for all the singles on the 53rd and 3rd record label was that it was short for ‘As Good As Ramones Records’
Oh, it wasn’t all surprises – other parts merely confirmed what you thought, including that Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley and Gerard Love are three of the most intelligent and lovely blokes ever to venture into pop music.
All the way through this world premiere, I thought of my Seattle-based friend Brian from Linear Track Lives who would have reckoned this just about the perfect night. There were wonderful shots of modern-day Glasgow dotted throughout the film interspersed with original footage that belonged to one or more of the contributors, including all sorts of stills and videotape of them in locations such as the house belonging to Norman Blake’s grandmother (where many rehearsals took place), busking to a large but bemused crowd outside Marks & Spencer in Glasgow (where, on a good day, Sean, Norman and Duglas would make enough money to buy a baked potato each before going home on the train) and inside the legendary Splash One club where so many of the bands would make their live debuts (and which your humble scribe missed out on as I was working and living 45 miles east in Edinburgh).
Oh and the film was followed by a Q&A before decanting to a nearby venue for live acoustic sets from Eugene and Duglas – although with an 11.30pm start to the gig, there was no way I could stay on without getting overnight accommodation and then up really early to be through at work in Glasgow the following morning. I’m really sorry that I can’t include a review of that here for you.
It is a documentary for music obsessives, lovingly filmed and edited, getting across that those who were interviewed really enjoyed reminiscing; there weren’t too many scores settled, although it is fair to say that Bobby Gillespie gets a bit of criticism at various times, and it’s interesting to note that neither he nor Jim Reid and William Reid from the Mary Chain took part; on the other hand, there is regular use of Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth as a talking head, and he make it very clear just how important and influential every single one of these Teenage Superstars turned out to be in the pantheon of modern music towards the end of the 20th Century.
The film will be getting a second screening on 1 July in Edinburgh as part of the international film festival. After that, who knows? I’m sure it will air at some point in the future in Glasgow but it really does deserve to be seen much further afield.
Inevitably, I’ve spent the weekend listening again a few of the timeless songs that popped up during the film.
mp3 : The Pastels – Truck Train Tractor
mp3 : BMX Bandits – E102
mp3 : The Vaselines – Molly’s Lips
mp3 : The Soup Dragons – Hang Ten
mp3 : Shop Assistants – Safety Net
mp3 : The Jesus & Mary Chain – Upside Down
PS : The original review contained a link to Velocity Girl ; however, it, and indeed no Primal Scream songs were actually used in the documentary and so, to avoid any confusion or potential problems to Grant & co., I’ve removed the link.