I’ve written many a time of my love for all things related to Paul Quinn, for my money, the greatest vocalist ever to come out of Scotland. While much of the stuff was on the old blog taken down by Google/Blogger, there’s a few things in the current archives which can be found using the index system or search facility. These posts cover his entire recording career, whether as a member of The French Impressionists, Jazzateers, or Bourgie Bourgie, the collaborations with Edwyn Collins, and, best of all, as the frontman of Paul Quinn & The Independent Group. I’ve been greatly helped along the way by Rob, the proprietor of The Punk Rock Hotel, an incredibly rich and informative on-line resource which has just about everything you ever wanted or needed to know.
One of my few regrets over the years in terms of how I’ve bought music was the timing of the emergence of the Independent Group, and indeed the second coming of Postcard Records. This was the early 90s, and it coincided with my decision to now concentrate largely on CDs instead of vinyl, mainly for affordability reasons. As such, everything from that period in time, unlike with Jazzateers, Bourgie Bourgie and Edwyn, came via the newish shiny metal/plastic creation, but I consoled myself with the thought that I could easily enjoy the albums, singles and collaborations till my heart was content. In recent years, I’ve tried to pick up the vinyl versions of things, and in particular the two albums, The Phantoms & The Archetypes (1992) and Will I Ever Be Inside Of You (1994), but have balked at the cost and worried about the condition of the vinyl and/or sleeves. I certainly never came across either of them in any second-hand shops in Glasgow.
It was April 2020 when a few mysterious and cryptic tweets relating to Paul Quinn began to appear – I don’t do twitter, but someone kindly brought them to my attention. To cut a long story short, and to prevent you all losing your mind, it transpired that it was the beginning and continuation of a teaser campaign, involving Alan Horne of Postcard Records, which would ultimately lead to the revelation, at the end of the year, of plans and preparations for the release of a box set, covering the Independent Group years.
I immediately registered my interest and crossed my fingers that it would work out and that I’d be able to land a copy. In the meantime, I got in touch with Rob to see if he knew about it, and was delighted when he told me, on the QT, that he was in fact helping Alan and the other members of the production team out with a few things. He also informed me that the end product was going to deliver something quite special, but he also advised that it would be limited in terms of production to just 300 copies, and so it was best to keep on top of things through social media channels.
Fast-forward to April 2021 and the sales launch of Unadulterated, the name given to the box set. I logged in as soon as the clock ticked round to the appointed time, and waited nervously for maybe 15 or so seconds to be connected – we’ve all been there when we’ve been desperate to land something on-line haven’t we? I got lucky…..
On Thursday 22 July, the parcel was delivered. Boxset #99 of 300.
It truly is a work of art beyond words. Four pieces of vinyl – both of the albums referred to above, a further album with other studio, unreleased and live recordings, and a 10″ single featuring a collaboration with Nectarine No. 9 and a previously unreleased version of Paul Blue Eyes with Edwyn Collins. There was also a 144-page hardback book, the size of a 12″ record, packed with previously unseen images, containing a career retrospective, written by Damien Love, a journalist of some note here in Scotland, mostly in the fields of music, film and television, all designed in association with the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, from Paul’s home city of Dundee. Oh, and there was a fine print of one of the photo stills which was added in as a bonus, as a way of Postcard saying thank you to everyone who had waited so patiently.
Given that all copies sold within a few hours of going on sale, and that all the information about the box set was via closely controlled social media, the chances are that they have ended up in the hands of true fans and not those trying to make a quick buck. Those who were unlucky, can pick up a digital version of the music via bandcamp…….
Unadulterated is unlikely to be reviewed by any music magazines or newspapers, as nothing was supplied to them (to the best of my knowledge). As such, it won’t probably feature in any of the end-of-year lists that will begin to appear from November 2021 onwards, and there will be little wider public awareness of its release. Which is a pity, for I’ll simply sum things up by saying, that across the more than 5,000 albums and CDs sitting in Villain Towers, the pride of place now goes to Unadulterated, and just as I never imagine that Temptation by New Order will ever be replaced as my all-time favourite single, so it will now be with this box set.
Part of this is down to finally having two much loved albums on vinyl, but there’s just something very special about the book. It is a magnificent design and is beautifully laid out. Damien Love’s text is word-perfect, capturing everything at the time I felt about the releases and the handful of live gigs in between 1993 and 1995; he also fills in a few gaps in my knowledge, completing the picture for me, and I imagine, quite a few other life-long fans. Oh, and Rob gets a wonderfully worded and well-earned ‘thank you’ from Alan Horne in the credits.
But most of all, it’s down to what can be found on the additional 12″ piece of vinyl, and in particular the music rescued from three gigs played in Glasgow in July 1993, October 1993 and October 1994. I was only at the last of these, but I’ve written about it before:-
“Glasgow Film Theatre – October 1994. A one-off gig in a cinema. The band played as movie montages unfolded behind them. A quite incredible night topped-off when a singer from Scottish Opera hotfooted it from her performance on stage some 500 yards around the corner and provided backing vocals, still dressed in her operatic outfit, for the title track of Paul Quinn & The Independent Group‘s second LP. Truly beautiful. Truly breathtaking. And the last time that I ever got to see Paul Quinn perform on the stage. Sigh.”
It’s up there as one of my all-time favourite life experiences. Jacques The Kipper was with me, and he thinks similar. But there’s always been this nagging doubt that maybe it wasn’t quite as brilliant as we had imagined – after all, no recording from the night was ever made available. The book explains why this was the case – the master tapes went missing and were long presumed lost. Years later, it has proved possible to salvage some of the material from that night, and six tracks have made it to the box set. Judge for yourself with this version of a song, originally recorded as a stand-alone single and later re-recorded for the second studio album:-
mp3: Paul Quinn & The Independent Group – A Passing Thought (live at the GFT, 27 October 1994)
It’s quite tempting to just suddenly make this the final ever TVV blogpost, for there won’t ever be a better piece of music posted.
But I know there are still a few things to be said and done, and this blog still has a way to go as it fast approaches the 15th anniversary of the first ever posting.
In the meantime, click here for the bandcamp downloads of Paul Quinn and The Independent Group. If you don’t have physical copies of the releases, then the full five digital package is well worth an investment. If you do have the albums but were unlucky enough not to pick up the box set, there is an option to download only the live/unreleased material. Trust me, you won’t regret it.