One of the most unusual but most enjoyable shows I went to last year was Glasgow Garden Festival ’18 at which an album of the same name was launched by Jamie Scott.
Here’s an article from The List magazine previewing what I was privileged to later witness:-
An evocation of the International Exhibitions of Victorian times, the Glasgow Garden Festival of 1988 was a turning point in Glasgow’s history, a celebration which was part history lesson, part theme park and part exercise in urban renewal, all taking place on the cleared banks of the River Clyde where the city’s shipbuilding industry used to reside. Within a short period of time, the 1990 European City of Culture festival took place throughout the city, and Glasgow’s recent past as a beacon of flourishing post-industrial art, music and culture has only grown.
Thirty years on, as the regeneration process intensifies and cranes spring up across the city, it seems like a sensible point not just to look back on happy memories of the summer of ’88 (a time which has somewhat different connotations if you’re aware of the history of club music, for which it was the Year Zero ‘Second Summer of Love’) but to consider its implications. With this new themed concept record, producer and rapper Jamie Scott (of Conquering Animal Sound, CARBS and the Save As Collective) has done a bit of both, blending hazy recollections of futurist urban utopia with sober reflection upon the social conditions the Garden Festival was never going to change.
The record begins with a cheerful televised introduction from the period of the Festival’s ‘royal beginning’ in ‘the heart of the rainbow city’ (it was Prince Charles and Princess Diana in happier times, which dates proceedings), and advances through the cheekily-named ‘Make Scotland Shite Again’, which doesn’t quite deliver upon the cynicism of its title. Over a light electronic beat and the sound of steel drums, Scott begins by imagining that ‘when I grow up I wanna be Tom Devine / authority writ upon a thousand spines’, reflecting finally that ‘we are too young to have dug up the garden’; in between, he perfectly captures the confluence of political determinism, misty-eyed optimism and lack of social mobility which characterises Glasgow, the city where ‘we passed the land from laird to brand’.
It’s a warm and contemporary record, buoyed by Scott’s accessible production, his eloquently-formed storytelling raps and some gorgeous pop hooks. ‘The Tower’ is hard-edged, told from the point of view of life lived high up in a tower block, cut off from the city and ‘defined by its limits’; ‘Another World’ is a blissed-out ambient reflection upon place, belonging and nationality, singing ‘these streets criss-cross / with slave trader street names we should have long ago disowned… can the free state halt the rush of the Dear Green Place’s rot?’; and there’s a meditative, halcyon quality to ‘Glasgow Garden Festival ’88’, which is at odds with the sharp-edged and forceful contemporary pop of its companion piece ‘Glasgow Garden Festival ’18’.
The lightness of touch to this music counteracts the force and the honesty of Scott’s lyrics, modern folk tales relating the sense of impermanence he raps of amid ‘(Don’t You) Forget About Me’ (no relation to the Simple Minds song, title aside) and a yearning for a sense of community and halcyon good times which might not even have existed in the past. ‘If all we’re left with are our memories,’ he sings, tellingly, ‘why wouldn’t we make them great?’ Drawing in references to history and the world we live amid today, he’s created one of the definitive albums on the subject of the city of Glasgow.
It was very much a one-off and while a tad bonkers at times, was well worth going along to. I picked up a digital copy of the album (and commemorative t-shirt).
The show closed with a cover version not available on the album, but which was later made available to purchase via bandcamp – a rather poignant cover of Somewhere In My Heart by Aztec Camera (click here for more details).
Jamie did make one of the tracks reasonably widely available in advance of the show….I hope he doesn’t mind me linking a lo-fi version of it here today….again, you can still get a digital copy of Glasgow Garden Festival ’18 right here.