BONUS POST : THE NOT SO SECRET DIARY OF JC (aged 54 and a smidgin)

Wednesday 28 June : Paisley, 2017 Scottish Album of the Year Award Ceremony

The sixth year of the SAY Award and I keep my 100% attendance record. As ever, delighted to make it along and I’m in the company of Aldo. I see a few well-known faces who I manage to say hello to, some involved in the music industry, others who have become friends in recent years from this blogging lark. Someone I know happened to be talking to Stephen Pastel and so I politely barge my way in just to say thank you to the pop star for making Teenage Superstars such an enjoyable view. Turns out Stephen hasn’t seen the finished version nor indeed any of his own contributions. As ever, I come away from a few seconds in his company amazed at his modesty and the fact he doesn’t ever seem to understand how so many of us are in awe of him.

Last year’s winner Anna Meredith gets things off to a decent start before The Spook School take to the stage and deliver a 15-minute mini-set that channeled the energy and fun of Buzzcocks when they were at their peak.

mp3 : The Spook School – Books and Hooks and Movements

The next two acts to perform didn’t do anything for me so I won’t waste time writing about them.

The night ends with the announcement that the 2017 SAY Award is to Sacred Paws for Strike A Match. I’m pleased as it is a record I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of since its release back in March but it wasn’t the one from the long list of 20 and then the shortlist of 10 that I’d have put my money on.  Rachel and Eilidh were thrilled and stunned in equal measures when told they were to receive the £20,000 prize.

mp3 : Sacred Paws – Strike A Match

Thursday 29 June : Glasgow, launch of Reverse Drift by Adam Stafford

Regular readers will know how much I love the work of Adam Stafford.  There was no way I was missing out on the launch of his latest piece of work, Reverse Drift, which has just come out on the local indie label Gerry Loves Records.

It’s an ambitious piece consisting of a 40-minute piece of improvised music that was recorded live in one take with no overdubs featuring just a synthesizer, a sequencer, some effect pedals and Adam’s occasional vocal, along with a 48-page book containing photos he had taken over a period of eighteen years, between 1999 to 2017, mostly of landscapes in and around his home town of Falkirk.

Adam announces that as Reverse Drift was wholly improvised on the day it was recorded, he won’t be playing any of it at the show to launch its release!  Instead we are treated to 50 minutes of new, mostly instrumental music. Just one man and his guitar, foot pedals and various effects mics and made for an unforgettable and special evening. He’s hopeful that the music will be recorded in October this year for future release. It was everything those of us who like Adam have come to expect and appreciate, but it had added anger and energy that translated the music into gothic landscapes. Something to look forward to in the months ahead. In the meantime, here’s a lovely nimber that was an outtake from his 2015 LP Imaginary Walls Collapse

mp3 : Adam Stafford – Sound Of Fear Evaporating

It’s a song that features a vocal contribution from Siobhan Wilson who herself was launching her latest album the following night in Glasgow, an event I’d have gone along to except it clashed with something else….

Friday 30 June : Dunfermline, The Skids Homecoming Show

This was a huge surprise.  The 1,500th posting on the blog a few weeks back was an ICA featuring The Skids. I lamented that I had missed their show in Glasgow as they embarked on a 40th Anniversary Tour but I hadn’t minded as it had clashed with the bloggers’ weekend and the unforgettable hook-up with Dirk, Walter, Brian, Adam and many others.

I took a call from Mr John Greer, past contributor to these pages, saying that he had come into possession of four tickets for the band’s long sold-out gig in their home town; not only that, but it was part of a package that had been bid for at a charity event that enable the ticket holders to attend the sound check and have a meet’n’greet with the band. There was also some food and drink at a nearby pub thrown in (but not with the band!!)

I was thrilled to be invited along as one of the guests, mainly as I was keen to see the band on the back of consistently great reviews on the tour, but especially for the fact I would meet a long-time hero.

Yup. In a year that is proving to provide all sorts of wonderful first-time happenings, this was right up there.

The gig could have been an anti-climax but that was far from the case. In front of a manic but brilliantly behaved 600-strong audience in the splendour of the art-deco Glen Pavilion (another new venue for me), Richard Jobson and co really did turn the clock back. As he said, in his head he was on the stage still thinking he was a 16-year old punk looking out at an audience of 16-year old punk music fans – fat and bald 16 year olds for the most part, but still determined to singalong and dance away as if there was no tomorrow.

The set-list was majestic:-

Animation
Of One Skin
Melancholy Soldiers
Thanatos
Dulce et Decorum Est (Pro Patria Mori)
Working for the Yankee Dollar
The Saints Are Coming
Scared to Dance
Charles
The Olympian
Out of Town
Hurry On Boys
Circus Games
Masquerade
Into the Valley

ENCORE

Charade
A World On Fire
TV Stars
Of One Skin

Yup….they ended with a song they had aired before as they didn’t want to leave the stage. I’ve no idea just how these old troupers managed to keep up the sort of energetic pace throughout the near 100 minute set. It was sweltering hot from the word go but not once did any of them appear short of breath. Richard Jobson remains a front man who so many could learn from – utterly charismatic, witty and performing throughout with the widest grin imaginable. It was wonderful.

mp3 : The Skids – The Olympian

Saturday 1 July : Villain Towers, Glasgow

Lazy day to recover.  Was able to reflect on a few personal things such as my parents celebrating 55 years of marriage earlier this week, my many Canadian friends today celebrating 150 years of theirs becoming a country and the fact that one of my younger brothers would have been 50 years old today if he hadn’t passed away in a car crash in 2010.  I toasted his memory as I recharged my batteries

Sunday 2 July : Edinburgh, world premiere of England Is Mine

Once again, a late and unexpected invite courtesy of Mr John Greer as the 2017 Edinburgh International Film Festival comes to an end with the screening of England Is Mine:-

For all that the subject matter of the film is an utter twat these days, there was no way I was missing out on this invite. I’ll be on my way east as these words are posted.

POST #1500 : IT’S CO-WRITTEN BY JOHN PEEL : ICA # 128 : THE SKIDS

So here we are. Post number 1500 since the blog was raised from the dead after being killed off by Google.

A huge thanks to all of you out there for the amazing support you’ve given, and a special word to those of you who have contributed guest postings, offered comments or just encouraged me through some nice e-mails. I wouldn’t be motivated to do all this if wasn’t for the fact it is being enjoyed and responded to so positively each and every day.

I was going to mark it with a look at a Northern Soul single but that plan fell through as it was featured recently over at Brian’s place. So I’m turning to Plan B with an ICA from The Skids, one of the best bands to emerge out of the post-punk era.

They played Glasgow a few weeks back as part of a 40th Anniversary Tour. I didn’t get along as I was otherwise very happily occupied with the visit of Dirk, Walter, Adam and the afore-mentioned Brian along with meeting up with and enjoying the company of Drew (whom it was gave me the Northern Soul 45 that I was intending to feature today), CC, Aldo, Strangeways and Comrade Colin. But a couple of other friends went along to The Skids, and come Monday reported that it had been outstanding; seemingly Richard Jobson still has it in spades while the band, consisting of Bill Simpson (bass), Mike Baillie (drums) and the father and son combo of Bruce and Jamie Watson on guitar, delivered a blisteringly loud and perfectly paced set that also paid fitting tribute to the contributions of the late Stuart Adamson.

The thing is, just after The Skids broke up in 1982, a compilation LP entitled Fanfare was released by Virgin Records and its 12 tracks (six on each side of the vinyl) is quite tough to better. So Fanfare is your ICA today for nothing else other than the fact it also came with these liner notes composed by John Peel…and so I can claim he’s written something for this blog!

John Peel writes….

“Richard Jolson (vocals)
Alexander Plode (guitar)
Stuart Adamson (guitar)
Thomas Bomb (drums)

Yes, Jolson. This, according to a mimeographed sheet from No Bad Records of Dunfermline, was the original line-up of the Skids. The anonymous writer of this press release, which accompanied the first Skids single, was of the view that the band was ‘destined for the top’, and he was almost right. To quote further from his thoughtful paragraphs, the Skids were ‘causing a substantial “BUZZ”,’ and this time he was spot on. This was early 1978 and for some months Scottish fanzines had been noising abroad the excellence of Messrs. Jolson, Plode, Adamson and Bomb, remarking that they had moved beyond the confines of pure punk and were evolving into something entirely of their own devising, something that was, or so it was hinted, identifiably Scottish.

Thus it was that when No Bad NB1, ‘Reasons’, ‘Test Tube Babies’, and ‘Charles’, reached the sink-pits and stews of London, the Skids already enjoyed the first murmurings of a reputation, and when the band followed the record south they must have hoped for an enthusiastic reception. Back home they had been heard on Radio Forth, for Heaven’s sake, and had supported the Stranglers in Edinburgh, and when they clambered on stage in a Stoke Newington pub they must have been disappointed at the mute, incurious glances of the few regulars which greeted them. Happily, my old brave ones, this performance was enough to win the Skids an outing on Radio 1 and a subsequent approach from Virgin Records.

The rest, I am tempted to say, is history.

First out of the Virgin gate was ‘Sweet Suburbia’. ‘This white vinyl record has a weird gimmick’, warned the company’s effervescent promotions department mysteriously, adding ‘You’ll like it’.

Consumers did, but only a bit, as the record pounced on the number 70 spot in the charts but then fell away into nothingness. ‘The Saints Are Coming’ improved on this, clawing its way as high as 48.

Next on our turntables was ‘Into The Valley’, released in February 1979, which reached the top ten, although the truly discerning preferred the reverse, ‘TV Stars’, assuredly the only record to date to bring together in song the stars of ‘Coronation Street’ and ‘Crossroads’ along with Kenny Dalglish, the greatest living Scotsman, and this typist.

There were further hit singles, stirring LPs, and it wasn’t too long before the music weeklies, having come to terms that Richard Jolson was really Richard Jobson, spotted that he was also a likeable, gregarious, and highly quotable chap. ‘Jobbo’, as we had to learn to call him, has never been backward at coming forward, and he took to this notoriety with definite enthusiasm, using it to his own advantage and diversing into poetry and the theatre.

After the Skids third LP, ‘The Absolute Game’, Stuart Adamson, by now a highly individual guitarist, resigned his commission, leaving Richard, brother to Meadowbank Thistle’s goal-hungry striker, John Jobson, to soldier on with bassist Russell Webb.

On the stage, amid locker-room gossip that he never simulated anything, no siree, Richard was to be spotted spending evenings lying on top of the celebrated ingenue, Honey Bane, and he could be observed at artistic soirees declaiming his and other folks’ poems in a firm and manly voice. Contemporary with this arts-lab activity Richard was working with Russell on ‘Joy’, an LP in which they ferreted back into Scottish history and culture. Despite a warm review from the Guardian, reaction to ‘Joy’ was pretty frosty and shortly after release the Skids were no more.

Brushing aside with a contemptuous snort all the usual stuff about legacies of fine music, the great sadness in the demise of this most admirable of bands lies, for me, in that in his search for a Celtic identity and sound, Richard Jobson (nee Jolson) overlooked the fact that it was precisely these elements that distinguished the Skids from the post-punk herd in the first place.

If you don’t believe me, listen again.”

John Peel

And now….here’s my own inconsequential words on each song….

Side A

1. Into The Valley

One of my favourite singles of all time. Still puts a smile on my face every time those first few distinctive notes are played. Richard Jobson has stated that the indecipherable lyrics are about the recruitment of Scottish youths into the army and more specifically about a friend who had been killed on a tour of duty in Northern Ireland. I prefer to think that it is actually a tribute to High Valleyfield (aka The Valley), a former mining village just outside of Dunfermline whose residents have long endured a reputation for hard living.

2. Working For The Yankee Dollar

The band’s sixth single and their final Top 20 hit (not that anyone knew that at the time).

Days in Europa, the band’s second album had confused me a bit. It wasn’t remotely like the debut and while it contained a few were moments that I really liked, it wasn’t an easy listen.  It wasn’t helped by the fact that its closing track was in fact the opening track played backwards with a highly serious semi-spoken Jobson vocal that made no sense, even when read from the sheet provided with the LP.

There was a bit of a backlash to the album, partly from the sound that producer Bill Nelson has delivered, but also from the fact that sleeve was alleged to have incorporated artwork associated with Nazism. Virgin Records quickly announced that the LP was going to be remixed and re-released within a new sleeve.  The first signs of the remix was a totally different and beefier take on Working For The Yankee Dollar.  I loved how much better it sounded, particularly the guitar work from Stuart Adamson, so much so that for about two weeks I thought it was the greatest record ever written. Bear in mind I was just 16-and-a-bit- years of age and my tastes, like my hormones, were all over the place.  My tastes have evolved somewhat but I still think this is a great piece of work.

3. Sweet Suburbia

The debut single for Virgin Records in September 1978 and which, true to the punk ethos, was kept off the debut LP. As Peel reminds us, it only hit #70 when it was worthy of so much more. The lyrics of the final verse, from about 1:45 to 1:57 are priceless…

Birth and birth and birth and birth and birth
Live and live and live and live and live
Mate and mate and mate and mate and mate
Die and die and die and die and die

4. A Woman In Winter

There were only 18 months between Into The Valley and A Woman In Winter, and yet the latter sounds as if it is a band who are five or ten years down the road in their career such is the quantum leap in sound and ambition. The title of this song would also be the name of a movie directed by Richard Jobson in 2006 – footage from which would be used as the basis for the promo video for the Arab Strap single Speed-Date.

5. Masquerade

The prompt follow-up to Into The Valley was surprisingly not lifted from the debut LP as the band were already well on their way to the follow-up LP by which time they had lost a drummer. It’s maybe not quite their finest moment and it hasn’t dated too well, but it still has that great one-word shouty chorus to get the juices flowing.

6. The Saints Are Coming

It doesn’t matter that U2 and Green Day got their paws on this many years later with their versions raising monies for victims of Hurricane Katrina (the song was chosen partly for its lyric about storms and drowning and partly because the NFL team in New Orleans are The Saints).

This is a belter of a new wave anthem. An absolute belter. If the band had recorded this and then broke up without anything else seeing the light of day, it would be high up on the list of cult hits.

Side B

1. Animation

The re-mixing of Days In Europa LP also saw the release of the updated version of Animation which was regarded as one of the strongest songs to emerge from the process.  To the surprise of many, including this fan, it stalled at #56so becoming the first flop single in a long while.

2. Out Of Town

Lifted from the third LP The Absolute Game, this really had the potential to be a great radio-friendly single but the band insisted on more experimental and less typical cuts being lifted as 45s.

3. T.V. Stars and 4. Of One Skin (live)

Track 3 on Side B is one of the greatest and funniest b-sides ever recorded. This wasit as captured at the Marquee in London on 1 November 1978. It is still played live in the current shows although many of the names have been updated to make it more contemporary. But the chorus remains “Albert Tatlock”. Overseas and younger readers can click here to find out more about our Albert….

It segues straight into another live track, this time from the Hammersmith Odeon show in London on 20 October 1980 as part of the tour to promote The Absolute Game.

Of One Skin was originally a b-side to The Saints Are Coming as well as bring on the debut LP Scared To Dance; it was a real joy that this was included on Fanfare and to be honest was one of the main reasons I bought it back in the day.

5. Charade and 6. Circus Games

Once again, the decision was taken to weld these two tracks with no gap between them.

I remember being disappointed by Charade on its release as it felt a bit of a con to follow up a 45 entitled Masquerade with one that had a similar sounding word. It’s still my least favourite single of theirs and probably wouldn’t have made the cut in a standard ICA.

Circus Games was the lead single off The Absolute Game and the last time the band would crack the UK Top 40 singles chart in July 1980.

I don’t know why, but this song caused quite an emotional reaction within my then 17-year old self. Maybe it was the use of the kids choir on backing vocals; maybe it was that the lyric seemed to convey a really sad and epic tale although I couldn’t quite work out what it was meant to be about; or maybe it was just that the guitar playing, which seemed to come from a totally different place than any of my other heroes of the day, just got into my brain and caused a reaction I wasn’t expecting. One of their most enduring songs and a perfect way to end the ICA. Except….

BONUS E.P.

1. Charles
2. Reasons
3. Test-Tube Babies

The three-track debut on No Bad Records, recorded in October 1977 and released in February 1978; and as John Peel reminds us above, attributed to Richard Jolson on vocals; this is a different version of Charles than that which would appear on Scared To Dance a few months later.

Here’s to the next 1500 postings, hopefully.

JC

 

A POST SO GOOD IT NEEDS THREE CONTRIBUTORS….

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JC writes…..

Lochore is described by wiki as a former mining village in Fife. Its largely inconsequential nature is such that wiki goes on to state:-

Lochore is largely joined to the adjacent villages of Ballingry to the north and Crosshill to the south.

I don’t think any of my regular readers will be vaguely aware of the existence of the village, other than perhaps Aldo as he was born and raised in another former mining village in Fife not too far away.

I also feel compelled to offer wiki’s take on ‘local facilities’:-

Lochore has a Co-operative Foodstore, Nisa, Mario’s Fish and Chip Bar, and Baynes, which also has a bakers and butchers on the street. Baynes factory is located in Lochore. There is also a small corner shop located in the other end called Lochore Foodstore.

There are two bars, Lochore Institute, a former miners institute with a bowling green, and the Red Goth.

The village has Benarty Medical practice and Rosewell Pharmacy and an NHS Clinic.

There is also a police station operated by Fife Constabulary.

Aldo adds…..

As JC suggests above, Lochore is a place I’m reasonably familiar with having grown up not too far away.

The mining communities of this area of Fife were always hotbeds of trade unionism and left wing politics – and in fact the last remaining Communist Councillor in the United Kingdom, who only stood down last month due to ill health, represented Lochore as it was situated within his constituency.

The name of the pub mentioned above, the Red Goth, may sound unusual to some, and should you be wondering it owes nothing to young teens dressed in black, but does in fact come from the ‘Gothenburg System’ of public houses, whereby profits made by the boozer were used for the benefit of the community. Almost every mining town had a ‘Goth’ at one point, some still survive even if the principal that established them is long gone.

The town was always fairly prominent in local football circles as the village team, Lochore Welfare were always a decent junior side when I was growing up, and currently feature an ex-Scotland international among their ranks.

And finally, I was always semi-puzzled when I was younger if an item came on the news declaring major flooding or whatever in Lahore – as it sounds pretty much the same in local vernacular, the ‘c’ is very much silent. Only later did I realise there was a major city in Pakistan.  I was on holiday recently with a mate of mine and I mentioned to him that JC was doing a piece for his blog on Lochore, and he provided another nugget of info…..

Big Stuarty adds….

It is not widely known but the famous novelist Sir Walter Scott has a great connection with the village.  There was a grand old property known as Lochore House which he bought in 1825 when he was at the height of his fame. The house was specifically a gift for his son and his new daughter-in-law who was a local lass whose name was Jean Jobson. Which fits in nicely to why JC is wittering on about this small corner of the Kingdom of Fife.

mp3 : The Skids – Monkey Maguire Meets Specky Potter Behind Lochore Institute

Yup…..it might not be a place of obvious appeal to rock’n’roll tourists, but one of its local facilities has  been immortalised in song.  This wonderfully named piece of instrumental music was the b-side to Goodbye Civilian, the band’s rather jaunty eighth single which reached #52 in the UK charts back in 1980.

mp3 : The Skids – Goodbye Civilian

Any other suggestions for unlikely places that have been immortalised in song? I feel a new series coming on……………………

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (22)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THURSDAY 24 APRIL 2008

AND ADAPTED SLIGHTLY FOR A RE-POST ON SATURDAY 2 AUGUST 2014

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I’m just about halfway through this epic adventure, and maybe it’s a bit of fatigue that’s set in.

But its getting more and more difficult to put into words, in a different way, just why a particular 45 means so much to me.

I think I’ve also thrown myself by Buzzcocks appearing way down at #23. Can I really justify that it’s better than what you’re getting today? Looks like I’m going to have to…

My love for this song is very much down to two things.

Firstly, The Skids were the first Scottish band to really make a big impact on the punk/new wave scene. And by that, I mean they were probably the first to get themselves onto Top Of The Pops.

Given how little exposure bands got on TV back in the 70s, getting your face on TOTP was an incredibly important arena to be seen on. And the debut performance from Richard Jobson et al will stay etched firmly in the minds of everyone who saw it. As well as in the minds of their parents.

This truly was the first time I heard my dad say something completely negative about something on TOTP. He was 43 years of age when this came out…..his taste was a little bit of Johnny Cash, a little bit of Neil Diamond, a little bit of Supertramp and a little bit of Status Quo. He knew that music was important to me, and never did he slag off anything that I brought into the house or that I professed to loving when watching TOTP.

Then he saw and heard The Skids.

I don’t think he swore – at that time, he wouldn’t do so in front of any of his sons. But he laughed out loud at Richard’s efforts at dancing and singing, which truly were like nothing else on the planet. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this was the generation gap finally showing through.

Of course I went out and bought the record a few days later with that week’s money from the paper round. Of course I played it louder than anything else I owned at the time. Of course I tried, behind the privacy of a closed bedroom door, to dance the way I had seen Richard dance (remember kids, no VHS tapes in those days, you saw something once and you had to commit it to memory).

There must have been thousands doing the same as me because the single continued to rise up the charts. TOTP had a policy of not having bands on two weeks in a row (unless they were at #1), so it was a fortnight before the band got back onto the show. This time my dad went into the kitchen and made a cup of tea as he was thoroughly sick to his back teeth with the song by now. I was a teenage rebel……at last.

Oh and the second reason why I love this song? One of the best b-sides ever. No arguments.

mp3 : The Skids – Into The Valley
mp3 : The Skids – TV Stars (live at The Marquee, London)

The TOTP performance is now widely available thanks to youtube. As is a hugely clever advert featuring the song, which I’m sure must have made my dad laugh many years later.

Happy days.

MY FIRST CELTIC/FOLK RECORD

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That’s Celtic with a ‘K’ incidentally……

Glasgow has, for many years now, used the month of January to stage a three-week festival called Celtic Connections which nowadays really does offer something for everyone and goes well beyond the celebration of fiddle and accordian based folk/trad music that has long been associated with my home country.  To get an idea of what 2016 had to offer, pay a visit over to Charity Chic as he took in a number of gigs and has provided some excellent reviews.

I went along to a couple of shows but pressure of work and a clash of commitments prevented me taking in more.  As I sat at one of them with a mate who really is big into his folk/trad music, as well as being a huge fan of post-punk and in particular Joy Division, I got thinking about how in some ways the final two singles and album by The Skids back in 1981 were ahead of their time in that nobody who was aiming at the young market in Scotland made use of folk or roots music. Instead, it was regarded, in Glasgow at least (as that’s all I can authentically vouch for as it was where I was raised and had lived all my years till that point) as being music for old fogies.  Nowadays, you look round an audience at a Celtic Connections gig and it takes in all age ranges with ever-increasing numbers in the 16-30 bracket.

I can take it in small doses.  And in much the same way, I can take the excesses of the final stuff by The Skids in small doses and only every few years.  It’s amazing to realise that this music was recorded in August/September 1981, just two and a half years after Into The Valley, one of the great new-wave anthems of all time, had propelled the band to fame.  Of course, by 1981 The Skids were really just a two-man outfit consisting of Richard Jobson and Russell Webb augmented by guest and session musicians.  Jobson has warned everyone the next LP was going to be different and those of us who had got our hands on a copy of the Strength Through Joy extra album with The Absolute Game (see this previous posting for details) were, shall we say, a tad concerned.

Joy bombed, not even making the Top 100.  The two singles also sold abysmally and it was no real surprise that Jobson went off to lick his wounds with poetry readings and it would be three years before he returned to music with The Armoury Show, again with the help of Russell Webb.

This was the band’s last ever single:-

mp3 : The Skids – Iona
mp3 : The Skids – Blood And Soil

The a-side is a shortened version of a track which lasts more than seven minutes on the album. It’s the second best thing on the album (the best was featured in this post last year) and by far the most accessible track.  The b-side, which is one I’ve grown to appreciate over the years as it does sound authentically traditional,  is an alternative version of the track which opens the album (and which still makes me grimace a fair bit).

mp3 : The Skids – Blood And Soil (album version)

One other thing worth noting and including today is that Stuart Adamson contributed guitar to Iona while the Fairlite, which is responsible for the bagpipe sound, is played by Mr Tubular Bells himself, Mike Oldfield (and that’s the first and likely last name check he gets on this blog).

The album closes with an ambitious but ultimately flawed track on the basis that the kitchen sink and the rest were thrown at it and there’s just too much going on to take it all in:-

mp3 : The Skids – Fields

The reason that particular track also features today is that Alan Rankine plays guitar on it while his band mate Billy Mackenzie contributes a backing vocal. Sadly, the opportunity to turn into something akin to an Associates track isn’t taken.

Enjoy…even if only for the fact it’s not the normal sort of fare on offer round these parts.

WAR, WHAT IS GOOD FOR?

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The Jam reminded us yesterday, courtesy of Edwin Starr, that the answer is ‘absolutely nothing’.

And today, of all days, these seem the right songs to post:-

mp3 : The Skids – And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda
mp3 : The Pogues – And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

I can forgive Richard Jobson for all his pretentions simply for the fact that his inclusion of this song on Joy, the final LP by The Skids in 1981 was the first time I ever heard it. And it made me realise that folk music was nothing to be afraid of.

Elsewhere, the unique delivery of Shane McGowan over the gorgeous playing of his band, perfectly produced by Elvis Costello, brings a lump to my throat every single time.

READ IT IN BOOKS : STUART ADAMSON

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Tomorrow would have been Stuart Adamson‘s 57th birthday so I thought it appropriate to have a look back at his contribution to music via a review of a bio that was published back in 2010.

This is the first book I’ve featured in this series that I don’t actually own – I found it the other week while browsing around the local library. And to be brutally honest, borrowing it for a few weeks was a good decision as it proved to be a bit of a letdown.

The author, Allan Glen, has the advantage of coming from that part of Scotland in which the Manchester-born William Stuart Anderson was raised and the best bits of the book are those when he can bring that local flavour to the pages and particularly the description of physical, social and economic conditions in the villages and towns in Fife in the late 70s as The Skids came to the fore. The author paints a vivid picture which makes it very clear that Stuart Adamson was a true-to-life working class hero whose roots never left him.

However, the book for the most part is an extended consideration of the recording and touring careers of The Skids and Big Country rather than an in-depth look at Stuart Adamson. There’s lots about the music (up to 1996) but little about the man. The disease that eventually killed him – alcoholism – is sometimes hinted at but never referred to openly until the closing pages of the book and even then it is in almost throwaway fashion. There’s nothing about what led Stuart to divorcing his first wife and upping sticks to live in American in the mid-90s and I’m assuming this is because the author was unable to talk to anyone who was particularly close to Stuart in his final few years before his suicide in a hotel room in Hawaii in December 2001. So all in all, a disappointment.

What the book does remind you of however, is just how huge Big Country were for a spell in the early 80s. They went from near complete unknowns in early 1983 (which was when I first saw them as they played a gig in the students union at Strathclyde University) to flying on Concorde to perform at the Grammys in Los Angeles less than a year later. Their debut LP, The Crossing, had caught the imagination of the record buying public while their live shows had a real energy and vibe that made for a good night out. But almost as quickly, things began to fall apart.

There was a less than favourable reaction to the band’s second LP, Steeltown, while many fans attracted initially to the band because of The Skids connection were aghast and embarrassed at how often Big Country seemed to be on the support bill for stadium/arena performances of acts and bands we had thought the punk wars had seen off. To many, such as myself, the band never recovered. I certainly never had any great interest in the band after 1984 although I always wished them well as Stuart Adamson seemed to be one of the genuine folk in the music industry at a time of much artificiality and besides, who could ever fall completely out of love with the man whose guitar licks had meant so much to me as a teenager.

The main chunk of the book is a sad reminder of how hard Big Country tried to get back on track. I hadn’t quite appreciated that they continued to release albums in the late 80s and early 90s at regular intervals and completely missed that they actually enjoyed a couple of Top 30 hit singles in 1993.

It might be easy enough for me to say with the perspective of hindsight but it would probably have been better for the band to have broken up after the third or fourth album with Stuart finding some new musicians to back him and when he was out on the road have his new mates play old Skids and Big Country material alongside his new stuff. That way, the critics might have been a bit kinder to him rather than coming out with the ‘same old-same old’ barbs time and time again. Who knows?

It might even have got the old fans interested again….as happened when The Skids reformed briefly back in 2007 (with Bruce Watson from Big Country taking on the guitar parts) and then Big Country a few years later when just afterwards when Mike Peters from The Alarm took on the unenviable task of filling in for Stuart as evidenced by Brian from Linear Track Lives! when, back in 2012,  he came all the way over to Glasgow from Seattle to catch a show.

So, overall, I wasn’t too enamoured by the book but appreciated the flashbacks it provided to the days when I loved seeing Stuart Adamson on stage alongside his nutcase of a frontman in The Skids or when he bravely took centre stage with his new band to show that he wasn’t, as many had thought, washed-up at the age of 24 and that he still had a sound worth listening to.

mp3 : The Skids – Scared To Dance
mp3 : The Skids – TV Stars (Peel Session)
mp3 : Big Country – Angle Park
mp3 : Big Country – 1000 Stars

Enjoy