|SCOTLAND UBER ALLES
Garry Bushell finds the spirit of rebel music alive and well in "the land of the strapping jocks"(groan).
Pix By Virginia Turbett
|THE SEX PISTOLS might have provided the fertiliser for a hundred flowers to bloom but a hell of a lot of weeds sprung up in the patch too, blue, and London Town seems increasingly crammed with the little bastards of late.
Where better to appreciate the slow contagious corruption of ideals, the blandness of the 'punks', the absurdities of the posers, and above all the triumph of the industry? Where better to watch new establishment close up and realise how easily and thoroughly bourgeois values have reestablished themselves in the ignorant kow-towing to profit, the' renewed feting of old 'stars', and cancer of opulence - shift them units, blag them freebies, lig, lig, LIG.
Even the various street scenes - from the Subs to the Affair - have got to be an egg recently, when all you get is bars full of jaded journalists playing pocket billiards and dreaming up as many variations on standard insults their feeble brains can muster. Yep, even I get poxed off with London sometimes.
But fear not insects, for contrary to popular belief, recent scientific evidence has pointed not only to the existence of intelligent life outside the capital, but also flourishing new wave scenes of various hues in such previously uncharted places as Coventry, Avon, Huddersfield, Brighton, Leeds, Tyneside and many other geography lesson throwbacks besides.
See the touch paper the Pistols lit is still setting off fiery farts all over the shop, and as the Skids second album, the startlingly strong and stirring 'Days In Europea' has been living in sin with my record deck for the best part of a month now, I decided to follow its trail to the land of strapping Jocks and tossing cabers...
|7.30 am and we'd just stumbled off the overnight train to check into our plush Edinburgh hotel (excuses: Vic Vespa's settee did me back in, but call it reclaiming surplus product anyway).
Tired, I eased down on the uncle ned letting the above thoughts race round my half-dead head when suddenly my brain exploded with a shrill insistent ringing like a manic alarm clock. No, hang on, that's external. It's the frigging fire alarm.
Out in the corridor obese yank tourists womble along weighed down with baggage and shrieking gibberish as everyone evacuates the building save one ultra-cool individual who refused to leave his breakfast table. "But sir the building's on fire," the hapless waitress yelped. "That's all right," came the reply, "I like my bacon well done."
Natch it was a false alarm anyway, but with all dreams of
sleep well and truly shattered me and faithful box brownie
basher Virulently Turbulent set off to drag our guide,
Kingdom Come fanzine editor, band manager, Deep Cuts
record label boss and sometimes Sounds scribe Johnny
'Tubs' Waller out of bed, and into action giving us a brief
shuftie round the metropolis while chinwagging about the
evolution of Scottish new wave.
Although punk as a mass movement caught on a good twelve
months later up here than in the first New Wave bands formed
at the end of '76, playing their first gigs around spring 77.
THE JOLT: formed September '76 in Wishaw neear Glasgow, developed a brand of sixties influenced energetic poppy R&B, signed early to Polydor, had disillusioning encounter with the London press in late '77, released a fine debut album mid-'78, became a four piece late '78 but failed to make headway, perhaps foolishly ignoring Mod they dropped from both favour and retainers with Polydor, eventually breaking up this year (1979) exhausted and defeated.
NB drummer lain Sheddon is currently with promising mod outfit the Small Hours.
THE REZILLOS: formed Guy Fawkes night '76 in Edinburgh, playing fast, fun dance music in small halls and building up a strong name and following via Jo Callis' strong humourous beat music, 'wacky' frontspeople Fay Fife and Eugene Reynolds and independent Sensible Records. Signed to Sire releasing a strong debut album last year and scoring one chart hit witn 'Top Of The,Pops'.
Split into two halves this year, neither as strong as the whole, the Callis axis formed Shake with dull visuals and fair to middling songs, whilst Fay and Eugene formed the Revillos, a sort of cartoon version of the Rezillos with little substance.
THE SKIDS: are Scotland's biggest success story to date. Formed late '76 after 'Anarchy' inspired half of Quo/Bowie cover band Tattoo to link up with 16 year old two tone punk Richard Jobson. Developed their very individual 'open sound' based on Adamson's 'big rush' of guitar assault and Jobson's highly personal lyrics and chants, signing with Virgin in '78 after single No Bad records. The Stranglers gave them national airing on their late '78 UK tour. They have released five hit singles since and two top-twenty albums. 'Scared To Dance' released last February '79 was an accurate summation of their achievements to date, while last month's 'Days In Europa' under the production guidance of Bill Nelson was a triumphant progression and superb showcase for their own blend of powerful modern rock.
|This article doesn't pretend to be historically comprehensive but it's worth recording that '77 also saw the birth of local punk heroes like Matt Vinyl And The Decorators (Edinburgh) and Johnny And The Self Abusers (Glasgow), not to
mention Edinburgh's mighty Valves whose lively, amusing uptown pop gave sadly too few hombres much pleasure both live and via Zoom records till their premature death this year.
Elsewhere the Zones were sired by half of PVC2 and produced one quality pop album before joining the Choir Invisible while the Scars formed at the end of the year making a vinyl debut on Fast this year (see later) and the Simple Minds, whose brand of synthesiser New Musick was to make some '79 chart impressions via Zoom and Arista distribution, who were formed out of a Johnny And The Wankers split in early '78.
Which just leaves us on the 'official' they've-had-records-out New wave front with the somewhat soggy, plodding r'n'b Cheetahs, the 'calypso power rock' yawno Monos, Kraftwerk clones the Berlin Blondes, more colourless new music from the Visitors, and the horrendous Headboys...
What I wanted to do in my short Scottish sojourn was to probe beyond that and see bands you're unlikely to have heard of - the -ones who are worth hearing about that is - and talk to people involved in various ways in the scene, or as it turned out, the two scenes.
|FIRST BLOW to the average Londoner north of the border is the dearth of gigs. Being in military tattoo town is a forceful reminder of how spoilt us capital chaps are as there was just one gig all weekend.
However Edinburgh does possess a sort of communal practice cavern - if you can call a forty quid a week bronchitis inducing set of damp caves that - in Blair Street, where most of the hot young bands hang out, not to mention some tedious Led Zep/Stones clones, disturbing the peace with er variations on the 'Stairway To Brown Sugar Heaven' theme.
It also posseses the only flourishing Scottish indies - Zoom run by Bruce Findlay of Bruce's record shops fame (said retailers being a vital meeting point for punkoid types up here) and Fast Products, much maligned by locals because they aren't exclusively interested in Scottish bands but whose very existence has prompted other North of the border indies like John Waller's Deep Cuts outfit into existence.
Started in March '77 as a 'media company' by Rezillos roadie-turned manager Bob Last, Fast has devoted itself to 'mutant pop' - 'good songs to hang new ideas round' - which was poppy without being product and experimental without being self-consciously ... 'arty'. They brought the world the likes of the Mekons, Scars, Gang Of Four and Human League before evolving the Earcom 'musical magazine' approach, and, though not strictly Scottish, and thus outside the bounds of this feature, deserve attention and fuller coverage at a later date.
Returning to the purely musical front., it's incontestible, as Ali Bruce of East Kilbride fanzine Another Tuneless Racket said that "there isn't any one really brilliant standout band that everyone in Scotland raves about like there was 18 months ago with the Skids any more" in Edinburgh.
However there are two distinct scenes here - the official New Wave scene if you like and the unofficial one - the really young punk scene which the older kids laugh at but which is flourishing amongst the city's teeny audience.
|I'm not making any great musical claims for these bands who gig mainly at the local YMCA or more often exist merely in name as local gang fantasies. But of these groups in Edinburgh the Exploited are generally recognised as the business band and I caught them in Blair Street.
A real bondage pants and three chord thrash outfit they were too, boasting a singularly inventive line in lyrics (viz 'Malcolm is a moron/ Malcolm knows we hate him/ He's got curly hair' from 'Sid Vicious Was Innocent'), and some good ideas under the drone like a novel rearrangement of 'Summer Days' called 'Backbiter'. Eternal Subs support gigs seem assured.
|Moving back to the older New Wave scene I saw four other worthwhile bands in Edinburgh, three of whom I'd hazard a guess will 'make it' to some degree of national recognition in the months to come. So, in rough order of merit, we've got; THE FAKES, Stirling band on Waller's Deep Cuts label, have one single 'Production' which I think is more of a plodding bore than 'a musical equivalent of Fritz Lang's Metropolis', although the rest of their set is more impressive. Power- bleakness' I spose you could call it if you were killinq time till the pubs open - it's slow, metallic and muscley, albeit cold and stark but with some mutant promise. An ongoing time will tell situation.|
|ANOTHER PRETTY FACE are in a different league. Described in Sounds by wide boy Waller as something of a cross between the Clash and Springsteen they loomed large as well as a tasty bait. And the description was accurate enough if not quite as earth shattering as that would suggest.
An Edinburgh band formed in March by songwnters John Caldwell and Mike Scott they recorded one impressive single 'The Boys Love Came' on New Pleasures and proffer a powerful epic rock approach which has got several record companies sniffing and I'm sure will conquer America someday soon.
TRAX are a punchy Dunfermline five piece labouring under a falsely ascribed Skids copyist label (the first single 'Home' is the most Skidsoian number in their set, honest). 'I saw them play the last night I was in Edinburgh - and their 13 song strong set was well-impressive.
Sinewy modern rock is the aptest description for their driving, impressive, bursting, bruiser of a sound. And one to catch.
|Best of the whole bunch however were
Edinburgh's current fave sons The Scars,
as recommended by Dave McCullough
yonky donks ago. I caught them
rehearsing Sunday afternoon and was well
and truly KO'd by their novel, inventive
sound - disco influenced rhythms with
scorching, adventurous rock guitar and
sci-fi shock lyrics. They formed at the end,
of '77, signing to Fast in '78; putting out
the excellent ' Adultery' / 'Horrorshow'
single earlier this year, and now look set to
sign to a major.
They played a mightily original version of
Cockney Rebel's "Psychomodo' before
thundering through some breathtaking
numbers of their own of which 'The Victim',
the eerie 'They Came And Took Her', the
next single (out some time early next year)
'The Beat Goes On' and 'Je T'aime, 'est Le
Morte' stood out like King Kong in a pygmy
settlement amongst most other bands'
offerings. I promise you when Britain
opens her eyes to this band they'll be
MASSIVE and deservedly so, too.
OUTSIDE of Edinburgh, I relied on the
guidance of local authorities, especially
fanzine writer Ali Bruce who comments:
"South of Edinburgh the 'scene' should
revolve' around Glasgow - that's where
the 'audience' is, but there's not many
bands of note. Bands like the Zips, Cuban
Heels, Friction (formerly Exile) didn't make
it first or second or third time around and I don't see why they will now. "Mainly 'cos all they do is uninspiringly speed up old Styles - r'n'b in the Heels' case and 'heavy' rock in the other two. In Glasgow nowadays people seem to form bands rather than join gangs so there's loads of names sprayed on walls of bands that'll never play.
|"Which leaves just my biased opinion. That the best of the lot are the Alleged. If you want a label -they're pure, excellent pop-punk' - a band to dance to with obvious Buzzcocks/ Undertones comparisons and with tunes to sing in work as well.
"Outside Glasgow there's Paisley and East Kilbride. In East Kilbride there's another promising pop-punk band the Stillettos and the punkier Sinister Turkeys who are great, I think, and probably the most popular band up here."
Rough tapes of these bands seemed to back up Ali's enthusiasm. Also in East Kilbride is a guy by the name of Fongu God who's put together an, umm, unusual tape claiming to feature weeny bop punk bands like the Sexed Pistols and the Rebels. Fast lent it to me. I was speechless.
In Paisley there's a flourishing scene based round the local Rock Against Racism organisation which a guy called Tommy Kayes originated about 18 months ago, forming Paisley RAR with a couple of local bands. The RAR bands now number around 12, of whom the Mental Errors and the Fegs are the most recommended.
|Relatively speaking there's hardty any racist or fascist element in Scotland and RAR operates primarily as a gig stimulus and scene organiser. Gigs are regular and usually drawn between 60-100 people though police and council opposition has made venues unstable.
So far Paisley's attracted the outside world's attention solely via their 'Sound Of Alternative Paisley' EP on the Groucho-Marxist label, though another EP the anti-police 'Ha Ha Funny Police' EP dedicated to local Inspector Kirk will be out shortly. Paisley seems a well wry proposition and I'll be back there to cover the scene in proper depth soon. Promise.
And that sweetmeats, in short, is the summation of my findings from this brief Celtic invasion. Though plagued with a chronic absence of venues and blessed with the welcome absence of the industry proper, Scotland currently boasts some of the finest young bands in the country. Mainly (and I reiterate solely to make you rush out and catch the buggers at the earliest opportunity) the Scars, Trax, and Another Pretty Face (that the Skids are the most important Scots band at present goes without saying). For my part I'll be after the Alleged like a rat up a drainpipe at the earliest chance I get.The most important message to come out of this trip is that the spirit of Punk is not dead and should not be allowed to die without a fight. And that don't mean I'm advocating buying a pair of bondage pants tomorrow morning down the Lane. Ferchrissakes, you can wear a parka and still be true to real Punk ideals.
What I mean is don't just sit there reading this and borrowing other people's ideas, other people's three chords, or listening to other people's music. The message is get 'off your spotty khyber and DO something. Make something. Be Something. Mean something.
Don't always let someone else do your thinking and play your music for you. If you end up mortgaged down and going to see the Boomtown Rats at Hammersmith Odeon once a year, that'll be your fault and no one else's.Youth means never having to say you're BORING.
* Special thanks to Bruce's Edinburgh, Fast records, 'It Kicked And Exploded' fanzine, 'Another Tuneless Racket' fanzine, 'Kingdom Come' fanzine and Sounds' account department.
PS: here are a few more Scottish bands worth at least checking out. Comments by Johnny Waller of Kingdom Come. . .
FREEZE: from Linlithgow, 'Hawkwind/Ramones'- like (their definition). 'In Colour' EP on A1 Records.
SWITCH: from Edinburgh, strong R'N'B influenced new wave. Soon to sign a one-off deal.
METROPAK: from Edinburgh, sound like a poorly recorded Devo bootleg. Own EP out soon, interesting / awful.
FLOWERS: Edinburgh, Siouxsie rip-off or New Musick? Featured on Fast
AVO-8: from Edinburgh, heavy R'N'B new wavish dance music.
PRATS: from Edinburgh, under-15 minirnalism. Some potential. Featured on Earcom 1.
JOSEF K: from Edinburgh, Lou Reed/Television axis. Single out soon.
(This article was reproduced from the Don't Care archives - Sounds November 3rd 1979)