Go, Cat, Go! A brief look at Scottish pop and rock

The cats here at Hot Tin Roof are really looking forward to visiting the Rip it Up exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland in the coming weeks. Scottish pop and rock has had some real innovators and trailblazers down the years and we continue to be at the cutting edge of the music scene in many ways. It’s just amazing what a country as small as ours can achieve.

We asked our resident music saddo…sorry, expert, to choose a selection of Scottish tracks from across the eras that helped put Scotland at the toppermost of the poppermost.

Lonnie Donegan – Rock Island Line

Not too many people know that the main instigator of the 50’s skiffle craze and a major influence on the young Beatles was Scottish but he was actually born in Glasgow.

The Poets – That’s the Way it’s Got to Be

The success of The Beatles and the rise of pop music led to an explosion of bands forming in the 60s and Scotland was no exception. In fact, Scotland had its very own beat boom centered around the coffee bars and clubs of Edinburgh, Glasgow and beyond. The Poets were a Glasgow band who made a string of superb 45s which sadly weren’t hits but are now highly regarded and sought after. Weirdly they also made a great advertising 45 for Barr’s Strike Cola in 1970.

The Beatstalkers – Baseline

Like The Poets, The Beatstalkers had great local success but it didn’t translate into national fame despite a move to London. They had a very early relationship with David Bowie who wrote ‘ Silver tree top school for boys’ for them in 1967 and they subsequently covered a couple more of his tunes shortly before splitting.

Alex Harvey – Midnight Moses

Along with the Blues Council, Alex Harvey Soul Band was the resident group at an influential beat and soul club in Edinburgh in the mid sixties Alex’s story is fairly well know, if tragically short, but he led the way for many other Scottish performers and aspiring rock stars.

Barry St John – Turn on your Light

Scotland has also turned out great RnB and Soul singers. The aforementioned Alex Harvey and Lulu, to name just a few, but an unsung (excuse the pun) master of Scottish blue-eyed soul was Barry St John. Just a handful of singles and a solitary LP to her name but what a wonderful voice!

The Average White Band – Pick up the Pieces

A white funk band from Dundee with an international smash hit seems unlikely, but that’s just what happened. A dance floor classic in the bars and clubs the world over it even managed to upset James Brown! He thought the Dundonians had ripped off his sound and retaliated by releasing a single under the pseudonym the Above Average Black Band.

The Rezillos – Can’t Stand my Baby

At the end of the 70s punk hit the UK hard and the Scottish youth embraced the movement and ran with it. Many great bands appeared, so many in fact that it’s tough to choose from them but here is Fife’s finest punk pop band in action.

The Scars – Adultery

Punk fizzled out but Scotland did post-punk really well, in fact we led the world in many ways. A bunch of D.I.Y. labels, musical collectives, clubs and live venues proliferated and catered to the indie ethic. The Scars were on Edinburgh’s ground breaking Fast label.

Orange Juice – Falling and Laughing

..and Glasgow had Postcard Records. Here’s the band who’s song title inspired the name of the exhibition and many, many bands that came after them.

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Never Understand

The 80s were a boom time for Scottish rock and pop – The Skids, Big Country, The Tourists, The Blue Nile, Simple Minds…the list goes on and on. The JAMC from East Kilbride were responsible for inspiring a whole new wave of indie garage bands across the world with their spikey but ultimately melodic songs.

Primal Scream – Movin’ on up

As we move into the 90s, former JAMC drummer Bobby Gillespie’s band were at the centre of the Creation record label, which led the indie scene that began Britpop. They broke into the mainstream and the rest is history. Yup, Britpop, it all started in Scotland! The scene was also instrumental in bringing house music and rave culture to masses. So much to answer for.

Belle and Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap

The ‘00s saw no let up in Scottish talent and originality. Franz Ferdinand, The Fratellis, Mogwai, Snow Patrol…again the list is almost endless. Coming firmly out of the Glasgow indie scene and influenced by the likes of The Pastels and The Vaselines, Belle and Sebastian soon became the indie pin ups all over the world and are now firmly in the mainstream.

The Boards of Canada – Reach for the Dead

As we come up to the present day, the musical output of our small nation remains healthy, innovative and vibrant. Fife’s Fence Collective seem to be putting out interesting records on what seems like a weekly basis. The live music scene in the main cities is jumping and the advent of crowd funding and bandcamp has seen more and more people self-releasing records, following in the footsteps of my final choice – Edinburgh based Boards of Canada.

This has barely scratched the surface and I’m happy to say that I’ve managed not to mention the Proclaimers at all.

‘Rip It Up’: The Story of Scottish Pop is at the National Museum of Scotland from 22 June – 25 Nov 2018

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