There's often a reluctance to telegraph a big chorus, a sort of shy restraint which can often mean that a gorgeous melody takes time to uncover and fix in your memory. Examples would be Orange Juice -'Simply Thriled Honey', Marmalade - 'I See The Rain', Aztec Camera -'We Could Send Letters',The Poets - 'That's The Way It's Got to Be' Also various Blue Nile. This characteristic is even found in some of the more commercial stuff like Texas and Wet Wet Wet.
There's also a certain 'ringing' quality to many of the simpler melodies - Altered Images - 'See Those Eyes'/'Pinky Blue'/virtually any of their early stuff and the Fire Engines - 'Candyskin'. Is there a melodic element carried over from Scottish folk music here?
Does any of this strike a chord with anyone? I'd be interested to hear whether anyone has similar/more coherent thoughts on this. Alexander Blair's comments especially welcome!
― Dr. C, Monday, 8 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
― Julio Desouza, Monday, 8 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
Shy restraint = expressing our political marginality, aloofness.
Ringing quality = protestant church bells, the legacy of John Knox and Calvin.
― Momus, Monday, 8 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
Uh? Pls explain, Julio.
Orange juice had other elements. Off this list I've heard Aztec
camera and blue nile so I can't comment on everything.
I was thinking also abt Pastels and Belle and sebastian who are a
continuation of what you were talking about.
― bob snoom, Monday, 8 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
― Old Fart!!!, Monday, 8 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
― Snotty Moore, Monday, 8 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
String arrangements on those records (like every record I ever heard
by an indie band) are crap. They are designed to push
the 'melancholia' button. Introspective lyrics/vocals= its actually
just 'The world is so awful so I'll lock myself in the bedroom and
wank' type stuff that has been done to death by other bands before.
I've never bought a stax/motown record (probably heard it on the
radio but cvan't remember what it sounds like) BUT the other elements
make B&S a waste of everybody's time.
''Julio, how can records from as early as c.1965 (The Poets) and 1967
(Marmalade) be dismissed as unoriginal.''
and this is what I said= ''Off this list I've heard Aztec camera and
blue nile so I can't comment on everything.''
There is this quite strange programme on BBC Scotland at about 5pm
on Sundays. It's on before the charts get going on Radio 1 and I only
listen to it when I flick through the radio channels when I'm driving.
Its mainly modern recordings of tradtional Scottish based dance
bands, and as such is terrible - evoking memories of 'learning to
dance' at school and general Jimmy Shand type things... but it
occasionally plays BBC archive recordings of music from the 20s, 30s
These are usually very simple instumentation, a bagpipe, or an
accordian. It sounds very strange to modern ears - the volume of the
drone is much louder than in contemporary recordings. I actually once
heard a 1930s Hebridean recording that sounded like Roxy
Music's 'Sultanesque' - bagpipes are basically all drone (the
three 'pipes' that rest on the shoulders are fixed pitch, only the
hand held 'chanter' is playable (and it only has 8 notes).
Unlike modern 'drone rock' though there is always a fragile
melody floating gently and gracefully above the drone - its not in
the background, its in the foreground but small and quiet against a
large background. I don't really understand this: 'foreground'
and 'background' are surely volume based distinctions of parts of a
piece of music. Yet Im saying this sounds like the opposite.
Is this a folk memory that seeps into all Scottish music? Not just
bands that use the dynamic of pipes or accordians - Skids, Mogwai,
Cocteaus, but Belle and Sebastian (when they are being good), Alex
Harvey, AWB... this concept of making a small melody - sometimes
nearly intangible- larger and clearer by some assumed relationship
with the rest of the music. I dunno, I don't particularly like
traditional Scotland, and would much rather it considered as a modern
and outward looking culture
Oh as for the VU - Reed wrote bubble gum pop for Pickwick records
and Cale did the drone. Fuckit, the VU were Scottish.
― Alexander Blair, Monday, 8 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
Momus pretty much OTM, I'd say. Possible subthread development: how
to get from Momus to Del Amitri (and back) in two moves (I didn't
actually realise until recently that the two Curries were brethren!).
― Marcello Carlin, Monday, 8 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
― ethan, Monday, 8 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
― Chewshabadoo, Monday, 8 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
There are so many records that I don't have. But I'm not as
interested in the song. I started buying discs with songs and guitars
(though not many as I didn't have much cash). So now I have a job (of
sorts) but my interests are mostly in other areas of music (i.e. not
So things like motown, soul, etc. have got left behind.
Fantastic! This is what I meant by 'shy restraint', but expressed
Also Snotty said :
**and the thing which strikes me about all these examples is that
none of the artists play 'genre' music, but instead simply play 'pop'
in the original sense**
This is good and I hadn't thought of it that way.
Haven't got a clue what Julio's on about!
― Nick Southall, Monday, 8 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
― Ned Raggett, Monday, 8 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
― keith, Monday, 8 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
― Dr. C, Tuesday, 9 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
― alex in mainhattan, Tuesday, 9 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
Other records I should have mentioned upthread : Jasmine Minks -
'Cold Heart' and Trash (late 60's post-Poets pop-progsters) - Trash
Can (b-side of their Golden Slumbers cover minor hit).
Why? As someone from Scotland, this widely held impression of what constitutes Scottish Pop really does get right my nose, as it appears to construct a direct lineage from a cliched version of Scottish Folk music to an equally cliched version of Scottish Pop, that's actually based on a small subset of the full range of Scottish Pop, who just happen to have "Scottish" references. Not only is this a patronising view of Scottish Folk, which at times could be quite radicial in it's politics, but ignores the rest of Scottish Pop, particularly from urban Central Scotland. What about The Sweet? Nazareth? The Incredible String Band? Alex Harvey? 1979-81 Simple Minds? Cocteau Twins? Kelly Marie? The Almighty? Primal Scream? Scott Brown? The entire 1990-1995 Scottish Rave scene? None of these ever feature in any pet theory about pop music from Scotland, but they're all pretty influential. (Scott Brown and the Scottish Rave scene in particular had a massive influence on the development of what we now call trance.) It's just there's no allusions to shortbread tin images of Scottish folksy past.
I might as well add here that the main culprits for this Scottish Folk/Pop theory are actually Scottish pop writers themselves, who are by and large completely hopeless, with an impenetrable aire of stereotypical studenty coolness, combined with a desire to ape London hacks, that leads to a fatal detachment from their subject. Most of them are pretty anti-pop too, except in a nauseatingly twee nostalgic manner. (Oh, it's okay to like the Proclaimers again- but only in a "Weren't we strange back then" type of way...) But you can guarantee reviews and interviews every time Gary Clark (of one hit wonders Danny Wilson) or Kevin McDermott release a record. And Belle & Sebastian always get 5 stars. The only reason this ridiculous situation exists is because the writers are sheilded within larger publications geared to non-pop audiences- the two broadsheet newspapers (Herald and Scotsman), and The List (Scotland's answer to Time Out).
It's worth noting that any attempt to actually create a successful magazine which reflects this style of writing has been a complete failure. Usually this has been blamed on the Scots not caring enough to buy the magazine, etc., ... But no one has suggested that this might be because the magazine is usually filled with sub-NME doggerel which simply does not cover what is actually going on in Scotland, preferring instead to pander to a myth of Scottish contemporary music which is actually hard to cover given that only so many bands can be shoe-horned into the myth. So coverage generally boils down to the usual Runrig/Wet Wet Wet/Travis triopoly, already covered far better in Q, etc. (Franny, watch out- it used to be Runrig/Wet Wet Wet/Del Amitri!)
On the other hand, look at the example of M8 magazine, which actually started out as another Scottish rock 'n' pop listings/reviews mag. But within 6 months it was dominated by the burgeoning Scottish Rave scene, and within another 6, it intiated a special "dance music issue", which has in effect lasted to this day. In the next 2-3 years, it became Scotlands most popular youth culture magazine, precisely because of it's fanzine style enthusiasm for the Scottish Rave scene, which was only really being covered by M8 whilst the rest of the rest of the Scottish media ignored or villified it. Of course, as the Scottish Rave scene died down M8 quickly realigned itself within the UK house and trace market, but the early 90s back issues of M8 are a fascinating historical record of a uniquely Scottish music that was hugely popular and influential amongst the young, (eg It invented Neds!) but owed little to traditional folksy myths of Scotland- which is probably why you won't see a thing about it in the mainstream Scottish press- and if the mainstream Scottish press won't cover it, why should the press elsewhere? Gah- sometimes we're our own worst enemies...
(I notice the mention above of the Radio Scotland programme featuring folk records. There has also been in the past an electronica and Peelie type show on Radio Scotland, although they seem to have been lost in Radio Scotland's Radio 4 style makeover recently. It must be mentioned here that Radio Scotland doesn't particularly cater towards a mainstream pop audience either.)
― Old Fart!!!!, Tuesday, 9 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
― Nick Southall, Tuesday, 9 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
― g, Tuesday, 9 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
― mark s, Tuesday, 9 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
Also, with reference to the original post: "A lot of Scottish Pop [...]"- I would argue that the bands mentioned are actually not that representative of the diversity of Scottish pop, but of the usual suspects constantly drawn up by Scottish hacks as mentioned in my previous post, and this tends to colour the debate outside Scotland.
I suppose what I was trying to explain with my previous post was the reality behind the context in which this whole thread is taking place. As you do...
― Old Fart!!!, Tuesday, 9 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
Of the other folks you mention, Simple Minds especially circa 81/82,
while outwardly making a *big* sound, create melodies which are often
*small* in the way that Alexander suggested, or difficult to tease
out of a veil of sound (dare I suggest a *drone*) as I tried to get
at in the orig. question. Of course they spent a fair bit of time
ripping off Magazine too ;)
This was never meant to be a grand unified theory of Scottish music,
so as you say it leaves out much more than it includes.
― Dr. C, Wednesday, 10 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
― Alexander Blair, Wednesday, 10 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
― Snotty Moore, Wednesday, 10 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
Old Fart - fantastically eloquent post: from an English perspective I
think the reason why the folk-pop connection gets made is that in
England you're never that far away from a big city, and the
population is much more evenly spread out, whereas the more rural
parts of Scotland, geographically, *are* more isolated, and this
leads to all sorts of lazy generalisations. Also the age-old English
problem with reconciling modernity with their narrow idea of being
Celtic: Celts generally don't see it as a contradiction, English
people unfortunately tend to. I'm sure there *is* an urban / rural
divide though - how else could the Scottish Labour Party have started
calling the SNP "Tartan Tories" when the SNP's central principle is
anathema to the Conservative and *Unionist* Party?
With early Simple Minds I could always sense an obsession with Europe
and travel: the lazy critical line here is that this was a desire to
escape and get away from English dominance. Am I right or is this
― Robin Carmody, Thursday, 11 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
― Billy Dods, Thursday, 11 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link
― alex in mainhattan (alex63), Saturday, 14 December 2002 20:06 (seventeen years ago) link
― Geir Hongro, Sunday, 15 December 2002 11:44 (seventeen years ago) link
Every single one of these bands should have their musical instruments taken away and thrown into the Firth of Forth.
― Dr. C (Dr. C), Sunday, 15 December 2002 15:42 (seventeen years ago) link
― Ned Raggett (Ned), Sunday, 15 December 2002 16:15 (seventeen years ago) link
― Callum (Callum), Sunday, 15 December 2002 16:30 (seventeen years ago) link
― alex in mainhattan (alex63), Sunday, 15 December 2002 20:24 (seventeen years ago) link
BD: No, I suspect it's probably more of a desire to emulate their heroes, Berlin era Bowie, Kraftwerk and anything coming out of Conny Plank's studio.
are there any other bands which have come out of glasgow (??) which have an obsession with the 'berlin set'? I know yummy fur are big on it. (any others?) I'm curious as to what makes that era of music (roxy, eno, bowie, iggy, lou, nina hagen, liliput) seductive to glaswegians if it even does.
one of the reasons yummy fur never cut it fr me (and this harks back to the fiery furnaces thread and numerous smiths threads) was what seemed to me an almost puritanical approach to iconography and images. look at how delicious a range of 'influences' they have, it could have been put to so much more affect, which wd perhaps helped mobilise thr magic a bit more. I bet they wouldn't have sneered at video installations.
― cozen (Cozen), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 13:56 (sixteen years ago) link
― cozen (Cozen), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 13:57 (sixteen years ago) link
― the bellefox, Wednesday, 3 March 2004 15:46 (sixteen years ago) link
― Dr. C (Dr. C), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 15:50 (sixteen years ago) link
― Dr. C (Dr. C), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 15:52 (sixteen years ago) link
― the bellefox, Wednesday, 3 March 2004 16:00 (sixteen years ago) link
― Tico Tico (Tico Tico), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 16:01 (sixteen years ago) link
― Dr. C (Dr. C), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 16:23 (sixteen years ago) link
― Dr. C (Dr. C), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 16:24 (sixteen years ago) link
― Tico Tico (Tico Tico), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 16:25 (sixteen years ago) link
― Billy Dods (Billy Dods), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 16:33 (sixteen years ago) link
― Andy K (Andy K), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 17:05 (sixteen years ago) link
― Dr. C (Dr. C), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 17:27 (sixteen years ago) link
"We Could Send Letters" clearly has a chorus, and a great one at that.
― Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 22:57 (sixteen years ago) link
― the surface noise (electricsound), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 23:00 (sixteen years ago) link