When Debbie did Gallus, Blondie at the Glasgow Apollo.

Whilst there have been several fine musical Hogmanay performances at towns and cities throughout Scotland over the years perhaps the most memorable of them all was delivered by a five piece band of mod styled punks from New York.

In 1979 Blondie were at the peak of their popularity. The success of their 1978 breakthrough album, Parallel Lines had set them on course for a period of domination in the singles charts, the band scoring five number ones. Produced by Mike Chapman, Parallel Lines saw the group moving from their rawer new wave roots to deliver a more pop orientated sound. Enter any bar with a juke box during that period and it was inevitable that Debbie Harry’s voice would be featured more than most.

Their 1979 album Eat to the Beat, whilst not spawning as many hit singles, could arguably be described as their finest. Just as the Clash were doing  that year with London Calling, Blondie cast aside any New Wave constraints and tackled several different musical genres. Funk, disco and reggae tracks sat comfortably alongside the more familiar pop punk songs.  Blondie weren’t just at the peak of their popularity,  musically they were at the top of their game.

Nowadays it’s Jools Holland’s annual Hootenanny that is the must watch Hogmanay programme for music lovers. In the seventies The Old Grey Whistle Test provided the musical backdrop to many a music fans New Year gatherings. Marking the end of the seventies and the start of the eighties was going to take something special. Blondie at the Glasgow Apollo  were to prove pretty much perfect.

Looking back from this multi-channel digital age it can be hard to comprehend just how the presence of TV cameras could add so much to the anticipation and sense of occasion surrounding the next nights gig. The UK still only had three TV channels, twenty four hour coverage was rare with broadcasting usually ending shortly after midnight. Even breakfast television was three years away. Live broadcasts of any kind were rare. One straddling the outgoing and incoming decades was a true novelty.

The importance of the Glasgow Apollo in making this gig something special really can’t be over stated. When reminiscing about long gone venues it’s tempting to paint too rosy a picture. The Apollo was a bit rough around the edges. The famously high stage should have acted as a barrier between the fans and the bands that played there and the ‘enthusiastic’ bouncers crowd control ran the risk of putting a dampener on things. Only none of this mattered, there truly was something magical about the place. The atmosphere inside was often intense, particularly if it was a sell out.  As the band prepared to take to the stage the Apollo crowd was even more cranked up than usual. The group opened with Denis, a guaranteed crowd pleaser.  The twenty one songs that followed kept things at full speed throughout the entire evening. Anybody who had watched a gig from the balcony at the Apollo will remember how it felt when the whole structure started bouncing. There were some in the crowd that night who genuinely worried it was actually going to come crashing down. Live television coverage began eight songs in with Dreaming and ended with a bagpipe enhanced Sunday Girl. A further two songs, also  broadcast on Radio One, completed the set.

Speaking about the gig in 2011 Debbie Harry recalled that every song that night was met with the same enthusiastic response from the Glasgow crowd. It really can’t be claimed that one gig is greater than any other,  we can all have several ‘best ever’ gigs depending on our mood.  However as memories of New Years Eve past go,  1979 at the Apollo is still worth raising a glass to.

Blondie at the BBC, released in 2010, contains the entire concert on CD and the  portion that was televised on DVD.

A Very Merry Christmas from The Barley Boat

As the preparations for Christmas go in to last minute overdrive those of us yet to finish or even start their festive shopping may be tempted to call for a halt to the madness. With so many people on a mission to shop themselves to death whilst a cheesy pop soundtrack plays in the background the urge to yell “Humbug” and call for the whole thing to be banned can be overwhelming. And for nearly four hundred years in Scotland it was banned. Following the reformation and a couple of Acts of Parliament the celebration of Christmas was frowned upon. Aye, the Act was repealed in 1712 but it wasn’t until 1958 that Christmas day finally became a public holiday. Even then our participation was a wee bit half hearted. Newspapers were still printed, many businesses still opened and if it fell on a Saturday then, up until 1976, football matches still went ahead. In that year if you didn’t fancy sitting down to a plate of turkey and all the trimmings then you could have taken in Clydebank v St Mirren or Alloa v Cowdenbeath. Admittedly they weren’t exactly glamour ties but for some it was the more traditional option. Quite why we took so long to join the rest of the world in the annual lunacy is a mystery. Perhaps some of it was our desire to be different from our neighbours. Slade and Wizard is it? We’ll not be having any of that jollity, dig out the Leonard Cohen records.
Celebrate it we do though, and not instead of but as well as what was our more traditional celebration, Hogmanay. What used to be a manic one night bash is now a whole week of revelry. If nothing else it demonstrates our collective stamina to the rest of the world.
I’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and say a big thank you for taking the time to come here and take a look around. It’s still early days but visitor numbers so far have been encouraging. For those of you who have completed all your preparations and wrapped all your presents enjoy a relaxing Christmas Eve with a few well-earned drinks. And for those who are still trying to buy that perfect present for everyone, don’t panic. Remember that your local all night garage will be selling car shampoo and sponges right up until Santa’s scheduled delivery time.
Merry Christmas to you all.

Dancing on Tables new EP, Don’t Stop.

Young Dunfermline five piece Dancing on Tables released their new EP, Don’t Stop, earlier this month, marking the occasion with a launch night at Electric Circus in Edinburgh. It’s still early days for this band but if you are looking for some sparkly indie pop to keep you in the festive party mood then you should check these four tracks out.
Things get off to a lively start with the catchy title track. The song fairly gallops along with the chorus perfect for a live show singalong. It does what all good three minute pop songs should do,  leaves you wanting more. Next tune, Street of Sounds serves up more of the bands undeniably infectious sound. The third track, Ono, is something of a surprise as things are slowed down considerably, violin and acoustic guitar providing the backing to possibly the strongest vocal performances on the EP. It works remarkably well and provides the perfect counterbalance to the bands more typical style which is reprised in the closing song, Waiting on Saturday. There’s still a long way to go for this Fife quintet but they are certainly heading in the right direction.
Dancing on Tables will be starting 2017 with a gig at PJ Molloys in their hometown on the 7th January. It would defintely be worth making the effort to attend and hear these tracks live.

You can download Don’t Stop here.

A Wee Taste of Islay, Machir Bay.

 

Machir Bay, Islay
Machir Bay, Islay

Islay, the most Southerly of the Hebrides has several wonderful beaches.  Machir bay,  on the islands West coast is possibly the most spectacular of them all.  The vast expanse of golden sand acts as the landing stage for the seemingly endless Atlantic ocean. Sometimes the waves roll gently in to shore.  Sunlight makes the sand sparkle as the ocean reveals itself to have a tender side, merely rippling as each wave softly kisses the welcoming sand. More often the sea relentlessly batters the Islay coastline, as the mighty waves, whipped up by the prevailing winds , rush towards land and break in the shallows, a cacophony  of noise, seaspray and airborne sand.

It’s the ever changing light that grabs most visitors.  The sky can change dramatically over the course of a few minutes.  One minute there are large swathes of blue sky, the next shafts of golden sunlight pierce the sky as they emerge from the encroaching clouds. Then a slight chill is felt as the clouds win for a while and the sun can barely be seen. It’s not too long before the scene has changed again.  With modern life seemingly  becoming ever more frenetic it’s good to have a place where nature demands that we just slow down and watch on in awe.  Machir bay is  one of those places.

Catching up with Hugh Kelly at The Double.

double

Hugh Kelly’s new single, The Double, was released on the 17th of November. We may have come slightly late to the party here, don’t you make the same mistake. Those of you are familiar with Mr Kelly will know to expect bluesy soulful vocals delivered at high intensity. The added ingredient here is an extra injection of pop sensibility compared to his previously released tracks. However it’s still all about that wonderful warm voice. The backing is fairly minimal but what there is does a good job of helping the song become planted inside your head.  There really is no messing about here, an instrumental intro is ditched as the vocal kicks in instantly and we are off on a three minute journey that flows along nicely and will leave you wanting to start it all over again.

Hugh Kelly has been gigging heavily throughout this year. Combine that work ethic with the potential on show here and if there is any justice we will be seeing him  going on to bigger things.

The Double can be purchased HERE.

Please take the time to visit Hugh Kelly’s website. 

A Couple of Christmas gifts from Laurie Cameron.

merry-xmas-laurie

As the annual party season begins to gather momentum the usual musical suspects are making their annual appearance.  We all know which songs are going to be enticing us into an orgy of drink fuelled out of tune singalongs and bad Dad dancing.  Tunes by Slade,  Wizard, The Pogues and even Shaking Steven will be embraced like old friends.  And there is nothing wrong with that, it’s all good raucous fun and an excellent opportunity to share some cheese filled moments with friends and family.

When you want your Christmas soundtrack to reflect the quiet contemplation of years gone past though then you have to dig a little deeper. Thankfully you don’t have to look much further than Scotland’s own Laurie Cameron who has gifted us a couple of rather wonderful alternative takes on the festive season.

Merry Christmas from Scotland (Lulled wi’ a stiff drink), originally released in 2012, is just over five minutes of reflective, clever lyrics accompanied by downbeat but pleasurable melodies. Cameron’s voice lifts the whole thing, her delivery ensuring we have something much more than mere seasonal melancholy here. When the festive blues kick in then it’s nice to know you are not alone, Laurie Cameron’s voice ensures you won’t be.

Her 2011 cover of Darlene Love’s Christmas standard Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) takes the original, slows it down and will break your heart if it catches you unaware. Many would consider it sacrilege to suggest that this Perth girl’s version surpasses the original. In capturing the tale of genuine yearning for a Christmas past that the lyrics suggest she may well have done just that.

Download Merry Christmas From Scotland HERE

More info at lauriecameron.co.uk