Dundee, The Sex Pistols and the Filth and the Fury.

The Sex Pistols
The Sex Pistols

 

On the 12th of October 1976 the Sex Pistols played their only Scottish gig in Dundee as a young punk band intent on shaking up the establishment. They were to return to Scotland during the 1996 Filthy Lucre tour but it could be argued that by then they had effectively become their own tribute band. Their connection with Dundee is also notable however for two dates that they didn’t play in the city later in 1976.

It’s only too easy to believe that it’s forty years since Punk music started to move out of its London strongholds to take over the whole country given how much the social and cultural landscape has changed. In 1976 Dixon of Dock Green with its homespun wisdom had only just ended its long run. The Black and White Minstrel Show was seen as acceptable wholesome family fun and the F word had only been heard twice on National TV, both times on obscure late night arts programmes.

The Sex Pistols played at the Dundee College of Technology’s Union, more commonly known as the Bowling Alley by the locals. The band, still including original bass player and songwriter Glenn Matlock played that night to a mixed crowd. You might imagine a hall full of punks but outside of London the punk scene was very small. Most provincial crowds had  a majority of  curious long haired music fans, perfect for the young John Lydon to noise up.

On the 8th of October EMI had signed the Pistols and their first single, Anarchy in the UK was released on the 26th of November. Malcolm McLaren had put together a punk rock package tour to promote the record during which it was planned to play a second gig in Dundee, this time at the Caird Hall. The tour proved to be somewhat shambolic, a TV appearance on a tea time television show sparking a wave of outrage that was to see many of the gigs cancelled. The Dundee date was to be one of them but rather curiously we seem to have two dates for the gig that never was.

On the 1st of December the Sex Pistols appeared on Thames Television’s Today programme, a tea time show hosted by Bill Grundy. By the end of the live broadcast the use of the word fuck on national TV had doubled. The fallout from the show was to effectively end Grundy’s career and punk rock and the Sex Pistol’s in particular were to be on the receiving end of a media and political backlash. During the show Grundy had goaded both the band and their followers, the Bromley Contingent including Siuoxsie Sioux into bad language. It was an invitation they weren’t going to turn down. Despite the fact it was a show only being seen in London it caused outrage nationwide. The Daily Mirror couldn’t resist stoking the fire and their Filth and Fury headline has gone down in punk folklore.

Daily Mirror Outrage
Daily Mirror Outrage

The story in Dundee goes that the band were due to play at the Caird Hall that same night and that they had cancelled the gig in order to appear on TV. There are easily obtained facsimile posters for sale that seem to confirm that this was indeed the case.   Evidence elsewhere suggests otherwise though.

The New Musical Express had published the tour dates for the Anarchy in the UK tour on the 27th of November and it showed the Dundee gig as being due on the 16th of December. The Pistols had been rehearsing for these dates when the last minute call to replace label mates Queen, who had to cancel due to illness, on the Tonight Show came. The Anarchy Tour was originally to have seen the Ramones accompany the Sex Pistols as they travelled the UK but the American bands management pulled them out due to what they saw as rushed planning by Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren. It’s possible that the gig organisers had been giving a provisional date leading to the famous 1st of December Dundee posters being printed. The actual line up for the tour ended up as The Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Clash and the Heartbreakers from the States.

As it was no further gig was to take place in Dundee. The high heid yins on the City Council decided that Punk should be effectively banned. It was a situation repeated all over the UK. At least though the former patrons of Dundee’s Bowling Alley have the satisfaction of knowing that the band did take to the stage there once giving them a small place in the history of a band that will continue to be talked about for decades to come.

Glasgow’s Coat of Arms, Tales of Sex, Violence and Royal Scandal.

glasgow-arms

As the well known saying goes, every picture tells a story and Glasgow’s coat of arms are no exception. You could easily dismiss them as rather staid signs of civic identity. However the familiar emblem tells a tale containing, sex, violence and royal scandal.

Sat on top of the coat of arms overseeing the whole story is the benign looking figure of St Mungo and quite rightly so.  It is his story after all. Mungo was born around AD510.  His mother was  Princess, Tenew, daughter of the King of the Lothians who became pregnant after a dalliance with a Prince. It would be no understatement to say that the King was not too pleased at the prospect of his daughter giving birth to an illegitimate child.  In fact he was so angry he had his daughter flung from the top of Traprain Law, a two hundred metre high hill near Haddington. Luckily Tenew and her unborn child survived the ordeal and managed to escape across the Firth of Forth in a coracle to Fife, ending up in Culross.

Here they were taken under the care of St Serf.   Mungo’s birth name was Kentigern.  It was St Serf who gave him the less formal pet name, Mungo. Mungo can be translated as ‘my dear one’ or ‘my friend.’ A modern day Glaswegian would simply say ‘Pal.’

Sometime around AD530 Mungo set up a church on the banks of the Clyde in order to spread the word of Christianity.  He chose a spot near the Molendinar Burn, a place where the River Clyde was easily forded. For over a decade he lived a peaceful, monastic and austere life, as you would expect from the man seen as Glasgow’s founder. After being driven out by the anti-Christian King of Strathclyde Mungo settled in Wales before eventually returning to Glasgow.

At the base of the coat of arms the words, ‘Let Glasgow Flourish’ appear, taken from a sermon by St Mungo. The centrepiece contains images of a bird, tree, bell and three salmon, each with a gold ring in its mouth. A handy wee rhyme acts as a reminder of these symbols.

Here is the bird that never flew

Here is the tree that never grew

Here is the bell that never rang

Here is the fish that never swam

The bird refers to a  robin that Mungo’s benefactor, St Serf, had tamed. In an attempt to turn St Serf against his favourite pupil his jealous classmates had rather cruelly slaughtered the bird.  However Mungo thwarted their plan by bringing the bird back to life.

Whilst tending a fire at St Serf’s monastery, young Mungo had fallen asleep and the fire had gone out.  Not wishing to incur the wrath of the other inhabitants Mungo took a branch from a nearby tree and placed it in the fire.  It instantly burst in to flames, relighting the fire and saving Mungo from unwanted grief.

Mungo undertook a pilgrimage from Rome whilst resident in Wales and it is said he returned with a bell which he regularly used during services. The bell was thought to have miraculous properties although what these were is not really clear.

The three fish tell the rather sordid tale of the Queen of Strathclyde’s infidelity and how St Mungo rescued her from the King’s wrath.  Queen Languoreth had been having an affair with one of her husband King Riderich’s knights. Rather stupidly she had gifted her wedding ring to her lover.  Her husband lured the knight to the banks of the Clyde where he ripped the ring from his finger and threw it in to the river. He then confronted his wife and informed her that if she couldn’t produce her wedding ring she faced death.  Now most people caught out having an affair would be unlikely to turn to the local holy man to get them off the hook.  Luckily for our hapless Queen she did though and after being told of her plight Mungo sent one of his servants to the river to catch a salmon and bring it back to him. Mungo cut open the salmon and there inside its belly was the Queen’s ring which she was able to present to her husband. Apparently the King was so confused he accepted his wife’s protestations of innocence.

So there we have it,  the origins of Glasgow, its founder, it’s motto and one of the best fisherman’s tales ever told, all depicted on one plaque.

 

 

 

Celebrating National Poetry Day with Robert Burns.

On National Poetry Day it seemed natural to look to Scotland’s bard, Robert Burns, for inspiration.  This poem speaks to us with words that are as relevant to modern day scotland as they were when they were written in 1795.  It really needs no more introduction,  read and enjoy.

A Man’s a Man for A’ That 

Is there for honest poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave - we pass him by
We dare be poor for a' that
For a' that, an' a' that
Our toils obscure an'a'that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hodden grey, an a' that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho e'er sae poor,
Is king of men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an stares, an a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at  his word,
He's but a coof for a' that,
For a'that, an a' that,
His ribband star, an a' that:
The man o'indpendent mind,
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an a' that;
But an honest man's abon his might,
Guide faith, he maunna fa' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
The dignities an' a' that;
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a' that,
That sense and worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that,
Fir a' that, an a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a'that. 

 

Kat Healy. Wolf, A Five Track, Five Star Gem.

wolf

Wolf, a five track EP by Edinburgh singer-songwriter Kat Healy was released back in July. On Friday the title track was released as a single, hopefully giving a gentle nudge to those yet to discover this audio gem.

Following the death of her father in 2015 Kat sought solace in the beautiful Schwarzwald region of Germany, a place she had visited with her parents as a child. During what must have been an emotionally raw period the five songs that constitute Wolf were crafted. They were then recorded live over only two days after she returned to Scotland.

Given the background to the recording of Wolf you would be forgiven for expecting a consistently downbeat collection of songs. Yes, there is grief and melancholy here but the overall message is one of hope and belief in the resilience of the human spirit.

Healy’s delicate, vulnerable voice deftly translates the emotion expressed in her lyrics into sounds that can sometimes break your heart and often lift your spirits whilst cleansing your soul of cynicism towards a sometimes cruel world. Opening track Be Still Gentle and Kind will have you instantly captivated. Trust me, you will find it hard to tear yourself away until the final notes of closing track Highland Fairy Lullaby have faded away. The sparse piano and cello backing provide the perfect accompaniment to Kat’s remarkable voice proving that sometimes less is more. Pianist Thilo Pfander and cellist Graham Coe have to be commended for ensuring that Wolf is a totally satisfying experience for the listener.

I’ll steal shamelessly from her lyrics in Be Still Gentle and Kind here by saying that Kat Healy is a flower you can’t ignore. She will be playing several gigs over the coming weeks to promote Wolf. I’d urge anybody who can to get along and see her live.

John Robertson 03/10/2016

http://kathealymusic.com/

https://twitter.com/kathealymusic

 

 

Deacon Brodie, Edinburgh’s Gentleman thief, hung on this day in 1788.

On the 1st of October 1788 Deacon William Brodie of Edinburgh was executed for his crimes on a gallows he reputedly played a part in designing.

William Brodie was born in September 1741 in Edinburgh, the son of a successful cabinet maker. Following in his father’s footsteps, young Brodie entered the family business and soon built a reputation for himself as a highly skilled craftsman and respectable businessman. His standing was further enhanced by his position as Deacon of one of Edinburgh’s trade guilds, The Incorporation of Wrights. As a member of the Cape Club, a convivial society which met nightly in Edinburgh’s Old Town, he rubbed shoulders with local dignitaries and higher members of society.

Deacon Brodie Figure on The Royal Mile (by Kim Traynor)
Deacon Brodie Figure on The Royal Mile (by Kim Traynor)

Deacon Brodie had a dark side though, he was a compulsive risk taker. During the hours of darkness Brodie was fond of frequenting some of the more unsavoury establishments in the Cowgate area where opportunities to gamble on cards, dice and his favourite, cock fighting, were plentiful. His personal life was no less risky or expensive. Brodie had two mistresses to support as well as five illegitimate children.

It was probably a combination of financial pressure and the  thrill of it  that saw his criminal activities commence. It is thought his first robbery occurred in 1768 but he may well have started before then on a smaller scale. As an accomplished locksmith it was easy for Brodie to copy the keys to a bank door enabling him to enter with ease at night and steal over £800. His criminal activity gradually increased over the years as his lifestyle became more and more costly but it was his meeting with George Smith in 1786 that was to see him crank up his crime wave considerably. Smith, an Englishman newly arrived in Edinburgh, was also a locksmith and the two men were to plan and carry out several robberies together. Several prominent citizens and businesses saw themselves targeted and relieved of property and cash. It can only have added to Brodie’s excitement when as a councillor he found himself discussing what was to be done to catch the ne’er do wells responsible.

It was the desire to pull off ever bigger crimes that was to prove Brodie’s undoing. Within a year of meeting Smith the duo had become a gang of four, as criminals John Brown and Andrew Ainslie were recruited. They began to spread their operations further afield with properties in Leith also being targeted. The gang must have thought themselves untouchable as they decided to pull of the big one, an assault on the Excise office at the bottom of the Royal Mile. The job was an unmitigated disaster. Departing from their normal modus operandi they decided to break in to the building. This time they were disturbed and had to flee the scene, their haul only amounting to £16.

Brown was the first gang member to be arrested and in return for a pardon he gave evidence blaming Smith and Ainslie for the robbery. Brodie fled to Amsterdam but was soon captured and returned to Edinburgh to face trial. Ainslie also received a pardon in exchange for giving a full account of the robbery so it was that only Brodie and Smith stood together in the dock in August 1788. The case against them was overwhelming. The verdict was guilty, the sentence, hanging.

Deacon Brodie was hung on the 1st October in front of a huge crowd. His case had totally gripped Edinburgh as the man formally seen as a respectable citizen had his outrageous private life laid bare. Rumours circulated that he had somehow cheated death by wearing a steel collar to prevent his neck from breaking on the gallows. The rumours however were false. If Brodie had been involved in designing the gallows he met his fate on then his skill as a craftsman had triumphed again. Brodie was cut down and declared dead. However his story did continue as Robert Louis Stevenson used it as inspiration for his classic tale of a man with two identities, Dr Jekyll and Mister Hyde.

Nowadays the story of Deacon Brodie is often retold to Edinburgh’s tourists. Of the man himself there is little sign, his body having been consigned to a long lost unmarked grave. However you can visit the pub on the Royal Mile that bears his name or enjoy a coffee at the Deacons House café in the Old town, reputedly the site of Brodie’s workshop. And whilst you enjoy a leisurely coffee or beer you can look around the room and wonder which of your fellow customers are, like Brodie, harbouring a dark side.

Deacon Brodie's Tavern. (by Kim Traynor)
Deacon Brodie’s Tavern.
(by Kim Traynor)

Winston Churchill and the revenge of the Dundee women.

It’s over ninety years now since the citizens of Dundee decided to boot their sitting MP, Winston Churchill, out of office. Scots have always had a sense of irreverence towards politicans of all parties with equal amounts of contempt shown to all regardless of status. Throw in the influence of traditionally strong women and it’s perhaps not surprising that the man destined to become one of the giants of the twentieth century was handed his marching orders by the inhabitants of the Tayside city.

A youngish looking Winston Churchill
A youngish looking Winston Churchill

In 1908, after being appointed to the cabinet as President of the Board of Trade he had been forced to stand for re-election in his Manchester North constituency, a by-election he managed to lose. However a few weeks later a vacancy in the Dundee constituency caused by the elevation to the peerage of Edmund Robertson saw Churchill selected as the Liberal candidate for the forthcoming by-election in the City of Dundee.

Dundee at the time was dominated by one major industry, Jute. As a supporter of free trade Churchill won the vocal and financial backing of the local Jute barons resulting in a comfortable by-election victory. The campaign wasn’t all plain sailing however with several woman’s suffrage groups demonstrating against him. It wasn’t the first time the politician had been targeted the suffragettes. Several of his meetings had been disrupted in the past by the votes for women movement when he was identified as being against their cause. In 1909 he had even been attacked by a whip wielding woman, Theresa Garnett, at Bristol Temple Meads station. As she attempted  to force him of the platform on to the tracks it took another woman to rescue him. As the men present kept clear his wife Clementine stepped in to pull him to safety. As the century progressed Churchill’s views on enfranchisement for women became ever more favourable to their cause but unfortunately the damage was done, he was seen as representing the status quo.

Churchill was to represent the City of Dundee until the general election of 1922. He stood for re-election four times. Given that he was returned to parliament more than once it has to be concluded that he wasn’t as universally unpopular in Dundee as lore would have it. His positions in Government whilst serving Dundee including President of the Board of Trade and Home secretary brought with them a certain status which appealed to some of the electorate. However Dundee was markedly different in one area than most other cities. The Jute mills were by far the major employer and due to being cheaper to hire women outnumbered men by 3 to 1 in the workplace. With women being the main breadwinners men stayed at home and looked after the children, also carrying out cooking duties etc. In these gentler more enlightened times we’d call them House Husbands or Homedads. In early twentieth century Dundee they were commonly referred to us ‘kettle bilers.’

The Representation of the People Act in 1918 introduced major changes in eligibility to vote in UK elections. All men over 21 were to be allowed to vote and also women over 30 meeting minimum property requirements were to be enfranchised. At a stroke the electorate had changed. Combine a reputation for being against women’s rights with a strong female population and it’s no surprise that Winston Churchill found himself fighting a losing battle in the 1922 election. When trying to explain afterwards what had gone wrong the man himself described how streams of poor women had made their way to the polling booths in the hours before they closed. There were multiple reasons why he lost his seat to Edwin Scrymgeour, a prohibitionist, but the women of Tayside had certainly made their votes count.

Whilst Churchill enjoys an immense reputation throughout much of the Western world for his war time leadership his legacy in Dundee is somewhat different. He may well have come to be seen as a giant of the twentieth century but the City on the Tay has it’s own unique memories of the man.

TeenCanteen, Pure pop delight with a Scottish accent.

teen-album

Say it all With a Kiss – Teen Canteen

Since their formation in 2012, Glasgow band TeenCanteen have been steadily growing their fan base with their addictive form of sweet infectious Indie pop. Their diminutive front woman, Carla Easton has said previously that they didn’t want to release an album too soon in their career. With this sparkling debut they have proved that the wait was worthwhile .

Right from the off we are introduced to the bands trademark blend of synths and harmony vocals. We are in familiar girl group territory here but Carla and co frequently take us off in new directions. The opening tracks, including Sisters, Kung Fu Heartbeat and Roses are pure pop gems. However it is the four song sequence that follows that will have the listener playing this album in its entirety for weeks on end. Friends, Honey, How We Met (Cherry Pie) and Dancing see the band deploy every weapon at their disposal in a charm offensive guaranteed to win over the most cynical amongst us,  all delivered in a distinctive Scottish accent.  Gorgeous harmonies, memorable tunes and inventive lyrics grab your attention and refuse to let go.

The band are described on their own website as providing sticky cherry cola-kissed three part harmonies. In the wrong hands that could prove to be a sickly recipe. When a band are as sure footed as this over indulgence was never going to be an issue.

Two Minute Trivia – Jimmy Finlayson, the Scot that inspired Homer Simpson’s famous catchphrase.

In Scotland we like to claim (with some justification) that we have invented just about everything. Tarmac, the pneumatic tyre, the telephone and television were famously all invented by a Scot. To that illustrious list I would like to add the creation of a simple word. It’s a word so powerful that when used that it can express all the frustrations felt when faced with the most difficult of situations without causing offence to others. A one syllable word that more eloquently releases emotion than any known swear word. A word invented by a Scot. Of course.

Jimmy Finlayson was born in Larbert in 1887. In 1911 he left Scotland for Hollywood. A successful stage career ensued and in 1916 he ended up in Hollywood to try his luck in moving pictures. Jimmy was one of the original Keystone Kops but it was his work with legendary comedy double act Laurel and Hardy that was to cement his fame. Short and bald, it was his false walrus style moustache that made him instantly recognisable. Master of the double take, he needed a word that he could use instead of Damn which would have been deemed outrageous if uttered in a film of that time. So he came up with an elongated single syllable, D’ooooooooh.

Fast forward a few decades and Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson, has to find a way of letting Homer’s frustration out, a difficult task give that having an animated character curse on prime time TV would not go down well. Inspiration strikes as memories of Jimmy Finlayson provide Dan with the solution. He shortened the Scots actor’s cry of despair to the snappier D’oh and one of the most recognisable catch phrases of the 21st Century was born.

Given the Scots famously inventive use of swear words it seems only apt that it was a Scot that came up with the most inoffensive curse of all time.

Rocking the Boat…Great Scottish Albums – Bandwagonesque by Teenage Fanclub

bandwagonesque_1324315152

There were more than a few decent albums released in 1991. Out of Time by REM, Trompe le Monde from the Pixies, Achtung Baby from a re-invented U2 and the behemoth that was Nirvana’s Nevermind all made their first appearance in that year. It was going to take something special for any album to hold their own amongst such strong competition. With the entry in to the fray in November 1991 of Bandwagonesque, Teenage Fanclub more than made their mark.

Every great album has a great opening track, The Concept sets us up perfectly for what is to come. From its opening couplet about a denim clad girl planning to buy some Status Quo records until the end of its fabulous extended guitar coda we are treated to over six minutes of pure power pop bliss. Second track, Satan, is a tease. Eighty two seconds of shambolic guitar thrashing seems to say, this is what we could do, now listen to what we are going to deliver. What follows is track after track of utter aural delight. The combination of great melody, delicious vocals, and snappy lyrics is irresistible. Even twenty five years on it still has the listener smiling frequently. Sometimes it’s knowingly as a familiar emotion is exposed. More often though it’s just a joyous reaction to the sheer audacious dumb fun of it all.

Tracks like ‘What you do to me’ perfectly brings to life the sheer wonder of falling in love. It’s done simply with a great tune, superb vocals and a lyric that barely lasts four lines. On Metal Baby the love-struck singer tells us ‘’I’m not the sort of person she’ll admit she knows, She’s not the sort of person as driven white as snow.’’ In two lines he hasn’t just introduced the characters, he has evoked memories of every high school movie you have ever seen. There is no happy ending for this mismatched pair though as our indie geek hero sees his metal head girl leave town with the band.

There may be some imperfections here. Sidewinder doesn’t quite meet the standards of classic tracks like Alcoholiday but it only serves to highlight just how high the band were setting the bar. It’s certainly not a groundbreaking album. Its influences are all too obvious here with The Beach Boys and The Byrds humming away in the background as Big Star dominates the foreground. However If the major requirement of a great album is to be packed with great songs, Bandwagonesque is up there with the best that a Scottish band has given us. Its reaches its 25th anniversary in November, the perfect excuse to give it another listen. Do it soon, you won’t be disappointed.