A History of Scottish Indie #1 - The Start Bit

Andrew Blair

Andrew Blair is a liar.

The first ever Scottish indie record was Camera Shy's Lord Cole's Stalinist Reference, which was released on the Hard Barter label in 4 AD. With its clean, trebly string sound and stop-start angular rhythms, it set a clear template for what followed. Unfortunately there was no means of playing the LP at the time of its pressing (no-one wanted to dance after King Herod of Judea's New Year mass infanticide), and so it wasn't until 1979 that its legacy ensued a-go-go.

That was the year that found 'Wee' John Merope hiding in a cave on Arran – on the run from English troops – when he discovered a copy of the Camera Shy LP hidden in the rock. He swam back to Ardrossan disguised as a Caledonian MacBrayne shuttle ferry, and found a turntable at the local tannery. Inspired by what he heard, Merope formed the seminal alt-rock group Pam Doove with other Milngavie Carpentry School dropouts, and kick-started the second fey-wristed wave of Scottish Indie bands, all seeking to gain membership of legendary labels such as Edinburgh's 'Nae Quality Control' and Glasgow's 'Tweegregious'.

The music's wry musings contrasted with the labels' belligerent aggrandising. Pam Doove's manager Chris Kirk famously followed John Peel around for a week, never saying a word, always staring, always bleeding from the waist down. Peel was good-naturedly nonplussed. Kirk had, of course, simply forgotten to bring the band's latest 7” with him, and was monumentally pissed off. Peel had already been given a copy via another source, and famously described it as 'on my list'.

Who Is Danny Trejo

Who Is Danny Trejo? - Parsonage's Ballroom, April 1981.

Indie was ambitious at this time, yet chart success eluded a spate of catchy but spineless Scottish groups, most notably The Brown Pills, Fourth Lanark, and Who is Danny Trejo? All of them had success in the recently pioneered 'Loser Music' charts, but failed to make significant dents in the Pop Top Forty. Only Pam Doove - with their Top Ten smash hit Chaste Wet Hankies – came close, but were largely designated a one hit wonder despite their years of toil and nigh-on-archaeologically dainty attempts to eke out a chart niche.

The major minor labels of this period burned up – literally – in a strange fire that occurred at the same time in seventeen separate locations across the country, all of which were owned by Chris Kirk. He was later found stabbed to death in a church in Dumfries, but despite evidence such as a chest height tom-toms and a book entitled How to Pretend to Be Interesting a verdict of 'Not Proven' was delivered, and Bobby Gillespie staggered free.

The opening salvo of Scottish Indie remains more influential than popular, as those to come looked to the early Eighties as an excellent example of how to limit your appeal or bollocks up being successful.

The foundations had been laid. Scottish Indie bands would be utilising these techniques for decades to come.

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