The late 70s were an astonishingly strange time to be both young and Scottish.
Punk had washed against the nation's edges, but – thanks to conservative (with a small 'c') councils - major acts were largely kept away from major cities.
Traditional industries such as shipbuilding were beginning to plummet, while in 1979 a historic referendum failed to deliver devolution to the people of Scotland.
Something had to give. This pent up cultural energy seemed to breached at the 70s drew to a close, with the infinite possibilities of post-punk supplying Scotland's youth with a chance to express themselves.
An astonishing period for music, this era would birth a series of remarkable labels, influential bands and crackpot raconteurs.
Grant McPhee's acclaimed documentary Big Gold Dream charts this process. Gaining unique access to the movers and shakers of the period, it matches archive footage against brand new interviews to tell the full story of this vital period.
Grant kindly picked out five vital Scottish post-punk gems as a primer for the film, and for this incredible epoch.
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James King – 'Back From the Dead'
James King was one of the original Glasgow punks and the guitarist in Fun4, the band responsible for Scotland's most controversial 7” – 'Singing In The Showers. After a line up change they became the Fun3 and nearly signed to Fast Product but instead would evolve into James King and the Lonewolves.
On this solo single James King was again backed by Orange Juice drummer Steven Daly (as he was on the Fun4 single). They had met at the infamous 185 West Princess Street flat and as a result of King's friendship with Alan Horne, on hearing the newly recorded 'Back From The Dead' he wanted to release it as the next Postcard single - but it had already been promised to Cube Libre so 'Back From The Dead' became one of the Postcard singles that never was! He would eventually record a single with the Lonewolves on Alan Horne's Swamplands label in 1985.
A great lost Scottish single with a mix of Postcard, proto-Americana and Chris Stein-like chiming guitar.
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Rezillos – Cant' Stand My Baby (Sensible)
This is really where Scottish indie music started – and it's not even mentioned in Big Gold Dream! 'Can't Stand My Baby' was recorded for Lenny Love's Sensible Records, which could make a good claim to be the first indie label in the UK. Lenny turned down 'Human Fly' by The Cramps, which bizarrely was also turned down by Bob Last's FAST. The actual master tape was passed around Edinburgh without any luck for Lux and Co, which now seems crazy.
The other indie label not mentioned in Big Gold Dream is Bruce Findlay's Zoom, another contender for the first real indie label. Bruce is a huge figure within the Scottish music industry, famously the manager of Simple Minds but also the owner of the Bruce's records chain (which got a big cheer at the Big Gold Dream premiere) who would supply all the new punk records to the central belt. He also, long before Rough Trade, enthused that every record shop in Britain should have it's own label.
Luke Warm, who wrote 'Can't Stand My Baby' would revert back to Jo Callis and become one of the main threads in Big Gold Dream, first bringing Bob Last in to manage the Rezillos then helping with suggestions of bands to sign with Fast while touring North England. When Bob became the Human League's manager he would get Jo to join the MK2 line-up and write 'Don't You Want Me'.
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Article 58 – 'Event To Come'
The greatness of 'Event To Come' is part derived from it's varied and interconnecting constituent parts. It was co-produced by Malcolm Ross from Josef K and Alan Horne. It was on Allan Campbell's under-appreciated Rational Records label (home to the equally great Delmontes and Visitors).
Allan himself was Josef K's manager and a major band and club promoter in Edinburgh. Guitarist Douglas MacIntyre would later join a variety of acclaimed bands (he is currently in The Sexual Objects). Drummer Stephen Lironi would become an intern at FAST, play on 'Big Gold Dream' by the Fire Engines (along with the Linn drum machine Bob Last borrowed from the recording of 'DARE!'), Restricted Code, Altered Images and become a highly successful music producer (Hanson and Bon Jovi).
A strange mix of Scottish post-punk and Quicksilver Messenger Service.
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The Jazzateers – 'Nothing At All'
The Jazzateers produced one fantastic album, which 'Nothing At All' appears on. They also have one of the most complicated line-up changes of any band which hopefully someday Pete Frame will create a Rock Family Tree for. Alan Horne casts a long shadow throughout their history – originally their manager and was at one point going to release a single with them on Postcard.
This line-up had Graeme Skinner (who would later join Hipsway) on vocals and is probably the furthest away from the Postcard sound you could get – more Stooges than Orange Juice. An un-named contributor claims it was their big FU to Alan Horne.
After this release Paul Quinn would re-join on vocals and they would rename themselves Bourgie Bourgie and record one of their many unreleased albums. Some members would go on to form The Independent Group backing Paul Quinn. Those Postcard2 albums should be in everyone's record collection.
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Patti Palladin / Johnny Thunders
This might seem an odd choice but it sums up a lot of what was happening in Alan Horne's world post-Postcard. This was due to be a release on Swamplands, Alan's major label backed vanity imprint (after two years in the wilderness).
The label is little remembered now but I think the releases probably outmatch those on the original Postcard (as does Postcard2). Like Postcard the catalogue is full of gaps so making a full list of releases/near releases is very difficult. There's a lot of strange things in the Swamplands archive, one is a video shot by Derek Jarman with Patti Palladin, Jayne County and a monkey.
I think we were the first to nose around there in 30 years when licensing for the film, which is a real shame. It's a real treasure trove for re-issue labels. Most of the original Postcard and friends are in there – James Kirk and Steven Daly's Memphis, Edwyn, Paul Quinn, Davy Henderson and James King.
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Photo Credit: Hilary Morrison