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Goodbye Mr Mackenzie: The Rattler
While the masses were storming Woolworths for the honking “white soul” emanating from the banks of the Clyde, in Edinburgh Goodbye Mr Mackenzie were busy being the best band never to enjoy the world stardom they deserved. This was the first single I reviewed for my fanzine and was the first of many great songs they wrote.
AC/DC: It’s A Long Way To The Top
Are ACDC Scottish? Of course they are, there is a statue of Bon Scott in Kirriemuir and this song even has bagpipes in it.
Franz Ferdinand: Darts Of Pleasure
The first time I ever appeared on Radio Scotland it was to review Franz Ferdinand’s debut album where I argued with another guest, who had once made up a Meatloaf review for The Scotsman and thought the Scissor Sisters were better.
Camera Obscura: Lloyd, I'm Ready to be Heartbroken
This band followed Belle & Sebastian in emulating the Scottish indie sound of the eighties, and in doing so they did a better job than all of them. The whole album is a thing of beauty.
The Time Frequency: New Emotion
I was at the opening night of PURE, bought FiniTribe’s records and was a regular at some great house clubs. However, in most of central Scotland people were tuning in to Tom Wilson’s show on Radio Forth, swallowing eccies by the handful and listening to anthems like this. Every weekend! It’s amazing.
Annie Lennox: Little Bird (Utah Saints remix)
I found this remix on iTunes about 15 years after first hearing it. It’s so good I once listened to it six times in a row while jogging round Oban. The only reason I didn’t go for seven was because my legs hurt.
The Jesus & Mary Chain: The Living End
When I was 19 this song led me to buy a pair of leather trousers, although I never went down the road of actually owning a motorbike. I’ve often wondered if the Reid brothers did, or whether they only got as far as the strides as well.
Gerry Rafferty: Baker Street
The true brilliance of this song is how it makes the saxophone, the most irritating instrument ever invented, sound appealing. It’s a feat usually managed only by ska bands.
1990s: You're Supposed To Be My Friend
Just when Primal Scream were cleaning up their act, along came the 1990s with two of the best albums of the noughties. The singer once grabbed Vic Galloway’s nads during a live TV interview. They both told me this independently of each other.
The Exploited: Dead Cities
I would be willing to bet that The Exploited are better known around the world than most Scottish pop acts. The first time I saw them was on Top Of The Pops, as did somebody working at the dole office, which apparently led to Big John’s claim being stopped when he went in to sign on a few days after being on TV.
Lena Martell: One Day At A Time
My hairdresser once told me that Lena took her surname from the make of brandy. If that’s true, it’s an excellent detail given that the song could be interpreted as an ode to the twelve steps. I once put this into a DJ set and Emma Pollock and Paul Savage came up to say how much they like it too.
Django Django: Default
Django Django were created by a benign genius for people like me who always wanted to be able to dance to The Beta Band.
The Hook’n’Pull Gang: Gasoline
Although managed by a guy who had written a Tina Turner B-side, this amazing band broke up before they got their major break. When I was 17 I was supposed to interview them after a gig in the Assembly Rooms but I’d drunk ten cans of beer by the time I actually got to speak to them. It was an early lesson in not getting hosed up before meeting the band. You can hear 'Gasoline' here.
The Poets: That’s The Way It’s Got To Be
The Poets were not just a great Scottish band, they were one of the very best anywhere in the 1960s. Although renowned for moody, introspective songs, this, their second single, is edgy R&B, by driven acoustic guitars, twin pounding bass lines and George Gallacher’s assured, distinctive vocal. It was produced by Andrew Loog Oldham, the Rolling Stones manager. Little wonder his more-famous charges saw the Poets as rivals.
The McKinleys: Give Him My Love
Between 1964 and 1965, Edinburgh sisters the McKinleys recorded four wonderful ‘girl-group’ singles. This, their last in the UK, is a moody beat ballad, co-written by Donovan, who deserves a Top 10 all on his own. Dropped by their record label, the duo then moved to Germany where they forged successful careers, together and individually. You can hear 'Give Him My Love' here.
The Incredible String Band: Waltz Of The New Moon
The String Band are another of the greatest groups ever, a kaleidoscope of folk, magic and mysticism. Who else unites Billy Connolly, Robert Plant and the Boards Of Canada? Their first five albums are all essential and choosing one track is next to impossible. It could’ve been ‘Witches Hat’, ‘The Half Remarkable Question’, ‘You Get Brighter’, ‘October Song’…
(White) Trash: Road To Nowhere
The Pathfinders were one of Glasgow’s great soul groups, but this desolate Carole King composition was also part of their set. They cut a demo, which producer (and former Shadow) Tony Meehan took to the Beatles’ Apple label. That very recording was the one issued in 1969, albeit under the above new name. Demo or not, the group’s confident swagger created a brooding intensity, one befitting its lyrical helplessness. You can hear 'Road To Nowhere' here.
The youngest group of Edinburgh’s punk bands, the Scars learned in public and had to wait two years to record. The result was astonishing. ‘Adult/ery’ is brash, confident and punchy; a furious riot of metallic chords which maintains a forcefulness throughout. As a statement of intent, this has few equals and it’s arguable the group ever sounded better. You can hear 'Adult/ery' here.
Fire Engines: Get Up And Use Me (Codex Communications version)
Fire Engines epitomized Edinburgh’s vibrant post-punk scene, a bratty, angular twist on US no-wave and Captain Beefheart. Prickly, exciting and fixedly determined, this was another mission statement, one that continues today. The roots of guitarist/vocalist Davy Henderson’s later, equally essential, groups – Nectarine No 9 and the Sexual Objects – are here. Brilliantly.
Josef K: It’s Kinda Funny (‘Only Fun In Town’ version)
Having signed up with Postcard Records, Josef K released ‘It’s Kinda Funny’ as a single but then re-recorded it for their album ‘The Only Fun In Town’. Both are excellent but, for me, the second has the edge, losing the ‘ping pong’ punctuation and gaining an altogether tougher sound. The song itself is an existentialist masterpiece, its detachment emphasized by singer Paul Haig’s laconic delivery.
Blue Nile: Easter Parade (with Rickie Lee Jones)
Blue Nile’s album debut, A Walk Across The Rooftops, was released in 1984 to critical acclaim. The moody, spectral ‘Easter Parade’ was one of its many triumphs but another version, tucked away on a CD single, captures them with Rickie Lee Jones. The blend between her voice and that of Paul Buchanan is both tender and heartbreaking, evoking a lost, closing-time melancholia steeped in sadness.
Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes: Splashing Along
Part of Edinburgh’s indie ‘C-86’ which also included the Shop Assistants, Fizzbombs and Vultures, Jesse Garon made several great records, but this, their first single, is maybe the best. Filled with innocence and jingle-jangle fun, it’s playful, joyful and totally irresistible. You can hear 'Splashing Along' here.
Spirea X: Fire and Light
Track 10 and I am haunted by those omitted (the Pastels’ ‘Baby Honey’… ah well.) Spirea X was led by Jim Beattie, formerly and co-founder of Primal Scream. Listeners who hanker for that group’s paisley-patterned early work will find much in this magnificent track, an opaque, harmony-drenched classic; dreamy, Byrds-like and utterly captivating.
Chas McDevitt: Freight Train
There’s no doubt that Lonnie Donegan, a Glaswegian by birth, was the one who gave Skiffle its impetus and profile but for me the most evocative of these records was 'Freight Train' by the Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group. The singer was Nancy Whiskey. Her name was actually Anne Wilson and she, like Donegan, was from Glasgow. Her stage name was suggested by fellow group-member Jimmie Macgregor, who had come across it in the chorus of a Glasgow song, ‘The Calton Weaver’. Jimmie, who went on to have a considerable profile later, had left the group by the time the chart appearances commenced.
The Poets: Now We’re Thru
Scotland had some great pop groups in the 1960s. It would be true to say that Marmalade (previously Dean Ford and The Gaylords) were the biggest hit-makers but the most interesting for me were The Poets. So here it’s gotta be 'We're Thru'.
Bert Jansch: Strolling down the Highway
When I seriously encountered the world of folksong in 1965 there were multiple strands which were full of treasures. One was the American aspect which included songs by the likes of Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. Elizabeth Cotten, who wrote ‘Freight Train’, had a presence there too. It was soon apparent that much of this repertoire was what had been the backbone of Skiffle. Another strand was the guitar players and songwriters. Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular, was especially fertile in this area and provided a number of accomplished participants. Out front was Bert Jansch, closely followed the following year by The Incredible String Band. The mesmerising opener of Bert’s first album, which I first heard in Imhof’s on New Oxford Street on my initial visit to London, is my choice here.
Jeannie Robertson: Twa Recruitin’ Sergeants
A truly significant discovery in the world of folksong was the cornucopia of riches from Scotland. I was aware of some folksongs but the depths provided were astonishing. I was fortunate enough to get to know a few of the older singers aka ‘source singers’, many from the North-east and from Traveller communities. The song I’ve selected smartly combines politics, satire, wit and history, skillfully wrapped in a social commentary related to the trickery employed by the recruiters for the Napoleonic wars. The performance, from the towering presence of the great Jeannie Robertson, is a joy to behold. So, here is – 'Twa Recruitin’ Sergeants'.
Cream: White Room
The term Supergroup hadn’t been uncovered by the time Cream was formed, although the collective illustrious past of the group’s members arguably qualifies them for the description. The connection to Scotland is of course the great Jack Bruce whose bass guitar and voice drove, and in many ways, dominated the sound of the group. Jack wrote the melody to this song and the lyric is by Pete Brown.
Frankie Miller: Brickyard Blues
Scotland’s seaport towns, particularly Glasgow, Dundee and Leith, like other UK seaport towns benefitted from the merchant seamen bringing records from the USA, long before they were readily available in Britain. These included blues, country & western and all that made early rock’n’roll. These records were followed by early Motown and obscure soul imports. Such towns also boasted a number of singers with throaty voices suited to the found repertoires. Scotland’s finest female voice in this category belongs to Maggie Bell with the male honours going to Frankie Miller. Teamed with legendary New Orleans producer/songwriter/pianist Allen Toussaint in 1974, they collaborated to make this.
Cocteau Twins: Sugar Hiccup
Arguably the most distinctive pop music from Scotland was what I’d describe as the arty stuff that emerged in the 1980s. All the Postcard records had a particular vitality. The front-runners to my mind were the trio who made up The Blue Nile closely followed by The Cocteau Twins. Accordingly, my next selection is Cocteau Twins' 'Sugar Hiccup'.
The Blue Nile: Saturday Night
Having mentioned The Blue Nile, I have to include one of theirs. The band’s debut album, A Walk Across the Rooftops, was an essential part of the soundtrack to the 1980s for me. This song is a highlight of their equally essential second album Hats. It’s The Blue Nile – 'Saturday Night'.
Garbage: Only Happy When It Rains.
When I worked at the BBC in the late 1980s one of the groups featured in the more adventurous of our music programmes was Goodbye Mr McKenzie. The main singer was Shirley Manson, who always had a little something extra. A group of American producers and musicians, on a search for a particular kind of female singer for their new band, came across Shirley in a video made for her then current group Angelfish. They tracked her down and invited her to be a part of their band, Garbage. Shirley grabbed the opportunity by the scruff of the neck and continues to tour and make great records with them. This is from their debut album.
Jill Jackson: 1954
Back in 1995/96 my wife Stephy Pordage and I set up a media production company, Neon. We were commissioned to deliver The Brand New Opry to BBC Radio Scotland. One day Stephy went through a number of demos on cassette tapes and unearthed a group called Jacksonville. They were fronted by an engaging teenage singer called Jill Jackson. We got her onto the show and have remained in touch since. We now work together often. This is from her 2018 album Are we there yet?
The Proclaimers: Sunshine on Leith
This song is Scottish poetry, speaking of home (Leith) and of simple but profound feelings of belonging. It is also deeply spiritual. It will always be my number 1.
Gerry Rafferty: Baker Street
There’s a spiritual yearning in this beautiful song too – a sense of belonging and sense of place that the singer seems to have lost on the way. The song is transcendent.
Danny Wilson: Mary’s Prayer
This musical outfit are quiet and unobtrusive exponents of one of the most exquisite and understated songs I have ever heard. Somewhere between Brian Wilson and a 60s soul artist that I can’t quite place.
Lulu: To Sir With Love
Beautifully and tenderly sung and with a great 60s production. Somehow the song captures a transition in life that is fleeting but profound.
Edwyn Collins: A Girl Like You
Radically paired down song and production and a repetitive but hypnotic melody that won’t let you escape! From one of Scotland’s finest.
Garbage: Only Happy When It Rains
Damn it! Shirley nailed the perfect self-destructive lyric and stance. A fabulous song, record and artist.
Paolo Nutini: Last Request
Why is Paulo Nutini so darn talented? Even the poppiest of his songs (bound to appeal to legions, if not everyone) are underpinned by authenticity and real soul. Goan yer sel’ Son!
Mogwai: Relative Hysteria
I love the ‘out there’ soundscape thingies that the Mogwais do – true originals – and no easy listening either. Live, their guitars are the loudest things bar a Concorde take off.
The Jesus and the Mary Chain: The Living End
Had to get these boys in – what a sound! And even better, the song seems to be about motorbikes!
The Fire Engines: Candyskin
Chaotic and minimalist. But somehow it all hangs together, tempting us with nearly touched beauty. A highly original and influential record that manages to be both poppy and catastrophic. You can hear ‘Candyskin’ here.
A lot of people thought we were being ironic or mocking by having this as the title song in Big Gold Dream but we weren't! It's just a brilliantly written, performed and produced 3 minutes which sets out to be nothing more than a perfect pop song. David Paton gave his blessing for us to use it, and it just forms part of the story. Because the Bay City Rollers were from Edinburgh they cast a big shadow which later bled into the punk scene, which is why we used it. Glam Pop Punks! It was Angela, our editor’s idea!
Dorothy: I Confess
Alex Fergusson is one of Scotland’s greatest songwriters but sadly is rarely acknowledged for his large contributions. He co-founded Alternative TV, Psychic TV and produced Orange Juice's Blue Boy amongst many others. Dorothy is not Scottish but I love this collaborative single they did. He did so much in that period. Perfect subversive pop which he continues to do to this day.
You can hear ‘I Confess’ here and Alex Fergusson’s ‘Stay With Me Tonight’ here.
Robert Rental: Double Heart
A true pioneer of modern electronic music (along with his friend Thomas Leer). It's an irony of his originality; that by sounding so different to the other Scottish Post-Punk artists he usually gets left off lists. You don't need a guitar to be a punk! I'm excited there's an exhibition and documentary on both Robert and Thomas taking place later this year.
You can hear ‘Double Heart’ here.
Shelagh McDonald: Stargazer
Strangely I used to work in a call centre run by Robert Kirby who arranged the strings on this, but that’s another story. This is a beautiful and magical song which creates an incredible spell-like atmosphere which not many records are able to achieve. I love it. Very much part of the acid folk scene pioneered by ISB and definitely a massive influence on Johanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart and that US freak-folk scene from many years later.
Hey Joe: Love/Marmalade
Made world famous by Hendrix and dubiously claimed to have been written in an Edinburgh folk club during the late 50s. Scotland’s role in the folk revival and that role’s development into pop/rock should never be downplayed. I think the year zero moment for Scottish Pop is the 1951 Edinburgh People’s Festival Ceilidh. Like the best music, this song would cross-pollinate and evolve around the world, branching into many different directions, influences and mutations. The inspiration given to Love and The Byrds would eventually come back to Scotland and help part kickstart a whole new Scottish scene with Orange Juice and then Primal Scream Mk 1's jingly-jangly-garage-ness. This is the Marmalade version based around Hendrix's, though Love’s is by far the best.
One in a Million: Fredereek Hernando
I'm a massive 60s UK Psyche fan. Not much came from Scotland unfortunately but this more than makes up for that. One of the genre's absolute best and all the way from Lenzie. Guitarist Jimmy McCulloch was only 13 and later found fame working with Pete Townsend and Paul McCartney.
You can hear ‘One in a Million’ here.
House of Lords: In the Land of Dreams
Because so little came from Scotland I'll cheat and add this other excellent Glasgow psyche single, which I know nothing about.
You can hear ‘In the Land of Dreams’ here.
What I love about Finitribe is they just do their own unique thing regardless of outside influences. Like Robert Rental, not being part of a particular sound or scene makes it difficult for journalists to categorise them, which journalists hate. This seemingly developed from nowhere into a void sometime in 1986. The world (and Ibiza) finally caught up a couple of years later with Acid House and this then found its closest home – though still unique. It’s just great music that defies a category. Chris Connelly would later join industrial bad boys Ministry. A shout-out should also go to Ege-Bam-Yasi, covering similar ground at the time but again completely unique.
Subway Sect: Hey Now I'm in Love
While not from Scotland, Vic Goddard is so steeped within the culture of Scottish independent music that he's become an honorary Scotsman. This influence demonstrates that where you come from is completely irrelevant in music, it's shared attitudes which define you rather than geographic location. And obviously great music, which Vic's eclectic back catalogue is full of. So much to choose from and so varied, this again demonstrates that punk is more than just three chords and a guitar. His influence is probably as big on Wet Wet Wet as on Postcard (with whom he'd later release an album).
They were a Christian rock group from Edinburgh but instead of sounding like Stryper are more like a cross between The Wicker Man soundtrack, The Velvet Underground and Amon Duul. I came across their album in a charity shop and became intrigued by it, and know very little about them.
You can hear ‘Aslan’ here.
Happy Meals: Le Voyage
I didn't really know much about this when I bought it. One of the best LPs from last year. Great pop music. They say don't judge a book by its cover but this is exactly why I bought the album and hoped the music would match its beauty, which it more than achieves.
Spell: Big Red Balloon
Rose McDowall is one of Scotland's greatest singers and songwriters. Much more than just Strawberry Switchblade, with a rich list of collaborations amongst her own unique solo work. This cover perfectly sums up that Strawberry Switchblade balance of fun and darkness which runs through her career.
Wounded Knee: Freedom Come All Ye
I think Drew Wright is one of Scotland's most creative musicians. Constantly evolving, inventing and experimenting over the last 10/15 years. Originally part of a scene which appeared to often spend more time on creative band names than music, he just seems to understand where music comes from and new ways to take it to.
You can hear ‘Freedom Come All Ye’ here.
Tuff Love: Sweet Discontent
I’m allowing myself one Lost Map track in this top 10, and there’s no way it could be anything other than this tune. There’s a secret ingredient in all Tuff Love songs that is seriously addictive. It’s probably bad for your health.
Looper: Burning Flies
Stuart David left Belle and Sebastian and formed a band with his partner Karn, releasing an album which had the same melody going through almost all of the tracks. It shouldn’t really work, but it totally does. The intimate, homemade aesthetic throughout all their work really appeals to me.
The Delgados: Accused of Stealing
Emma Pollock’s voice. I mean, c’mon. I love the way this song twists and turns, reeling you in. It’s the perfect marriage of engaging songwriting and inventive production. So good.
Lone Pigeon: Long Way Down / The Rainking
This is two tracks, paired together on the album Concubine Rice. That track 'The Rainking’ is monumental. There’s an even longer version of it on the Fence compilation John’s ABC - but that’s not available online anywhere, so I figured I should just share this one. It’s still quite long, and dreamy.
Boards Of Canada: In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country
Electronic instruments sound like they are slowly breathing, and a manipulated sample of a child’s voice becomes both sinister and comforting at the same time. After a minute or so, a vocodered voice comes in – "Come out and live with a religious community in a beautiful place out in the country”. There’s something so strangely haunting, and warped about that invitation – but still alluring. The way it’s expressed feels automated, but human at the same time. When it finally disintegrates, and submerges beneath the wheezing synths, it’s really blissful.
Free Love: Synchronicity
Best act in Scotland right now, both live and on record. Everything they do blows my mind! I’m a big fan. They create music that is emotional, but also fun. Like 2Unlimited.
Golden Teacher: Party People
Turn this up LOUD. It’s f***ing wild.
King Biscuit Time: I Walk The Earth
I should really have a Beta Band song on here, but I’ve gone with a King Biscuit Time track instead – it’s perfect, this. I love singing along to Steve Mason’s voice.
Breakfast Muff: R U A Feminist
This is pretty much what Scotland does best, innit? Scuzzed up guitars, bass, drums, reverby vocals. Swearing. I reckon Breakfast Muff do it better than most. Really great band live, too – swapping instruments, and lead vocals. I love all that.
Primal Scream: Shoot Speed / Kill Light – Live at the Zepp
This is a live version of one of my favourite Primal Scream tunes. Normally live recordings are nowhere near as good as the records, but this is off the flipppppin’ pipes. People can be quite snobby about Primal Scream these days, I guess they’re seen as a heritage act by some folk. That comes with having a seminal album, I suppose. But they created so many outstanding albums – that run in the late 90s/early 00s especially. XTRMNTR is such a confrontational, visceral, unrelenting record. I love listening to this really loud, so that it hurts.
Cocteau Twins: Blue Bell Knoll
No Scottish list could be complete without something from the Cocteaus. Still utterly unique, still mesmerising, Liz Fraser's voice, just that.
The Blue Nile: Tinseltown in the Rain
First experience of immaculate melancholia through my sister’s bedroom door.
Mogwai: Like Herod
I remember seeing them play this live at the Barrowlands many moons ago and it was like standing at the edge of an ocean and feeling the most enormous wave just rage towards you and engulf you. Don't think I had vibrated to music like that before.
Kathryn Joseph: The Blood
When I first heard Kathryn's album I had to pull over into a layby and just listen to the entire thing through. She touches something very deep, mysterious, otherworldly and the intensity of her live shows are jaw dropping.
Martyn Bennett: Move
From his hailed album GRIT. Making a show about his life in 2014 really made me dissect all his songs and the layers in them. The way he uses the voice of the great traditional singer Sheila Stewart and merges it with these huge dirty beats is just sublime, ancient and current in a gorgeous symbiosis.
John Martyn: Solid Air
Folk/jazz/blues genre-bending spacey brilliantness.
Edwyn Collins: A Girl Like You
Perfect pop Motown-y influenced mash up.
Teenage Fanclub: Star Sign
Chvrches: The Mother We Share
I am crap at going to a gym. I try. This is the only song and album which seems to make my body do stuff. I thank them for that. I imagine this was not their main objective but I thank them nonetheless.
King Creosote: Bats in the Attic
Delicate, poetic beauty.
Cocteau Twins: Fotzepolitic
I just love all the sounds! All the elements that make up the Cocteau Twins. I think I first heard them when a friend was DJ'ing gigs when I was starting to develop my own taste in music.
I remember listening to Version 2.0 on my Portable CD player, Shirley Manson is so Cool!
Idlewild: When I argue I see shapes
I saw Idlewild a few times in various venues in Aberdeen and Pete (from Sprog Rock) and I went and saw them play at the Kelvingrove Band Stand a couple of years ago when C Duncan (Liam from Sprog Rock plays drums for them) were supporting. It was so fun. They totally worked the crowd and seemed to be having so much fun. I love seeing that. Also SHAPES!
Young Fathers: In My View
Everything Young Fathers have done is so exciting. Such exciting performers and so much to dive into in the music, I hear something new every time I listen to their music.
Kathryn Joseph: The Weary
I saw Kathryn play lots of times at The Lemon Tree in Aberdeen. She's got such a magical quality. She doesn't really sound like anyone else, it's so beautiful, vulnerable and strong all at the same time.
Eurythmics: There must be an angel
The Eurythmics was music we listened to in the car, something that my whole family could agree on listening to and singing along with. Also Annie Lenox went to the same school as me. (But not at the same time.)
Belle and Sebastian: Electronic Renaissance
It was hard to pick a Belle and Sebastian track because there are so many songs I love.
Del Amitri: Don't come home too soon
This was the Official Song for Scotland in the 1998 World Cup. Me and a few other members of Sprog Rock play football on a Sunday with pals for fun and I always think this song resonates with our friendly, unambitious football too!
The Little Kicks: Goodbye Enemies, Hello Friends
Another band I saw a lot growing up in Aberdeen. I love this song for a sunny day, it's really sweet and upbeat.
Teenage Fanclub: This Is Music?
Whenever I need a boost, this is such a good song for feeling like a winner!
Ivor Cutler: Beautiful Cosmos
My dad is a huge Ivor Cutler Fan and when Ivor used to play gigs in Aberdeen he would play our harmonium so once I got to speak to him on the phone when I was about 9. He said I was very polite. It's another one that's hard to choose but this song is so charming and warm!
Orange Juice: Rip it up
For ages I didn't even know that Orange Juice were Scottish! I feel like this is a song that I've always known and at no point do I remember discovering it!
Cocteau Twins: Iceblink Luck
My favourite kitchen whirlabout. Exquisite stuff. Liz Fraser nailed the art of bonkers phrasing long before Bjork did. Legendary at my high school because Grangemouth was an ever shitter place than Denny. And therein lies hope. (PS Fraser’s singing of Tim Buckley’s Song to The Siren with This Mortal Coil is one of the most beautiful things ever…)
Big Country: Chance
In The Crossing and Steeltown, they nailed industrial Scotland and the brutal human fallout of the Thatcher era. Plus the big unrequited love of my early teenage years was a plaid-shirted Stuart Adamson wannabe.
Altered Images: I Could Be Happy
I showed a TOTP clip to my daughter when she was about 4. When it was done, she pointed at Clare Grogan and asked: when do we get to meet that lady, mum? My thoughts entirely.
RM Hubbert with Aidan Moffat & Alex Kapranos: Car Song
When Aidan Moffat is in tender mode, it’s a beautiful unravelling thing. And Hubby is a modest gem.
Sarah J Stanley: Hold on Elijah
Let’s f*** over the system that we live in. Her voice gets under my skin. I love her HQFU electro moniker too. And she’s a brilliant visual artist too. This song is no.1 for therapeutic weeping. You can listen to the song here.
The Waterboys: Whole of the Moon
I don’t care for the anthemic container as much as I did when I was 16. And strictly speaking, of course, it’s a Scottish, English, Irish collaboration. But Mike Scott’s (very Scottish) lyric is a heart’s keeper. Trumpets, towers and tenements, wide oceans full of tears. It’s a dear song, for quiet reasons.
Frightened Rabbit: Swim Until You Can’t See Land
Ocht. It takes on a deeper, harder meaning since the death of Scott Hutchison. But it’s still a glorious wedge of uplifting melancholy.
Deacon Blue: Dignity
I love this most of all because of what it does to a crowd. It’s like an enchantment of communal feeling.
Jonnie Common: Crumbs
Criminally underrated. Trapped in Amber is my favourite M8 album of the last 10 years. Lyrically witty. Yet frequently poignant. Surely, this fella is gonna break one day?
Chvrches: The Mother We Share
I wanted to be in Iain Cook’s previous band The Unwinding Hours. I was fortunate to nab him as producer of my 2012 album Traces, just as Chvrches was emerging. I totally couldn’t afford him now! A brilliant band. And, as the mum of an impressionable wee daughter, Lauren Mayberry is some kind of feminist pop perfection. Singer. Drummer. Tech Head. Writer. Producer.
Franz Ferdinand: Always Ascending
I turn this track up really loud and dance like everyone’s watching!
The Associates: Party Fears Two
I get completely lost in this song – I hear something different every time I listen to it and I’ve listened zillions of times. I miss Billy – I hope he knows how totally loved he is.
Sheena Easton and Prince: U Got The Look
‘It should have been me’ says the ever-deluded me...
Simple Minds: Chelsea Girl
Will always remember being a teen in my bedroom and playing this single again and again and again… and they were from Glasgow, my hometown, and then they let Altered Images open for them.
The Twilight Sad: I Could Give You All That You Don’t Want
Have a very big weakness for the guitars in this song – it reminds me of my youth and all the awkward boys I loved hanging out with.
Cocteau Twins: Heaven or Las Vegas
Always fresh, completely unique sound and a band that seemed to do it always on their own terms – something I truly admire as I know how tough that is.
Jessie Rae: Over The Sea
Ok so I have a few drinks and then insist everyone listens to this song if not sing along – watch the video – I insist (again). I love Jessie – I even got to see him without his helmet on – he is passionate about what he does and he is oozing with talent. Caledonian Funk at its funkiest.
Shirley has a truly distinctive voice – the minute you hear it you know who it is and that really does not apply to everyone. She takes that lead singer role to another level... She is totally kick ass – and I love her for it
Frankie Miller: Angels With Dirty Faces
I got asked to record this song for a charity compilation. I didn’t know it at all at that time but it has lived with me ever since. Learning it was a joy.
The Blue Nile: Happiness
It’s hard to describe the emotional impact it has on me… it makes me roar, it makes me feel overwhelmed… It could honestly push me over. To do that with a song is what music is all about for me.
Altered Images: Insects
I have always been fascinated by Clare Grogan. There were so many myths swirling around her at the time of their success and I’ve always had a sweet spot for her band. This song is so twisted! Hearing it out of the mouth of this diminutive, innocent looking creature always thrills me.
The Associates: Gloomy Sunday
The greatest male singer to come out of Scotland bar none. This is an incredible, gut-wrenching version of a classic song that showcases Billy Mackenzie’s prodigious talents.
The Hook 'n' Pull Gang: Pour it down your throat
Incredible singer, super cool band…….. always with an interesting choice of notes and harmonies……… They remain one of the coolest Scottish bands of ALL TIME. Should have been HUGE. You can listen to the song on YouTube here.
The Blue Nile: Stay
Paul Buchanan is a genius. And the Blue Nile catalogue is gorgeous, unique and magical.
Hey! Elastica: My Kinda Guy
I was OBSESSED with this band when I was young. I wanted to be Giles SOOOooooo badly.
Goodbye Mr Mackenzie: Face to Face
My first band and my introduction into big adventures. Martin Metcalfe is a fine singer and writer and deserves a bigger, better crack at the whip.
The Shop Assistants: Somewhere in China
I love this song SO much. The sound of it so perfectly captures a particular moment of time in my life.
Jesus and Mary Chain: Just Like Honey
They are the gods of Scottish Rock’n’Roll. Timeless and tasteful and unique.
Cocteau Twins: Wax and Wane
When I heard Liz Fraser sing for the first time I thought I was being introduced to an entirely different species of human. One of my all time favourite singers. There is no one, absolutely NO ONE who sounds like her.
Primal Scream: Velocity Girl
Bobby Gillespie is a Scottish treasure and I have loved him from afar as long as I can remember.
The Trojans: Arna-fari (Scotland the Brave)
There’s something so instantly Scottish about the sound of bagpipes. Club promoter and bandleader Gaz Mayall tales the instrument into the world of Ska to great effect on this iconic tune.
The Rezillos: Flying Saucer Attack
The opening cut from Can’t Stand The Rezillos, this is an absolute rocker. Jo Callis was, to my mind, the best guitarist in those early days of punk. I can’t listen to it in the car as it makes me drive faster.
Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert feat. Siobhan Wilson: Cockcrow
The homespun minimalism of the sound created by Moffat & Hubbert is quintessentially Scottish. The stories they tell have a bleak beauty. Factor in Wilson’s ethereal vocal and you have a truly astonishing piece of work.
Martyn Bennett: Move
I first heard the album Grit performed live at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow as part of Celtic Connections. To be so affected by a piece of work which was new to me, came as a complete a complete shock. I’ve become a firm fan of Bennett’s irreverent and singular take on traditional Celtic music.
Michael Marra: Frida Khalo’s Visit to the Taybridge Bar
This song makes me cry like a baby, sorry… ‘Greet like a bairn’.
Lulu: The Boat That I Row
If Dusty Springfield was the UK’s answer to Aretha, then Lulu was our Diana Ross. I always preferred her sassy roar on stompers like this. No wonder The Beatles were fans. I saw her costumes on display at Rip It Up. She was tiny.
Eddie Reader: Never Going Back Again (Queen of Scots)
A beautifully witty reworking of the song from Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. I remember chatting to Eddi about how she was working at a biscuit factory when she answered an advert in Melody Maker for a job as a backing singer for The Gang of Four. I saw her on that first tour singing with them in Basildon. You can take the girl out of Scotland… Etc…
Edwyn Collins: 20 Years Too Late
I just bloody love this song. Edwyn is a master songwriter with wit and heart, and this sub-disco anthem about the double-edged sword of late career success is a stone cold classic.
James Yorkston: Summer Song
Yorkston lives up the road from me in Fife. I hadn’t been there for more than a fortnight before he tracked me down and invited me to perform at his ‘Tae Sup Wi A Fifer’ night in Kirkcaldy. I can never tell when he’s taking the mick, but I can tell when he’s singing.
Aztec Camera: Jump
This is one of my favourite cover versions of all time, first heard on one of those NME cassettes. It seems wrong to pick Roddy and the band doing a cover when he’s such a phenomenal songwriter, but I do love this.
Rip It Up would not have been possible without all the amazing loans from artists, bands, their family members and more, and the Registrars are the team that make these loans happen. Here they share their top tracks inspired by the exhibition.
Sensational Alex Harvey Band: Swampsnake
First band I was aware of as being Scottish (?). Alex takes us from early 60s scene through to mid-70s.
The Skids: The Saints Are Coming
My local heroes when punk struck! Used to go see them at Kirkcaldy’s Pogo-A-Gogo Club. Stuart Adamson was a scant few years ahead of me at Beath High School. We never met.
The Bathers: Kelvingrove Baby
The hit band that got away. Poetic, poignant, gorgeous sounds and fine lyrics. They made Glasgow feel like Paris or Rome, a place of aesthetic romance. Which didn’t stop me name-checking them in one of my more violent novels...
Mogwai: Mogwai Fear Satan
Scottish bands have always felt to me to be left-field or outsiders, going their own way without an eye on chart success. These noisy f***ers have mellowed and matured but early on their racket shook my synapses awake. I write to this soundtrack...
Jackie Leven: Exit Wounds
Rebus likes this music and so do I. A name-check in one of my books led to a friendship and from there to a working relationship and even an album. Jackie had a great voice and a great troubadour heart. And boy could he play guitar.
Karl Denver: Wimoweh
Wimoweh is a wonderful South African song and there were several great versions including The Tokens ('The Lion Sleeps Tonight') but Karl's version was sensational. I just loved his raw spine-tingling vocal... Fab.
Incredible String Band: Everything's Fine Right Now
My favourite all time band and this track is just an uplifting optimistic musical joyride. Mike and Robin are such gifted musicians and they were a huge influence on the 60s music scene. (Beatles/Stones/LedZepelin all inspired by them) Their first five albums are classic.
Average White Band: Put It Where You Want It
Alan Gorrie and I became great friends in the early 60s when I became a fan of his first band The Vikings from Perth. This track is from the first AWB album (Show Your Hand) and should have been a smash hit. Soulful joy. Of course they rightly went on to amazing worldwide success.
Primal Scream: Rocks
Pure unadulterated rock'n'roll from another of Scotland's most exciting original nandenduring bands. Bobby Gillespie is a rock'n'roll God.
Withered Hand: New Gods
My favourite artist of the last few years and a wonderful songwriter. This is the title track from his last LP and just simply 'turns me on'. It's bliss. Dan is a charismatic performer.
Camera Obscura: Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken
I could probably have submitted a list of ten Camera Obscura songs as my top 10 so picking just one was a chore! This band have been a constant presence in my life for fifteen years, through joy and heartbreak. ‘Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken’ is in my opinion, about as perfect a pop song as you’re ever going to hear.
Kathryn Joseph: The Bird
‘The Bird’ was the first song I heard by Kathryn and I distinctly remember feeling as though I’d been hugged and winded simultaneously. When a song causes such a visceral reaction, you know it’s something extraordinary.
Frightened Rabbit: Head Rolls Off
I swapped out my chosen FR song numerous times, it’s almost impossible to pick just one. The Midnight Organ Fight is an album that means an incredible amount to so many people, including me. Scott’s lyrics, although often incredibly sombre, always offer hope. A chink of light in the darkness. No more so than on ‘Head Rolls Off’.
Young Fathers: Shame
The most exciting band to come out of Scotland in a long time. If you ever get the chance to see Young Fathers play live, take it! Trust me. ‘Shame’ is a vibrant, funky, thrilling four minutes.
Why do Mogwai just keep getting better? I caught them at Brixton Academy just before Christmas and (despite not being able to hear properly for two days afterwards – a lesson in why ear protectors at loud gigs are important!) it was one of the most incredible live shows I’ve been to. ‘Coolverine’, the opening track on Mogwai’s most recent album Every Country’s Sun, is otherworldly, guitar-heavy, gorgeous pop.
The Waterboys: The Whole of the Moon
I was one in 1985 when ‘The Whole of the Moon’ was released. A track that’s wrapped up in lots of nostalgia; it reminds me of late 80s parties and sunburned nights in Spanish pubs on family holidays.
Mastersystem: Bird Is Bored Of Flying
A project comprising Scott and Grant Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit and Justin and James Lockey of Editors and Minor Victories. There’s something really special about the juxtaposition of fuzzy, dirty, loud, gnarly rock music layered with Scott’s utterly heart-wrenching lyrics.
The Delgados: Accused Of Stealing
The beautifully dreamy ‘Accused Of Stealing’ was my gateway song as a latecomer to the band. Individually the members of The Delagdos have affected the landscape of Scottish music immeasurably through Chemikal Underground, Chem19 and Stewart’s work with the Scottish Music Industry Association and The SAY Award.
Del Amitri: Driving With The Brakes On
‘Driving With the Brakes On’ perfectly captures the feeling of being in a relationship that isn’t working out and tussling with whether or not to stick it out. Just a great song
Out Lines: There Is A Saved Place
After falling in love with Kathryn Joseph’s debut Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled I couldn’t wait to hear what she did next and I was delighted to find out that she was in the studio with James Graham of The Twilight Sad. A match made in Scottish music heaven. ‘There Is A Saved Place’ is the stand-out track from the magnificent Confalts.
Stealers Wheel: Stuck In The Middle With You
Always loved Gerry Rafferty’s voice. This is such a clever arrangement. Not much going on, so every part as important as the other in keeping it all together. A triumph.
C Duncan: Garden
This guy’s a master craftsman when it comes to constructing his music. Just so beautiful and complex.
Young Fathers: Shame
Best band to come out of Scotland in years. Ingenious, powerhouse soul.
RM Hubbert with Sarah J Stanley: Probably Will / Probably Do
One of Scotland’s unsung heroes is oor “Hubby”. Guest vocalist Sarah J Stanley is the perfect match to his emotive guitar playing. An uplifting song.
Eurythmics: Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
Annie Lennox at her best. Iconic pop.
Blue Nile: A Walk Across The Rooftops
One of the greatest pieces of modern art that Scotland has ever produced. Light-years ahead of anyone, and remains so. And with a raw beating Glaswegian lover's heart at the middle of it. Still gives me goosebumps – even thinking about it, never mind listening to it – to this day
Tommy Smith with SNJO and Kurt Elling: Loch Tay Boat Song
Tommy played with us in the early years of Hue and Cry, and it was like standing next to a 20th century jazz giant whenever he blew. We are so proud of his achievements as an educator, and as leader of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. Here they all make a thing of peerless beauty, with our favourite Chicago jazz singer, Mr Elling. You can listen to the song here.
Average White Band: When Will You Be Mine
We have played this twice with AWB on stage in Glasgow – and again, it gives me the shivers. The best funk guitar parts you’ve ever heard – impossible to figure out how they play what they do. Set me off on the funk-soul path as a wee boy, and I never came back.
Pronto Mama: Arabesque
The best blast of youthful magic, virtuosity and ambition I've heard coming out of Scotland for a decade. Their drummer should be given a lifetime basic income, just to keep drumming.
Michael Marra: Australia Instead of the Stars
Instant tears. I miss the wee republican revolutionary terribly. And this is his spectral, shimmering, art-song critique of self-imposed mediocrity in Scottish life. I listen to it every three months, in order to stiffen my spine and drive me on.
Eurythmics: Sweet Dreams are made of this
Saw a pretty raw version of the Eurythmics at Aberdeen University Student Union. The electricity cut out and Annie Lennox wasn’t chuffed. A year or so later they were selling out the SECC Glasgow.
APB: Rainy Day
One of Oily Records' finest. Reminds me of three years in Aberdeen – great music, great nights out.
Aztec Camera: Oblivious
For some reason I keep calling this track ‘It’s Obvious’.
Orange Juice: L.O.V.E. Love
Quite simply a beautiful song.
The Associates: Party Fears Two
What a strange and wonderful sound this is. It never gets old.
Simple Minds: I Travel
This band just keeps going. This is only one of many tracks that I love, including ‘Promise You a Miracle’, ‘Waterfront’ and ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me).
KT Tunstall: Black Horse and the Cherry Tree
I defy anyone who saw her perform ‘Black Horse and the Cherry Tree’ on Later … with Jools Holland – with just a guitar, tambourine and loop pedal – not to have been amazed.
Barbara Dickson: MacCrimmon’s Lament
Singing without accompaniment, usually at the end of her concerts, this is Barbara Dickson at her very best.
Eddi Reader: Wild Mountainside
Written by the Trashcan Sinatras, this wonderful song sits cheek-by-jowl with Eddi Reader’s renditions of Robert Burns. This is my current sing-along.
The Alexander Brothers: The Dark Island
My dad was an accordion player. This was the last song he could play before dementia took all his notes away.
Belle and Sebastian: If You’re Feeling Sinister
Basically all Belle and Sebastian songs sound exactly like Glasgow but this one wins because of the wee Glaswegian boy at the beginning shouting “C’moooooon!” And also because I love it.
Mull Historical Society: Instead
Meet me: 17, first year at Glasgow Uni, sat in the QMU (the indie student union), wearing my incredibly cool Mull Historical Society T-shirt, listening to this on my portable CD player. I relistened to ‘Instead’ recently and it’s still an absolute tune.
The Reindeer Section: Strike Me Down
This two-album supergroup featured members of Glasgow’s indie elite in the early 2000s, including Arab Strap, Mogwai, Idlewild, Snow Patrol and loads more. Their second album, Son of Evil Reindeer, is quietly excellent and this supersweet, and all too short, breakup song featuring Jenny Reeve and Eugene Kelly from The Vaselines is my favourite. You can listen to the track here.
Camera Obscura: Knee Deep at the NPL
The Woodside Social Club was brilliant for lots of reasons: the orderly queue at the bar (despite rabble-rousingly cheap prices), the generous placement of giant fans around the dancefloor (to counteract the sauna-like temperatures), and stupidly fun club nights, including National Pop League, forever immortalised here.
The Blue Nile: Tinseltown in the Rain
It rains so much in Glasgow you kind of stop noticing after a while. Something about Paul Buchanan’s image of a big soggy, glittery city is exactly how I think about Glasgow on a Saturday night.
Primal Scream: Loaded
This song will forever remind me of both the most and least cool night of my life whereby, following a genuinely incendiary performance of ‘Loaded’ at the Barrowlands which saw the ballroom floor bouncing like a trampoline, I ended up backstage. With my parents.
Arab Strap: The First Big Weekend
Half song, half spoken-word, here Arab Strap perfectly capture long, bittersweet summer nights and days in Glasgow clubs, pubs, parks and hanging out round yer pal’s flat with a carry out.
The Blue Nile: From A Late Night Train
It's raining (again). You're trundling slowly home on the last train from Central Station. Someone's eating a sausage supper. This song is playing.
Errors: Mr Milk
Members of Errors not only made me many a mean White Russian in Nice N Sleazys but this underrated tune soundtracked pretty much all of my nights out circa 2006-7.
Liquid Liquid: Optimo
OK, so it’s not technically a Scottish song but there are few things I miss more about Glasgow than Sunday nights at Optimo, the ever-enduring club night at the very excellent Sub Club. This belter by New York’s Liquid Liquid is where the night got its name.
The Vaselines: Molly’s Lips
Bonus track! Because nothing is more lo-fi Glasgow indie than a chorus with a honking horn.
The Delgados: Coming in From the Cold
Bonus track! Because Emma Pollock’s voice is magnificent on this.
Harry Lauder: Roaming in the Gloaming
This is a great Scottish pop song. I like it when he laughs.
Michael Marra: Baps and Paste (live)
The bard of Dundee.
Orange Juice: Blue Boy
Art School punk rock. The best.
Breakfast Muff: Lunch Money
The new school.
The Waterboys: Fishermans Blues
Melancholy and uplifting. With added fiddles.
The Vaselines: You think you're a man
One of Scotland’s greatest ever pop songs.
Jackie Leven: The Sexual Loneliness of Jesus Christ
A strange epic. Scottish songwriters are good at these often.
Sons and Daughters: This Gift
They were underrated and cool.
Altered Images: Happy Birthday
I wish I'd written it.
Dick Gaughan: Both Sides of the Tweed
One of Scotland’s most authentic voices.
Teenage Fanclub: Start Again
I'm not sure I've ever met a Scottish person who isn't a fan of this band. Very timeless.
Frightened Rabbit: I wish that I was sober
Many great songs. Wonderful band.
The Proclaimers: I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)
Don't tell me you don't like it. Everyone does. It's great.
Simple Minds: Don’t You (Forget About Me)
Again, don't tell me you're not into it.
Shamen: Move Any Mountain
Aberdeen’s finest, this song is timeless and possibly the most remixed ever. The track was also used for the Team Scotland entrance to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Eurythmics: Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
Annie Lennox may have left Aberdeen earlier than Lord Byron but this synth pop tune released in 1983 the same year Aberdeen won the Cup Winners’ Cup is an absolute beauty.
Kathryn Joseph: The Bird
This Aberdeenshire quine is the Scottish Kate Bush and I was truly blown away at last year’s Running Up That Hill - A Celebration Of Kate Bush gig in Glasgow.
Spare Snare: Bugs
A Dundee band this was always first on my tape compilations I made for friends and family.
Deacon Blue: Dignity
Another band with Dundee connections. This song always made me want to buy a dingy but was too scared to use it in the North Sea.
Arab Strap: Girls of the Summer
This a nostalgic reminder of listening to this track beside the Grand Canyon and loving the authentic Scottish voice so far away from home.
Veronica Falls: Found Love in a Graveyard
This track from their debut album is a wonderful symbol of the immense music of Patrick Doyle, who sadly died this year.
The Pastels: Worlds of Possibility
Annabel Wright has the most dreamlike voice that is epitomised in this track and Stephen McRobbie worked in a library too.
Future Pilot AKA: Witchi Tai To
This track from the Tiny Waves, Mighty Sea album from the former Soup Dragon is majestic. You can listen to the track here.
BIS: Kandy Pop
I went to see BIS supporting Super Furry Animals at Lucifer Mills, Dundee, and the sheer youthful exuberance made them the best support act ever.
Teenage Fanclub: What You Do to Me
Forget ‘Flower of Scotland’ or ‘Scotland the Brave’, this is the true indie anthem of Scotland.
Beta Band: Dr Baker
I love the piano on this track from the 3Eps, it’s always a stand out.