NewsOpinionColumnistsA controversial list of the top ten Scottish bands ever has a stunned Aidan Smith searching for a pithy putdown.
Tuesday, 2nd June 2020, 7:30 am
The trouble with these surveys of the best this and the all-time-greatest that is theyre wholly subjective. Invariably the pollsters ask the question of other people. Thus the results do not reflect the superior taste, sophistication and critical rigour that you could have brought to the debate and, much more crucially, me.
Usually I accept this, quietly console myself about never having read a Harry Potter book or understood the deeper meaning of a Richard Curtis film, and move on. But, honestly, did you see that list of the best Scottish bands?
If you didnt, here goes, pop-pickers: 1 the Proclaimers, 2 Simple Minds, 3 Deacon Blue, 4 the Blue Nile, 5 Travis, 6 the Waterboys, 7 Runrig, 8 Texas, 9 Belle and Sebastian, 10 Del Amitri.
The survey was conducted by an English-based Sunday newspaper and I cant help wondering who the respondents were. A wide-ranging sample of the Countryside Alliances membership? An exhaustive canvassing of Young Farmers Clubs? Or did the papers property correspondent a vital job at this title ring round a bunch of estate agents? Did the business desk ask its favourite trust fund managers?
But just as I was congratulating myself for these pithy observations at the expense of our dear rivals, a Twitter wag trumped me. Alan Partidges Scotland playlist? wondered Marcus Orlandi.
You remember the bold Alans musical preferences. He would bellow along to some excruciatingly emotive power-ballad in the car, tapping the beat on the steering wheel in string-back driving gloves, hands never wavering from the Ministry of Transport-recommended ten-to-two formation. He would serenade a lady friend by singing something unsingable like Steeleye Spans Gaudete, this hot date foundering shortly afterwards on his shock admission that he understood the function of a vallance. He would, when a young member of staff at his hotel asked Who are Wings?, respond with a superior smirk: Only the band the Beatles could have been.
When I read the ten-best list, I was briefly stunned. Was there no one else? Perhaps not. The Scot who loves music knows not to boast. He or she will be aware that its not just the national football team who like to seize defeat from the jaws of victory. Edinburgh-born Stuart Sutcliffe was as important to the early days of the Beatles as Ian Stewart, son of Pittenweem, was to the nascent Rolling Stones, but both were booted out before the screaming began.
Weve contributed a third of Cream, half of the Eurythmics and when the cry went up, Can anyone play the flute one-legged in a tweed cape and codpiece?, it was a Scot who answered the call (Jethro Tulls Ian Anderson). But bands 100 per cent Caledonian, made out of shortbread and thistles, which were also great? Maybe wed have to make do with Texas, those good ole southern boys and girls from, er, Glasgow.
Oh no we wouldnt. What about the Associates? What about Stealers Wheel? What about Marmalade with their fab 45 Reflections of My Life, the choice of none-more-diverse soundtracks as those for a government TV campaign for the Good Friday Agreement and Linda Lovelaces sex odyssey Deep Throat?
I got in touch with my chum Brian Hogg, author of the Bible All That Ever Mattered: the History of Scottish Rock and Pop and he quickly came up with ten bands of his own: Teenage Fanclub, Jesus and Mary Chain, the Poets, the Incredible String Band, Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Josef K, Fire Engines, the Pastels, the Shop Assistants and Boards of Canada.
Hogg stressed this was his list as of 2.11pm yesterday. His methodology was bands whod made a pivotal contribution to music here or further afield. He signed off: Of course Im now haunted by those that missed the cut...
I think Im going radge
The jock n roll-inclined Twitterati offered their nominations: Orange Juice, Primal Scream, Aztec Camera, Cocteau Twins, Chvrches, Frightened Rabbit, Gallagher & Lyle, the Average White Band (who instead of coals to Newcastle took soul to the USA), Fife contenders Nazareth and the Skids, Fay Fifes combo the Rezillos (I think Im going radge might be the greatest Scottish lyric of all time) and for goodness sakes Franz Ferdinand.
Ah but its all a matter of personal taste. Many of the aforementioned are way cooler than the surveys top ten. The Incredible String Band were the only Scots to play Woodstock (but, in another semi-tragedy, got missed off the movie of the mega-gig). There would be no Guns N Roses without Nazareth to inspire them. I could shout for Clouds, prog pioneers adored by David Bowie. But cultural importance doesnt matter to everyone and wont get you played at a wedding disco, the barometer for some of a favourite band.
Does that make us who take against this list anoraks or snobs or, crikey, fascists or sorry to any female voters simply men of a certain age whove never forgotten when music papers were crucial to our lives? Well, the most disappointing thing about the survey is the lack of diversity. Many of the bands are similar-sounding, possibly remembered from extended sessions at the students union jukebox when it was too wet to venture out to lectures.
Theres a lot of rain. Deacon Blue: Raintown. The Blue Nile: Tinseltown in the Rain. Travis: Why Does It Always Rain on Me? Del Amitri have two songs with rain in the title while Simple Minds sang Come in, come out of the rain. Wet Wet Wets omission is surprising but Im starting to wonder if the poll didnt go much further than Scots TV meteorologists including Carol Kirkwood, Heather the Weather Reid and Peter Slush will be a problem on roads, as will Sloss.
No issue, though, with the Proclaimers being No 1, they of the blissfully rain-free Sunshine on Leith.
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