Last dance at Perthshire’s home of rock?

When DavidMun­dell took over the Bein Inn he trans­formed it from a fad­ing coun­try ho­tel to a leg­endary mu­sic venue. So does his de­par­ture mark the end of an era? By Lor­raineWil­son

The Herald - Arts - - Arts -

It’s easy to miss David Mun­dell sit­ting by the roar­ing log fire of the Fa­mous Bein Inn. For one thing, Texan singer-song­writer Eric Tay­lor has just walked past. Mun­dell is such an in­trin­sic part of the place, there’s an ex­pec­ta­tion that he’ll al­ways be here. But to­day is dif­fer­ent. To­day he’s sit­ting down rather than charg­ing around, ready to talk about his de­ci­sion to sell the inn, a lit­tle gem of a mu­sic venue at Glenfarg, six miles south-east of Perth.

Driv­ing past the 19th-cen­tury coun­try inn, most peo­ple would see it as noth­ing more than a fine place to stop off for lunch – cer­tainly not the only Scot­tish venue that Big Brother and the Hold­ing Com­pany has ever played.

It will come as no sur­prise to mu­sic fans that, in the days af­ter the sale was an­nounced, Mun­dell re­ceived count­less calls of sup­port and emo­tional ap­peals to re­con­sider. As he talks about this sum­mer’s de­ci­sion to sell, it’s ap­par­ent that the re­ac­tion has prompted sec­ond thoughts. Talk­ing through that de­ci­sion, how­ever (and the long days that see him run­ning not only the mu­sic venue but a ho­tel with 11 bed­rooms) re­in­forces the im­pres­sion that he be­lieves he has taken the Fa­mous Bein Inn as far as he can.

The con­cert venue holds amax­i­mum of 60 peo­ple. It’s beloved of mu­si­cians who can play in front of a mu­si­cally lit­er­ate au­di­ence who, on the whole, have made a con­sid­er­able ef­fort to come and see them. Fans, for their part, rel­ish the op­por­tu­nity to see mu­si­cal he­roes close enough to count the open pores.

Yet a mu­sic venue was never the in­ten­tion. Mun­dell bought the Bein Inn in 1999 fol­low­ing a ca­reer in large ho­tels, with a plan to run a coun­try pub and ho­tel. “It had a won­der­ful rep­u­ta­tion,” he says. “Like most coun­try inns, it was mobbed at week­ends dur­ing the 1950s and 1960s when drink-driv­ing was the norm; but as that cul­ture changed, ho­tels like this were pretty much down on their luck. When I first had a look, the Bein Inn still had a good name for food and I thought, well, the only way it can go is up.”

Led to be­lieve that there was a busy shoot­ing, f ish­ing and golf­ing mar­ket, Mun­dell spent the f irst two months with his head in his hands, won­der­ing where this clien­tele was. “I re­ally didn’t know what I was go­ing to do. Then, think­ing back to my time in big ho­tels, I re­mem­bered that get­ting fa­mous peo­ple through the door leads to get­ting writ­ten about. I thought, ‘How can I do that?’ and that was the start of the mu­sic.”

The first band to play the Bein Inn was The Blues Band, in De­cem­ber 1999. “I knew [gui­tarist and singer] Dave Kelly fairly well, so I sim­ply asked,” says Mun­dell. “It went well, so I thought, ‘Well, maybe I could do one gig a month.’ Soon af­ter that we were of­fered the chance to present Mark Flana­gan, Jools Hol­land’s gui­tar player.” TheInn’s rep­u­ta­tion was ce­mented when Cur­tis Stigers be­came the fourth artist to per­form. It came about thanks to Mun­dell’s bur­geon­ing con­tacts and, well, cheek. “I was talk­ing to an agent about an­other artist and he said he had to rush off as he was or­gan­is­ing a tour for Cur­tis Stigers. The agent l aughed when I sug­gested he play the Bein Inn, say­ing he’d want some­thing like £4000. I said I’d of­fer him £ 1000. About 10 min­utes later, the agent came back on and said, ‘It’s your lucky day, he’ll do it.’”

Ra­dio Scot­land also did a live broad­cast around that time and took an in­ter­est in the base­ment Rock Bar. Even the most griz­zled of rock­ers are im­pressed by the mem­o­ra­bilia that dec­o­rate the ho­tel’s

HEART­BREAK HO­TEL: David Mun­dell has es­tab­lished the Bein Inn as a highly suc­cess­ful mu­sic venue, but is now re­luc­tantly sell­ing up

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