Cel­e­brat­ing the tal­ent which de­fines our rich mu­si­cal her­itage

The Herald - Arts - - HIGHLIGHTS - Keith Bruce

The oft-re­hearsed Bruce The­ory of Scot­tish Pop­u­lar Mu­sic is, in brief, this: while Glas­gow pro­duces the more suc­cess­ful ca­reer-ori­en­tated bands, the more in­no­va­tive and ul­ti­mately in uen­tial com­bos come from Ed­in­burgh. While this con­tention is al­ways use­ful

its main de­fect is the fail­ure to say any­thing at all about the rest of Scot­land.

In a few more words, over a pacy 240 pages, Lor­raine Wilson, one­time jour­nal­ist of this parish, has in part ad­dressed this prob­lem with her new book, Take It To the Bridge: Dundee’s Rock & Pop His­tory, pub­lished by Black & White on Wed­nes­day (£11.99). There may be some­thing dis­tinctly Dun­do­nian about rst mak­ing your prod­uct avail­able on half-day clos­ing day, and that brand of self-dep­re­ca­tion and the pawky humour of the pun­ning ti­tle runs de­light­fully through the whole book, for which the author has done a huge num­ber of orig­i­nal in­ter­views, listed in an ap­pen­dix two-and-a-half pages long at the end. Start­ing in the 1960s, when new beat groups (in­spired by the early recog­ni­tion of a lo­cal pro­moter of the po­ten­tial of The Bea­tles) be­gan re­plac­ing jazz and dance bands, and work­ing through to the re­cent ad­ven­tures of The View and The Law, Wilson has the story straight from the mouths of those who have been there, played that and sold the T-shirts.

The rst thing to ob­serve is that Dundee’s mu­si­cal her­itage is a mighty rich one, tak­ing in the per­spi­cac­ity of Andy Loth­ian Jnr back in 1962, the blue-eyed soul scene that brought forth much of the Av­er­age White Band (AWB); the vo­cal phe­nom­e­non that was Billy Macken­zie; the pro­mo­tional dy­namo Stu­art Clumpas, cre­ator of T in the Park; and the mil­lions of sales for Snow Pa­trol, to plot a few high­points.

Wilson’s achieve­ment is to weave these into a com­pelling nar­ra­tive that fol­lows threads of in uence (shops and venues, as well as peo­ple) and makes a very ne stab at giv­ing ev­ery­one their due, with par­tic­u­lar em­pha­sis, per­haps, on some of the un­sung he­roes. She is care­ful, for ex­am­ple, not to go over the ground so au­thor­i­ta­tively ex­plored by Tom Doyle in his ex­cel­lent bi­og­ra­phy of The As­so­ci­ates, The Glam­our Chase, although the band’s vo­cal­ist is, with­out doubt, one of the city’s most im­por­tant exports. Where she is strong, with a reporter’s di­rect­ness that is as af­fect­ing as it is un inch­ing, is in re­lat­ing the cir­cum­stances of Macken­zie’s death from the view­point of those most im­me­di­ately con­cerned with it, just as she is with the trag­i­cally need­less early death of AWB drum­mer Rob­bie McIn­tosh.

The chrono­log­i­cal divi­sion of the book into decades means the sto­ries of these bands, and of Dun­do­nians of less in­ter­na­tional fame, bub­ble up re­cur­rently through the book. As its ti­tle might also sug­gest, there is some clev­er­ness in the book’s struc­ture, not in any way ob­vi­ous, but with the in­stinc­tive and cap­ti­vat­ing drive of a soap opera. It could hardly be fur­ther, in that re­spect, from the most re­cent book to look at the in­ter­face of mu­sic and art in the city of Glas­gow, Sarah Lown­des’s rather more aca­dem­i­cally minded So­cial Sculp­ture.

Yet both books are try­ing to do a sim­i­lar job in draw­ing at­ten­tion to how the re­nais­sance of an in­dus­trial city through cul­ture has been driven not by in­sti­tu­tions and Govern­ment ini­tia­tives but by in­spired in­di­vid­u­als, en­thu­si­asm and re­mark­able tal­ent.

In Dundee’s case, that story of­ten re­volves around one man, rightly identi ed in these pages as “one of the most im­por­tant cul­tural gures in Scot­land”. Song­writer Michael Marra is the em­bod­i­ment of the sort of de­tached, wryly hu­mor­ous per­son­al­ity that Wilson de­tects in the city, and his wit and wis­dom is a joy through her book. A man who de nes his ded­i­ca­tion to his craft as a de­sire to see his name in brack­ets rather than up in lights, he also makes it worth ev­ery penny of the 12 quid it’ll cost you for his tan­gen­tial sug­ges­tion of the ideal sign for the end of the West High­land Way: “Fort Wil­liam – Ul­ti­mately Dis­ap­point­ing.” Dundee is not all rock and pop: in the Mar­ryat Hall on Thurs­day evening, Dundee Cham­ber Mu­sic Club presents the Fide­lio Trio, play­ing Schu­mann, Ravel, Grainger and Alas­dair Ni­col­son.

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