Clare Grogan

Mixtape: Independence Day 0

“I’m Scottish. I can complain about things.” So said Peter Capaldi’s Doctor Who on seeing the face and hearing the voice of his latest regeneration. For many centuries, my people, the Scots, have complained loudly and bitterly. Mostly about the English, about being stuck on top of a country that oppresses and ignores them. And after centuries of complaining, we finally get a chance to do something about it. The race is shockingly tight, so much so that my nation has been belatedly turned into the homely girl suddenly regarded as pretty, with the leaders of all three parties desperate for her attention and approval. Although I’m many thousands of miles away, my ill-educated and indefensible vote would be Yes. We wanted this for so long. Now let’s see what happens when we get it. The following songs aren’t particularly rousing, rebellious or patriotic. But if the vote is a yes, this is what Scottish radio eighties flashback shows will sound like.

“Celebrate,” Simple Minds

Before they were deliberately anthemic, before everything they did was tailored to fit the demands of a stadium audience, this was Simple Minds starting to find themselves.

“From Pillar To Post,” Aztec Camera

The great thing about Roddy Frame’s songwriting circa 1982: the more he tried to write an out-and-out commercial pop song, the more he imbued his lyrics and delivery with out-and-out contempt.

“Blue Boy,” Orange Juice

Simple Minds were a big deal even in their formative years but Orange Juice and Postcard Records put Glasgow on the map in terms of the musically-inclined-but-directionless suddenly finding steely resolve and starting their own jangly bands, in terms of the music press belatedly bestowing regional hotness on Glasgow and in terms of record companies indiscriminately signing up Scots of varying degrees of talent.

Tell Me Easter’s On Friday,” Associates

My co-author’s been on a well-received music-now-is-empty-and-crude rant. I semi-agree but my main complaint about contemporary pop is that the chances of us ever hearing another voice like Billy Mackenzie’s in a context where it’s on the radio and on TV and high on the charts is not even unlikely. It just couldn’t happen. People rapping about their butts doesn’t make me particularly annoyed; living in a talent vacuum does.

“Bring Me Closer,” Altered Images

Gary Kemp talks in Mad World: The Book about his courtly semi-romance with Clare Grogan. For a brief period, the entire country shared his infatuation. The double-whammy of her “Gregory’s Girl” role, coy pop star persona and tremulous vocals made crushing on Clare Grogan a national pastime. Journalists, producers and DJs old enough to know better, actors and fellow pop stars all made clowns of themselves over her. Ironically, the two men flanking her in this clip went on to greater post-Images success than she did, the guy on the left produced, among others, “Mmmmbop” for Hanson, the other guy founded Texas. The band, not the state.

“Candy Skin,” Fire Engines

LOVE this. Love it. Short, sneering Velvet Underground-adjacent single with sawing violin from the great short-lived Edinburgh band who shed their indie skin and remade themselves into a Heaven 17-style ironic corporation.

“You’ve Got The Power,” WIN

And that is that self-same ironic corporation. “You’ve Got The Power”, although never a huge hit, was inescapable due to it’s widespread use in a beer commercial.

“Never Understand,” Jesus & Mary Chain

They played fifteen-minute sets that climaxed in the band half-heartedly smashing up their equipment. Their songs were drenched in feedback to the extent that they sounded like a ride on an out-of-control ghost train. The sets got longer, they dropped the distortion and stopped destroying the equipment. They were still great.

“Touch,” Secession

Try not to think less of me as I admit I barely know this song. I was aware of Secession as a Scottish synthpop outfit of little import. Many years later, I came to understand that this particular song had way bigger impact in American cities with new wave stations and dance club than it ever did in it’s ungrateful homeland. On behalf of all the other Scots who gave you the cold shoulder back when it counted, I’m sorry, Secession.

“Waiting For Another Chance,” Endgames

No apologies here but Endgames were a band that received a fair amount of mockery on their home turf but were hailed as giants across Europe.

“Tell Me Why,” Bronski Beat

Glasgow was and is a notoriously tough town but Glasgow audiences also had a love of gay disco to the degree that when records like (“You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real”) by Sylvester and “Funky Town” by Lipps Inc became hits they were propelled into the charts by the huge sales emanating from Glasgow. Bronski Beat were the product of the citywide love of that sound but they were also the product of the city wide love of beating people up because they looked or acted different.

“Abandon Ship,” April Showers

Yeah, I know. Totally indulgent. Whatever. It’s my song. I’m Scottish. I wrote it in the eighties.

  • Share on Tumblr

Mixtape: You Don’t Bring Me Flowers 0

They beautify our lives then they wither and die. That’s right, this week’s theme is flowers. Let’s see what eighties songs with a floral theme we can dig up–ha!– and how many of them are about roses. (For this and our other Spotify playlists, click here.)

 

“Flowers Of Romance,” Public Image Limited

Okay, so -called Pil aficianados, hands in the air if you stuck with them through records like this because deep down you were hoping against hope that they’d release something that sounded more like “Public Image” and by the time you’d accepted that was never going to happen, you were stuck with a bunch of records that pretty much all went nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah. Just me, then?

“Blind Among The Flowers,” The Tourists

Pre-Eurythmics, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart did time in a journeyman powerpop outfit called The Tourists, who had a few its but left little impression. Somewhere between this and “Sweet Dreams”, Annie Lennox found a whole new voice.

“Good Year For The Roses,” Elvis Costello

I’m not going to say I knew nothing about country music in the early eighties. Gram Parsons, The Flying Burrito Brothers and the “Sweethearts Of The Rodeo”-era Byrds were highly touted by Glasgow’s local tastemakers, such as they were. But, in common with a lot of British youth of the era, the country record I was most familiar with was “Almost Blue”, Elvis Costello’s reverent collection of covers. These days, the best thing I can say about it is that it served as a gateway to the originals. But then again, these days, it’s hard to imagine a contemporary country artist even knowing the originals.

“Trees And Flowers,” Strawberry Switchblade

A mixtape encore for this stirring song about agoraphobia from the underappreciated Glaswegian duo. It takes a particular kind of talent to write a song that sounds as sweet as this and contains the line, “I hate the trees and I hate the flowers.”

“English Rose,” The Jam

Timing was never in any band’s favor more than it was on The Jam’s when their third album, “All Mod Cons”, was released. The previous, “The Modern World” had been met with little more than a collective shrug. The music press were trumpeting new and exciting bands every week. The trio ran the risk of being lost in the shadows. Then the “Quadrophenia” movie inflamed the imagination of British teens soured on punk. The massed ranks of kids in parkas and pork pie hats had a look and a lifestyle but they didn’t have a soundtrack. So they adopted The Jam. And they adopted the band at the perfect time. Paul Weller went all-out to show what he could do on this record, even dropping the gritted-teeth delivery to sing this delicate acoustic love song.

“Carnation,” The Jam

Yes, a second song about a flower from The Jam. This one has a more typical Weller lyric: “If you gave me a fresh carnation, I would only crush it’s tender petals.”

“I Touch Roses,” Book Of Love

Another Mad World: The Book no-show. Which is a shame. I would have liked to know a lot more about this three-girl one-guy goth-pop outfit. Next time!

“The Flood,” Blue Orchids

When part of your adolescence was spent with fingers poised on a tape recorder waiting to tape songs from John Peel’s show, little nuggets of obscurity like this wind up dotted in the depths of your subconscious. Even without resorting to Wiki-research, I recall the Blue Orchids came from Manchester and were made up of various disgruntled members of The Fall. I remember owning this record but I can’t believe I ever played it.

“After Dark,” Flowers

From Edinburgh, on Fast Product, the label that released the debut records by The Human League and Gang Of Four. This song is like a case study in dysfunction from Masters of Sex set to music.

“Young At Heart,” The Bluebells

Yet another Scottish song with a floral connection. Yet the streets of my home own are smeared with dogshit and simmering cigarette butts. Ah, the irony. The Bluebells were lucky enough to be plying their trade in 1984, a year in which a Glasgow accent and a guitar were considered sufficient qualifications for a record deal. This line-dancing reboot of a song originally recorded in fake Motown fashion by Bananarama performed decently on it’s initial release Ten years later, long after the band had split, the song was used in a commercial and shot straight to number one. Not only were The Bluebells’ fortunes briefly revived, the session musician responsible for playing the fiddle that dominates the song, stumbled out of obscurity to sue the band for half the publishing. Which he received. And if this mixtape wasn’t already dominated by my Scottish homeland that is soon to decide on it’s independence, there’s a cameo at the start of this video from Clare Grogan of Altered Images, known to readers of Mad World:The Book as Gary Kemp’s “True” muse.

  • Share on Tumblr