Just while I work up the next travel blog, here’s something else I started on earlier…
Rip It Up Poster illuminates the douce museum decor
To the National Museum of Scotland, then, for ‘Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop,’ an exhibition running now until 25th November. Well worth a visit, although bring your piggy bank, because it’s £10/£8 to get in. I suppose it’s been a while since I paid to get into an exhibition, and there’s one hell of a lot of Scottish musical history crammed in, to be sure.
For anyone put off by the ‘Pop’ term, rest assured the displays range from out and out pop stars like Lulu and Bay City Rollers through rock in its various levels of heaviness, to the indie of Goodbye Mr Mackenzie et al and the post rock of Mogwai. There’s even more modern formats such as hip hop represented by Edinburgh’s Young Fathers.
Now, let’s get one thing out of the way right off. Not everyone that everyone would want represented as key Scottish pop/rock whatever icons is in there. Indeed, my mate Harky, who worked on the exhibition as part of his job at the Museum, told me that significant parts of his time at the ticket desk has been spent explaining to bolshie musos why so and so, or such and such a band, aren’t represented when they were so integral/important/influential etc. Lay off him, musos! There are any number of reasons why folk aren’t in there, including because they asked not to be. So there.
Of those that are, I didn’t really see any major omissions: but then I’m not a muso. Some people might claim, indeed, that the likes of Rod Stewart (Scottish Dad and well-known predilection to act Scottish) and AC/DC (mostly emigrated to Oz at an early age) aren’t, well, Scottish enough, but, hell, I’ll take ’em. Many of the others scarpered over the Border as soon as they could and never looked back, although that was very often because it was the only place you could land a decent record deal back in the day.
One band I would love to have seen in there, simply because they produced such great stuff before, it would appear, disappearing almost without trace, was all-girl Glasgow band His Latest Flame, but as I say, I’m not complaining. Here they are in full flow, in case you’ve never heard of them.
To be honest, I’ve always thought that Scotland was distinctly under-represented in the broader rock n’ roll world, and it was actually kind of emotional for me to see just how much great talent there was, and continues to be, from my home patch. Definitely an exhibition worth seeing if you’re in town. Fay Fife’s dress (lead singer/songwriter/theremin player with punk band the Rezillos, and with post punk band the Revillos, she assumed her nom de guerre because she was, er, fae Fife) is worth the admission money alone!
One could go on about the many Scottish musicians that have made their appointment with the Grim Reaper all too early. However, I’m not sure that, statistically, it’s any worse than pop and rock musicians generally. We certainly have some noticeable survivors, including the aforesaid Sir Rodney, and others such as Annie Lennox.
It was strange, emerging from the visual and aural assault of this exhibition, to the calm contemplation and glass-case living death of the regular museum exhibits. I plan to do my level best to ensure that the story of Scottish rock and roll is only just beginning, and it’s not just something for the archaeologists.
So, is there a definitive Scottish sound? It’s more an attitude of mind, for me, one that embraces the miracle of life and love, although at the same time, the melancholy. There’s a darkness which is never far away, even from the poppiest moments. And humour. Although sometimes the humour’s so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face.
Daughter and Heiress at the Museum. Not an exhibit yet.
I don’t know there’s a single song that represents all of that. However, since I mentioned this exhibition to a couple of non-Scottish people, the same name came back as the first one they thought of: and although they may not do it for everyone, they were a fine band in their time: the Blue Nile.
Just adverts down here. Go see the exhibition and get off your phone!