So over to radio. Semantically speaking, the mere idea of ‘radio’ has become so dated that we can barely bring ourselves to refer to it in the vernacular, instead using the medium of podcasts to somehow detract from the fact that the majority of podcasts are, if not ACTUAL shows from the radio, then a segment of talking and/or music within a specified time frame; i.e. a radio show.
I’m in love with the radio on It helps me from being alone late at night Helps me from being lonely late at night I don’t feel so bad now in the car Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on
Roadrunner – Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
I always drone on about this musical utopia, one in which all aspects of making, writing, performing, reproducing, listening, and talking about music all exist on this hitherto absent level playing field. The results of which would be a flourishing and sustainable music scene etc etc. If that’s what you want to start your Wednesday by reading about, then you can find that piece here.
For grass-roots musicians in this day and age, when it comes to gaining ‘exposure’ (I hate that word) for the music that you have bled into, sweated over, and torn from your being, the options are certainly more varied than before.
Scottish musical culture transcends language and history, from Hebridean Gaelic to Indian rhythms, through to the frank wordsmith that is Spee Six Nine. This is, for me, a fuller picture of contemporary Scotland.
The teacher told us to shut up and listen, glaring over the top of the electric piano, harpsichord setting, his eyes alive with a total obsessiveness of a man unused to not being listened too. He’d wire into fugues by Bach or variations by Mozart, occasionally adding his own unbearable falsetto voice to the clunky, same-y melodies that we would listen to in stony silence. Then we would be lectured on how one fella in 18th century Germany influenced another in 19th century Austria or vice versa. Variation #12 Opus 32. Music by numbers.
The Gaelic part of the course was equally as tenuous, as if the SQA in all their desire to make Scottish culture as monochrome and one-dimensional as possible, sought to somehow find the relevance of the traditional Puirt à beul (mouth music), or Òrain Luaidh (Waulking Songs) in suburban Edinburgh. Though we were spared the grey days of falsetto-heavy baroque and classical, the historical and cultural significance of Gaelic culture sadly fell on deaf ears. That is until in an act of academic sabotage, our once demur teacher broke rank and put on ‘Chanter’ by Martyn Bennett, and in one moment of glory that only exposure to music can provide, the world of sampling was thrown open to me.
I’ve only been to Aberdeen once. It was a dose of the predictable and unpredictable in equal measure. Predictable as a gritty 0 – 0 scoreline was mercifully brought to a close at the permafrost, uncovered away end at Pittodrie, unpredictable in that the subsequent voracity of the night out resulted in me puking on the Scotrail service back south and getting out at Arbroath, 2 stops early, to avoid owning up to my heinous deeds. I feel pretty poor about it even today, the misery that it must have caused fellow travellers and staff that day, a day already marred by the slate grey sky and the prices of Scotland’s inefficient, privatised rail network.
Poetry in Scotland holds this sort of mythical status, mythical enough indeed for a bunch of geezers to get dressed up in the ‘Shortbread-tin/ Brigadoon Scottish’ way and recite lines to a piece of offal every January 25th ‘aw in the name eh the bard eh?‘
For an Ayrshire farming lad to elevate himself into the national consciousness through tricks of the tongue, observational humour, and still-relevant use of ‘how Scottish people actually talk’ shows how much we value poetry in this country. Got to say that these values were somewhat lost during the educational years, when Higher English resolutely missed the point about how poetry has extreme relevance, both in its observational qualities as well as its phenomenal use of ‘that which which sets us apart from the cat videos’, language.
So goes the refrain from The Who‘s seminal 1969 album, ‘Tommy‘. The track in question is simply titled ‘1921‘. Since the end of this guff year, this tune, or at least the main motif from it has been rattling round my head like the broken action of a stricken snare drum, carrying with it something that hasn’t been seen for a wee while in the world of independent music; hope. ‘It’s hope Jim, but not as we know it’.