Well, it has been some year. We’ve had some good times…well not really good times per se, but I did find a pack of mandolin strings in my sock drawer back in April. if that isn’t a musical high point for a year of lows, then I don’t know what is. Anyhow, it’s not all doom and gloom and before the ruling powers of Giliad, or Westminster to revert to anachronism, lead us into more red, white, and blue soaked crap times, let’s have a look at what’s going on musically.
The music is starting to be picked again by what I would call the glue of grass-roots music; community radio. Special mention goes out to the team at Sunny Govan, and I will leave you with the prospect that maybe, just maybe in the future, and if they let me of course, I will maybe get behind the desk again. Imagine that, a radio show.
To conclude, a couple of pals stick out as shining examples of how to manage music during this time, and I’d like to make special mention of Fiona Liddell and Jack Hinks. The former’s ‘Local Heroes’ list is a ‘go to’ for new Scottish tunes, while the latter’s humorously titled ‘Hot Singles in Your Area’ features an interactive take on the concept of the new release. You might even hear a bit o’ yours truly.
For bookings, info, or my award-winning discount catering service please get in touch. You can find me across the board online, or in person to the right of the gate at Alexandra Park and Cumbernauld Road, my chosen busking location. Come one, come all!
Scotland + Organised religion. To say that this storied double act has had a complicated relationship would be quite the understatement.
A while back, while a’wandering round the dormant volcano that sticks out the middle of Edinburgh, my gran, my girlfriend, and I stumbled across a strange iron contraption stuck to the wall of the local church. Shaped like a snare, with a length of chain to tether it to the kirk’s wall, it begged the question from my better half:
‘What the hell is that?’
Nonchalantly, my gran replied that the unknown piece of masonry attached to the church was in fact a ‘Scold’s Bridle’, a bleak concept in which women who dared to express opinion could be chained up in order to receive a dose of public humiliation; in this case ecclesiastically-sponsored public humiliation.
Here is a typically progressive pamphlet from the time.
Unbelievably, this ritual punishment continued until terrifyingly recently, with the Calvinistic notion of Scottish Presbyterianism fuelling the idea of the submissive women, bound to a life of grisly servitude. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200. Complaints to be addressed c/o the Witchfinder General.
Scotland + Organised religion. To say that this storied double act has had a complicated relationship would be quite the understatement. From the notions of church goers’ ‘come for the service, stay for the torture’, to the mob that destroyed Glasgow cit centre last weekend in the name of a Dutch monarch who died over 300 years ago, I think it would be safe to say that old Caledonia and the praying game has been a pretty volatile combo.
Maybe it was probably better before all this malarkey eh?
There’s always good in pain, that much I have learned
Lyrically the above line spoke to me, a blatant reminder of the wee figure of John Knox that appears on my shoulder every time I consider my path as a musician. My interiorised 16th century clergyman usually hits me at the low points (busking in a downpour, an empty gig venue, a friend’s wedding with loads of graduate trainees) to tell me to get a real job, or that enjoying what you do is fundamentally wrong and sinful or something. Is this just me? Is there more to it? A bigger picture? Should I set up a helpline for artists plagued by a constant feeling of inadequacy and shame due to a deep-rooted history of Calvinistic brainwashing?
Well in the meantime, there’s probably no need, as Jack Hinks’ lyrics sound out the frustrations felt by many:
God damn these eyes, these eyes that prove me blind God damn these eyes, they fail me by design. God damn this mind, this mind that knows me best God damn this time, I’ve pinned it to my chest
God, Jack Hinks
From an artistic point of view, I think Scotland has a really weird relationship with creativity, given that it is arguably one of the most creative nations on earth. The idea that we are blessed with all this talent and ability; the eye to see, the mind to imagine, and the time to do it (especially now!), yet we have this bizarre sense of self-discipline and fundamental shame, is a really Scottish concept. Like having an abundance of something great but not being able to really use it properly, a bit like trying to play Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney in the same starting XI.
I might be miles off the mark here, my music writing usually is, but that’s what I got out of Jack Hinks’ latest piece.
I ask God what they mean She says they’re both the same I say you’re no god to me.
God, Jack Hinks
Great lyrics, god as ‘she’ too, ace. Get those words sent to the Church of Scotland General Assembly laddie! See what they make of them! Turns of phrase that once may have left the author chained up outside the wee church by Arthur’s Seat, but now represent a move away from the superstition and pointless discipline of the path towards a more progressive future perhaps.
I eagerly await the next instalment of the song cycle.
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’.