It’s that time when a hand-picked band of friends of loosehandlebars are invited to contribute their own musical highlights of the past year. First to the plate is Danny McCahon, a champion of Scottish music & whose support of this blog is much appreciated. Danny’s radio drama “A Lulu of a Kid”, about the early days of the Glasgow chanter, is to be broadcast on Xmas Day by BBC Radio Scotland. It will also be in your computer on the “listen again” feature so don’t miss it.
It’s all new music if you’ve never heard it before, right? That’s been my attitude this year, anyway, as I learned loads of stuff including that Idlewild don’t play the folkie tunes their name had led me to expect. So, my chosen highlights for 2015 all have a whiff of history about them. No nostalgia, though. Although I love old stuff, I’m not keen on nostalgia.
First up is a band that coulda, shoulda, woulda been Glasgow very own Rolling Stones. I’d never even heard of them until my day job had me trawling through accounts of the Glasgow music scene in the sixties. This name kept cropping up: The Blues Council. People whose opinions I trust all seemed to have good words for them and the Sensational Alex Harvey’s brother, Les Harvey, was in them. I had to investigate. But they made only one single and, now that it’s a floor filler on the Mod scene, I can’t afford a copy.
The group was formed by former ballroom band leader Bill Patrick, with Billy Adamson on drums, Fraser Calder on vocals, James Giffen on bass, Leslie Harvey on lead guitar, John McGinnis on piano with Larry Quinn and Patrick playing saxes. They created a buzz and established a solid and loyal following as house band at The Scene Club in their home town and were quickly snapped up by Parlophone. But after one single ‘Baby Don’t Look Down’/‘What Will I Do’ on the way home from a gig on 12 March 1965, their van was in a crash and Fraser Calder and James Giffen died. There was a short-lived new line up but they never made any more records. I loved their one record when I found it on YouTube. Especially B Side What Will I Do.
It’s easy to get to Edinburgh from my house. Out the front door turn left, first left, fourth on the right and keep going until you run out of M8. But I lost the habit of going to gigs there round about the mid-eighties. Seventy-five miles is a fair distance when it comes to accent and culture. So, I had never heard of The Fabulous Artisans until a few weeks ago when I went to see Glasgow’s finest James King and the Lonewolves (who I hope to tell you more about next year if our editor will allow me the space) headline a revue featuring artists from Stereogram Records (who I’d like to tell you more about next year if our editor will allow me the space).
Anyway, this larger than life man in a dark suit with a voice that swamped even his stature and had such depth it rendered his suit pale, completely took me by surprise. In the best possible way. This was Neil Crossan, the singer in The Fabulous Artisans. Apparently Neil and his writing partner Jeremy Thoms put the band together in 2007 and plucked their name from the Orange Juice catalogue. Despite having bought three albums ion the way in, I tried to buy the Fabs album on the way out. But they don’t have one. Yet.
The only way I can let you hear why I was so impressed – and dropped Roddy Frame off my highlights list – is to guide you towards their downloadable single These Open Arms: http://www.stereogramrecordings.co.uk/audio/the-fabulous-artisans-these-open-arms-download-single/#prettyPhoto/0/
My third pick which – in true talent show fashion, listed in no particular order – is much closer to home. In my home town of Greenock, in fact, and featuring one of our own sons. I liked Pulp when Blur and Oasis were fighting it out for the Britpop lightweight championship of the charts, so I wasn’t really paying attention when my hometown had its own band of cheeky wee upstarts in stripy T shirts and floppy hairdos. But I was missing a trick, because Whiteout were a better than decent band and their lead guitarist, Eric Lindsay, was a better guitarist than Britpop deserved. I picked up on their debut album years later and, by chance, became friends with Eric.
Eric’s bid for pop stardom had cost him a few quid and he was now bringing up his family on the wages of a modern languages teacher. But, of course, he was still playing. Filling pubs and clubs with shifting lineups of friends and acquaintances. An annual gig between Christmas and New Year became a favourite on the local social calendar. And, as guitarist in Joe (Superstar) McAlinden’s band Linden, he’s been making some fantastic music these past couple of years. But Eric has his own songs that deserve to be heard. And he got serious again in 2015. With singer Lynnie Carson he started gigging again, using his old band name Eli. Eric describes their live set as being full of ‘songs that touch on the great opposing themes of life’. Songs about lost and lasting love, of faith and infidelity, of alienation and universal connectivity.
One of my happiest memories of 2015 is sitting in a local bistro, my belly full of good food and a healthy serving of alcohol, with my wife and some of our very best friends listening to Eric and Lynnie giving Eric’s tunes an airing. Life doesn’t get better than I felt that night. They’re a humble pair and don’t appear much on the internet, but this snippet from an earlier gig will give you a glimpse of why I think Eric deserves to be more than just the best musician on his school’s staff.
It’s all new music if you’ve never heard it before, aye?
Great stuff Danny. He & I exchange thoughts, words & music electronically at the moment. Early in 2016 we should be in the same place at the same time for the Everlasting Y eah gig at the Lexington in London. So…that’s one of next year’s highlights sorted then eh…I said eh !