We like music do us Scots. But we have an extra special affection for Scottish music. Kenny McColl of the Tartan Specials tackles one of the fundamental questions facing Scottish music fans : Rod Stewart, Franz Ferdinand, Snow Patrol, AC/DC, Men at Work – are they really Scottish? Film of AC/DC at the Apollo below.
As Scots, we seem to have trouble accepting anybody as Scottish unless they were born within five miles of a haggis supper. We believe that being born outside Scotland is an affront to our national identity, and by cutting them off we will exact our revenge on their parents for leaving God’s country. Other countries have no such qualms about celebrating descendents no matter how many generations have gone by (well… some countries more than others, but let’s not name names).
In a hands-over-the-border kind of spirit, let’s examine some of the bands and artists whose Scottishness has been disputed. Who cares? Well, obviously we do, as you can barely mention Rod Stewart without the topic coming up. And let’s face it, we don’t apply the same strict standards to non-scots — does anybody seriously not think of Shane MacGowan as Irish? Or Joe Strummer as English?*
So here goes…. my are-they-really-Scottish list.
I should start by explaining the complex criteria on which the artists are being judged. There are two rules:
1. Does the artist believe themselves to be Scottish?
2. Failing that, do I believe that they should be considered Scottish for any reason I feel like?
1. Rod Stewart
Okay let’s tackle the big one first. Well, he clearly passes rule number 1. I know there are a lot of ex-pats out there reading Dear Scotland, and let’s be honest, if your offspring chose to turn up to Scotland games instead of supporting your adopted country, you’d be happily buying them tartan scarves for Christmas every year as well. Okay, so he might have been born in North London to an English mother, but his faither was a Leither and he has two Scottish sisters. None of this matters – he feels Scottish. End of discussion.
2. Franz Ferdinand.
It is an inconvenient truth for many Scots that three quarters of one of the most talented bands to come out of Glasgow in years are English. But it would be hard to deny that the band are Scottish. They say it themselves (it doesn’t even sound that odd in Alex Kapranos’ part-mackem accent). The band still call Glasgow home, they certainly do their bit for the Scottish music scene and their Myspace page used to list tunes such as “Take me oot” and “Come on Hame”
3. Snow Patrol.
On the face of it, Snow Patrol should fall into exactly the same category as Franz Ferdinand: formed and still based in Scotland, but with 3/5 of the band from Northern Ireland. Gary Lightbody formed The Reindeer Section with some of the brightest lights from the Scottish music scene, so they do their bit locally as well. But I think it’s also fair to say that they consider themselves Northern Irish. The press, nervous of offending anybody, always refer to them as “Scotland based Northern Irish band…” or “Northern Irish/Scottish band…”.
Verdict: Northern Irish (Shiner informs me that Snow Patrol happily performed under the banner of the infamous “Scottish Invasion” at SXSW in Austin in 2004, along with Franz Ferdinand so apparently they do consider themselves Scottish after all. )
Fact: 60% of the original band were born in Scotland
Fact: 75% of the surviving band founders were born in Scotland
Fact: The lead guitarist’s name is Angus
Fact: They just played a massive “homecoming” gig at Hampden
Fact: Claiming AC/DC as Scottish is one of the quickest techniques to wind up an Australian
5. Men At Work
This might seem a stretch for the band that penned the unofficial Australian anthem Down Under, but main man Colin Hay didn’t move to Oz until he was a teenager and couldn’t be more Scottish if he were deep fried. Wikipedia might waffle in describing him as “Scottish-Australian”. but I once spotted him in the crowd at a Billy Connolly gig which is surely conclusive proof.
However, the beauty of this one is that it’s a wonderful knockout blow to follow the AC/DC jab when in the pub with an Australian. For the record, we lay absolutely no claims on The Wiggles.
There you have it. I’ll be back with a less controversial topic next time.
*Joe Strummer was born in Turkey to a teuchter mother. Had he been any good at football, he would certainly have qualified to play for Scotland under FIFA rules. R.I.P. Joe, you made some magic music. The future is indeed unwritten.
The Wee Man will be back next week.