I recently received a copy of Minstrels Poets and Vagabonds, the history of rock music in Glasgow from the sixties up to the present day. Written by promoter and DJ Robert Fields the book is a fascinating history of a musical genre that is at best ignored, at worst ridiculed.
I’m aware of this world as I was a pre-teen metal-head. My earliest musical loves were pretty heavy and not very humble. AC/DC, Queen, Maiden, Thin Lizzy, SAHB, Motorhead (first ever single, 30p from Woolies bargain bin, aged 9) all of these and more were very important to my formative years. Influences I had picked up from older cousins and friends who were all on the side of metal or, god help us, prog. Punk may have won the war in hindsight, but the reality of music in the late-seventies and early eighties, at least in the suburbs of Glasgow, was that many identified more to classic rock and metal. Here’s the kind of thing we were listening to. AC/DC, complete with bagpipe solo, with It’s a Long Way to the Top if You Want to Rock n’ Roll:
Field’s book deals with some bands you may have heard of, but, much more interestingly, those that I doubt you have. For every Stone the Crows, Frankie Miller and Gun there are many more pages dedicated to scores of groups such as White Trash, The Flying Squad, North Wind, Pink Kross, Blob and his own prodigies Drunken State. He takes us from club nights in East Kilbride and Paisley, to legendary venues such as The Apollo, The Videodrome, The Mars Bar and The Cathouse, and back again.
As I have mentioned elsewhere (see BPE: Before Postcard Era) the godfather of Glasgow rock music must be the sensational Alex Harvey. It’s difficult to imagine that the musical landscape of the city would have been the same with out SAHB’s music, and the inspiration Harvey in particular provided for those who followed. Managing to portray someone who didn’t care what anyone thought of him, but at the same time caring more than anyone else about the music, Harvey exuded menace without effort. This was no pose, he meant it. This clip is one of my earliest musical memories from a 1976 Top of the Pops, and shows exactly what I mean. This is the Sensational Alex Harvey Band with Boston Tea Party. Be warned, the clip contains brief scenes of Tony Blackburn:
Since the young me moved on from heavy rock to embrace the output of Postcard, Rough Trade and the like, I have consistently maintained that there is something pre-pubescent about much of the music that this book celebrates, although that may have been to justify my early leanings. After reading Minstrels, Poets and Vagabonds I realise that actually there is perhaps an honesty involved that other forms of music often avoid. When it comes to music none of us really grow up. Even if our tastes change as we try to appear more knowledgeable, sophisticated and interesting, we’re still fans trying to convince others that we are right and they are not. As many of us who love music attempted to put away childish things and dress to impress, fans of rock seemed to remain in the clothes and attitude of youth, banging sticks together to make loud noises and having a whale of a time. Just no longer my idea of a good time… I might get my good gear dirty.
More about the book and how to buy it here.
Further thoughts from Alistair can be found at scotswhayhae
Alistair’s articles on Scottish books appear on Dear Scotland on the first Monday of every month.