Of all Scotland’s New Towns, East Kilbride arguably managed to prove the one that provided the most cultural interest. Cumbernauld had the kudos of being the home of Gregory’s Girl, but that was greatness thrust upon it. East Kilbride, at least for a while, provided art and attitude that was all its own.

The Jesus and Mary Chain, who begat their drummer Bobby Gillespie to Primal Scream, Iain Harvie from Del Amitri and Davy Scott of the Pearlfishers are just some of the best that East Kilbride has to offer, but the top of the pops is Roddy Frame, with or without his Aztec Camera. If Orange Juice were Postcard Record’s Velvet Underground then Aztec Camera were their Byrds with Roddy playing Roger McGuinn’s chords and wearing his fringe jacket.

Plenty of songwriters deal with the pain of being in and out of love, but no one captures the feeling that can accompany love like Roddy Frame. From the opening bars of debut single Just Like Gold through first chart botherer and radio favourite Oblivious, to Western Skies, the title track from his most recent solo offering, Frame expresses the unfettered joy of being in love better than anyone. Which other Scottish artist would release an album called Love and leave it untouched by weary cyniscism? I can only put forward Teenage Fanclub as a suggestion.

Of course that’s not all there is; Roddy can break your heart with the best of them. But listen below to Still on Fire, Spanish Horses (in fact anything from 1993’s Dreamland which was obviously written while smitten in Barcelona. It aches with emotion for place and person) and Bigger, Brighter Better from the underrated North Star. This is poetry and these clips show that age has not diminished the talent or defeated the romantic. I could say something more about each track, but just listening to them one after the other presents a clear picture of what Roddy Frame does so well:

Aztec Camera – Still on Fire

Aztec Camera – Spanish Horses

Roddy Frame – Bigger Brighter Better (Live on Later)

But it’s only right that I finish with Aztec Camera from the early 1980s doing Down the Dip, as it brings us neatly back to East Kilbride. One of his earliest songs, written around the age of 16, Down the Dip, according to at least one story, is about going to The Diplomat, a pub in East Kilbride that was near Roddy’s old school of Duncanrig. There’s also the wee treat of Oblivious, a song which still gets me every time:

Aztec Camera – Down the Dip / Oblivious

Many people say, usually with reference to sport, that winning is all. I couldn’t disagree more. For me it is the style in which the game is played that’s most important. If I could be any musician it would probably be Roddy Frame, someone who understands it’s not about winning, it’s about how you play the game. Few do it better.

Alistair

Further thoughts can be found at scotswhayhae

Alistair’s latest thoughts on Scottish books appear on the first Monday of every month.

Photo Credit: Stir Crazy