AC/DC, The Eagles and U2 will play Hampden Park this summer. Now add the Tartan Specials to that list. The Tartan Army troubadours play in Oslo tonight and have been asked to play at half-time during Scotland’s last two home World Cup qualifiers. We caught up with Tartan Specials bass player, Brooklyn resident and occasional Dear Scotland contributor Kenny McColl this weekend before he flew to Norway to find out what prompted the band to write songs about Scottish football, his favourite Tartan Army moments and what the Tartan Specials plan to do to stop 50,000 fans from going for a pie or a pee at half time in the Macedonia and Holland games.

DS. Was there one song or one moment that inspired you to write songs about Scottish football?

Kenny McColl: I remember it vividly… It was back in 2003 and big Kenny McIntosh and I were in a pub in the East Village, as happened from time to time.  We were getting really excited about the upcoming Euro 2004 play-off against the Dutch and as with all great pub conversations, the topic eventually drifted to the 1978 World Cup Finals and our last memorable game against the Dutch. I’m not sure how many pints Kenny had had at this point, but out of nowhere he just said, “you know… I love sex… and drugs.. and sausage rolls… but nothing compares to Archie Gemmill’s goal”.  I think it would be fair to say that I had also had quite a few pints, but I just thought that this was pure poetry and would make the best chorus ever if put to song.  Thank Faddy we remembered it the next day!  Kenny quickly put a tune to it and we recorded everything and posted it on the internet about 5 minutes before catching a flight over for the double header.  It seemed to capture the spirit of the time as we heard it everywhere we went in Amsterdam that trip.

DS. Have you ever got any feedback from Archie about the tune? It would be interesting to see how the man himself ranks his goal as compared to those other pleasures?

Kenny McColl: Well there are two players other than Archie name-checked in the song – Alan Rough and Willie Johnston – and I’m very proud to say that we’ve played the song live in front of both of them. I think they approved. We’ve not played it to Archie himself, but we’ve been told he likes the tune!

DS. Am I right that things really began to take off for the Tartan Specials when the SFA started playing “We’ll be Coming” over the tannoy at the games?

Kenny McColl: Well it was certainly a highlight for us, as it’s always been a ridiculously unattainable ambition, since way before we started making music together. And yes, it did of course happen at the one game we weren’t there – half-time against Moldova at home, June 2005. We were watching the game in another East Village pub, but on the Satellite feed they switched away from the half-time coverage, so we didn’t even hear it.  But our mobiles started going crazy as everybody we knew in Hampden was texting us! The team had been struggling to break down the Moldovans (this was the Berti era, after all) but came out rejuvenated in the second half and scored twice. Surely no coincidence?


DS. Well it probably had more to do with you than Berti anyway. So as well as  “We’ll Be Coming” and other original songs, your set usually has a few classic Scottish tunes in it right?  For someone who has never seen the Tartan Specials live, what can they expect?

Kenny McColl: We just try and create the biggest party atmosphere we can.  We’re basically tarts with a bit of class – we play what the punters want to hear… although we draw the line at total sh1te.  We have been known to play some sh1te, but only the most spectacularly awful sh1te – not your run of the mill mediocre sh1te.   One cover that we’re particularly proud of playing live is “We Have A Dream”, where we get the crowd to role-play… most of the crowd goes for being part of the 1982 World Cup squad (mostly Dave Narey’s big toe) but you get the odd bawbag who wants to be Jimmy Hill.

DS. Now you’re also a well-travelled Tartan Army foot soldier. What’s your most memorable trip?

Kenny McColl: It doesn’t get better than watching Scotland in the finals of the World Cup, so France 98 is probably the most memorable.  But Sarajevo in 99 was the most memorable non-tournament trip for me. We meet incredibly friendly people all round the world, but the Bosnians were just unbelievable. It was obvious that they were happy to see some outsiders for the first time since the war and I’d like to think we helped them get back to normalcy, but there was nothing normal about anything on that trip.  Much of it was quite surreal and the Sarajevans have a wickedly dark sense of humour – like sounding a salvaged air-raid siren during the match!  Hong Kong and Tokyo get credit as well for more surreal nonsense.

DS. And Scotland will be back in Japan later in the year, any memories of the last time Scotland there in 2006?

Kenny McColl: Well I remember us picking up a trophy – you don’t see that very often!  Tokyo is a fantastic, crazy, messed up place and I absolutely love it.  The night I remember most involved us doing a tour of these specialist mini-bars in the Golden Gai area of Shinjuku.  Each tiny bar only had room for about 8 punters and I think we passed through some places dedicated to the Ramones, AK47s, Tom & Jerry cartoons, poodles, chocolate biscuits and the Japanese Elvis.  Anyway, we ended up in a shoegazing-themed place – just a handful of us, plus some auld Japanese Iron Maiden fans with long, bleached-blond hair.  The barmaid was happy to play Mogwai, Arab Strap and the Cocteau Twins for us, and even downloaded some Tartan Specials tracks to play for the bar. It was daylight when we left that place and we must have been quite a sight.

DS. You’re playing in Norway this week, have you been there before?

Kenny McColl: Yes.  The team has a good record in Oslo so we’re confident and I think the gig will be jumping.

DS. I’ve heard rumours that you’ve been asked to play at Hampden at half time in the near future? Any truth to that?

Kenny McColl: Where did you hear that?  Yes, it’s true, we will be on the hallowed turf of Hampden at half-time for the Macedonia and Holland games – you heard it here first.  We cannot wait – what could be better than playing to the full Hampden roar?  We’re hoping we can really get the stands jumping and push the team onto 6 points and a place in the play-offs.

DS. So if we need to beat Holland in our last game and the game is tied at half time, what song will you play to focus the fans and get the team going?

Kenny McColl: You’ll have to wait and see.  But we think Kelly Marie’s “Feels Like I’m in Love” could be the number.


DS. What’s sad about that is I know you’re not joking. Finally, as a resident of Brooklyn now, is there anything you miss about Scotland?

Kenny McColl: Well, now that my family no longer lives in Scotland I can say that the thing I miss most is the football.  I also miss bacon rolls, square sausage, black pudding, millionaire’s shortbread and tons of other stuff that it’s probably best I can’t get my hands on.  I love living in Brooklyn and would recommend it to anybody, but I’m lucky enough to make it home often enough to stave off the homesickness.

The Tartan Specials play tonight in Oslo in an inflatable tent ahead of Scotland’s crucial game against Norway tomorrow. The “We’ll be Coming” EP is now available on itunes globally at