Sunday, 30 April 2017

Background Beat For Active People

Thanks to the Big Gold Dream documentary I've been digging out any Fast Product / pop:aural discs that I've had ever since they were released way back in the day. This one is the legendary, Fire Engines 'Lubricate Your Living Room' album. Sounds as good today as it did back then. BTW the 'Room' in the title is singular and not plural as stated in the ad for the disc above.

I've no idea how many copies of this disc were originally pressed but I can't imagine it being more than a thousand or two. Reached N° 4 in the Indie charts. Hugely influential on the Scots post-punk, indie-music scene, Fire Engines were one those great bands, in their day, that never quite made it beyond cult status. They were gone before most realised they'd been around.

Born from the same literary art-punk scene as other Edinburgh greats, Scars (Fast Product) and Josef K (Postcard Records), the shortlived band broke up, less than a year after this was released, in 1981.

Images: ©japanese forms

Fire Engines Wiki

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Pulling A Fast One

Well, the other week I finally got to see the Grant McPhee documentary, 'Big Gold Dream.' A wonderful insight into the early days of the Scottish indie, post-punk music scene (Fast Product, Postcard Records, Josef K, Fire Engines, Scars, The Associates, etc. etc.).

The documentary particularly centres on Bob Last's, Edinburgh labels, Fast Product and pop:aural; with Bob and various people, who were part of the music scene back in the late 70s early 80s, giving us the lowdown on how things were as well as how Fast Product and pop:aural came about.

An altogether fascinating documentary which I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed.

Anyhow, the whole got me looking out any discs that I still have from the Fast/pop:aural era, giving them a spin and posting some pics of the artwork and graphic design work that Bob Last came up with for both labels.

Also, by way of the documentary, you get to realise just how much Tony Wilson's Factory Records owes to Bob Last. The large part played in influencing the great Manchester label when it comes to graphic design, marketing, etc. is really quite astonishing.

One of Last's ideas was to use the image of an old ad for Silva Thins cigarettes (a brand which once sparked controversy for its sexist tagline: "Cigarettes are like women. The best ones are thin and rich" in an 1970 ad) to illustrate the plastic pop:aural bag which enveloped initial copies of the Fire Engines' 'Lubricate Your Living Room' album when it was released in 1981.

No idea of this appropriation caused anything of a stir back then or if pop:aural ever had any problems about it. Then again, I can't imagine anyone in Scotland, or even the UK for that matter, ever smoking Silva Thins cigarettes.

Special thanks to Austen Harris for reminding me of Silva Thins-pop:aural link.


©japanese forms

Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Glummest Group In The World

Two minutes of hate 30 years ago today from the Jesus And Mary Chain in Smash Hits, April 22, 1987 issue.

Not only do they hate everything and everyone but they're also, as William says, "such lazy bastards". And who are we to disagree? I mean, it only took them about 18 years to release their recent 'Damage & Joy' album.

Anyhow, if you want to read all of the interview; just click right on the image and on the + to enlarge for your reading comfort.

Document source & ©Brian TV

Thursday, 13 April 2017


Cutting from the NME (circa 1985, I reckon) featuring Edwyn Collins in the 'Portrait of the Artist as a Consumer' section. Edwyn gives us the lowdown on his favourite sounds, drink, books, etc. as well as other things that he dislikes.
Otherwise, in the Hot Tips bit Edwyn mentions then fairly unknown bands, Pride of the Cross and Sonic Youth. Pride of the Cross only lasted the length of one single release before a couple of the members split to join The Pogues. Wonder what happened to Sonic Youth?

Document source: GC's Punk & New Wave

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Big Gold Dream - Saturday 15th April, BBC2 Scotland

When the late, great, American journalist Hunter S Thompson wrote: “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.” It fast became an overused sentence to describe the music industry because its sentiments in brevity (exactly 140 characters, coincidently) describe pretty succinctly what the music biz represents for many indignant musicians around the globe, current and past. It’s almost become a bit of a clichéd phrase, but it’s also important to note - and let’s chime with one of the points made in Michael Hann’s departing piece as Guardian music editor; yes, musicians don’t make fortunes from their endeavours - but neither do producers of feature length music documentaries. Malcolm Ross of Josef K, Orange Juice and Aztec Camera: “It’s art, not commerce. We always wanted to be independent.”

Punk changed all that. No longer enthralled to the major corporations, Independent labels were sprouting up all over Scotland and then The White Riot Tour arrived May 7th, 1977: “It was a real year zero moment.” Davy Henderson, singer, arch agitator with Fire Engines, muses in Big Gold Dream: Scottish Post-Punk & Infiltrating the Mainstream. The feature length documentary that finally sees a public broadcast on BBC2 Scotland come Saturday night almost 40 years to the day when The Clash, The Jam, Buzzcocks, The Slits and The Subway Sect crammed into Edinburgh’s Playhouse.

 Directed by Grant McPhee, Big Gold Dream centres on Edinburgh’s greatest record label of all time, Fast Product: A precursor to Manchester’s Factory, a curious influence and competitor to Alan Horne’s Postcard across in Glasgow, Fast Product’s short life time spanned two glorious years as it released records by some of the period’s most enduring groups.

 Almost 40 years since its inception, founders Bob Last and Hilary Morrison’s label Fast paved the way for “indie” music, as we know it now. Such was the popularity of Fast they were knocking back tapes from the Cramps and Joy Division (the latter appearing on one of the Earcom compilations, Morrison rightfully uncomfortable with Curtis’ band name of choice). It brought us The Mekons, Gang of Four, The Scars and The Human League. For too long Fast has lived in the shadow of the rather flamboyant, west-coast timbres of Orange Juice and Postcard Records – Daly, Kirk, McClymont, Collins, and the hermetic Horne et al – still an absolute obsession of mine. Big Gold Dream corrects this and in doing so puts to bed the 2008 documentary Caledonia Dreamin’ which sadly ended up as a promotional film for Scottish Independence.

Albeit parallels in spirit and philosophies what Big Gold Dream documents is the antitheses of Postcard and Fast. Innes Reekie rightly points out that The Glasgow School were listening to the Byrds, The Velvet Underground et al. The Edinburgh cognoscenti: Television and Pere Ubu.

It was the Buzzcocks’ Spiral Scratch single that really started it all for Fast Product. Hillary Morrsion, co-founder of Fast bought the 7” for her then boyfriend Bob Last, who were both at the time working on tour with The Rezillos. The aspiring impresario, Last, immediately acquired a £400 bank loan, whilst drawing on “Mao’s military strategy” to push his vision forward and as the Australian narrator on Big Gold Dream describes - Robert Forster, singer with The Go-Betweens and Postcard alumni: Fast Product was born.

What Big Gold Dream achieves with its national broadcast is finally what Fast Product, Morrison and Last deserve: mainstream recognition. Consolidating on the relative success of Fast – Last finally gets the hits he’s been craving with The Human League - managing them, signing them to Virgin - Dare selling 9m records in the process and Don’t You Want Me topping the charts on Christmas day, 1981. Orange Juice hadn’t even released their debut album yet.

©Erik Sandberg

Big Gold Dream, Saturday 15th April, 9pm on BBC2 Scotland.

Watch the trailer here.

Many thanks to Erik Sandberg @Kiltr for giving me permission to publish his article here at SoYS.