From Deacon Blue to Belle & Sebastian and Teenage Fanclub, Scotland’s favourite bands are showing no signs of giving up performing – Brian Ferguson
It wasn’t the first album I ever owned, but Deacon Blue’s Raintown was the first record that I had a real emotional attachment to.
For reasons lost in the mists of time, I alternated my early record collecting years between buying vinyl records, cassette tapes and CDs.
I’ve not thrown many of them away either, even though CDs are the only ones that get much of an outing on long car journeys.
But Deacon Blue’s debut is the one from that era that has stood the test of time, and evokes a sense of nostalgia, more than anything else I bought in the record shops of Lanarkshire and Glasgow.
Back in the days of the Sony Walkman, it was Raintown that accompanied me on journeys around Glasgow and on family holidays, its songs offering an intoxicating mix of dreams, reality, romance and adventure – or so I saw it.
The 35th anniversary of Raintown’s release the other day had me recalling how its songs had opened the door to discovering the many other bands which helped Scotland punch above its weight in the UK music scene of the late 1980s.
Three years after Raintown’s release, most of these bands appeared at The Big Day, the centrepiece of Glasgow's triumphant year as European City of Culture, with an estimated quarter of a million people flocking to a series of free outdoor gigs.
I can’t have been the only one in attendance who was at my first-ever live music event – watching Texas, Big Country, Wet Wet Wet, Hue and Cry and Goodbye Mr Mackenzie perform before Deacon Blue rounded off the event in style on Glasgow Green.
Several decades later, Deacon Blue are still one of Scotland’s biggest bands, preparing for headline shows at the Hydro in Glasgow this weekend and at Edinburgh Castle in the summer, with their fans certain to hear many of their Raintown favourites.
The band, whose dramatic rise from the thriving 1980s Glasgow music scene was charted in Paul English’s terrific book To Be Here Someday, were one of the first to be featured in BBC Scotland’s Classic Scottish Albums series when it first aired in 2018.
Two things are very telling about this evolving treasure trove, which I spent an afternoon indulging in a couple of weeks ago and was immediately transported back to the years the records in question were released.
The first is how many bands are still performing to sell-out crowds and headlining festivals some 20, 30 and – in some cases – 40 years down the line, from The Bluebells, Big Country, Wet Wet Wet and The Proclaimers to Belle & Sebastian and Teenage Fanclub.
The second is the obvious demand for bands to relive entire classic albums on stage, which Simple Minds, Idlewild, Primal Scream and Horse will be embracing this year.
Almost every Scottish band will have had tour plans disrupted by Covid over the last couple of years.
But their absence is almost certain to have created even more of an appetite to see them in the flesh again, for one more time at least.
But it is hard to imagine many musicians who will be ready to call it a day anytime soon when their audiences are still very much out there.