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  • Alistair Braidwood

BPE: Before Postcard Era

The music documentary Caledonia Dreaming was repeated recently as BBC4’s This is Scotland season began to show signs of padding. The programme takes the formation of Postcard records in 1979 as Year Zero for Scottish popular music, and dismisses what went before as fey disco/pop (Middle of the Road and Tina Charles being the examples cited) or sweaty rock (ie: Nazareth, Stone the Crows and Frankie Miller). While I love Postcard and the music they inspired more than most things in life it is far too simplistic to dismiss earlier Scottish music. For a little taste of the good things that were on offer BPE I thought I would post three musical clips, one each from the 1950’s, the 60’s and the 70’s.

The first is of the man born in Bridgeton, Glasgow, as Anthony James Donegan but better known as Lonnie Donegan. This is a cover of Woody Guthrie’s Gamblin’ Man, but he makes makes the song his own by shaking it to within an inch of its life:

Donegan has been cited as an important early influence on The Beatles, amongst many others, and the ferocity and verve of his music hinted at the energy that would fuel rock n’roll.

From the sixties here’s a clip of the one and only Donovan. Perhaps the only man to come out of Maryhill declaring love and peace, at least until Alan Rough played for Partick Thistle. There was none more sixties than Donovan, and he was an influence not only on the hippy movement, but on the second summer of love in 1988. Sean Ryder was so impressed that he sampled Donovan’s music, appropriated his lyrics, and married his daughter Oriole.

Donovan is oft derided as a hippy who spent his time trying to get high on smoking banana skins. In reality he is a fascinating musician whose music endures.

And so to Alex Harvey and his Sensational Band. The following clip is one of my favourites. It’s from a 1973 Old Grey Whistle Test performance, and it is their cover of Jacques Brel’s Next:

Alex Harvey’s story is a fascinating one, from his childhood in Govan in the 1930’s and 40’s, to being cast as Scotland’s answer to Tommy Steele, to fronting one of the most individual and interesting bands of any time. The above clip shows Harvey’s ability to mix touching vulnerability with the threat of impending violence. For those interested you should check out John Neil Munro’s biography The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Harvey fronted a fantastic band, but he was the one who made them great. I cannot think of a more charismatic front man. Sensational.


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