(Taken from Volume 7 CD/Magazine)

(Written by: John Harris, Photos by: Ian T. Tilton)

smv7-1 Teenage Fanclub are about to spend two hours talking about the history of rock - an exercise that will result in thrilling acknowledgements of the people who turned them into would-be stars.

But it will also see as many names ignored as saluted, leaving the chaps lamenting the fact that they forgot to mention about 18 of their lifelong heroes.

Of course, to give this chat a slight ring of authenticity, the conversation should begin with Robert Johnson, Leadbelly or Blind Lemon Jefferson but, seeing as time is tight, we may as well begin this slapdash biography of the rock beast with...

Early American rock 'n' roll

Norman: "Out of all those people, I think my favourite is Buddy Holly. I really like 'True Love Ways'; most people would talk about 'Peggy Sue' or something, but that's a really well-structured, complex song - a real ballad. It was the first record to be orchestrated, too."
Raymond: "Songs like that started the whole classy pop thing that dominated the '60s: strings meeting rock 'n' roll."
Norman: "Little Richard's biography talks about Buddy Holly - about him being a total womaniser, a rock 'n' roll animal. I prefer to picture him as a real family guy. I don't believe Little Richard. Lying bastard."
Raymond: "We met Little Richard, actually - at the Hyatt Hotel in Los Angeles. He walked up to our manager in the foyer, and we were asked if we wanted to meet him. Our manager said, This is Teenage Fanclub from Scotland and he said, Teenage Fanclub from Scotland? Woooooo!! That was our meeting with him. Quite a big guy, strangely enough."

'Whaaat?' scream the purists, 'No Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent or Carl Perkins?' Sadly not. The conversation soon flits across the ocean, to the strange electrified take on early rock 'n' roll that was pioneered by....

Joe Meek

smv7-2 Norman: "He was into spiritualism, and claimed that 'Johnny Remember Me' was written by a dead person through a medium (Meek's acquaintance Geoff Goddard). He also thought that he'd found a talking cat, so he recorded it. There's a tape of him and this guy in a graveyard in London: They ask this cat all these questions, and it just goes meeow, but he thought it was speaking to him. He was completely off his rocker. Really cool, mind you."

So now you know. We go on to examine the legacies the Everly Brothers, the entire Tamla Motown roster, the genius of Brian Wilson and the cataclysmic rupture in the transatlantic pop balance that was caused by...

The British Beat Boom

Raymond: "Well, The Beatles were the first band to be influenced by American R&B and write their own songs. Take "Please Please Me": the way the harmonies are done, the song structure. After that, there's the Who, the Stones, the Small Faces, The Kinks...there was an amazing amount going on during that time."
Norman: "The band from later on who are never mentioned are The Zombies. They had one hit: 'She's Not There'. Their best album is 'Odyssey And Orace', which did nothing at the time, but is a total classic. It was recorded immediately after 'Sergeant Pepper'. The songs are brilliant, the production's brillliant, the orchestration's brilliant. You listen and just think, Why wasn't that a hit?"
(Ironically, a track from this album, entitled 'Time Of The Season', went on to sell a million, topping the charts in both the US and Japan after the band had split - Ed with Big Rock Encyclopedia.)

Gerry: "I like The Creation. You never find them on 'Best Of The Sixties' compilations because they were so underground - but they took what The Who and The Kinks were doing in the mid-'60s, and because they were doing it slightly later, they did it better. They did things in a psychedelic style, but they had traditional song structures."

A-ha! The word 'psychedelic'. Gerry holds forth about how a lot of psych-rock was merely the product of blues bores taking too many drugs (witness The Doors), and how psychedelia's most inspiring product was the cross-pollinating spirit that led The Byrds to flirt with country rock. Raymond interrupts with a brief monologue about the eventual mutation of British hippies into chest-beating apes (eg Black Sabbath), and we eventually fall into a series of altercations about glam rock, reggae, disco, and stupid teenage crazes, the highlights of which fall under...

The early to mid-'70s

Norman: "I like Mud, The Rubettes, Wizzard - it's all very nostalgic to me because I grew up then. I mean, Top Of The Pops was great at that time, wasn't it? And do you remember Kung Fu being on TV, and 'Kung Fu Fighting' by Carl Douglas? All these guys at my school had their hair shaved off because of that. Totally nuts. Actually, the '70s were fucking great: like, Kojak was really popular then - so all these guys had their heads shaved and used to walk around school with lollipops."
Gerry: "There was a guy at my school who got a Kojak cut in the winter. His head kept going blue."

Lengthy guffaws are prompted by this anecdote. Having regained their composure, the Fannies are enticed into a dewy-eyed salute to the magic of...

Punk Rock and the New Wave

Norman: "That was when I really got into music. I was really into The Clash, Chelsea, The Cortinas...and I've got records by bands like the Cockney smv7-3 Rejects and the Angelic Upstarts. The Buzzcocks were one of the best Punk bands: they had the punk attitude, but they wrote great pop songs."
Raymond: "What was weird about punk rock was the way that all the people who bought 'Never Mind The Bollocks' had long hair and combat jackets. They just thought it was a good traditional rock record."
Gerry: "I was into The Jam, and they got me into The Small Faces, The Kinks and The Who. The Sex Pistols were a bit Stalinist, a bit year zero, but Paul Weller would always talk about how 'Waterloo Sunset' was his favourite record."

We then mull over why it all went a bit wrong. Sure, many of the crop of post-punkers were cool, but it wasn't too long before Londoners were dressing up as Highland clansmen and popularising the New Romantic palaver. It wouldn't wash in Glasgow, however: anyone with any sense was camping out outside the offices of Postcard Records and doffing their caps to...

Orange Juice

Norman: "I thought they were fucking brilliant. I was nuts on Orange Juice; I saw them God knows how many times. I actually bought an original copy of 'Falling And Laughing' last year for 40 quid; I just had to have it for the collection. They brought a sense of humour back into music: I've got a bootleg of a gig they did in London, where everyone was screaming, and Edwyn just says (does impeccable impression), Calm down, we're not fucking Kajagoogoo!"

Arf arf arf! The Fannies then enthuse about the lasting influence of Postcard on Glasgow, the fact that Orange Juice spawned a whole host of second-rate imitators who interpreted Edwyn Collins' love of Al Green as a call to make crappy codsoul and be signed to cynical major labels, The Smiths (Brendan has always been annoyed by Morrissey's voice; Raymond is a dyed-in-thewool-fan), The Weather Prophets and...


This is a particularly crucial part of the interview: 'Belt', the instrumental track the Fannies have donated to Volume , is inspired by the epochmaking '80s indie stars.

Norman: "Felt were excellent. They started at the same time as the Postcard thing. I first heard them on John Peel, and I thought they were amazing. I went out and bought some records straight away. 'Belt' is a Felt tribute song, played on a Yamaha QY-20 keyboard, which is the same size as a video cassette. Brendan did most of it."

Next: The Membranes, early rap, and the Manchester-based insurrection that desperate journalists called...


Gerry: I didn't like it at the time, but I've got The Stone Roses album now. I've listened to it over the last year, and it's a great record."
Raymond: "It was strange that Happy Mondays were around for ages before anything happened. They'd play in Glasgow, and no one would go to see them, and then they were suddenly massive."
Brendan: "Aye, but I doubt they noticed."

Ha ha! Underpinning the explosion of baggy music was the UK's sudden enthusiasm for nightclubbing, Smiley T-shirts, and recreational drugs. The Fanclub witnessed all this from the bars of Glasgow clubs and the sofas of friend's flats, gaining masses of voyeuristic entertainment from the mushrooming of...

Housey-Housey dance music

Raymond: "If you're in Glasgow and you want a drink late at night, you go to a club. So you'd go to a club where they were playing that stuff, and no one was into it; these places were really empty. Then over about two weeks, it was suddenly massive, and thousands of people were walking around Glasgow smv7-5 wearing bandanas and tie-dye shirts."
Brendan: "I remember being at a friend's house, getting drunk and listening to music, and her sister came in with her pals; all these mad guys dressed exactly the same as they'd been a couple of weeks before jeans, denim shirts - tripping off their nuts, putting on all this weird music. That was the first time I experienced it - and after that I lived the life for about a year and a half. Actually, my girlfriend's wee sister had her seventh birthday party, and her mum said to her, Show Karen and Brendan how you rave, and she started doing all this mad dancing. I mean, a seven-year-old kid raving; that's fucking outrageous."

The Fannies go on to talk about the progress of the American underground, the new breed of crusty troupes, 2 Unlimited, East 17, the Thompson Twins, The Pastels...and then Norman is struck by the fact that he's committed countless revisionist heresies. "We haven't mentioned Big Star," he half-sobs. "Or the Flying Burrito Brothers. Christ, we haven't even mentioned Bob Dylan..."

A Catholic Education (Paperhouse PAPCD004) 1990
On the heels of their classic debut 45, 'Everything Flows', came this patchily brilliant, endearingly shambolic debut that forged their reputation as prime UK flagbearers of the barely christened 'grunge' movement. Somewhat sprawling - and featuring the dubious conceptual 'Heavey Metal' instrumentals - it nevertheless boasted at least a couple of corkers to add to the single in 'Too Involved' and 'Don't Need a Drum'. As debuts go, pretty damned impressive and sales piled on to prove to point.

The King (Creation CRECD 096) 1991
smthe_king 'Poor' would be a generous verdict to return on this. A collection of pointless instrumentals and slightly less pointless vocal takes, the highlight was a faithful but unilluminating cover of Madonna's 'Like a Virgin'. Assembled as a contractual obligation filler for their US label, Matador (who, ironically, rejected it, consequently to see it turn up in the States as an expensive import), The King was far from fit to share a handle with Elvis. Now withdrawn.

smbandwagonesque Bandwagonesque (Creation CRECD 106) 1991
Grumpy old buggers like me think they'll never better 'Everything Flows" but this second album 'proper' is a pretty good attempt at silencing doubters. It's more carefully formed than its predecessor and, from pithy presentation to cuts like 'The Concept', 'Star Sign', and, best of all, 'Alcoholiday', sheds almost completely the shadow of Dinosaur Jr. while cementing their stature not only as ace sound sculptors but also as songsmiths of distinction. RG