20th December 2012

It’s not been an easy task narrowing the Scottish albums of 2012 down to a mere 40 – though don’t I always say that? (more…)

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16th December 2011

It’s not been an easy task narrowing these down – a good year for music in Scotland. First, the criteria – we’ve gone for Scottish artists here rather than include those who’ve merely recorded for Scots-based labels (so, no Loch Lomond, even given their name!). It’s also stuff recorded this year – no reissues, so no Kid Canaveral or The Savings and Loan, who were in last year’s chart. And what makes an ‘album’? Not sure, but honourable mention to Homework, among others, for an EP that if a wee bit longer, would have made our task in compiling this chart even harder.

So, without further ado, in the humble opinion of the staff writers (ahem) at jockrock.org, these are the top 25 albums recorded by Scottish artists in 2011… (more…)

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24th March 2011

Miller Genuine Draft has announced that Bombay Bicycle Club will headline a sold-out gig at Oran Mor in Glasgow for 500 fans on Wednesday 30th March 2011 (more…)

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24th March 2011

Bombay Bicycle Club Miller Filtered Music gig at Oran Mor, Glasgow on March 30th. (more…)

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20th December 2010

The votes have been cast, and in the opinion of jockrock.org, these are the top 30 albums recorded by Scottish artists in the year of 2010 A.D. (more…)

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30th October 2010

As part of the Miller Filtered Music campaign, Miller Genuine Draft have announced that Ash will play a one-off exclusive and stripped back set to kick off their Scottish tour for 500 fans at Oran Mor on Tuesday 9th November. Support comes from Glasgow seven-piece Aerials Up and Edinburgh’s Alan R Davison. (more…)

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17th June 2009

“They don’t make the city beat – they’re making all the action stop”

Beat106’s only outlet for alternative music has been axed. Read on for the full story, or air your views…

So, the Beatscene is over. For now, at least. On last night’s final show Jim Gellatly made a few references to ‘at least, in this timeslot’, indicating that there might be hope that the largest regular show for new and alternative music in Scotland might be saveable. Having moved from Aberden’s Northsound when the station started up, Gellatly is staying at the station – “I’m still hopeful that there can still be a place for new music at Beat 106, and that I can be part of it.” Gellatly closed his show with ‘Capital Radio’, the Clash song which coincidentally describes Beat106’s new owners, who have instigated the sweeping changes that see Gellatly’s Beatscene show plus the one which ordinarily follows it, Bobby Finn’s, axed.
Is it all so simple though? Is it a case of Capital – described 20-odd years ago as “the sound of complacency” by Joe Strummer – being the big conglomerate in the black hat walking into town and taking our jobs, our music? Well, it ‘saved’ Xfm, the London alternative station which vanished from trace almost before it got on the air thanks to a shoddy promotional campaign, and rather failed to endear itself to London’s listeners with its diet of daytime post-rock and indie that would have made John Peel leap up and down (naturally, the majority of its target audience switched off). And to be fair to Capital, Beat106 was put on the market and its owners turned in a healthy profit from the £33M sale. Indeed, allegations were made in a Sunday paper that the licence was offered for sale to one of the losing bidders almost immediately the result was announced. Given that noted media players sich as Alan McGee also tabled bids – McGee described the axing of the Beatscene as “another example of corporate globalisation and another nail in the coffin of individualism” – it’s unsurprising that such unsubstantiated rumours fly around, but it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of the people who were relying on Beat to create a buzz around the central belt. Instead the only physical impact is the inevitable round of redundancies when a foreign-based company takes over a local one.
Many people saw Capital’s involvement simply as gaining them a foothold in the central Scottish market, being the only UK area where they have no presence. Indeed, one commentator remarked that Beat could have been “a 24-hour showtune station for all Capital cared”. Unfortunately they have aspirations beyond being just another player in a market dominated by Clyde and Forth. Bobby Finn, outgoing overnight dj, remarked “Capital want to be number one in Scotland right now, certainly before Christmas – I’d believed that we could be in 2 years, but …”
Of course, some people might ask what Beat was doing trying to compete with Clyde and Forth when they were mandated to provide an alternative to these stations.

And it all started so promisingly not much over a year ago when the central Scottish licence (see previous news story)- the Holy Grail of Broadcasting – came up for grabs. Various parties put in bids – some optimistic smaller bids who wanted a voice for their communities, others big players who although pitching the importance of their content, clearly had an eye on the bigger picture. No bad thing of course, it’s a dog-eat-dog cutthroat world out there.
Beat106, with T in the Park man Stuart Clumpas the figurehead of the bid, won. The music underground gave a reserved cheer – well, BigBeat (the company behind the bid, managed by entrepreneur Ron McCulloch) was surely the best bid, right? The people behind King Tut’s surely had the best interests of the burgeoning music community at heart?
Fast forward to June 2000. Beat106 has a daytime playlist featuring such ‘alternative’ talents as Macy Gray, Madonna, and Jamiroquai. Hmm. Is that what we were promised?
Well, the thing about radio in this country is that for something so restricted – there’s only a couple of stations allowed to cover the central belt – if you DO get the licence, you can get away with murder.
Kerry Curtis at the Radio Authority elaborated “We’re a complaint-driven organisation as we can’t monitor all 300 stations in the UK under our control – we rely on public/listebers keeping us abreast of what’s going on. Also we’ve received no notice of change from Beat106 over a change of use of licence.” If complaints are received and a station is found to be in breach of agreement, a warning is issued, and “similar further breaches or more serious breaches sanctions applied may include fines and/or shortening of licences.” Any change of control, as has happened following Capital’s takeover, are subject to review of the station’s format.
[More at http://www.radioauthority.org.uk, and formal letters of complaint are usually addressed to The Radio Authority, Holbrook House, 14 Great Queen Street, Holborn, London WC2B 5DG]
For the unitiated, a radio station makes what’s described as a Promise of Performance which “enshrines a station’s character of service”. Interestingly, a “more concise Format is issued some six to nine months after a station’s launch and is designed to capture a station’s personality and direction.” It’s unclear if ths new Format is in place yet, but Beat106’s ‘character of service’ is listed as “A fresh dynamic mix of new rock and dance music for Central Scotland for listeners below 39.”
So I’m listening to Bon Jovi on the station for “Scotland’s new music”. I can tune into Radio One or Forth and hear the Delgados or Apples In Stereo or Grandady, but the diet on Beat106 is to say the least, unadventurous. But what of these competitors? A senior Beat executive stated that you could hear, for example, Idlewild during daytime at Beat, something you wouldn’t get on One or Forth or Clyde. Wrong!
And this was even before Capital got its hands on “our” station.
However, some people saw the writing on the wall long before the name of Capital was even being mentioned. Alun Woodward of Glasgow indie label Chemikal Underground said “I gave it a short lifespan anyway; the damage was done by a conservative daytime playlist … the music’s just there to break up the adverts “.
Bobby Finn, outgoing nighttime dj, agrees to an entent.
“It’s sad that commercial radio is ruled by facts and figures… I’m glad to be out of the presentation side as I need to believe the music I’m playing.”
So what was Beat thinking of when it put together its music policy? Even Gellatly said, on his show’s launch, that he would play some chart stuff to draw in the listeners. However, I don’t think he had in mind quite as much, at the expense of new music (in case you wondered, the Beatscene, despite being a specialist show, has much of its content chosen by the same people who set the daytime schedules).
How could it have got its programming so spectacularly wrong? Was it wrong at all? Well, the successful RAJAR figures which prompted Clumpas and McCulloch to sell out their stakes in the station, perhaps reflect that people in the central belt actually want to hear the mind-numbing chart fodder that Beat has been pumping out since day one?
Does this mean however, that they now want to move direction again, with wall-to-wall dance music in the evenings? Perhaps they could have canvassed opinion at Glasgow Green, or indeed T in the Park, where a massive proportion of Beat’s listeners congregated to hear precisely the type of indie and guitar music that is now being marginalised by the station’s new regime. (Festival-goers will have realised that even the dance tents popularity was boosted significantly by fairly alternative acts such as Death in Vegas and Leftfield.)
It’s hard to say what the people still at the station think. Clearly anyone that wants to remain in any kind of employment realises that dissing their bosses is a bad career move, but it’s possible that they genuinely believe that the new format is the way forward. MD Bobby Hain appeared commited and confident about the future – “After just over 6 months on air, we have more 15-24 yr olds than the other stations. Asked about Capital’s influence, he was similarly loyal. “There’s liaison, but we’re not following orders – we’re just part of a group benefitting from central resources.
The station has a dymanic mix of new rock/dance, and that’s nothing to do with Capital, the mix will change to follow fashion -we’ve had a summer of dance anthems.”
But what about the commitment to new music made when the licence was granted? “Jim’s done a fantastic job representing that music, but was being eclipsed by Friday/Saturday nights. We’re not turning our backs on local guitar music, we just want to find a way to work this to listeners’ preferences and find the best formats.”
So where next for alternative music in Scotland? (Apologies to readers outwith the Central Belt and particularly in Aberdeen – rather like Rangers and Celtic, regional talent has been lured away only to languish on the Beat106 bench). It does seem that with the new schedule changes in place, weekday evenings will not be the same again, at least for some months. But this may not be a bad thing (well, gotta be positive, eh?) After all, the scheduling decision to put Beatscene up against the Evening session – especially with Radio One’s ‘devolved’ show on Thursdays – was one that must have left even Gellatly scratching his head, and the fact that it had such healthy ratings, even with the forced plays of some truly out-of-place records, can only be a tribute to his persistence. Gellatly himself seemed to believe that things could be turned around and the Beatscene might get a slot elsewhere. Knowing Beat’s record this could easily be the 4am slot, but that’s what tape recorders are for, eh?? (for presenters as well as listeners)
Seriously, though, the Beatscene and the new so-called specialist shows that replace Gellatly and Finn, aren’t the issue really. What’s at the heart of the matter is the music we’re being fed. Someone once described Beat as ‘Radio One without the boy bands’. Bad enough, but it’s also without Mark and Lard, Lamacq, Peel etc, and the cutting edge music that they bring. If Beat can sort out its daytime shows – how about Ewan McLeod for breakfast, Bobby Finn for lunch, Jim Gellatly at drivetime, and some specialist electronic, rock and local shows at weekends? – they can put their handbag house on the rest of the time and we’ll happily stick to Radio One in the evenings. That is, of the daytime playlist gets sorted – hey, we’ll take Underworld and Oasis if you put it alongside Teenage Fanclub and Mount Florida. Is that really too much to ask?
But we’ll have the Beatscene back to be going on with, thanks very much.
Otherwise, do touch that dial.

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17th June 2009

Tired of bad music television? Yearning for the halcyon days of The Tube, NB, Snub TV, even The Old Grey Whistle test? (more…)

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17th June 2009

O’er The Border

– the Beta Band come home

The Beta Band have just arrived back in the UK, and Steve Mason has come home to Scotland following their acclaimed ‘Hot Shots II’ album and US tour with Radiohead. We caught him between househunting and Xmas shopping, and got some hints for surviving the Scottish winter…

So, where are you at?
“We just finished the US tour, and doing the video for ‘Squares’… what else… we did Jo Wylie on Channel 4 on the 11th December – playing live – and that’s it till January. There are gigs in the UK in Jan and then its back to the US in March.
Last time you played the US was on tour with Radiohead?
Yes, it was good, we’ve been to the US a lot but never supported anyone there – or anywhere really- it was kind of weird to begin with, but in the end a really good experience, and really beneficial audience-wise”
So what kind of venues were you playing?
“Mostly outdoor, 25,000 or so capacity. It was a massive tour too – 2 weeks there, home, then back again and did another 4. Massive.”
So you gained a lot of new fans via Radiohead?
“Definitely! The last tour on our own sold out every show anyway but this was much bigger. I think in every country there’s groups of people who want something new, want to be challenged, and are open to something new – they want to hear music that’s honest instead of pre-packaged and marketed and marketed to such an extent that it drives you to fucking insanity – that’s what we were tapping into I suppose”.
So what’s inspiring you?
“On the bus we were listening to loads of hiphop – Roots Manuva, I really enjoyed that a lot, it’s a really good lp.MOP’s album too.”
Do you think your fans are also listening to that kind of stuff?
“I would hesitate to categorise people by stuff they listen to, but there’s a lot less boundaries to an extent with what people listen to – not wanting to generalise, but you get people that buy a Beta Band record or a Superfurries record who’d then go get Aphex Twin or Carl Cox, or some garage perhaps; there’s a lot less boundaries than there used to be.”
Are you pleased with album’s performance, sales-wise?
“Well, reasonably – I expected it to do a lot better than it did but I’m really happy with the music on it so that’s the main thing really.”
And how about the recording – are you satisfied with that as compared to previous one?
“Absolutely, it was a totally different experience.”
So what changed?
“We went in with 10-15 finished songs before I even went to the band with them – which is obviously a really healthy thing. ”
So previously you were putting stuff together in studio?
“Yeah, exactly, so this time me and the band got together and worked for 2 months solid on my songs – and one of Richard’s tunes too (‘Alleged’) – so there was that level of preparation before we went in which totally paid off when we went into the studio as we could concentrate on individual sounds, beats, whatever, it was just a much easier experience.”
So how does the first album look now, in retrospect?
“Pretty much the same as it did – shoddy, shoddy. Ah, there’s some good tunes on it – ‘The Hard One’, ‘It’s Not Too Beautiful’, I think they’re amazing pieces of music.”
And were these the ones you prepared in advance, by any chance?
Yes, especially ‘The Hard One’, we did a lot of work on that before we went in and it really shows. One of the few tracks on there that sounds fairly complete.”
So you’ve got the formulas used for a quality album now.
“Oh, dunno about that, I don’t know if there is a formula. But preparation… definitely the key.”
What about the single (‘Broken’), usually a good benchmark of commercial success?
“We did Top of the Pops but they didn’t show it ! That’s just the way it is these days. I think it depends on how high your chart position is. I assume they thought like we did that the record people might have put a bit of effort into telling people it was gonna come out, but unfortunately for everyone concerned the record company decided not to do that… so…”
I assume that your contract has you tied in for a while?
“mm, yeah, less said the better… like any relationship you have to make it work the best you can.”
So can you crack the charts with ‘Squares’?
“I’m not really thinking like that, I just want to get it out as it caused us such grief – the i-monster thing and all that pish. It won’t be a hit, just want to get it out. I can’t imagine people will have forgotten the sample but the record company have got kind of obsessed with that track! Radio One pretty much refused to play us, but the record company have decided this is the track that’s going to get some airplay… they’ve become totally obsessed with it. For fear of getting sucked into the mincing machine, we just stood back and let them get on with it.
So when does work start on the next album? Did you write any on tour?
“I find it impossible to do that. (write on the tourbus). I’ve not really started even thinking about that – after getting back I just found somewhere to live” (John has just moved back to Fife… )
So will you take the opportunity to re-acquaint yourself with live bands up here?
“I dunno, I’m not really a big fan of going to see bands – I used to go to clubs more when I was in Edinburgh before.
Finally, any more for the fans?
“Keep warm this winter. Lots of sex. Keep warm and keep shagging, for christ’s sake!”

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17th June 2009

Following on from their ‘Best band’ award in the 2000 Jockrock awards Idlewild have gone from strength to strength, notching up their first top 10 single with ‘You Held The World in Your Arms’. (more…)

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