Friday 7 October 2022

1,000 blogs

Welcome to my 1,000th blog!

Thanks so much for taking the time to visit. 

I write about & highlight music I love, whether it's a new discovery or a song/album I have treasured for decades. Ultimately, I hope I turn you on to an amazing song you've never heard before, or cause you to rediscover an old favourite you've not listened to in ages. It's been nice to receive some feedback over the years.

I've taken a little bit of time to reflect on reaching this landmark. What has happened over the lifespan of my blog? 

I've thought of other Scottish music blogs, favourite bands, local bands that made it, bands that were signed and dropped/flopped, helping bands, putting on bands, forming a label, putting out self releases ...

An old photo from my music room in 2012, before kids took over!

Looking back over the time I've been writing the blog, I've been fortunate to experience some very memorable shows, discover some incredible music (whether newly released, or older songs/albums) and I've met and made friends with some brilliant people through a shared love of music.

As a kid I devoured the music weeklies and then spent fortunes on Uncut & Mojo, along with numerous other magazines like Loaded, FHM, Select, Vox, Q (only sometimes - never a real favourite) and many more short lived Britpop era mags.

I dreamed of being in bands, or of becoming a music journalist. 

I had no idea of how to form a band, although I did draft a few adverts for the NME & Melody Maker and jammed a little with a few people I met in Glasgow. But other than a few open mic nights and a MySpace page with Garage Band demos under the name Acid Hazes, I never explored forming a band with any real conviction. 

But now I have, finally, formed a (real) band! We're called Starboard Hazes and our debut EP is out today. It even features Norman Blake on backing vocals on the song Kicking Our Heels! 

Find out more about how the band formed HERE and check our debut EP HERE

And I didn't have the grades to get into the journalism course at Napier University. So my dreams remained dreams.

Then, all of a sudden, it became a lot easier to do either. Social networking websites like MySpace meant you could release music, or write about music to a (potentially) worldwide audience!

Back in August 2008, just after returning from a year of travelling (during which I wrote a blog), I wrote and published a blog about the Glasgow Music Scene at the time. I referenced venues, record shops and 5 of my favourite ever gigs from King Tuts Wah Wah Hut and The Barrowland.

Outside King Tuts in June 2020, lockdown - the city centre was deserted

While travelling, I though of the name Aye Tunes for a blog, but that was sadly taken. Aye Tunes ran for quite some time, Jim (the guy who ran it) put on shows and worked incredibly hard to promote the DIY Scottish scene.

Some other blogs from around that time were;

  • Pop Cop - This was my favourite blog. On the ball with snapshot news and superb in depth articles and interviews. I met Jason once or twice at gigs and I hope he is still writing in some form.
  • Peenko - Lloyd from Peenko went on to co-form Olive Grove Records with Halina from Podcart (Lloyd now runs on his own and has for some time). As Peenko he put on shows and put out DIY releases. Lloyd is one of the most positive and friendly people I have met through the Glasgow/Scottish music scene. I've got to know Lloyd pretty well through Olive Grove as he has been releasing my sister Carla's albums. One of the most friendly and helpful people out there.
  • Podcart - Halina from Podcart is another exceptional person I've met through the scene. Halina's passion for music shines through and creates an infectious energy. From memory, there have been a few name changes, but looking back (at least for me), Halina really pioneered podcasting in the Scottish music scene. Her knowledge of the scene and podcasting has led to radio appearances. Podcart is still going strong.
  • Scottish Fiction - Another blog that ended up putting on shows and releasing albums. Mt. Doubt, Annie Booth and Lovers Turn To Monsters were among their roster. Neil somehow did this for quite some time while studying, working and creating quite a big family! (not sure of the exact order!). Oh, and Neil also ran a radio show for a while! 
  • Jock Rock - Still going strong! Good for news and views on the Scottish music scene.

The DIY scene was incredibly healthy and I'd check these blogs daily - expecting a big announcement about a band getting signed to a major! Most of the bands stayed local, adored by blogs and a tight knit scene - although you'd get bands like Frightened Rabbit and Admiral Fallow (pictured below) breaking through. Both bands also had singer-songwriters who cut their teeth on the Glasgow open mic scene.

Following my first blog, I then mainly wrote about gigs I attended through to November, then I didn't write anything again until September 2009! It was only in 2011 that I started to really begin to blog consistently.

And now I've written 1,000 blogs and at the time of writing, they have been viewed 754,483 times! 

Three quarters of a million views! Thanks so much for reading my musings!

Some have had mere dozens of views, lots of have had hundreds, many have had a few thousand, a half dozen have had 5,000/6,000 views and then one has had almost 50,000! (see below)

It's been interesting to look back over old blogs and think about what I've seen, experienced and written about over the last 14-years and 1,000 blogs! It's like a diary! 

I've put on some bands/artists that have gone on to quite big things!

  • Gerry Cinnamon - I was introduced to The Cinnamons by my friends in the band Sonny Marvello. They introduced me to an amazing group of people from Castlemilk who lived and breathed for music.  I remember one memorable night at Stereo when I put on Sonny Marvello and The Cinnamons and half of Castlemilk turned up. 

Gerry Cinnamon with his band The Cinnamons 

So it's amazing to see Gerry Cinnamon doing so well. I once watched him playing solo at Love Music on a Record Store Day to around 10 people. Gerry's personality, charisma and talent were always there. His cheeky charm won friends and his rise is a truly remarkable example of the importance of word-of-mouth.

Cinnamon gigged regularly around Scotland and his open mic night in Glasgow really helped him hone his talent. I was pretty humbled when Gerry kindly put me on the guestlist 2-years running for his incredible shows at the Barrowland in December 2017 & 2018. The atmosphere at these shows (the first in particular) were like nothing I had experienced previously. I hope the blog reviews capture some of it.

Gerry recently headlined 2 nights at Hampden Park - INCREDIBLE. My most viewed blog is one I wrote called The Rise & Rise of Gerry Cinnamon. Gerry was doing everything under the radar, with no press agent, so his growing fanbase were searching for info about him and found my blog! Incredibly, no mainstream media were writing about him! It has almost 48,000 views.
  • Stevie McCrorie - Stevie and the Moon came from a little scene that formed around Alloa/Stirling. There were some cracking bands like Little Eskimos (Kevin Harper is one of the most talented and funny people I have met through this blog), Minature Dinosaurs and an electronic producer called MOPP who I really thought was going to blow up. I loved his song Dream About You. I put Stevie and the Moon on at the old Captain's Rest on one boiling hot summer night as part of a charity show for Maggie's. I got a t-shirt that my daughter ended up wearing as a nightshirt for a while! Stevie's voice was (and is) very rich and soulful and years later he showed up on BBC's The Voice. I stuck a fiver on him and won £70! I should have bet more. Stevie showed what a funny, humble and family orientated guy he was on the show. Check his blind audition HERE
Stevie is still singing. Another great guy from Alloa is Craig Johnston who cut his teeth putting on shows at Maggie Mays in town, before going on to work with DF Concerts, booking supports at King Tuts, then headliners and he's now putting on Lewis Capaldi and others! Craig's warm personality shone through in the darkest of basements. I'm so pleased he's worked his way up and is living his dream.

  • Emma's Imagination - One day I was walking down Sauchiehall Street when I saw a really cool looking, kind of grungey, girl busking. She had a sign in front of her advertising her MySpace page. I followed her page and sent a message to say that I had a spare support slot going at the 13th Note that very weekend for a Sonny Marvello show I was putting on. Emma came down and played a stunning little set. Kind of bluesy, kind of folky, possibly a little stoned. Lyrics were full of humour. She was great. The next year Emma entered Sky 1's Must Be The Music TV show, wowed the judges and audience, won a record contract (and £100,000!) and got a deal with Gary Barlow's label! I don't think she was ever cut out to be a Gary Barlow kind of songwriter or performer. Things never really took off. I hope Emma is still writing and singing.
Emma Gillespie, AKA Emma's Imagination
  • Saint PHNX - I met a lovely girl called Helen Keenan on a charity walk. We were walking at the same pace and discovered we grew up in relatively close proximity (Carluke and Wishaw) and that we loved music. Helen's brother Jamie is in The La Fontaines and both of them are absolute gems of human beings - up for mischief, laughs and fun. Helen told me about a band Vigo Thieves that were playing upstairs in The Commercial Hotel in Wishaw the next Sunday night. I went along and they'd packed the place out, playing some kind of ramshackle Libertines style songs. But their closing numbers hinted a bigger and better things. I met singer Stevie Jukes and his people skills and work rate blew me away. He have me a name check on the back of a CD single and hand delivered it along with a ticket to a show. I ended up helping Stevie to manage the band. Truth be told, Stevie did most things and I was someone to bounce off. But I did arrange some London shows and actually managed to get some meetings with record labels! 
It was really exciting. Stevie and I got the overnight train to London and spent the day meeting lawyers, labels and pluggers. Some (pluggers!) were chancers. The label meetings were very exciting and I thought a deal might be incoming! It didn't happen though and after pushing things with Vigo Thieves as far as possible,  Stevie and his brother formed Saint PHNX who have had a big hit with Happy Place and earned a deal with Atlantic Records! The band smashed T in the Park this summer and have SOLD OUT the Barrowland Ballroom next year.

Stevie Jukes crowdsurfing at King Tuts with Vigo Thieves
The band sold out 2 nights back to back - unsigned

Over the years I've helped bands and artists with self releases and putting on nights. These have included;
  • A Futuristic Retro Champions single, May the Forth b/w Settle Down with artwork by Martin Creed. The launch night at Mono was incredible. Also their Homemade Lemonade retrospective album. 

  • A Miaoux Miaoux single, Knitted, in limited edition knitted sleeves - each one unique! They were hand knitted by ladies that attended a women's group at Maggie's where I was working at the time. All proceeds went to Maggie's Glasgow Centre. Julian (Miaoux Miaoux) is now in Franz Ferdinand!
Watching Miaoux Miaoux create, layer & loop sounds was a joy - a real talent
  • Sonny Marvello's 100 club mini-album containing the beautiful Fire Went Out - one of my favourite songs. Also their Easy Boys b/w We're All Cruel 7-inch. Two real favourites. Check my 10 memories of Sonny Marvello blog HERE for more details about the adventures we had together including putting on our own festival!

And then I helped to form a record label - Last Night From Glasgow. It's incredible to think of the amount of music that has been released via LNFG (and their various offshoots) since 2016. The label has grown way beyond initial ideas of 100 members and printing limited runs of 300 copies of 6 releases a year.

There are now over 600 members which gives the label an incredible platform and scope (and funds) to do all kinds of things; re-issues, books, a record shop ... it's a remarkable story. I've not been involved with the label for some time, but I still keep up with all their news - just about!

Ian Smith, who runs the label, is a force of nature. It's nice when dreams come true and Ian is now working full-time to run the label. Truth be told he probably needed to do that from year 3, but he has knocked things into such good shape that it needs someone working on it. I hope to catch up with him soon. Check a recent interview he did about the label.

I've also helped my sister with her fanclubs that allow her to be independent and prolific in her art. And helped run her Since Yesterday crowdfunder for a documentary about Scottish girl groups. 

It's nice to help artists and creative types to make/release music. I have always got a buzz out of it.

Long term favourite bands like Teenage Fanclub, The Charlatans and The Lemonheads are still recording, releasing & touring. They've been my favourite bands for a long, long time! 

Change happens naturally over time. I was very sad to see Gerry Love leave Teenage Fanclub.  At the same time I was very grateful that the band didn't split up. Endless Arcade, their first post Gerry album, was excellent - it had to be really. And their live shows still bring so much joy. 

I hope Gerry records and releases soon. What a talent. It's been great to see Gerry playing live again recently and I'll be seeing him again this month. It sounds like he is getting ready to record an album.

Of course, I also hope to see the band reunited at some point in the future as well. Norman & Gerry's voices gel so well.  

It sounds like Teenage Fanclub will follow up Endless Arcade pretty swiftly which is great for fans like me. I've seen them live more than ever over the last 6-years or so.

Teenage Fanclub, Edinburgh Assembly Rooms, September 2021
My first post lockdown show

The Charlatans, led by the effervescent Tim Burgess, haven't release an album since 2017's Different Days. Sadly, founding member Jon Brookes died in 2013. I loved his drumming style so much. This White Room performance of Crashin' In highlights what a sensational performer he was - look at the way Tim gazes fondly at him.

However they are still very active on the touring and festival circuit. Meanwhile, Tim has just released Typical Music, his 3rd solo album (a double at that) since Different Days was released. It does make me wonder if The Charlatans will record again. My gut says that they will. Tim's Twitter Listening Parties have helped so many people across the world over the last few years. I love his energy, attitude, taste and style and I'm enjoying his new album.

Evan Dando hasn't been very prolific over the last couple of decades. Certainly not in terms of releasing. The last 2 Lemonheads albums have been covers (I am particularly fond of Varshons 2), while it's almost 20-years since the release of his only solo album, the stunning Baby I'm Bored. Evan tours regularly and played in Glasgow this week for the 30th anniversary of It's A Shame About Ray. I could watch and listen to him playing acoustic guitar all night long. BLOG HERE.

A real highlight of mine since I started the blog was finally getting to see the Stone Roses live; Amsterdam, the Sunday at Heaton Park, Glasgow Green and T in the Park.  And the 30th anniversary show of Primal Scream playing Screamadelica in Manchester was one of the most mind blowing shows I've ever experienced. Jim Lambie's visuals were a real trip. 

It's been nice to take some time to reflect on things I've been involved in, bands I've fallen for, gigs I've been to and friends I have met. Lots of highlights, lots of great memories. My blog has documented quite a lot! 

However my most personal highlight has been watching the development of my sister Carla as a songwriter, artist & performer over the history of my blog. With Futuristic Retro Champions, TeenCanteen, as a solo perfomer and with her new band Poster Paints. She's a wee gem, works super hard and has an amazing talent for words and melodies. I  hope she gets a bigger break sometime soon. 

I'll end with a few things I have learned along the way, just in case anyone reading this is considering writing a blog, or recording a podcast, or whatever young kids do these days!

1) Write/Talk about what you genuinely love and care about - it will help you stick with it
2) Don't expect many views/listens early on. Especially if you are writing about a band that attract an audience of 15/20 to a local show. They might go on and do something, but if they can't get a crowd of their mates interested, the chance are no-one else will be either!
3) Reviewing shows sharply helps. The turning point in my blog was when I reviewed an Echo and the Bunnymen show at the Royal Concert Hall.  I was shocked by singer Ian McCulloch's behaviour and wrote about the incident(s) that occurred when I got home. My tweet quickly gained traction and my blog had over 1,000 views in a couple of hours. So I always try to review gigs sharply while interest levels are still high - and I can remember everything! The flip side is that there are memorable gigs that I haven't reviewed. I've started a blog, or left it a day or two .... and then the moment has gone.
4) Building content helps. It takes time, but having a good bank of content ensures that people will find your blog while searching for band/album/single/gig reviews. I have some 'steady performers' like Nirvana covers The Vaselines
5) You'll sometimes be surprised by what blogs do well. Another one of my steady performers is a review of BiS and Cloth playing at The Old Hairdressers. BiS have an incredibly loyal fanbase and Cloth were really developing as a band. So there was a lot of curiosity about them and BiS have a loyal fanbase across the globe. That blog has almost 3,000 views.
6) A bit of luck helps with views. So Hot Chip, Gerry Cinnamon or Britpop Memories retweeting my blogs hugely helps with views. 
7) But.... don't worry about views. Going back to point 1, write about what you genuinely love and care about. I write because I enjoy it. These days I sometimes just post the blog and don't bother to tweet about it, or post about it. People will find it if they are that interested. But thank you so much to my loyal readers!!!
8) Having regular features helps with content. I have tried a few things over the years including; 5 for Friday, Three for Thursday or Magic Motown. But I've now settled on;
  • My Never Ending Mixtape - a monthly blog with a link to a playlist. 
  • Trust Me - a monthly feature on songs I discover or old favourites.
  • Cover version of the month - a monthly blog on cool cover versions. And maybe the odd dodgy one (David Haselhoff covering The Jesus & Mary Chain!) as well!
It means I always have a minimum of 3 blogs per month, complete with playlists.. I'm also up to #17 in a series called Anything Goes & Everything Flows where I create a 60-minute DJ mix/playlist. But I don't want to commit to that forever!

I now tend to average 7/8 per month. We'll see if that continues as I'm not getting out to quite as many gigs as I once did!

So ... 1,000 blogs. Loads of good memories. I enjoy writing, so who knows how many I'll get to, or how long I'll keep it going for. 

Thanks so much for visiting.

As always, I hope you discover something new to fall in love with, or rediscover an old favourite.

Here is an old blog on my 10 favourite songs ... at least at that time. Most of them still are!

Take care & very best wishes

Flower Power
Me, in Lisbon, summer 2022

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