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Book review: Hungry Beat, by Douglas MacIntyre and Grant McPhee, with Neil Cooper

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Every music fan will have their own idea of ​​what constitutes the golden years of rock and pop. Writer Simon Reynolds has already heralded the extraordinarily fertile post-punk period in Rip It Up and Start Again, named after an Orange Juice lyric. Orange Juice frontman Edwyn Collins, meanwhile, is one of many eyewitnesses who contributed to Hungry Beat, an oral history covering the same period that focuses on Scotland’s post-punk history.

In practice, it’s a tale of two cities and, more specifically, two independent record labels and their flawed figureheads – Fast Product founded in Edinburgh by Bob Last and Glasgow’s Postcard Records run by Alan Horne. Co-writer Grant McPhee previously covered this territory in his 2015 rock documentary Big Gold Dream – the interviews he conducted for the film form the foundation of the Hungry Beat narrative, fleshed out with additional interviews from arts journalist Neil Cooper and by musician Douglas McIntyre, whose debut tape Article 58 was right where the naïve action was. Despite the existing source material, Hungry Beat “aims to tell a different story to the one regularly regurgitated” – in particular, to acknowledge the key roles of Hilary Morrison and Fast Product’s Edwyn Collins on opposite ends of the M8.

Neither Fast Product nor Postcard Records lasted long – just long enough to change everything in their respective cities. “It was about being fast, it was about being intense, and we were done,” says Last. Both labels were inspired by the DIY philosophy but not so much by the music or aesthetics of punk. There were clear stylistic lines – Glasgow’s sound was influenced by the lightness and brightness of the US West Coast (Byrds, Beach Boys), while Edinburgh danced to a darker, less melodic beat typical of New York’s no wave scene. Postcard portraying the image of Scottish tartan and shortbread, Fast Product was influenced by Dada and Situationism. Both labels were inspired by Andy Warhol’s Factory.

Douglas MacIntyre, Neil Cooper and Grant McPhee PIC: Gavin Fraser

There is little rock ‘n’ roll excess documented in Please Kill Me, the famous oral history of the New York punk scene. But, appropriately for a scene that was as much about ideas and attitude as it was music, there’s a lot of conceptual and creative fumbling en route to the 1983 gold rush when the main movers started. achieve commercial success, sometimes in reconfigured formations. Writers could go on, but by 1983/4 the center of gravity had shifted – Orange Juice and Aztec Camera moved to London, Josef K frontman Paul Haig in Brussels and Alan Rankine of The Associates played a guitar in chocolate made by Harrods on Top Pops. The underground had become the most flamboyant.

Hungry Beat, by Douglas MacIntyre and Grant McPhee, with Neil Cooper, White Rabbit, £20. There will be a launch event at La Belle Angèle, Edinburgh, on November 19, with interviews, readings and a live performance by The Hungry Beat Group (featuring members of Aztec Camera, The Bluebells, Article 58, Josef K/Orange Juice), https://undergroundsolushn.com/hungrybeat.html

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