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Six Of The Best – Neon Waltz

May 22, 2015

Six Of The Best is a semi-regular feature that pokes, prods and persuades your favourite bands, bards and barometers of hip opinion to tell us six of the best tracks they’ve ever heard. The tracks could be mainstream million-sellers or they could be obfuscatingly obscure, it doesn’t matter. The only criteria set is that, aye, they must be Six of the Best. Think of it like a mini, groovier version of Desert Island Discs…

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Number 21 in a series:

Next Monday (23rd May) finds the hotly-tipped Neon Waltz bringing their spring tour to a close in the intimate settings of Irvine’s Harbour Arts Centre, a brilliant wee venue 20-odd miles south of Glasgow that, when full, holds just over 100 people. The audience surrounds the band on 3 sides and there’s not a bad seat in the house. No-one at the gig will be more excited than myself.

I’ve been following Neon Waltz closely over the past year since first hearing them via the more hip, finger-on-the-pulse blogs. They’ve released a self-financed, extremely limited 7” (the military two-step marching Bare Wood Aisles), signed to Noel Gallagher’s management company (but don’t let that put you off – fans of Oasis might find their tunes pleasantly melodic, and Neon Waltz are fond of a cagoule and a duffel jacket, but they sound nothing like the mono-browed Mancunians) and they’ve recently released a 6 track collection of demos (First Light) after inking a deal with recording giant Atlantic Records, home to Led Zeppelin, Aretha Franklin and most of the greats you can think of. In short, Neon Waltz are going places.

Neon WaltzBare Wood Aisles

It’s unlikely the band had these sorts of giddy expectations when they began rehearsing a year ago in an old, cold abandoned croft on the outskirts of Caithness. I put this to vocalist Jordan Shearer, owner of the finest bowl-cut fringe in music since Bobby Gillespie in 1990, as we do a quick catch-up over the phone on his day off in Oxford, sandwiched in-between gigs in Amsterdam and Birmingham.

Coming from where we do, we have to think about things differently to everybody else. We knew we were a good band, but no-one from around our way ever expects to become famous or make it. We were just happy playing music for ourselves…I know how cheesy that sounds, but it’s true. When we found out there were record labels interested in signing us we couldn’t quite believe it.”

 neon waltz 1

That they come from the far north of Scotland, in musical terms the middle of nowhere, has helped Neon Waltz forge a sound that is more than the equal of its influences. Victims to neither fads nor fashions, they’ve quietly gone about honing their own version of the sounds that turn them on. As a six-piece they bring many elements to their music.

We all love The Band’s The Last Waltz. I think we actually saw the film before we’d heard the LP, but as a group we really loved their rootsy, organic take on things. There’s a definite Band influence, maybe not in our sound, but certainly in how we approach making our music.”

The BandKing Harvest (Has Surely Come)

King Harvest (Has Surely Come) is one we all love. The playing on it is superb. Loose and funky. They were proper musicians, The Band.

I suggest to Jordan they ask Atlantic to get Robbie Robertson to produce the eventual first LP by Neon Waltz. You’ve gotta make the most of your opportunities, I tell him. Watch this space…

We’re all big music fans. Spotify has been a great tool for us in discovering new bands. We all write and contribute to the band. Usually, someone has the bare parts done on an acoustic guitar, basic open chords, then we play it with the band. We all add our own parts, with a bit of tweaking here and there until we’re satisfied with the sound of it. We’ll often go on long, extended jams. Bare Wood Aisles came out of a 20 minute jam. 

Neon Waltz take their influences and spin them into terrific, slightly psychedelic, little symphonies. The guitars, sometimes chiming, sometimes fizzing, always to the fore and battling for attention with a drummer fighting a serious Keith Moon infatuation bring to mind all of what’s good in premier league indie rock. The National. Ride. The House Of Love. They’re all in there.

 

I’ll have to pick a track by The Walkmen. They’re one of our favourites. D’you know them? I could pick anything by them…. Let’s go for The Rat. There’s so much energy in it.

The WalkmenThe Rat

 

We all like vastly different records and bands, but there are lots of things we all agree on. One of them is The Magical World of The Strands. What a genius songwriter Mick Head is. He was in Shack and The Pale Fountains, two bands that never got the attention they maybe deserved.

 

The Magical World… is his first solo LP. We all love the songwriting and the arrangements. He’s a true one-off. If I was to recommend any of his songs it would be Something Like You.

 

Another obsession is Mac DeMarco. My latest infatuation is a song of his called Ode To Viceroy. It’s slacker rock, basically, full of beachy surf guitars. Viceroy is an American cigarette brand and this song is a very funny ode to the joys of smoking.

 
Mac DeMarco – Ode To Viceroy

Ou
r tour manager Big John from Liverpool turned us on to Captain BeefheartMad shit! It’s out there, man! We played the Safe As Milk LP regularly on our first tour. It’s great stuff!
 
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Sure ‘Nuff ‘N Yes I Do

The one band we all agree on, other than The Band, is The Coral. 
 
The Coral – Skeleton Key

The Coral are brilliant! Simple pop songs, but brilliantly played. They are very clever in how they arrange their songs. 
Skeleton Key from their first album captures everything that’s good about the band – out there, uncompromising but still pop music.

Zoom right in to the finer details of Neon Waltz and you’ll spot all these influences and no doubt many more. What’s impressive is that they have reassuringly ‘old’ tastes that belie their tender years. That might be a turn off to some, but not for me or many of you who drop by here regularly. The tagline up there isn’t ‘Outdated Music For Outdated People‘ for nothing, y’know. 
 neon waltz 3
Listen closely to Neon Waltz and in the woozy vocals and wonky keyboards you’ll hear shades of The Chocolate Watch Band, The Standells and all those terrific Nuggetsy garage bands. A more obvious and mainstream influence might be The Charlatans. 

Take a track like  Veiled Clock. When the instrumentation drops and the vocals soar, you’ll be able to pick out lovely 3-part harmonies informed by Crosby, Stills & Nash. Zoom in closer and you’ll spot the Fleet Foxes arrangements.

Neon WaltzVeiled Clock


Listen for pleasure though, without over-analysis or a need to compare the new with the old and you’ll hear melody-drenched, hazy, soft-focus tunes that wouldn’t sound out of place playing loudly as the sun sets behind a sea of flags in front of the Pyramid Stage at this year’s Glastonbury. It’s sure to happen for Neon Waltz sometime. Maybe not this year. Or even next. But it’s only a matter of time.

 

neon waltz 2

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Made Of Orleans

May 12, 2015

Ela Orleans is a Glasgow-based composer of experimental electronica. She has been releasing music under various guises for ages. She’s recorded scores for theatre productions, written an opera and lived in New York where she recorded avant-garde soundscapes and was on first-name terms with Thurston Moore. She’s just about the coolest figure on the Glasgow music scene right now, with everyone and anyone from Stephen Pastel to Ian Rankin lining up to sing her praises. Her latest offering, Upper Hell, is her 6th LP. She describes her music as ‘movies for ears’, which is just about the perfect summation.

Ela Press Photo 4

Upper Hell was produced by Howie B, the mastermind behind some of the most popular leftfield albums of the past 20 or so years. Tricky’s Maxinquaye and Bjork’s Homogenic both benefited from his magic touch, wrapped in warm ‘n woozy ambient textures whilst at times still sounding darker than Black Sabbath Vol. 4. Howie is the go-to guy when mainstream acts look to reinvent themselves – U2, Annie Lennox and Everything But The Girl have all called upon his services when looking to take their music on an unexpected turn. Howie ended up working alongside Ela after his sister played him some of her stuff. Ela didn’t have to go to Howie and ask to be produced. He found her.

I need to declare some self-interest at this point. Many years ago, Ela and my sister were friends at Glasgow University, and I’ve kept a close ear to her music ever since. She was once round for Christmas dinner when returning to her native Poland wasn’t an option and we had great fun at her expense as she thought in Polish but swore in English while playing charades or some other daft game no-one plays any other time of the year. I couldn’t have forecast at the time that at some point in the future she’d be sound-tracking my commute to work and my wheezing bike runs around Ayrshire, but this week she’s all I’ve listened to.

Ela Press Photo1
Upper Hell is terrific. It’s full of glitchy, twitchy electronica, organic bass lines and cut ‘n paste beats. In fact, it’s exactly the sort of thing Radiohead have been praised and derided in equal measure for – there are no ‘tunes’ in the traditional sense, but you can easily lose yourself in its ebbing and flowing digital soundscapes. There’s even a spoken word track (2nd one in, River Acheron) that, just like OK Computer‘s Fitter, Happier… I kinda know I’m going to skip before too long. If Thom Yorke had been involved in Dark Floor, the opening track, the internet would’ve simultaneously wet itself and melted.

Ela OrleansDark Floor

I was playing this last night and Mrs Plain Or Pan popped her head round the door, with a screwed-up look on her face.
This is Ela!” I said.
Does it get any better?” asked the missus.
No, it doesn’t,” I replied, with no hint of irony. “No. It doesn’t.”

 

 

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Rhys Is The Word

April 28, 2015

It’s the mid 90s all over again! Chris Evans is back on the telly soon with a one-off TFI Friday. Blur have a new LP out – a bit of a grower, I’ve found, equal parts skewed pop noise and languid, lethargic Damon downers. More excitingly than any of that though is that next week there’ll be Super Furry fever the length and breadth of the country. Or in my house at least, and possibly yours too. Super Furry Animals are back together after 6 long years lost in a wilderness of solo projects, side projects, family issues and a generally lazy, can’t-be-arsed attitude to their group’s music to go out on a tour around the Academies and O2s of the land.

sfa logo pete fowler

Most bands reform (have the Super Furries ‘reformed’? Who really knows?) and play the various enormodomes and arenas with a set comprising all the big hits and fan favourites. These bands, ever thoughtful to their fans’ requirements, even stick in a couple of new tracks to allow folk to disappear to the bar or the toilet or wherever.  Not the Super Furry Animals.  The tour is on the back of the reissue of their Mwng LP, an album sung entirely in their mother tongue, an album that somehow made its way to the dizzy heights of Number 11 on yer actual charts. Given the stellar quality of the rest of the band’s back catalogue, this is just about as un-comeback like as possible. Think of a Bizarro-era Wedding Present who reform to play a set of Ukrainians material and you’re half way there.

sfa tour 2015

Due to can’t-get-out-of work commitments I’m going to miss the Glasgow show (just about the only one not yet advertised with a Sold Out! sign), which I’m doubly miffed at now that The Magic Numbers have been added as the support act. Two great bands at what will be one (very) smokin’ gig, in every sense of the word.

As much as Mwng is unintelligible to the average listener outside of native-speaking Wales, (“Don’t sing your songs in Welsh,” instructed Creation boss Alan McGee. “Sing them in English.” “We do,” replied a puzzled Gruff Rhys) it’s still a terrific record – noisy and thrashing one minute, warped and wobbly and lightly dusted in a fuzzy haze the next (often within the first 2 minutes of the same song) and will no-doubt sound out of this world when it makes its way into the live arena. You have to presume that the shows will be two-parters, with the album being the yin to a greatest hits-type yang, but in the world of the SFA who really knows? All I do know is that I’m irked that I can’t go.

SFA_15

On the Mwng LP you’ll find this, Y Teimlad, a slow burning beauty of a track that combines lovely descending guitar figures with Beach Boys harmonies and the odd lightly toasted guitar riff – Super Furry Animals in miniature, if you will.

Super Furry AnimalsY Teimlad

Y Teimlad is a cover of a track by obscure Welsh experimentalists Datblygu. Datblygu were self-sufficient, releasing album after album on cassette only, singing their heavy, pastoral psychedlia in Welsh and receiving the bare minimum of airplay (although this included 5 Peel Sessions) before crashing to a halt in the early 90s. They were clearly a big influence on the next wave of Welsh bands, particularly the Super Furries and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. But you knew that already.

DatblyguY Teimlad

If you’re off to one of those Super Super Furry shows, make sure you enjoy it for me.

sfa yeti

 

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Six Of The Best – Grahame Skinner

April 22, 2015

Six Of The Best is a semi-regular feature that pokes, prods and persuades your favourite bands, bards and barometers of hip opinion to tell us six of the best tracks they’ve ever heard. The tracks could be mainstream million-sellers or they could be obfuscatingly obscure, it doesn’t matter. The only criteria set is that, aye, they must be Six of the Best. Think of it like a mini, groovier version of Desert Island Discs…

skin

Number 21 in a series:

Grahame Skinner is best known for being the provider of the deep, rich baritone vocal atop Hipsway‘s mid-late 80s pop/soul output. I loved them. Most folk of a certain age in the West of Scotland did. Just too young to appreciate Orange Juice, they were the next best thing. The teenyboppers had Haircut 100. We had Hipsway. That’s how it went.

At the time, The Smiths were just about my most favourite thing in the world, and most folk assumed that I had modelled my towering quiff on that of Morrissey’s. Not at all! I was always way more into Marr than Morrissey. My quiff, my pride and joy, was a hybrid quiff – an amalgamation of the best of Love & Money’s James Grant and Skin from Hipsway. It was lush, it was thick and it was Brylcreem’d to within an inch of save-the-whale oil slickness. In fact, Black Mama’s Chip Shop at Irvine Cross used to phone me now and again when they’d hit a busy spell and ran out of stuff to fry their chips in.

In 1986/87 you couldn’t escape the music of Hipsway. It was theee trendiest thing to be seen carrying into the common room at school. Forget your Bunnymen and Smiths and Housemartins and Lloyd and his Commotions – Hipsway was where it was at. The eponymously titled LP blasted out of bars and bedrooms everywhere, and even Alex Aitken’s car. He had somehow passed his test when we were still at school and drove everywhere. We threw away his goth pretensions along with his All About Eve cassettes in one fell swoop when he wasn’t looking and replaced them with Hipsway. “Are you broke? Are you broke?! By the broken years!” we’d sing, annoying the hell out of him.

hipswaypromoshotIf you didn’t actually own the LP (although at least half the population must’ve done) you couldn’t escape the music. The Broken Years and Long White Car were played to death on Radio Clyde. They were both misses rather than hits, expensively polished in the top studios by the top producers, but they paved the way. Ask the Lord was the hit that should’ve been, all call-and-response vocals behind a mid-tempo, bass-driven groove.

The Honeythief was the one that hit the target though, it’s economic riff adding just enough Chic to propel it to Number 17 on the actual charts, providing the band with a Top Of The Pops appearance in the process.

If you never listened to Radios Clyde or 1, or watched Top of the Pops, you’d probably still have heard Tinder via an era-defining McEwan’s lager advert that was on constant rotation seemingly for ever. I think it still pops up between the breaks on that STV Glasgow channel that started up recently. Hipsway. You just couldn’t escape them.

Skin is also the teller of the tallest of tales, as a near 30-year wild goose chase at my expense has only just come to an end. I happened to remark that when Hipsway played Ayr Pavilion – the 15th April 1987 (I have the ticket sitting in front of me), he introduced their encore, a cover of the Bee Gee’s Jive Talking, as “the new single,” due for release “any day now”. The next day I hotfooted it to Walker’s at Irvine Cross, only to be told they didn’t have it. They didn’t have it the next day either. Or the day after that. Or the day after that. Or 3 weeks later. Or 6 months later. Or never at all. Since then, with the advent of the internet, I’ve looked in the deepest darkest places in the hope I’ll somehow turn up a copy of Hipsway doing Jive Talking.

It’s never existed,” Skin tells me. “It never did!”

Pffft. And that’s the enda that.

Grahame was more than happy to chat to Plain Or Pan and give us Six of the Best. He starts with the usual disclaimer of “this isn’t by any means a definitive list, and is in no particular order,” so read ahead knowing that, as with the other 20 previous entries, obvious choices will have been missed. Call it a snap-shot of Grahame’s musical tastes, the music that shaped the music he’s known for making himself.

Johnathan Richman & The Modern LoversRoadrunner

“I remember when it came out and how strange it sounded. It evokes the whole idea of driving down a dark road. It has an amazing rhythm that goes on and on for ages. Johnathan Richman really is a terrific songwriter.”

Jim FordI’m Gonna Make Her Love Me Till The Cows Come Home

Jim Ford was best pals with Sly Stone. Sly called him ‘the baddest white man alive’. In my humble opinion, this record is easily one of the best records ever made. It’s amazing. Funky. Soulful. It’s on an album called ‘Country Funk’, which kinda sums it up.”

David BowieLife On Mars

“I could’ve picked any of 20 or so David Bowie tracks. I have absolutely no hesitation in calling David Bowie a genius. It’s an over-used phrase, but in Bowie’s case it applies. I can remember hearing this song on the radio from before I was a Bowie fan. It resonates. Something about it stuck with the young me. The first Bowie LP I bought was Ziggy Stardust, and I quickly worked backwards from there. Bowie is the touchstone.”

The Rolling StonesJumpin’ Jack Flash

I love everything the Stones have ever done. I won’t ever get tired of this record. Whenever it comes on I break out the old dad/uncle dancing routine. Who disnae?!?

Led ZeppelinBlack Dog

I was 16/17 years old. That really impressionable age when bands matter more than anything. My pal used to tape the John Peel show and we’d listen to it the next day. We were all into punk and new wave, The Stranglers and stuff like that. Led Zeppelin? They were simply NOT ACCEPTABLE! Then I heard Black Dog and it changed the game forever. What. A. Record.

Orange JuiceFalling & Laughing

“Orange Juice and the Fire Engines were like heroes to us. Local bands that could put out singles. If they could do it, anyone could. We could! I love this record. the music is terrific – a driving bassline, interesting chord changes. it’s adventurous, brilliant songwriting.

That’s a great selection – very Plain Or Pan, I’m sure you’d agree.

These days, Grahame still writes and records. He puts out records under his own name as well as that of Cowboy Mouth and Witness. You should probably pop over to his website, where he has music for sale.

Away from the brief glare of the spotlight, he also dips his toe into the live arena. In just a couple of weeks he plays the HAC in Irvine, a terrific little theatre that’s recently seen the likes of Glenn Tilbrook, Nik Kershaw and Model Aeroplanes pack the place out. You can buy a ticket here.

skin

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Dorissey

April 14, 2015

Question: What is this record? Is it groovy jazz funk, a long-forgotten off-cut from a Blaxploitation soundtrack that never was? Is it late 60s wig-out psychedelic rock/pop, a remnant of the days when guitar solos were almost as expansive as the lead singer’s flares? Is it fuzz guitar-led, musique concrète strangeness that coulda come straight outta 1972 West Germany?

Answer: It’s all of the above!

The record in question is You Never Come Closer by Doris, from her Did You Give the World Some Love Today Baby album, released with no fanfare to total indifference in 1970.

doris

Doris Svensson was an insignificant Swedish pop singer in the 60s. Along the way she teamed up with respected Scandinavian big band composer Berndt Egerbladh and, from Aberdeen, a Scottish cellist/jazz guitarist/lyricist called Francis Cowan who’d found himself playing on cruise ships where he met his Swedish wife.

This mis-matched trio of musicians put together Did You Give the World Some Love Today Baby, an eclectic soup of funk, rock, jazz and cutting edge electronica. It’s a staggering listen, uncomfortable in places, yet totally pop. Forward thinking retro-revivalists such as Portishead, St Etienne and Massive Attack likely own original first pressings – some of the tunes are a sampler’s delight, packed full of weird strings, breakbeats and fruggable fuzz bass. You can buy reissued CDs of the album from all the usual places. It’s definitely worth further investigation.

candie payne

 

You Never Come Closer reminds me an awful lot of the long-forgotten post-millennium tracks produced for Candie Payne by Edgar Jones and Simon Dine. Edgar has his fingers in many a musical pie; from the r ‘n b stomp of The Stairs via the be bop-isms of his Soothing Music For Cool Cats album, to playing on stage with Lee Mavers and Johnny Marr – a real non-stop, hard-working musician.

Simon Dine, in his guise as Noonday Underground has taken the weirdest, wonkiest bits of 60s pop music and sampled and looped them into something terrific. His production is all over the last 3 Paul Weller LPs – those electronic rushes and synthesised strings are all his doing. You knew that already though, aye?

Candie PayneI Wish I Could Have Loved You More

Candie PayneAll I Need To Hear

Anyway, my guess is that both Edgar Jones and Simon Dine also have first pressings of Did You Give the World Some Love Today Baby. The feel of that album more than permeates the work they did with Candie Payne. Nothing wrong with that, of course.

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Good Felas

April 2, 2015

What a shitty few weeks. The previous post below will fill you in if you’re an infrequent visitor. Thanks for taking the time to leave your comments. I read them all, even if I couldn’t face replying. Truly, thanks.

Anyway, what better way to get back on track than by digging out some slick Nigerian Afrobeat from 1977?

fela kuti

Fela Kuti is a real musicians’ musician. A multi-instrumentalist, equally at home on sax, keys, trumpet, drums….you name it, between 1960 and his death in 1997 he was responsible for around 60 LP releases. Perhaps only The Fall would appear to be able to top that. Much like The Fall, many of his albums are live affairs. A few are also dubious-looking compilations of indeterminate origin. Amongst the regular studio recordings, there are whole LPs of collaborations with other musicians (‘Stratavarious‘ with Ginger Baker, ‘Music Of Many Colours‘ with Roy Ayers.)  All Fela’s albums are tight and taut, superbly played and full of meandering grooves underneath the politicised lyrics.

In the 70s, Fela changed his middle name. Ransome, he said, was a slave name.  And Fela was nobody’s slave. He was a folk singer. The Nigerian equivalent of Woody Guthrie, singing the songs of the ordinary man.  He took to singing in his own unique pidgin English as a way of ensuring Africans throughout the continent would understand his message – they all spoke in their own native tongue, but they also all understood basic English. He sang of the barbaric Nigerian Government and had a smash hit (‘Zombie‘) on the back of it. This resulted in him barely surviving with his life after a severe beating from government flunkies whilst his studio was burned to the ground. More than just a fly in the ointment, Fela galvanised his fellow countrymen into action, a real anti-establishment hero.

fela kuti 2

Fela’s music is terrific. There’s a real discipline to the playing. Much of it is simple and  repetitive. The musicians could easily break out and rattle off a little lick or two, and sometimes they do. His brass section in particular (sometimes just Fela) are fond of the odd up-the-garden-path solo. But mostly to Fela, the rhythm is King. It’s a bit like Can at their grooviest – hypnotic, shamanistic, designed to subconsciously affect the limbs. Feet will tap. Hips will sway. Heads will bob. Before you know it you’ll be on your feet and wondering how you got there.

1977’s Sorrow, Tears and Blood LP is typical of his work at the time. The title track formed the entire first side, a relentless guitar ‘n sax-led tour de force, all polyrhythms and funk bass, lightly toasted with electric piano.

Fela KutiSorrow, Tears And Blood

Atop the non-stop one chord groove is a lyric worthy of Joe Strummer at his authority-baiting best;

Everybody run….Police they come….Army they come….confusion everywhere…..someone nearly died….Police don’t go away….Army don’t disappear….them leave sorrow, tears and blood….

Fela’s work is absolutely ripe for sampling and reinterpretation. Mr Mendel has done this excellent remix of Sorrow, Tears And Blood:

Fela KutiSorrow, Tears And Blood (Mr Mendel mix)

fe la soul

….and a couple of years ago, someone came up with the brilliant concept of Fe La Soul, where they took the Daisy Agers raps and placed them on top of Fela’s funkiest fills. There are whole albums of the stuff if you look in all the right places. Here‘s one of my favourites;

Fe La SoulItsoweezee

….and no doubt inspired by the relentless, driving grooves of Fela, during the sessions for 1980’s Remain In Light, Talking Heads recorded Fela’s Riff, a terrific piece of instrumental New York, new wave funk. I really need to do a Talking Heads feature at some point…

t heads

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Now That We’ve Grown Up Together

March 11, 2015

My longest and best pal died on Monday.

He was a day short of his 46th birthday.

It’s hit me hard. Sledgehammer hard. Far harder than I ever could have imagined. I’ve had grand parents die when I was 9, 10, something like that. But never a friend of the same age. I am in pieces.

The fact that he died abroad on holiday makes it extra difficult. For a man from the West of Scotland, he had been in reasonably decent health.  There were no clues. He complained of feeling unwell at dinner time on Sunday, went to his bed and didn’t wake up. Just like that.

His poor kids were at home with their grandparents. His poor wife has had to fly home alone, the authorities not yet giving permission for his body to be repatriated. It could be another week, they say. Tragic.

We’d been friends since age 4. Gone through primary and secondary school together. Bought records, played sport, fashioned our hair into popstars together – he favoured the Bono mullet whilst I teased my hair into a James Grant quiff. We had our first pints together. Did daft, drunk, teenage boy stuff together; Clambered legless out of lofts. Played heady tennis with an unopened can of Tennents until Lager Lovely Sheena was buried 4 inches underneath the Bono do. Unsuccessfully chased a pair of beautiful-looking German girls around Ibiza for a week. Occasionally we’d fall out. One time there was a bloody nose (mine, not his) outside a kebab shop at 2 in the morning. But we remained friends. Best of friends.

I saw him more regularly than I see my own brother and sister.

For the past umpteen years we’ve shared a car and taken our sons to Kilmarnock games near and far, the odd trip to Hampden being the icing on a lopsided and inconsistent cake. Since the club redeveloped Rugby Park in 1995, we’ve sat together in the East Stand in the same seats for almost 20 years. Not always season ticket holders, but always the same seats. When our boys started going, his first, mine a few years later, we budged along a bit, proud that they were adopting the noble tradition of their fathers by supporting their local team and not one of the ugly sisters from the city just up the M77.

This Saturday we’d have had a quick phone call – “I don’t know if I can stand any more of this,” he’d always say. “We’ll do well to get any kind of draw today.” And then I’d pick him up at the same time and drive to the game, talking the same rubbish as the last time, listening to Richard Gordon give out the team news on Sportsound and park in the same space near Rugby Park before walking to the ground, buying my boy’s programme from the same seller and following our familiar pre-match ritual of a pre-match pee before going up and into our seats.

This weekend he won’t be there. “Where’s your brother the day?” the man next to me will ask. For years, he’s always thought we were brothers. “Is the big yin no’ coming?” the woman behind us will say. Her and her husband have a laugh every week at his expense when he shouts out badly-pronounced versions of the names of the players on show. English was never his strong point at school. And I’ll have to tell them that he’s not coming today. Or next week. Or ever again.

At 3 o’clock on Saturday afternoon his seat will remain empty.

Here’s True Faith, his favourite record.

We both bought the 12″ of this on holiday on the Isle of Man. He bought the more straightforward (and better) version, whilst I bought the remix version; the one in the white sleeve with lots of falling leaves on the cover.

When we got home from our holiday, we played the records non-stop. In his room we put all the versions of True Faith onto one side of a C45. I still have it somewhere. The next time I’m in my loft I’m gonna have to try and dig it out.

 

 

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