I heard this track properly for the first time a couple of days ago and it’s been on constant repeat since. I say properly because I’d heard it before, round about last summer, and it passed me by. But now I’ve come to realise that it may just be the best thing Glasvegas have ever recorded.
The wall of sound
Yeah, Glasvegas. Everyone has their opinion on them. Are they still cool? Were they ever? Who knows? Who cares? For what it’s worth, I like them. Maybe it’s because I’ve been hearing about them for the past couple of years from a friend who has family in the band. Maybe it’s because the best Christmas card I got this year was from the same friend, who sent me a picture of Glasvegas in Raybans and Santa hats. Those quiffs must’ve been a bit of a disaster after that photoshoot. Although they probably used Photoshop. The vain bastards. But I like Glasvegas. A lot. And I really like The Prettiest Thing On Saltcoats Beach. Stuck away on the b-side of the Geraldine single, it had been played once then filed away. Last week I was given a compilation CD from another friend and the last track was this track. For some reason, it stuck out. Maybe cos the other tracks weren’t very good? (not true, McMark) But I played it again and again and again, and it’s playing right now.
Miss Pan jnr, the prettiest thing on Saltcoats beach, July 08
It begins with gentle waves crashing on the shore. Clearly a sample from some long-forgotten sound effects album, cos if you’ve ever been on Saltcoats beach you’ll know that the waves don’t break gently on the sand. There are 2 kinds of waves in Saltcoats: 1. Those big fuckers you get when it’s the middle of winter, blowing a gale, snowing and freezing and the TV cameras are there. And 2. The splashback from the Arran ferry as it comes into dock in Ardrossan, just up the beach. So, sound effect waves. They provide the drama as the track unfolds in melancholy fashion, all vibraphone, reverb, shimmer and twang. It reminds me a lot of those early Trashcan Sinatras b-sides (like ‘Skindiving‘ – go seek it out). It builds and builds and builds until the singer can’t take any more and it comes crashing down in a wave of white noise. It’s truly bathed in melodrama and pathos.
It makes Saltcoats sound like the most (cough) romantic place on Earth. Clearly it isn’t. If you’ve ever been to Saltcoats during the Glasgow Fair Fortnight you’ll know what I’m talking about. Dressed head to toe in Rangers or Celtic regalia, they come down to our bit of the world armed with crappy-ringtoned mobiles and plastic footballs, to eat our ice cream and litter the beach with empty bottles of Buckfast. And that’s just the women. To be called the prettiest thing on Saltcoats beach is a bit of hollow praise. But Glasvegas must’ve been down on a good day. ‘The Prettiest Thing On Saltcoats Beach’ does for Glasvegas what ‘The Boys Of Summer’ does for Don Henley. It’s a Scottish love song of the highest order. Burns would’ve been proud. In fact, I’d say it’s right up there on a par with Morrissey’s best work. He’d do a great version of it. And that would be something, wouldn’t it?
*Bonus track. 2006 demo recording of above track here.