England forever, Scotland a wee bit longer

Posted: February 7, 2016 in music, Record reviews
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Weightlifting cover

The Trashcan Sinatras

In 1999, I edited a magazine for software company called Visio. One of my columnists was Dave, our Chief Technical Evangelist. Dave was a software maestro and the champion of all things Scottish. “Aye, Steve, it’s a hildy, wildy day, but I’ll wager there’ll be a glent o’ sunsheen yet,” he’d say before ducking into his office. It looked like he was refighting Culloden in there.

Dave kept trying to sneak his Broad Scots dialect into articles on such Scots-friendly topics as using Visio to automate Excel spreadsheets. One of his vocabulary words was “Slàinte!,” a traditional greeting that I believe means “Slammin’!” This behavior might’ve fooled another editor, but not me, because guess what? I’m a Scot.

Not everyone knows this. For many years I didn’t know this. Then one day when I was skylarking in Edinburgh, I happened to pass a souvenir shop. The employee stationed outside asked me, “Sir! What’s yer family name?” When I told him he cried, “Lad, if yer name is Bieler, that means yer an Aberdeen!”

I’m a smart tourist, and I realize I could’ve told him I was Ho Chi Minh or Salvatore Bazooka and he would’ve told me I was a Campbell or a MacDougall, but his Star Fleet engineer’s accent was convincing and anyway my wife and I had recently seen an awesome staging of Macbeth. Before you could say “Something wicked this way comes” I was proudly wrapped in a scarf woven in my Aberdeen clan colors. (But I said no to the kilt, the vest, the big old shorts, and the condoms.)

Until it’s time to go a-roamin’ in the gloamin’, then, I’ll keep enjoying my Scottish music an a’that. I’ve already written about Dire Straits, Donovan, and Simple Minds. There are plenty more to go, from Average White Band to The Waterboys. (Bay City Rollers? That’s takin’ the low road to Loch Lomond, laddie.) Before I get to today’s topic, here are a few of the early milestones, or perhaps roadblocks, of Scottish popular music.

Most scholars agree, especially after enough blended malt whisky, that the Scots came to world attention in 1967 with Lulu’s super explosive smash hit explosion “To Sir with Love.” I was moved by “To Sir” when I was 12, but today the only thing that catches my jaded attention is that it was produced by John Paul Jones. A year later, Jones became the bass player for Led Zeppelin.

In 1971, Middle of the Road took revenge for the Highland Clearances when they released “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep.” Yes, all those sword-swinging Scotsmen fighting in the mud on Outlander evolved into “Where’s your momma gone, little baby bird?” Though I find this song about as appealing as someone paving my breakfast with a layer of haggis, I will always give this band some slack because their singer, Susan Carr, may have had the best legs in Scotland.

Maggie Bell is a Scottish soul singer who could mix shades of Tina Turner, Bonnie Raitt, Marianne Faithfull, and Joe Cocker into one groovy cocktail. Sadly, her material was never as good as her voice. Her debut album, Queen of the Night (1974), gave her her sole hit in the USA: a calypso-inspired version of Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight.” I don’t know how this happened because this is the one song on the disc that isn’t a vocal showcase. She deserved better. I’d yell my Clan Aberdeen battle cry here, but I took an oath to use it solely against our blood enemies, Clan Coldplay.

Bagpipes! You thought I’d forget. I once attended a bagpipe recital. Every bagpiper onstage had won at least 10 awards (every FN one of which was announced), though no two bagpipers seemed to have attended the same competition. From this I learned that bagpipers, journalists, and third-graders all receive awards for everything they do.

Toss that funky caber, white boy
Now we come to The Trashcan Sinatras, Glaswegians who have the most stupendous band name in the history of Scotland. I just scoured the Wikipedia page that lists every Scottish band since Mary, Queen of Scots (rhythm guitar and mouth harp) and the Trashies’ only competition comes from The Blow Monkeys, Teenage Fanclub, and Shitdisco.

The lassie in the office next to mine is a highly placed officer in the international Trashcan cult. To preserve her identity I’ll call her Lorna. “We Trashcan Sinatras listeners take our affiliations very seriously,” Lorna wrote in an email. “Are you one of us?”

It’s a shame for a good Scotsman to admit it, but I’m not up on me Trashcans. Lorna recommended that I begin with the band’s fourth album, Weightlifting. This was their comeback; they recorded it after a gap of eight years. Weightlifting is a sly, melodic companion that rocks when it feels like it (“Welcome Back”) but mostly chills.

“Not everyone can handle their intricate, ethereal smoothness,” Lorna informed me, and she’s right. Weighlifting is too laid-back for me, though I did find the title track interesting. Plus the album cover is actually worth framing. If you like The BoDeans or (in their lighter moments) Big Head Todd & The Monsters, I think you’ll enjoy The Trashcan Sinatras.

Goodbye just now, honest men and bonnie lasses, and one day we’ll take up another aspect of my ethnic heritage: Norwegian death metal. Until then…Slàinte!

Bonus: Here’s Middle of the Road, 30 years later.



  1. mikener says:

    “30 years later” … Did Sally Carr take over for her sister Susan?

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