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20 August 2014

Marc Burrows’ Ten Best Scottish Songs Of All Time

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Comedian and Music Journalist Marc Burrows returns to the Edinburgh Fringe this year with his brand new show, The Ten Best Songs Of All Time.

It serves as an autobiography through music via the ten most important songs of Marc’s life, the songs he genuinely thinks are the best ever written. Through these songs he springboards into stories, silly facts and ridiculous singing. Podcart are lucky enough that Marc has put together a Scottish version!

“My Edinburgh Fringe show this year is called ‘The Ten Best Songs Of All Time’. It’s not a definitive list- the whole point is that it’s very personal, almost autobiographical- it’s a little comic joyride through my brain via the songs I’ve loved, regardless of time of release, genre or gender, (as long as that genre is 90s indie bands, apparently). It’s hard to spend so long in Scotland, though, without starting to think about Caledonian influence missing from my list- Scottish nationality and identity is on everyone’s tongue right now (especially mine, I’m currently mainlining Irn Bru to get over this hangover) and it felt odd not to look at those acts from this side of the border that have made an impact on me, so here’s the Ten Best Scottish Songs Of All Time.

1) Bis- Kandy Pop

Join the Teen-C Revolution! Scotland has always done indiepop better than anyone else, and Bis blazed their own trail in the 90s before starting to take themselves a bit seriously in the post-millenium Social Dancing years. I vividly remember seeing this on Top of the Pops, back when everyone pretended they were the first “unsigned band” to do it (they weren’t unsigned, and they weren’t the first but nevermind). I use this as the intro music for my show (a version from John Peel’s 1996 Festive Fifty, back announced by the great man) and I really love peaking at the audience to see the reactions, some beam happily, some sing along, some just look weirded out and a few look quite angry. I think it’s what Manda-Rin would want.

2) Aztec Camera- Somewhere In My Heart

To claim anything that came out on Postcard records as an influence, a masterpiece, an era-defining tweecore revolution is fairly standard. The uncomfortable truth is that Postcard’s finest darlings did their best work in the Post-Postcards era. Aztec Camera (fronted by the first of two Roddy’s in this list) were better when they went glossy, and Somewhere In My Heart is nothing more or less than one of the finest AOR popsongs of the age, after all “the closest thing to heaven is to rock n’roll.”

3) The Proclaimers- I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).

Okay, okay, shut it. This is too obvious, I know. It’s the most Scottish Scottish song ever, and while the Proclaimers are obviously amazing you’re probably screaming at me right now for not picking something less ubiquitous, and well you might. But 500 Miles has a special place in my heart, not because of its clear charms, overplayed as they are, but because of one of the most brilliant phenomon ever seen in nightclubs: the drunk mass singalong to the Proclaimers. Go to any shit nightclub, student union or wedding reception and wait for the inevitable appearance of the Reid twins. Wait for the first chorus: everyone’s singing along, it gets to the right bit, “just to be the man that walks 500 miles to fall down at your door”, then wait… every person, every single person on that dancefloor will yell “DA LAT DA!”, but… the SONG DOESN’T. It doesn’t come up until the second chorus, and everyone sings half the line then stops embaressed and hopes no-one noticed. It’s a joy to behold.

4) Edwyn Collins- Girl Like You

You’re doing it again, aren’t you? You’re screaming at me for taking one of the country’s finest and highlighting the wrong song “where is Rip It Up?” you’re shouting. Well bugger off. Girl Like You is a better song than anything Collins did with Orange Juice. Released at the height of Britpop when everyone was doing the type of music Collins had pioneered a decade earlier, the man himself came back with this absolute smasher of fuzzy rock, pre-dating the type of thing Jack White would become known for by nearly another decade, with one of the hookiest riffs in years. When he played it on the Shooting Stars Christmas special 90s, culture peaked.

5) The Vaselines- Son Of A Gun

I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say I’d never have heard of the Vaselines if Kurt Cobain hadn’t been obsessed with them, but good grief I’m glad he was. Doing exactly the same thing Kalvin Johnson was doing two thousand miles away, the Vaselines were adorable, funny, weird and brilliant (and, indeed, they are still.) Son Of A Gun (covered memorably by Nirvana) was probably their peak- insanely catchy, insanely simple and completely endearing.

6) Belle and Sebastian- Lazy Line Painter Jane

How do you pick just one Belle and Sebastian song? The band took the entire history of Scottish art-school indiepop, added a healthy dollop of the Smiths, removed all the self-esteem and became completely peerless. Lazy Line Painter Jane is probably the peak of their Jeepster period, recorded in a church to create a big, swaggering, Muscle Shoals sound with Monica Queen’s belted vocals giving added welly to what, by B&S standards of the time was practically a gospel epic. The band’s love of 70s Elvis (they would later cover Suspicious Minds) is in evidence, and the result, complete with the lyric “tell your parents about the dose of thrush you got from licking railings,” is almost achingly perfect. I’m practically in tears just thinking about it.

7) Travis- U16 Girls

Before they became worthier-than-thou U2-aping folk machines Fran Healey’s quartet made a fairly typical Britpop album, which made a relatively small splash on its 1997 release. It should have made a bigger one- it’s a better record than most of what followed, including the Invisible Band which sold bucket loads but bored the arse of most people. The album opens with this pop monster, in which lovely, sensible, boring old Fran Healy sings joyfully about accidently shagging underage girls. In these post-Yewtree times it’s unlikely this would have made it past the label big wigs, especially not as a single, but the advice “make sure that she’s old enough before you blow your mind” is fairly sound, after all as Healy sings “You’ve no business, as God’s my witness, with a child as young as mine.” It’s a shame he forgot how to be that witty when he got older.

8) Simple Minds- Theme For Great Cities

Proving that there was more to The Big Sound than Jim Kerr’s emotive voice, Simple Minds did a neat line in dramatic instrumentals too, with this probably the best. Its dark, towering influence can be heard everywhere from Radiohead to the Horrors, and no-where more so than on the critically beloved new Manics album where it’s ripped off not once, but twice, and rather well too.

9) Idlewild- Captain

Roddy Woomble and his crew in their earliest, spikiest, shoutiest incarnation when sounding like Fugazi was more important to them than sounding like REM. For a band who love melody so much, Woomble and co take great pleasure in the anarchy and discord of their debuts’ title track, as it spirals away from them, regroups and then launches a headlong assualt. It’s furiously (post) punk and brilliantly so. It’s a shame they couldn’t stay like this, really.

10) Franz Ferdinand- Michael

Again they’ll be cries of “too obvious!” here, “where are the Yummy Fur!?” they’ll shout, “surely the 1990s did this better?” they’ll cry. They’re wrong. Michael is the peak of Franzinand’s spiky pop debut, and that debut was the peak of a whole 5-year cycle of British art-pop guitar bands. Alex Kapranos’s lyrics are untouchable too, as he grappled with his sticky sexuallity on the dancefloor (“leather hips, sticky hair, sticky lips, stubble on my sticky lips”) the equally sticky floors of indie clubs the country over trembled and shook. Wonderful.

You can watch Marc Burrows performing The Ten Best Songs Of All Time for free at Maggie’s Front Room, The Three Sisters, 139 Cowgate, Venue 272 until 23rd August 2014.

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