Musical epiphanies: we’ve all experienced them. For The Fire Engines’ Davy Henderson, it was seeing The Slits’ Ari Up on the White Riot tour go stalking into the audience asking for a comb, only to backcomb her hair into a knot. For Edwyn Collins, it was finding that he could blend The Beatles and The Buzzcocks.
Hungry Beat, which charts the history of the Scottish postpunk scene, has many such moments. You didn’t need to be a virtuoso, just ideas, energy and the cajones to get out there.
Fast Product and Postcard Records epitomised the spirit of the times. Bands just got up on stage and made records, governed by passion, caffeine, possibly something stronger, but always with the hubris of youth.
The main players are present and correct: Stephen McRobbie (Pastels); Strawberry Switchblade, Rough Trade’s Geoff Travis, Martyn Ware, Josef K, Orange Juice etc, but it’s the small details that are most telling.
It’s the visceral gut punch of hearing a jagged guitar riff, the snotty attitude, an alien croon, watching an oppositional sneer, smeared mascara, androgyny, immediacy, a scream.
All of these things may have been in their infancy, but they arrived fully formed. It’s indie as revolution, before it became commodified and diluted, as so many of these things do.
This book is smart, droll and inspiring, because it takes everything we love about indie and reminds us that so many people of the Spotify generation will never really get it, when music is all up there on a menu, ready to consume. Part of the thrill comes in finding it for yourself, and feeling like you’ve been let in on a secret.
We all know about the Roxy, Hungry Beat is a timely reminder that Scottish bands did it too, and with as much passion, creativity… and hairspray.