It's nice in Fife to enjoy long summer evenings but much harder to endure the long dark nights of winter. Such contrast may have prompted division between the conquered lands of England and the older Celtic traditions of Ireland and Scotland. The dark nights of winter may have also prompted the need to perfect skills and crafts in isolation or else in company of others. In terms of music, whatever differences there were are still present in some forms or else have been merged. Despite this, Scotland still produces some amazing musical artists capable of global appreciation and renown.
The Proclaimers are a Scottish Band composed of identical twin brothers, Charlie and Craig Reid (born 5 March 1962).
They are probably best known for the songs 'Letter from America', 'I'm On My Way', 'I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles), and 'Sunshine On Leith'. Writing in 2011, the band tours extensively throughout Europe and other continents. They have released eight studio albums from 1987 until the present, as well as two compilation albums and a DVD; their next studio album is expected in 2012. In 2011, the band scored history in Scotland when two of their tracks, 'Sunshine On Leith' and 'I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) were featured on 'Scotland's Greatest Album (2011)'.
Educated at Bell Baxter School in Cupar, they formed the Proclaimers in 1983. The Housemartins, a popular band at that time that invited them on tour during 1986. 'Letter from America' peaked at No 3 soon after in the UK Charts. The subsequent album went gold!
In March 2007 they recorded a new version of "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" with television comedy characters Andy Pipkin (played by Matt Lucas) and Brian Potter(played by Peter Kay) for the Comic Relief Charity. The music video featured many other celebrities and reached No 1 in the UK singles chart.
The Proclaimers toured with the 'B-52s' during their Australian and New Zealand Funplex tour in November 2009 alongside Australian band 'Mental As Anything'. In addition, they featured in VH1's 100 greatest one hit wonders ("I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" having been their only US hit single).
In November 2011, The Proclaimers also recorded a cover of the Gorillaz hit "Clint Eastwood" for the film Shrek: Me and My Swamp starring Shrek (Mike Myers), Donkey (Eddie Murphy), and Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz).
The brothers are fans of Hibernian Football Club and "Sunshine on Leith" has become a theme song for the club, being played at home matches for important fixtures, such as the Edinburgh Derby versus Hearts of Midlothian FC, the club's city rivals. Charlie and Craig Reid appeared at their Easter Road stadium for the 'Hands Off Hibs' campaign in 1990 when Wallace Mercer, a wealthly Edinburgh businessman with direct connections to Hearts FC, attempted a takeover of the club but was defeated by fan pressure.
They are also well-known supporters of Scottish Independence and have at various stages of their careers been activists for the Scottish National Party, expressing such views during their promotional tour of Britain in March 2007. In April 2007, however, Charlie Reid announced that he had switched his allegiance to the Scottish Socialist Party in protest at the Scottish National Party's receipt of funding from big business.Many of their songs reflect their political views, such as "Letter from America" and "Cap in Hand".
On 16 May 2006, the twins announced their participation in a campaign to free a fellow Scot, Kenny Richey, from his death row sentence in Ohio and which included an appearance at a charity concert. It led to his release and return to Scotland on January 9th 2008. In 2010, the Proclaimers participated with Billy Bragg in a show supporting the Reprieve charity that actively campaigns against death penallty verdicts.
The Proclaimers also support other charities such as 'The Lighthouse Foundation' dealing with victims of addiction, AICR dealing with cancer research, Drake Music Scotland who help disabled people through music and '500 Miles' for amputees or disabled people in Africa.
Jethro Tull was the brainchild of Ian Scott Anderson, MBE, born in Fife on 10th August 1947. He’s best known as the lead component of Jethro Tull, one of the oldest British rock bands still touring and still performing on a regular basis after more than forty years in the often harsh rock music business. Established in 1967, the band name is taken from the name of the inventor who perfected the agricultural seed drill in 1701 and thus helped pave the way to modern forms of arable farming.
Sixty million album sales later, their musical style remains characterised by the lyrics, vocals and flute playing of Ian Anderson who has led the band since its founding and the guitar work of Martin Barre who has been with the band since 1969. Their repetoire includes forms of blues rock, classical, jazz and folk music; sometimes in a small traditional manner or else assisted by an orchestra. His father, James Anderson, ran the RSA Boiler Fluid Company from East Port, Dunfermline, before the family moved to Blackpool in 1959. Ian studied fine art at Blackpool College of Art from 1964-1966 and from where Jethro Tull found roots one year later. Jethro Tull have a firm following and still tour at this time of writing in 2011.
Kate Victoria Tunstall, more commonly known as KT Tunstall, was born in Edinburgh on 23rd June 1975 to her half Chinese, half Scottish mother and to an Irish father. She was just eighteen days old when given over for adoption to an English family living in St Andrews in Fife and where she spent many formative years in the Fife university town. It’s sad to relate that she never got the opportunity to meet her biological father but her step-father was employed as a physics lecturer at the university and where he had access to the astronomy telescope of the university and where a young KT was permitted to gaze at far off stars. Her step mother was a school teacher and there was little interest in music in the Tunstall household; no records or tapes! Her first crictically aclaimed album, ‘Eye To The Telescope’ published in 2004 followed an appearance with Jools Holland on British television. According to popular myth, her father worked at St Andrews University and where he had access to the astronony telescope during off hours and thus permitting a young KT to observe the stars. This author has no proof as regards whether this is true or not.
Commercial success followed with three nominations before winning a BRIT award and a GRAMMY nomination and won an Ivor Novello Award. At this time of writing in 2011, she has released two further albums, ‘Drastic Fantastic’ and ‘Tiger Suit’; all of which can be described as excellent!
KT (she prefers usage of these initials to that of ‘Katie’) Tunstall attended Lawhead Primary in St Andrews then Dundee High School and Madras College in St. Andrews before attending Kent School in Connecticut, USA and where she formed her first band known as the ‘Happy Campers’. Additional study took place at Royal Holloway, University of London.
In addition to her albums, she had also released special versions intended originally for mail order only but subsequently made available for retail stores later. She has also contributed on tracks for other Scottish musicians such as the balladeers Travis and American legend Suzanne Vega. Picture above by courtesay of Kirk Stauffer.
Sir James 'Jimmy' Shand MBE (28 January 1908 – 23 December 2000) was a Scottish musician of global renown who played traditional Scottish dance music on the accordion.
James Shand was born in East Wemyss in Fife, son of a farm ploughman turned miner. One of nine children, they soon moved to the Burgh of Auchtermuchty and where Jimmy spent most of his life. His father was a skilled melodeon player and Jimmy started his muscial career with a mouth organ and soon learned to playe the fiddle. At the age of 14, he left school and found employment in the local mines. He played at social events and competitions, travelling to Fife venues on a motorbike.
In 1926, he did benefit gigs for striking miners and was consequently prevented from returning to colliery work. One day Jimmy and a friend were admiring the instruments in the window of Forbes' Music Shop in Dundee. His friend said "It wouldn't cost you to try one". Jimmy walked in and strapped on an accordion. The owner, Charles Forbes, heard Jimmy and immediately offered him a job as travelling salesman and debt-collector. He soon acquired a van and drove all over the north of Scotland. He switched to the British chromatic button accordion, an instrument he stuck with for the rest of his life.
Soon after the war he became a full-time musician and adopted a punishing life-style later adopted by rock bands. He would play Inverness one night, London the next night and still drive the van back, at breakneck speed, to bed in Dundee. He took his trademark bald head, Buddy Holly specs and full kilted regalia, Scottish reels, waltzes, jigs and strathspeys to North America, Australia and New Zealand, including Carnegie Hall in New York. He released one single per month in the mid fifties and which included his only top 20 hit, "The Bluebell Polka" in 1955. He was awarded an MBE in 1962.
In 1972, Jimmy Shand went into semi-retirement. From then he played only small venues in out-of-the-way places for a reduced fee. He was made a freeman of Auchtermuchty in 1974, North East Fife in 1980 and Fife in 1998. He became Sir Jimmy Shand in 1999. His portrait is in the Scottish National Gallery. In 1983 he released a retrospective album with the cheeky title "The First 50 years". At the age of 88 he recorded an album and video with his son, "Dancing with the Shands". His signature tune was "The Bluebell Polka".
More than 330 compositions are credited to Jimmy Shand. He recorded more tracks than the Beatles and Elvis Presley combined. In 1985, British Rail named one of their new locomotives, 'Jimmy Shand'. He died, aged 92, on the 23rd December 2000.
There's a personal connection to this FifeServe author although I never met the man. My late uncle was a close friend of Jimmy Shand and where he once described to me how Jimmy was dissatisfied with the chromatic button-key accordians available on the market in the 1940s so he designed his own one. My uncle told me about their visit to Hohner Musikinstrumente GmbH & Co. KG with both returning having spent considerable sums of money on new instruments.
Founded in 1857 by Matthias Hohner (1833–1902), Hohner is identified especially with harmonicas and accordians. In current times, the Hohner company has invented and produced most of the harmonicas used by professionals. Today, the he company makes kazoos, recorder flutes, medlodicas, guiatars and ukuleles; the latter under the brand name Lanikai, and alongside production of one million harmonicas per annum. At this time of writing in 2011, the Hohner company still manufactures the "Shand Morino" to his specifications.
There is a biography, The Jimmy Shand Story: The King of Scottish Dance Music by Ian Cameron and published in 2001 but which may now be out of print.
The saddist aspect about his musical genious is that a lot of his work has probably been lost due to the march of technology. Most of his work was recorded on shellac records playing at seventy-eight revolutions per minute and where the wear of the gramophone stylus was apt to induce wear and a short life. Later use of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) for record manufacture and better production techniques meant that playback speeds were reduced to 45 rpm for 7” singles and 33.33 rpm for albums.
Even as late as the early nineteen seventies, my uncle still had a huge library fof the original shellac recordings but was dismayed when he couldn't find a music centre capable of playing them or translating them to the new cassette tape format. He asked for my help and I constructed and delivered a specially built transcriptor based on a Goldring record deck in a plinth with an electronic variable scratch filter so that he could copy the original material to the cassette format and thus reducing further need of wear on the originals.
Of course, such an arrangement wasn't ideal. Even when comparing modern Compact Discs using laser light technology, the dynamic range and bandwidth of recorded music remains far below that of a gramophone record. It explains why orchestral music on records remained popular for so many years after the popular music arena had abandoned it. In the case of cassette tape, the limits were pretty extreme and remain so. Even the short-lived 'Stereo Eight' cartridge system running at three and half inches per second offered a better sound alternative but failed to 'catch on'. Cassette tape ran under two inches a second but was severely compromised as a consequence. Later attempts to use different materials meant introduction of special equipment able to switch the 'magnetic bias' did appear for a short time but more often in top level and expensive brands like 'Rotel'.
On delivery and trial, my uncle accepted the limits and was happy with the unit and probably because the alternative was to abandon so many great musical experiences. In retirement, my uncle trained many accordion players from his home in Cupar but was later forced to migrate to Edinburgh on account of his health and proximity to a specialist hospital and where he died just a few years later.
Barbara Ruth Dickson OBE was born in Dunfermline on 27th September 1947 and whose hits include, 'I Know Him So Well' and 'January, February'. She's also a two-time Olvier Award for acting in roles including Anita Braithwaite in TV's 'Band Of Gold' and where she was the original Mrs. Johnstone in Willy Russell's long-running musical 'Blood Brothers'.
Intiallly educated at Camdean Primary and Woodmill High School, her father was a cook on a tugboat at Rosyth Dockyard and her mother was from Liverpool. Her singing career began around 1964 in many local clubs.Her first commercial recording was in 1968 and her early work included albums with Archie Fisher, the first of which, 'The Fate O'Charlie', a collection of songs from the Jacobite rebellions was released in 1969. Her first solo album was 'Do Right Woman' in 1970.
In her varied and magnificent career, Barbara Dickson, recorded the album 'Answer Me' with the title track becoming a top ten hit in 1976. This led to her guest residency on the much-loved series, The Two Ronnies' and which brought Dickson’s singing to the attention of more than 10 million BBC viewers every week. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice invited her to record 'Another Suitcase In Another Hall' from their new musical 'Evita' which became her second hit in 1977. She contributed two tracks to 'Scouse The Mouse' a children's album (1977) with Ringo Starr and others. Other hits including "Caravan' and 'January February' followed in 1980.
In 1984, Tim Rice approached Dickson to take part in the cast album recording of the musical 'Chess' which included the song 'I Know Him So Well', a duet sung with Elaine Page. The song was a worldwide hit and remained at number one in the UK charts for four weeks. It is still recorded in the Guiness World Records as the best-selling female duet of all-time.
During the 1990s, Dickson appeared in many televised dramas including 'Taggart'.
In 1999, Dickson starred in 'Spend, Spend. Spend,' a new musical by Steve Brown and Justin Greene about a rollercoaster life story of pools winner, Viv Nicholson, and played in the West End to capacity audiences. For her portrayal of Viv, Barbara Dickson , was awarded eBest Actress in a Musicalf at the 2000 Laurence Olivier Awards. She went on to star in the UK tour of the show.
In 2004, 'The Platinum Collection', featuring some of her most successful recordings, reached number 35 in the UK album charts. Her 2004 album, 'Full Circle' , was produced and saw Dickson returning to her folk roots. In 2006 she issued a critically acclaimed collection of the songs of 'Lennon, McCartney and Harrison entitled 'Nothing's Gonna Change My World'.
Dickson's 24th studio album, 'Time and Tide' was released in January 2008 featuring a mix of contemporary and folk songs, including "Palm Sunday", which marked Dickson's return to songwriting after a break of almost 20 years. A live DVD, 'Into the Light' was released to coincide with the release of 'Time and Tide' and included, as well as some of her best-loved hits, several tracks from her new album. A double live CD, 'Barbara Dickson In Concert' was released in April 2009 and was followed later in the year by her autobiography, 'A Shirtbox Full Of Songs'
A this time of writing in November 2011, Barbara Dickson lives in Lincolnshire and has three sons.
Nazareth is a Scottish rock band that had several hard rock hits in the UK in the early 1970s, and established an international audience with their 1975 album, 'Hair Of The Dog'. Perhaps their best-known hit single was a cover of the ballad "Love Hurts' in 1975. The band continues to record and tour to the present day.
Big Country are a rock band born out of Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. They were most popular in the early to mid-1980s, but they still release material for a cult following. The band were notable for music infused with Scottish folk and martial music styles, as well as for playing and engineering their guitar driven sound to evoke the inspirational spirit of bagpipes, fiddlers and other traditional folk instruments.