The Road to Independence








Link to Scotland's favourite musicians

Link to Traditional Scottish music

Link to scotsmusic home page

Aztec Camera

The 1970's ended with the post Punk era. Over in the USA David Byrne an ex-pat from Dumbarton, was becoming a household name with his new wave band Talking Heads. Punk had planted the seeds of an enduring musical-determination when London based Independent record companies such as Rough Trade and Stiff began to challenge the major labels market domination. When the success of singles released by indie labels prompted Scots to adopt the DIY approach for themselves a vibrant music explosion followed. As the 80's dawned Scotland had only a basic music infrastructure supporting its Pop artists. It had many gig venues and cheap recording studios to keep creativity flowing but it lacked the confidence to manage its own affairs by successfully supporting its Pop artists to succeed in a market dominated by the Anglo/American charts. Most believed they had to have 'London mentality' to be in with any chance of success based on the past experience of a few lucky ones, but some Scottish entrepreneurs took a stand for operating from their home base.

Edinburgh had an indie label called Fast Product that released material by English bands The Human League, Gang of Four and The Dead Kennedy's. However, over in Glasgow Postcard Records (1980-1982) decided to challenge London domination by nurturing homegrown talent, their protégés Orange Juice, Josef K, The Fire Engines and The Go-betweens created a new genre of independent pop hailed as the sound of young Scotland. Orange Juice made a lasting mark that 21st century bands such as Franz Ferdinand owe a lot to. Their first single Blue Boy and debut album Ostrich Churchyard (1981), went beyond punks' rigid boundaries, it was wiry and jangling, intellectual, full of humour and bravado. John Peel, a progressive English DJ, gave them a session and in 1983 the band had a UK hit with Rip It Up And Start Again after eventually moving to London.

Glasgow's Simple Minds and Fife's Big Country proved that you could have success and stay at home. Simple Minds became massive Internationally and when using the new visual format of video for their hit single 'Waterfront,' filming was moved away from the south's monopoly to Glasgow's River Clyde. Big Country had a string of 10 hit singles in the UK charts between 1983 and 88 including Fields of Fire and In A Big Country played with distinctive bagpipe sounding guitars.

David Byrne

Orange Juice

Orange Juice

Josef K

The Fire Engines

The Go-betweens

Simple Minds

Big Country

The Bluebells

Altered Images

Billy MacKenzie

The Associates

Jesse Rae

30 Footers


Lloyd Cole & The Commotions

Cocteau Twins

Love & Money

Strawberry Switchblade




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Other successes began to follow: Aztec Camera, Altered Images, The Bluebells and The Associates with Billy MacKenzie's distinctive vocal soaring over orgasmic pop songs, also kilted Jesse Rae waving a claymore over the Manhattan skyline in a dubious fusion of rustic medieval fantasy meets urban disco Pop. Respect for Scottish talent increased in 1983 with the Eurythmics, their single Sweet Dreams set in motion an astounding international career for Aberdeen singer Annie Lennox. Many fabulous Scottish bands, like fellow Aberdonians 'The 30 Footers' and Glasgow's 'The Tremens', worked hard to achieve recognition with hardly any financial support. To struggling musicians Unemployment benefit was important, as it was crucial to their survival while they perfected their music and built their marketing base. Many would later pay the state off handsomely in terms of taxation and job creation while others despite trekking the traditional path to London failed to gain the success their contribution deserved.

One of the best albums recorded in Scotland was The Blue Nile's 'Walk Across the Rooftops', this stunning album produced in Scotland received extraordinary plaudits and created a huge worldwide fanbase. Their second album 'Hats' became a hit reaching No.12 in the album charts in 1989. Many other Scots were being recognised, Barbara Dickson, Hue & Cry, Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, Cocteau Twins and Love & Money to name a few. Alan McGee set up what was to become the most renowned label in Britain. Though based in London 'Creation' became a home from home for Scottish artists most notable Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream and Teenage Fanclub. East Kilbride's Jesus & Mary Chain's collision of Beach Boys harmony and cacophonous feedback sounded like nothing else at the time. Scottish Pop was coming of age with more artists like Strawberry Switchblade, Jimmy Somerville's Bronski Beat, Marillion's Fish, and Hipsway regularly capturing the music media attention.

A new wave of interest in Folk Rock music began with Edinburgh's Mike Scott who after spending several years based in Eire honing his talent in the mid 1980's reemerged with The Waterboys 'Whole of the Moon'. Following an appearance in 1986 on 'The Tube' performing their song "Letter From America," a protest song about Scotland; its emigration, politics, industrial closures and the Highland clearances, two Auchtermuchty brothers became a household name by using their broad Scottish accent to give political protest a personal touch. When the Proclaimers released their first album "This Is The Story" it went gold, their second "Sunshine On Leith" sold over a million copies and in terms of record sales more than any Scottish Band except Simple Minds. It was a hit throughout the UK, Europe, America, Canada, New Zealand and triple platinum in Australia, where "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" stayed at number for six weeks. When the duo toured Australia and Canada the scenes were reminiscent of Beatle mania. Run Rig, a phenomenon from the Isle of Skye, were identifiably Scottish as well as of incalculable value to Gaelic culture. From a small Gaelic ceilidh band they became a super group playing to audiences of thousands. For Scots they fed an appetite for politics and respect for culture by promoting Gaelic language in a modern setting, for many they were the soundtrack to the 80's, but importantly they reaped their rewards while being managed and based in Scotland.

Deacon Blue's career set sail with 'Dignity,' a song about a sentimental street characters' dream of sailing Scotland's West Coast. Eddi Reader lead singer with one of the 80's most critically acclaimed bands had a no 1 hit with Fairground Attraction's 'Perfect.' As the 80's began to close Scotland was uniquely poised from its absorption over decades of black music influences and found its voice with the debut single by Texas 'I Don't Want A Lover.' Others followed, Clydebank favourites Wet Wet Wet's debut album in 1987 'Popped In Souled Out,' supported by Top Of The Pops and the Scottish media, sold two million copies went to number one in the UK and produced four hit singles. Over a period of ten years the Wets had twenty five UK top 40 hits including three number ones, success in Europe and USA included playing the Hollywood Bowl and four nights at Madison Square Garden. At home they were revered, a free concert in Glasgow during 1989 attracting around 75,000 people was the biggest pop concert ever staged in Scotland.

In the late 80's while many Scottish bands like The Shamen enjoyed brief love affairs with major labels all but the most successful became casualties of roller coaster culls from the major record companies based in London and America.

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Annie Lennox

The Blue Nile

Barbara Dickson

Hue & Cry

Jesus & Mary Chain

Primal Scream

Jimmy Somerville



The Waterboys


The Proclaimers arguably Scotland's  popular vernacular singers

Run Rig



Deacon Blue

Eddi Reader


Wet Wet Wet



The Shamen