Classic Scottish Albums: From Westwood to Hollywood
I thought about the music of The Jesus and Mary Chain on two particular occasions over the past year. One was around the time we were commissioned to bring you another series of Classic Scottish Albums. While driving to a supermarket in East Kilbride, home of JAMC, to buy something nice for tea I had my CD copy of Psychocandy playing in the car and started thinking (Pseud's Corner here we come) that the sound of the album had a lot of East Kilbride in it. Not long before this the artist Sylvia Grace Borda had published a book called EK Modernism in which she sort of debunked all the unkind stuff people tend to say about the place they call Polo Mint City. Sylvia argued that huge optimism and deeply committed philosophy had gone into the planning of the town, and to prove it reproduced some beautiful photographs that showed the town's modernist brave new world at its best. Okay, and also its worst. For all the concrete, grey squareness of East Kilbride there's a lot of green too; you can walk most places (although you don't of course) and the folk are plenty colourful enough. So there I was, driving through Westwood with the chainsaw feedback of In A Hole taking the top of my head off and there were the harsh concrete blocks and there were the bleached underpasses and there were the modernist churches. It was quite the live documentary. By the pastoral 12-string acoustic of Taste Of Cindy I was seeing only the sun and the grass and the happy weans in Celtic and Rangers tops.
A year before, staying in Los Angeles, California, I was struck by the rakish, seaside-gothic charm of some of its byways and how the soundtrack created by Brian Wilson, John Phillips, Phil Spector et al 40-odd years ago was still so alive in the atmosphere of the place. I kept hearing Be My Baby in my head and it in turn kept morphing into Just Like Honey. The drenched burn of that distorted, unnaturally bright guitar tone was beautifully, perfectly at home here and the psych-o-soundtrack kept on playing as we drove up the Pacific Coast Highway. James Allan of Glasvegas described that sound to us yesterday as being like the crest of a wave, ready to explode. He, of course, was talking about his own band...
So I'm thinking out loud a wee bit here, but environment must play a big part in music, right? On that same trip to LA my friend David Leaf took me on a night tour of the city. We went up to the house in Laurel Way where Brian Wilson famously sat night after night in 1965 through 66 writing what would become Pet Sounds. I prattled on at some length about the night landscape of the city, its twinkling lights and deep canyons and how one could see it as a counterpoint for the benevolent love of Wilson's masterpiece. Polite to a fault, Leaf answered in words to the effect of yeah, that's all fine and neat, but Jim Morrison lived just down the road and that's where he wrote Riders On The Storm. Oh well.
I do hope you enjoy the programme we made about Psychocandy. It is an astonishing work of art, is it not?