"Skids for kids!"
Posted by Bo Ellegaard on November 23, 2020 0 Comments
The first time I heard the song "Iona" was way back in 1981 when it was first issued as a single from the forthcomming album by The Skids called "Joy". By the sound of it, it felt like a nicely enough executed folk song pastiche... in the post punk years of the early 1980´s there was a mutual understanding between a band and its followers that "anything goes"!!
But when "Joy" came out in late 1981 I thought then, that this time Skids had blown it, big time! Unfortunately for The Skids most of the reviews said the same!! Also they never survived the loss of their guitarist Stuart Adamson who had gone to form Big Country and continued playing guitar until his untimely death in 2001 .....and The Skids folded in 1982.
I know that I have indulged a bit in Scottish groups recently, please bear with me, but I find that apart from dividing music into categories you can also categorize bands by continent, country and of course city! Think The US and Soul, think Germany and Krautrock, think Seattle and Grunge...
Following this idea you either find similarities or differences of the music depending on which filter you use. Here I have taken the liberty to use the filter called "Scotland"!!
When i was writing the blogpost on Danny Wilson I remembered the song "Iona" released almost 10 years before "Mary´s Prayer" by fellow Scots The Skids.
I also remembered the Glaswegian Postcard label that claimed to be "The Sound Of Young Scotland" in 1980 when debut single "Falling And Laughing" by Orange Juice was released.
Some time in the near future I´ll visit this interesting independant/indie label and examine which interesting groups this label spawned.
But Postcard was in fact not telling the whole story because two years prior to the Orange Juice debut another sound of an even younger Scotland had their debut namely The Skids and their three track e.p. 1978´s "Charles" on the local independant label No Bad Records.
From Dunfermline and certainly young, singer Richard Jobson at only 17, they soon went on to Virgin who at this time were busy signing punk and new wave bands all over the UK.
The Skids released three albums´ worth of fresh new wave´ish pop- one of which- "Days In Europa" stirred some controversy being a bit too teutonic with both its spelling (the "a" in Europa), its gothic lettering and its (Nazi-)imagery more than hinted at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games for some reason. This was considered bad taste and withdrawn and re-issued in a different cover!
The fourth album "Joy", however, found the Skids in a whole different musical style turning to folk and traditional Scottish music including (electronic) bagpipes. Richard Jobson´s passionate singing and the contents of the lyrics also brought lots of pathos to the album.
As a point I made in the above the song "Iona" did sound very folksy but it still featured the characteristic Skids-guitar sound of Stuart Adamson. He left the band shortly after recording "Iona"!
"Iona", a song about a girl I thought for many years- until I discovered that the Iona in the song is ....an island!! A small island in West Scotland´s Inner Hebrides with an ancient history and "Iona" (the song) was trying to express a yearning for this enigmatic island.
On "Joy" Richard Jobson turns out to be a national romantic soul, proudly celebrating his country. The Scottish landscape, its soil and the island of Iona. And a song about the price of defending one´s country at war.
Revisited today "Joy" strangely fascinates me with Skids´ change of musical style for one thing. A daring career move to put it mildly!
The album is executed with consequence regarding its use of acoustic instruments and the obvious drums and especially percussion (bodhran) as well as the oblique electric guitar and bass. The "Bagpipes" courtesy of Mike Oldfield on the Fairlight synthesizer!
The overall feeling of "Joy" is sad and rather doleful, really, but still uplifting in a way as the songs, some about fighting either at war as soldiers or fight the farmer´s struggle with his land against the elements. Including a heartfelt cover of the Eric Bogle song "And The Band Played Walzing Mathilda" about comming home as an amputee from the 1st. World War is touching and relevant.
However, uneven in structure as some of the songs may be, the album as a whole has aged well and can be seen as an unfulfilled dream of man going back to nature- or at least man moving from town into the country to live of the fat of the land. It also serves as a warning against war. (The Falklands conflict and subsequent war was within reach in 1981!)
I choose to overlook the tasteless and rather unnecessary Third Reich-connotations that somewhat spoils the Skids´ legacy. The already mentioned "Days in Europa", the song on "Joy" entitled "Blood And Soil" (="Blut und Boden" in German, a Nazi philosophy: the Arian people and its unity with their land. This was also connected to the "Lebensraum"-claim ((=room to live)) Hitler felt the right to declare against Germany´s neighbour countries) as well as the title of a bonus album that came free with first pressing of former album "The Absolute Game" called "Strength Through Joy" (in German "Kraft durch Freude"- a Nazi mass outdoor movement involving sports and tourism- the KdF Prora hotel 4 km wide building in Rügen comes to mind- Richard Jobson has later claimed that the title was inspired from an autobiography by actor Dirk Bogarde!).
And I´ll just focus on the total impression you get from listening to "Joy" as an early folk revival album- and a nice one as such!!
Richard Jobson´s grave and dramatic singing makes you believe that Skids trusted this new direction to be the future of the band which was of course not the truth as the band broke up shortly afterwards.
Richard Jobson continued to write and to sing. Music and poetry, releasing both on records throughout the 80´s but made nothing as interesting as during The Skids years. His 1988 solo effort "Badman" is embarrasingly...bad! Its typical late-1980´s synth funk backdrop doesn´t fit neither Richard Jobson´s songs nor his voice.
He then became a fashion model(!)- you can in fact buy silk scarves on http://www.nobad.co.uk/about.html from him nowadays and then he turned towards television as a presenter. He has also debuted as a film director and -producer with the acclaimed movie "15 Years An Alchoholic". He still performs with the remaining Skids at special occations only:
-still popular and vital as you can see!
-his movie "16 Years Of Alcohol" can be seen here if you can find the time:
The headline, by the way, refers to an unusual task for new wave bands, at least, round the UK throughout October, 1980 where The Skids were playing concerts during the pupil´s lunch breaks on the back of a lorry at selected schools of Glasgow, Edinburgh,Sheffield, Brighton, Dunstable and Doncaster while touring the UK!! Their parents, however, had to wait for the night´s Skids concert at the local venue!