Academic journal article Scottish Cultural Review of Language and Literature

Clan Balls, Luvvers and Incredible Strings: Popular Music in 1960s Glasgow

Academic journal article Scottish Cultural Review of Language and Literature

Clan Balls, Luvvers and Incredible Strings: Popular Music in 1960s Glasgow

Article excerpt

This chapter examines the conditions surrounding Glasgow's emergent popular music scene in the 1960s. It compares the commercial pressures on the production of rock and pop with the less commercially developed folk scene. In spite of the outward looking nature of the city's popular music makers, who looked towards trends elsewhere, there was a gradual move towards composition rather than reproduction or arrangement. This development occurred through changes in entertainment patterns, the types of venues where live music was performed, and a growing political awareness, particularly among folk performers.

Keywords: Glasgow popular music venues, folk music, 1960s rock and pop music.

In 2004 Time magazine named Glasgow as Europe's capital of rock music and likened it to Detroit in its Motown heyday.1 Following this, in August 2008, the city was named UNESCO City of Music and the application dossier submitted in support of this title notes the importance of rock and pop for the city's musical reputation. In comparing such music with Glasgow's classical music output, it argues that 'whereas the classical world took over 80 years to mature, its rock world shot from parochial to global in a matter of decades'.2 In a similar vein it also argues that Glasgow is the centre of the folk music industry in Scotland and that 'parallel to the rock explosion, interest in folk music surged in the 1960s'.3 Given the importance of popular music production for the city's recent accolades, this chapter focuses on the way such production developed in the 1960s, specifically looking at rock, pop and folk genres. Within these categories attention is given to the reasons behind the outward looking nature of a large number of Glasgow's music makers, but particular consideration will also be given to the development of original material or compositions. For the most part what follows considers the way in which the production of popular live music developed over the decade, and specific consideration is given to the role of venues in this process. However, attention is also given to the mediation of such music and in particular the influence of Scotland's pirate radio station in 1966 and 1967.

The Legacy of Dance Halls

Popular (but non-traditional) music making in early 1960s Glasgow was very much influenced by the way the city had developed industrially in the preceding century. In little over a hundred years, and by 1900, Glasgow's industry had expanded to such an extent that it became known as the Second City of the British Empire.4 Its industrial image is of course tightly bound with shipbuilding, but in fact this was only one of its heavy engineering activities. Charles Oakley argues that this was due to the fact that having to supply ships with every kind of equipment meant that Glasgow manufacturers were able to turn 'their hands to an infinite variety of things'.5 This rapid expansion in industrial activity was only able to take place because of a sufficient movement of labour resources to the city. In the nineteenth century the city had the fastest population growth in the whole of Europe6 and between 1871 and 1914 the population almost doubled to that of a million.7 This massive expansion in the working class was brought about through labour movements from rural areas in Scotland and Ireland, and also through Jewish immigrants from countries such as Russia and Poland. Sarah Lowndes, in her book, Social Sculpture argues that this continental influx resulted in both European style bakeries and delicatessens opening in the south side of the city, and a notable rise in public entertainments. She notes that 'between 1862 and the outbreak of the Great War, eighteen major theatres were built in Glasgow to satisfy demand'.8 The majority of these theatres provided music hall entertainment, but it was the development of the dance hall, also brought about to entertain Glasgow's large working class, which had a lasting impact through to the sixties. …

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