Our fair city has produced some brilliant bands. Whether you’re discovering these classics for the first time or harking back to the good old days, sit back, relax and listen as we pack in more nostalgic musical moments than a sentimental granny’s Facebook page.
Saint Jude’s Infirmary:
We’re still scratching our heads as to why Saint Jude’s Infirmary didn’t make it big – but perhaps you get what you ask for when you name your band after the patron saint of lost causes. The Fife-bred, Leith-based band seemed to have it all going for them as they prepared to release their second album, with Ian Rankin penning lyrics for one of the tracks and Jack Vettriano providing cover art. The brooding five-piece had already started to make a name for themselves with their debut album, Happy Healthy Lucky Month – a mixture of sad, sweeping epics and rollicking bar-room romps which saw them hailed as ‘Scotland’s answer to The Velvet Underground’. Standout tracks on their debut were the vitriolic Vampyres and the strikingly beautiful Goodbye Jack Vettriano, a video for which was commissioned by BBC Scotland’s The Music Show. Filmed on Portobello beach, it features a cameo from the near-reclusive Vettriano himself and references two of his most famous paintings – Elegy For A Dead Admiral and The Singing Butler. Sadly, Saint Jude’s second album, This Has Been The Death Of Us, turned out to be aptly-named, and the band split up shortly after its release.
Fronted by Riley Briggs, a local musician with a penchant for beige safari suits and a knack for writing catchy tunes, these whimsy popsters were one of the most exciting acts to emerge from Edinburgh’s then-dormant music scene in years. Formed in 2003, they became the first Scottish band to sign to the iconic Rough Trade label since Belle and Sebastian, and went on to open 2004’s Concert In The Gardens for Blondie and Scissor Sisters in front of 80,000 merry revellers, as well as earning support slots with REM, James Blunt and Paolo Nutini. Perhaps their biggest leap was entering millions of homes thanks to one of their tunes, Summer’s Gone, appearing on Argentinian beer and fizzy drink TV adverts. It was used again for a Diet Coke commercial in the USA and Canada, appearing initially during the 2007 Oscars. Lauded by the press, ‘the Feldy’ earned stacks of acclaim but had little commercial success. The band underwent several line-up changes before they eventually split.
Goodbye Mr Mackenzie:
Affectionately known as ‘The Mackenzies’, these guys were a popular local band whose ascent to the top was said to have been hindered by record label conflicts and an inability to gain significant sales outside of the UK. Formed in the late Eighties, they are perhaps best known as being the band Shirley Manson left to join US band Garbage – but they did achieve some success in their early years, charting in the UK with debut album Good Deeds and Dirty Rags, and the single The Rattler. The Mackenzies splintered in 1993, leaving Manson, Martin Metcalfe, Fin Wilson and Derek Kelly to form Angelfish. After Manson left for Garbage in 1994, the Mackenzies continued until their final show at the end of 1995. Metcalfe and Wilson would later go on to form the excellent Isa & The Filthy Tongues, while Manson became a global superstar.
It’s safe to say Franz Ferdinand would not exist were it not for Josef K – and it’s not just us saying that… Franz have said it many times themselves over the years. Active for barely 18 months between 1979 and 1981, these post-punks released singles on the Postcard Records label and were named, of course, after the protagonist in Franz Kafka’s classic novel, The Trial.
Though they were hugely acclaimed, the band released just one album during their time together and achieved only moderate success. Still, they proved a major influence on many bands that followed, and not just the aforementioned Franz Ferdinand but also The June Brides, The Wedding Present (who copied Josef K in never doing encores), The Futureheads, The Rapture and countless others.
The Fire Engines:
If Josef K were an influence on the likes of Franz Ferdinand and The Rapture, not to mention countless others, then so too were fellow post-punks The Fire Engines. The band’s live shows lasted barely longer than 20 minutes, but their legacy can still be heard today. Formed in Edinburgh in 1979, three of the band’s original members – singer/guitarist Davey Henderson, bassist Graham Main and drummer Russel Burn were previously in the Dirty Reds. Guitarist Murray Slade completed Fire Engines’ line-up. The band recorded two sessions for the legendary John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show, and their most successful single was 1981’s Candy Skin. When the band failed to repeat the trick with follow-up single Big Gold Dream, they decided to split. In 2004, The Fire Engines reformed to support The Magic Band at Edinburgh’s Liquid Room, and released a limited edition collaboration single with Franz Ferdinand, which saw The Fire Engines covering Franz’s Jacqueline, and Franz covering their song Get Up And Use Me.