Lloyd Cole and Justin Currie were both making their way in bands in Glasgow in the early 80s. Ahead of their joint gig at Kelvingrove Bandstand, they reminisce with Fiona Shepherd
Lloyd Cole is currently enjoying what he has dubbed “my retrospective year”, during which he will only play material he recorded between 1983 and 1996. Tomorrow night he co-headlines the latest Summer Nights gig at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Bandstand with Justin Currie of Del Amitri. So as soon as he touched down in his former West End stomping ground, we sat this pair of Scotpop peers down together and let the tape – and the good, bad and ugly memories – roll, starting with when they first met in Glasgow in the early 1980s.
Lloyd Cole: I remember your absolutely ludicrous haircut. He had no hair on the sides at all. If you didn’t know the music, you would have thought he was in Rip Rig + Panic.
Justin Currie: I used to cut my own hair and I made a mistake so I had to keep going and my mum was completely freaked because she had made me promise not to get a radical haircut before my sister’s wedding.
LC: My first year at Glasgow University was the one time in my life that I ever dyed my hair. I wanted my hair to be white-ish grey like [Go-Betweens frontman] Robert Forster, but the closest I could get was really bad bleach blonde. I played the Queen Margaret Union with Blair [Cowan] and I on keyboards. We were called Fun. Then I had a band called The Casuals. We played a debut gig and a farewell gig.
JC: I preferred The Casuals to the very early Commotions.
LC: The early Commotions was me trying to sound like The Style Council. We sold out [long lost Glasgow club] Henry Afrika’s before we had a decent song. We played for 40 minutes and it was pretty rough.
JC: Del Amitri’s first gig was 1980 in Bearsden Burgh Hall. Our drummer got us the gig and we were very excited, then I found out the night before that it was actually a benefit for the Scottish Liberal Party…
LC: Our first gig together was the Mayfair with The Suede Crocodiles – that was Kevin McDermott’s band. And we toured Europe together twice.
JC: We supported you at the Pavilion once.
LC: I remember my mum bought up the front row of the balcony.
JC: My mum did exactly the same thing when we eventually headlined there. So embarrassing… That period in Glasgow is now known as the gold rush. A&R guys from the London labels were up every week and even the worst bands got signed. I counted up 70 bands across the Central Belt who all had major record deals.
LC: Things were so out of hand that Sade almost joined [short-lived Glasgow combo] The French Impressionists. She was just getting started and Glasgow was so hip that Sade came to Glasgow and thought “I’ll join one of these faux Astrud Gilberto bands”. I don’t think there was massive rivalry between many bands but Orange Juice hated me because we got signed to the same label and we were getting more attention because we were up and coming. Remember the Hogmanay party in Hillhead Street? Every year this one house threw a Hogmanay party and everybody used to go, and in ’84 Edwyn and I were supposed to have a fight. I wasn’t even at the party that year, and I don’t think I’d had a fist fight since I was 14. My nickname for the last two years of the Commotions was Basher.
JC: I remember Radio Clyde used to do a free festival every year at the Kelvingrove Bandstand and it was awful. There were all these guys standing about in biker jackets.
I was very sceptical about doing it up again because for me it had long held associations with s****y rock bands who didn’t like punk. But I’ve been there since it re-opened and I love it. As long as it’s not raining, it works really well.
LC: It’s miserable if it’s raining. And there will be the combined misery of the two of us…
JC: Maybe we should do some covers…
LC: I think we all have to join a covers band at some point. I joined one with the singer from [New York indie band] Fountains of Wayne. The idea was we were going to play Nashville stuff from the 60s and 70s, until people wanted to start playing their own songs and that’s when I said “I’m out”. We were called The Potatoes and I played bass.
JC: I didn’t know you played bass.
LC: I don’t think I’m great but I can play the Nashville style.
JC: Well, if you can play guitar, you can usually play bass.
LC: Sometimes it’s the other way round – [Commotions guitarist] Neil Clark is a terrible bassist and he has no idea he’s terrible. He’s such a good guitar player but he’s just a tiny bit too clever on bass. Were you ever in a covers band?
JC: It was a soul and R&B band called Button Up. If we played a nightclub it was good because people could dance but if you played a normal venue then you’d have Del Amitri fans turning up and wondering why I was singing soul songs.
LC: Well, you’ll know what it’s like for me when I do my electronic stuff. Thankfully, most of my fans now know to stay away.
JC: Iain [Harvie, Del Amitri guitarist] and I started doing an electronic thing which we thought was genius but our management and anyone we ever played it to f***ing hated it.
LC: It sounds like it might be really good. Are you singing on it? Because your voice is so recognisable.
JC: I tried to disguise that but it’s obviously me.
LC: We’re both cursed with having recognisable voices. You spend all of your formative years trying to build something that you can call yours and then you’re stuck with it! I think the worst record I ever made was the one where I was trying not to sound like me.
JC: Which one was that?
LC: Bad Vibes. Some people like it. But I think I sound like Anthony Newley.
• Lloyd Cole & the Leopards and Justin Currie & the Pallbearers play Summer Nights at the Bandstand, Glasgow, tomorrow