Behind the scenes at the Scottish Album of the Year award
It WAS important that the inaugural Scottish Album of the Year award actually went to the best Scottish album released last year.
Maybe that sounds like an obvious thing to say but, as the chairman of the judging panel explained, these things can involve a bit of horse trading.
He should know. He was among the number who crowned Antony & the Johnsons winners of the Mercury Music Prize in 2005. And you don’t want to know what thoroughly mediocre band of yesterday’s men nearly pipped them to the prize.
In the end, I was prepared to bloody noses for Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat. How had it come to this? An award which I had regarded with curiosity, then interest, then enthusiasm, had ultimately aroused something bordering on proprietary passion by the time I was sat around a big old table in the Film City offices, staring down my fellow esteemed judges, including several men called Keith, over popcorn and pretzels.
The road to this showdown had involved vision, commitment and hard work on the part of the organisers at the Scottish Music Industry Association and a willingness all round to support a new award initiative in a world where there are already quite enough winners and losers.
But, as it transpired, the judges were all in agreement. Probably because Everything’s Getting Older, the playful, salacious, morbid, poignant and downright impressive collaboration of former Arab Strap frontman Aidan Moffat and fellow Falkirk face and ace composer/arranger Bill Wells really is the best of the bunch, an album which oozes humanity and keeps on giving. Excuse me, I’ve got something in my eye...
Consensus reached, the judge with the nicest handwriting (not yours truly) was asked to write the winner’s name on a piece of paper torn from the chairman’s notepad, which was then stuffed in a black envelope which had already creased in his pocket.
Shortly afterwards, this was handed to Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop, who announced the result. She didn’t flinch at our lo-fi presentation, not for a second.
While we debated in our upper room, there had been performances downstairs from Electric String Orchestra with guest vocalists Emma Pollock, Rachel Sermanni and Mairi Morrison & Alasdair Roberts and inspiring, eloquent and pithy speeches from SAY nominees Tommy Smith, Mungo’s Hi-fi and Graeme Ronald of Remember Remember who, several moons ago decided to name his solo project in recognition of his birthday on 5 November and was now standing on a stage in the former Govan Town Hall asking everyone to remember remember his ailing father. We will. It was that kind of night. Unpretentious, supportive and a pleasure to be part of.
As glasses were raised to the worthy winners, a friend informed me she had just started managing a boy band from London. They need a name. A passing hack came up with a brilliant, slightly naughty and eminently rememberable rememberable moniker in seconds. If I could tell you I would.
Perhaps it was inevitable that the evening would end, not with expensive fizz in some exclusive hotel suite, but with Buckfast cocktails in Nice’n’Sleazy. Right now, my head hurts. Maybe I actually did get into a fight. But if I did, it was worth it.
So how about doing it all again next year? Already in 2012, there have been spiffing Scottish albums released by Errors, Django Django and Trembling Bells. I feel confident that the SAY Award shortlist for 2013 is going to be an exciting one. There may even be blood...
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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