DCSIMG

Once more into the valley

'I DON'T know, what do you think I should wear?" says Richard Jobson, firing my question straight back. This is quite a moment. For possibly the first time in his life, Ballingry Renaissance Man doesn't have an opinion.

My enquiry relates to 46-year-old Jobson's pop comeback, but this will be no ordinary gig and involves no ordinary band. The Skids are reforming for T in the Park. That's right, the same Fife toe-rags who flirted with Nazi insignia and featured a reformed bovver boy for a singer - Jobson - whose stage routine was half-A Clockwork Orange, half-Tiller Girl.

Opinion is divided on the thigh-length leatherette boots stolen from the set of TV's tall-ships saga The Onedin Line to give fullest expression to the high-kicking of Jobson, an epileptic, during a semi-legendary Top Of The Pops performance of 'Into The Valley' Some people thought they were ridiculous. Others thought they were ludicrous.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Later in his life, Jobson would do some really daft things. He would also do some really pretentious things. But the Skids were young and wild and didn't know any better.

"Conservatively," says Jobson finally, on the dress dilemma. "I have teenage children. They have their own lives to lead. I can't shame them anymore."

For a long time, Jobson - very conservative today in smart shirt and V-neck - claims Edie and Archie knew next to nothing about their old man's punk past. "There's no memorabilia in the house," he says, anticipating my supplementary about the whereabouts of the boots. "The kids had heard rumours that I used to be in a band but couldn't find the evidence. Everything's locked in a titanium box which is buried at the bottom of the garden."

Pretend he wasn't there. Joke about the band. Dismiss their contribution to life's rich tapestry, even Fife's rich tapestry. For the same amount of time, these have been Jobson's stock standard responses, re the Skids.

"The media by consensus totally dismissed us," he says. "We were historically unimportant and an embarrassing blip on the Scottish cultural landscape." In an especially twee era for Scottish music, Belle and Sebastian were voted best-ever band and Jobson's yobs were nowhere.

"I didn't contest that. It was easy for me to laugh us off and be rather cheap in my own appraisal of that time in my life. Also, I didn't want to appear bitter like a lot of old rockers. Most guys in bands are ill-equipped to deal with success and failure. But I always knew my musical talent was limited. I was just a chancer."

SO WHAT'S CHANGED? How come he's prepared to risk ridicule by reforming the band at Scotland's biggest rock fest?

"Four years ago I started having a few quiet moments to myself when I thought about the Skids and my relationship with Stuart Adamson," he continues over a cappuccino in Soho.

Jobson went from the Skids to poetry readings to modelling to stripping off for a play to yoof telly to marrying Mariella Frostrup to battling with a pig farmer on Neighbours From Hell to directing arty films with virtually no quiet moments in between. So the 2003 tribute concert by the surviving members for their dead guitarist was significant, as was the re-working of the Skids single 'The Saints Are Coming' by U2 and Green Day for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

A campaign started among fans to get the band to reform for the 30th anniversary this year, but initially Jobson was against the idea. Bassist Willie Simpson and drummer Mike Baillie tried to talk him round. "'Meet us,' they said. 'OK,' I said, 'where?' 'Outside Woolies in Dunfermline.' I was like: 'Come on guys, we're not teenagers anymore. How about a cafe?'"

So it was that Simpson the property lawyer and Baillie the wine connoisseur and Jobson the director of 16 Years Of Alcohol, The Purifiers and, most recently, A Woman In Winter agreed to play together one more time. "We're not doing it for the money," he says. "It'll be one gig, just half an hour so no time for the crap songs, then 'Thanks and goodbye - for ever.' But these guys struck a nerve. I'd started to feel guilty about rubbishing the Skids and they niggled away about that."

We leave this cafe for the short walk to Denmark Street, London's Tin Pan Alley, where Jobson will have his picture taken. He acts as a tour guide, pointing out a No 7, a blue door which three long decades ago led to the Sex Pistols' rehearsal room.

"Steve Jones [the Pistols guitarist] was a thief," he says. "I lived with him for a while but he nicked my guitar, my TV and my girlfriend. I tracked him down. 'Give me back my guitar,' I said, 'and my TV. You can keep the girl.'"

Jobson's bravado was apparent to the rest of the Skids on their very first encounter with him, not far from Dunfermline's Woolies. "I was wearing a black flea-market suit and black winklepickers. My hair was black with a white badger streak. Oh, and I had a black girlfriend as well. In Dunfermline, I stood out. I was a confident bugger. I was 16 but I wasn't scared of anything. They could see that."

Still, Adamson and the rest made Jobson audition. "Cowdenbeath Working Men's Club, four o'clock on a Wednesday afternoon," he remembers. "All the other candidates were Bryan Ferry clones in US Air Force shirts who waved their pinky fingers when they sang into the mike." Jobson got the gig.

The band's quick flight to London is the cue for more punky reminiscing. "I'm still great friends with most of my contemporaries. Steve Severin from the Banshees lives in Edinburgh now and we speak a lot. I see Hugh Cornwell from the Stranglers all the time and just yesterday I had tea with Paul Cook of the Pistols." How very civilised these punks are now.

"I think the punk establishment respected us because we weren't middle-class art college types, we were the real deal. We came from rough areas. We had 'no future'. My dad was a miner, my mum worked in the docks. If you didn't follow in either of their footsteps, the only other option for a Fifer was the army.

"That's what I wrote 'Into The Valley' about - pals who listened to the recruitment officer telling them they'd become engineers only to find themselves on the Falls Road six weeks later in a cauldron of hate."

"Into the valley/ Betrothed and divine," sang Jobson. Pretentious, tu? "Only the pretensions of youth," he says. "I've always loved words, how they collide with each other."

But then the Skids hit the skids. The way it's written in Brian Hogg's definitive The History Of Scottish Rock And Pop, Jobson grew tired of the "easy foolishness" of football-chant songs with "Albert Tatlock!" choruses and buried himself in his Sartre and Cocteau books. In the end, Adamson walked.

"I didn't want to stay in Dunfermline, Stuart did. He thought I was a dilettante, which I probably was, whereas he was very serious about music. When he quit for the final time, he left me with the debt, the responsibility of an unfinished album and all the shit. I didn't ever forgive him for that so when he died it was a terrible shock.

"Funnily enough, Mariella was Big Country's press officer, so when she and I were together she'd come home with stories of their great success. But I wasn't jealous; I'm not Scottish in that way.

Adamson committed suicide in 2001. "Stuart and I were like lovers, really. When he died, an old quote resurfaced in which he predicted I'd be dead by the age of 20. He thought I was nihilistic and embraced life in a way that to him was suicidal. As it's all turned out, my world is very sane, whereas his by the end was pretty insane."

Now, for one night only, Jobson will try to summon up the ghost of his pure mad mental former self. He thinks Adamson will approve. "When we did that tribute, it was reverential. This is all about the music, which Stuart elevated above the mediocre, and the fun we all had being the Skids from Dunfermline."

A Woman in Winter is released on DVD tomorrow. The Skids play T in the Park, main stage on Saturday July 7

 
 
 

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