Are these the best Scottish music videos ever?
The Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow’s Gallowgate is today one of the best known music venues in the UK. But back in 1984 it was a forgotten relic of the 1960s, more associated with big bands and an era when men still wore suits and ties on nights out. Simple Minds’ decision to record their promo for Waterfront at the Barras gave the ballroom a new lease of life and was the beginning of its renaissance as a music venue. The group, fronted by Jim Kerr, were at the peak of their powers and embracing a new, rockier sound with the help of producer Steve Lillywhite. The decline of shipbuilding on the river would provide inspiration for several more Scottish musicians in the same decade.
Following the success of their 2004 self-titled debut album, the pressure was on for Glasgow art-rockers Franz Ferdinand to deliver another hit that could rank alongside Take Me Out. They duly released Do You Want To?, a preposterously catchy indie-dance stomper that earned them another top 10 placing. The song’s reference to a party at the Transmission art gallery in Glasgow provided the theme of the promo video. Directed by industry veteran Diane Martel - who has worked with everyone from Mariah Carey to Method Man - the video sees the band cavort at a suitably arty social occasion in natty matching outfits.
The mid-2000s were a fertile time for Scots musicians. With the internet having not yet sucked the life from major record labels, budgets were still large enough to produce three different promo videos for one single. Fifer Tunstall saw her profile rocket following a Jools Holland performance, but it was 2005’s Suddenly I See that provided her real breakthrough. The first video for this pleasingly upbeat acoustic number was a simple performance number, and was followed by a second for the American market largely filmed in Bucharest. But the best is the third video - directed by husband-and-wife team Laura Kelly and Nicholas Brook - in which KT rides a train through a fantastical animated landscape.
Before Coldplay claimed the title, Travis were the public’s favourite purveyors of melodic, melancholy rock music. It’s easy to forget just how massive the four piece from Glasgow were at the turn of the century. Second album The Man Who was given a kicking by critics who preferred the edgier sound of their debut, but it quickly began to climb the charts on the back of this single. It eventually hit number one and sold more than two million copies in 1999 alone. The name might sound like the title of a 1960s Norman Wisdom film, but this song struck a chord and became the band’s signature hit. It was helped by a memorable Glastonbury performance when, with perfect timing, the heavens opened as Fran Healy began the chorus. The video saw the Travis frontman, wearing a kilt, prowling Craddock Moor in Cornwall, having escaped a kidnapping attempt by his bandmates. Following a dip in disused quarry pond, we see the reunited band happily floating away in a living room.
The trio from Kilmarnock started life in the mid-90s as a post-hardcore rock act, known for intense live shows that developed a passionate and loyal following. It was fist-pumping stuff unlikely to ever bother daytime radio playlists. But Biffy are a smart act, and far from one-trick ponies. Their fifth album, Only Revolutions, saw them master a more melodic alt-rock sound that proved a critical and commercial smash. Stand-out track Mountains saw them performing in a Gothic mansion room, dressing up in ever more elaborate outfits and still finding time to enjoy a game of chess.
Of course, the best music videos don’t always require big budgets or heavyweight label backing. Belle and Sebastian produced several lo-fi promos in the late ‘90s, many of which were shot on location across Glasgow and the West End in particular. In The Wrong Girl, the life of guitarist Stevie Jackson is retold, from moving to the city from Erskine and starting out in music. There are cameos from Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub and Traceyanne Campbell from Camera Obscura, but the highlight is Jackson holding up the album cover of Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan to a clothes shop assistant as an example of the look he’s trying to achieve.