Edinburgh music tour to celebrate capital's links to pop greats

Edinburgh's links to The Beatles, David Bowie, The Fall, Dizzy Gillespie, Woodstock, Flower of Scotland and the Eurovision Song Contest are to be showcased in a new walking trail charting the capital's pop and rock heritage.

Edinburgh Music Tours will launch in June to coincide with a new exhibition on Scottish pop at the National Museum of Scotland.
Edinburgh Music Tours will launch in June to coincide with a new exhibition on Scottish pop at the National Museum of Scotland.

Famous gigs by The Clash, The Ramones, Bob Dylan, The Who and Nirvana all feature in the new Edinburgh Music Tours, which will launch next month.

They will also explore the origins in Edinburgh of acts like Garbage, The Proclaimers, The Fire Engines, The Bay City Rollers, The Incredible String Band and Young Fathers.

The weekly tours are launching next month to coincide with the opening of the new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland which will chart the history of Scottish pop and rock going back to the 1950s. Long-gone venues, music nights, record labels and shops will be recalled along with landmark moments in the city’s musical history, notorious incidents, influential promoters and ground-breaking performers.

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    Legendary jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie poses with his trumpet in August 1980 ahead of his appearence at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival. Picture: Alex Brown/TSPL

    Highlights include visits to the site of the venues where the early incarnations of the Bay City Rollers and the Incredible String Band played, the student union where Garbage singer Shirley Manson played her first gig, and the surviving pubs where Dougie MacLean, Barbara Dickson, Bert Jansch, Adam Holmes, Lau and Karine Polwart performed to the regulars.

    The Scotsman pop and rock critic Fiona Shepherd is one of the founders of Edinburgh Music Tours, which are being launched three years after a similar venture in Glasgow.

    Ms Shepherd said: “We’ve mooted the idea of doing tours in Edinburgh before now, but the exhibition just felt like the perfect opportunity.

    “We are working with the museum to offer a discount on tickets if you go the exhibition and a tour. We’ll be running for the entire duration of the exhibition and we’re hoping to carry them on next year as there is such a healthy market for tours in Edinburgh.

    NEW YORK - 1973: Rock and roll musician David Bowie poses for a portrait dressed as 'Ziggy Stardust' in a hotel room in 1973 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

    “Although the exhibition is about the history of Scottish pop and rock, the tours will be really about Edinburgh.

    “They will look at the city’s music heritage, its culture, forgotten venue, the bands who have emerged from Edinburgh, and also stories about musicians who have passed through.”

    The tours will also look at the impact of some of the most influential periods in Edinburgh’s musical history, including 1960s folk scene which the Incredible String Band emerged from, and the late 1970s post-punk scene, which The Scars, The Fire Engines and Josef K.

    It is hoped the new venture will help raise awareness of the influence the city had on some of the leading figures in British culture, as well as the lesser-known heritage of the city’s surviving venues.

    The Edinburgh tours are being launched against a backdrop of controversy over the demise of a number of music venues in the city centre in recent years, including Picture House, Studio 24, The Venue and Electric Circus.

    However, recent signs of optimism include the return of big-name concerts to Princes Street Gardens this summer, the prospect of a replacement for its run-down bandstand, the revival of Leith Theatre and the plans for a concert hall being created in the New Town, which would be the city’s first purpose-built venue for more than 100 years.

    The launch of the new tours is the latest spin-off from Rip It Up, the museum’s exhibition, which will tell the story of Scottish pop music since the 1950s.

    BBC Scotland has commissioned new TV and radio series to coincide with the exhibition, which will run from 22 June till 25 November. They will be fronted by broadcaster Vic Galloway, who is also writing an official Rip It Up book.

    Arts centre Summerhall is hosting a 10-event programme of outdoor concerts, Southern Exposure, to coincide with the launch of the exhibition, which has also inspired the Edinburgh International Festival to programme a series of major gigs at the old Leith Theatre building, which reopened last year after a hiatus of nearly 30 years.

    Shepherd said: “We tend to hear a lot of fairly negative stories about the Edinburgh music scene. There is no doubt it is missing venues in the mid-range at the moment.

    “We want to celebrate what is great and unique about the Edinburgh music scene over the years and show it in a positive light.

    “Edinburgh has been the scene of a lot of really great stuff and we want to really put it out there because no-one is really shouting about it.

    “It is fair to say there were probably times when Edinburgh had a better grassroots scene than it has now, but there is a lot to remind people about.

    “We want to show people that the city does have a great music story to tell, even though it is maybe not the first thing people think of when they think of Edinburgh.”

    Fellow director Jonathan Trew said: “Edinburgh has a colourful contemporary music scene and a long and rich history of great bands, artists and performers.

    “By exploring the Capital’s past and present music venues, we aim to celebrate Edinburgh’s current scene and its cultural legacy.

    “We want these tours to stir memories of fantastic gigs as well as creating happy new memories for visitors and locals alike. Edinburgh is famous for its history, architecture and festivals.

    “Now we’re going to tell the remarkable story of its music.”