Treasure trove of Scottish pop unveiled in National Museum exhibition

They have been unearthed from warehouses, wardrobes, garages, attics and shoeboxes by musicians whose songs are etched in the memories of generations of fans.

The exhibition celebrates the best of Scottish pop. Picture: Greg Macvean
The exhibition celebrates the best of Scottish pop. Picture: Greg Macvean

Now they have been brought together for a treasure trove of memorabilia charting the evolution of Scottish pop from the 1950s to the present day.

Hand-made dresses, scribbled lyrics, demo tapes, stage props and instruments are on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh for the next five months as part of the first major exhibition devoted to the subject.

The vast majority of the 300 exhibits in “Rip It Up,” which highlights more than 50 acts spanning seven decades, have never been on public display.

Simple Minds guitar. Picture: Greg Macvean

Among the costumes on display are a tartan trouser suit worn by Annie Lennox when she toured with The Eurythmics, a dress worn by Lulu when she performed with Take That, the Burberry jacket worn by Midge Ure in the Ultravox video Vienna.

There are handwritten lyrics by The Skids frontman Richard Jobson and Biffy Clyro singer Simon Neil, guitars played during breakthrough during breakthrough performances by KT Tunstall and Paolo Nutini, and the cartoon-cover demo tape which helped The Proclaimers find fame.


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The exhibition traces the birth of Scottish pop back to the the dance-hall boom in Edinburgh and Glasgow in the 1950s and 1960s, along with the emergence of acts like Lonnie Donegan, Lulu, The Beatstalkers and The Poets.

It highlights the impact of acts to emerge from different eras like the late 1960s folk scene, like The Incredible String Band, The Humblebums and The Corries, 1970s punk outfits like The Skids and The Rezillos, 1980s pop groups Altered Images and Orange Juice, and influential 1990s indie acts BMX Bandits, Teenage Fanclub and The Vaselines.

Rip It Up exhibition at the National Museum Scotland celebrating Scottish Pop Music through the years. Picture: Contributed

Among the biggest exhibits are dancing robot props used for a Franz Ferdinand world tour and a giant neon sign created for a Texas video. Other highlights include a guitar bought for The Skids frontman Richard Jobson’s 16th birthday by the late Stuart Adamson from Woolworths in Dunfermline and a dress worn by Clare Grogan in Altered Images’ live shows.

There are poignant displays devoted to influential figures who have passed away, including The Humblebums founder Gerry Rafferty, who artist John Byrne regularly worked with, Alex Harvey, whose family have donated the cane he performed with on stage, and Billy Mackenzie, The Associates singer, whose black beret can be seen.

Original album artwork created by Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison, who died last month, is on display at the end of the exhibition, along with a Runrig CD recovered from the wreckage of the Space Shuttle Columbia after it crashed in 2003.


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The exhibition, which also celebrates the Scottish roots of acts like AC/DC and Sir Rod Stewart, features a host of newly-recorded interviews with the likes of Deacon Blue frontman Ricky Ross, Garbage singer Shirley Manson, author Ian Rankin and Bay City Rollers founder Alan Longmuir.

The exhibition has been created in collaboration with BBC Scotland, with broadcaster Vic Galloway interviewing dozens of stars for a three-part TV series and a four-part radio series.

He said: "The exhibition is a real triumph and shows off Scotland's major role in the 20th and 21st Century's most inspiring, influential and popular art-form.

"From Lonnie Donegan in the 1950s to Young Fathers and Calvin Harris today, via the huge successes of the 70's, 80's and 90's, it's a roller-coaster ride of sound and vision."

Exhibition curator Stephen Allen said: "Popular music is a shared experience, and a really important one in many people’s lives.

"We want the exhibition to capture people’s imagination and allow them to reflect on their own experiences of listening to and enjoying music."


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Packet of promotional condoms produced for Garbage.

Battered symbols used by Young Fathers drummer Steven Morrison.

Runrig CD recovered from the wreckage of the Space Shuttle Columbia which was taken into space by astronaut Dr Laurel Clark.

The hand-painted garden fence used by Fence Collective founder Kenny Anderson for his album KC Rules OK.

Striped suite designed by Japanese fashion label Comme de Garcons won by Wet Wet Wet bassist Graeme Clark when their sponsorship deal of Clydebank Football Club was unveiled.


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Brothel creeper shoes worn on stage by Douglas Hart, bassist with The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Statuette awarded to AC/DC in honour of their two sold out shows at the Apollo in Glasgow in 1979.

Dansette portobello record player dating from 1960.

Cane used in stage shows by rock singer Alex Harvey.

Original demo tape recorded by The Proclaimers with cartoon images of Craig and Charlie Reid on the cover.

Altered Images singer Clare Grogan's scribbled on screenplay for her first film, Gregory's Girl.


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Stella McCartney-designed dress won by Annie Lennox to the Oscars when she collected the Academy Award for best song Into The West, from Lord of the Rings: Return to the King.