Scotland's forgotten girl bands making noise once more

They got up, made some noise, did things their way – and then in many cases just faded away.

Now Scotland’s girl bands are being heard once more with a new feature-length documentary set to amplify this hidden corner of the country’s rich musical heritage.

Since Yesterday looks to be released next year as a crowdfunding appeal continues to generate strong public support for the project to get the bands and the stories written into Scotland’s musical timeline.

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Bands to feature include Strawberry Switchblade from Glasgow and The Twinsets from Edinburgh, with the story of The McKinleys, which supported Led Zeppelin and The Beatles at the height of its powers, also told.

Sisters Rachel and Gaye Bell who set up The Twinsets in Edinburgh in the early 1980s. Picture:: Andy Glidden.

Since Yesterday was created by Carla Easton, founder of girl band TeenCanteen who has also released three solo albums.

Easton said: “We need to stop writing women out of the history of music and tell these stories, and tell the stories of those who didn’t make it, because these stories are interesting.

"It’s really impotant to have a historical archive that includes women making music and which will inspire future generations.

"It’s exciting getting the music out there once again.”

Rose McDowall and Jill Bryson of Strawberry Switchblade, the 80s band from Glasgow. Their single Since Yesterday reaching number 5 in the charts. Picture: Simon Clegg.

Easton set up TeenCanteen in 2011 with three others. Hugely inspired by ‘50s and ‘60s groups like The Cookies and The Shangri-Las, she wanted to bring in the three-part harmony as a “fifth instrument”.

Easton said "quite quickly” they were advised to consider how they looked on stage.

She said: "We were four friends in a rehearsal studio wanting to explore our sound. We were told our album wouldn’t sell unless all four of us were on the cover. We thought ‘nah, we don’t need to do that’.

"We used an image of an art installation instead.”

Early promo shot for TeenCanteen, which was founded by Carla Easton (far left), whose Since Yesterday documentary focuses on Scottish girl bands through the decades. Picture: Dave Taylor.

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Documentary maker Blair Young and producer Miranda Stern are also behind Since Yesterday, which will look at girl bands that formed across Scotland from the 1960s.

Rachel Bell, 59, of The Twinsets, left Fort William with her sister Gaye “as soon as our last exam was finished” to move to Edinburgh and form a band. The early line-up included their father on drums and Teen from punk outfit The Ettes.

Bell said: “All we wanted to do was get a band together, but none of us could be bothered learning an instrument. It was easier to become a singer.”

Glasgow band Sophisticated Boom Boom, featuring singer and actress Libby McArthur (centre). Picture: Simon Clegg.

The Twinsets got three John Peel Sessions and the band, which brought in a number of male musicians, became popular on the university circuit.

Bell, a visual artist, said: "We were getting paid £3,000 a gig. We were able to hire a full horn section, we got a van, we got a PA and we had more money than we knew what to do with.”

But The Twinsets, with a Motown-inspired pop sound, were never signed.

"I don’t think people knew what to do with us – we just sort of faded out,” she said.

Stern said she had been inspired by the stories of the female music makers and the fact that “women have always broken the mould”.

She added: "Despite the fact this rich heritage is not readily available, girls still pick up instruments and form bands. They always have and they always will.”

Sisters Rachel and Gaye Bell (left to right) of The Twinsets in the 1980s with the sisters pictured more recently, with Rachel on the right. PIC: Norman Bell/Contributed.

To donate to the crowdfunder, visit Since Yesterday music documentary on kickstarter.com

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Strawberry Switchblade in July 1983
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