Scots band’s lost tape released 40 years after classic US gig

The Sutherland Brothers play at the Rainbow, London, in 1974, three years before the newly discovered tape was recorded in California. Photograph: Andre Csillag/REX/Shutterstock
The Sutherland Brothers play at the Rainbow, London, in 1974, three years before the newly discovered tape was recorded in California. Photograph: Andre Csillag/REX/Shutterstock
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They were one of Scotland’s most loved bands of the 1970s whose song Arms Of Mary, about a young man’s first love, reached the UK top 10, became a massive international hit and has since been covered by a host of music A-listers.

Now a rare recording of Sutherland Brothers and Quiver performing at the Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, on 19 February 1977, has been unearthed in an attic by one of the band members after being stashed away and forgotten about more than four decades ago.

The band’s performance at the Winterland Ballroom – which was one of rock’n’roll’s most iconic venues for rocks artists and where Martin Scorsese filmed the documentary The Last Waltz – was one of the highlights of their career.

Brothers Gavin and Iain Sutherland, born in Peterhead and Ellon, in Aberdeenshire, and whose father was a musician in a local dance band, set off for London in 1970 to seek their fortune. In 1973 the Sutherland Brothers joined with Quiver.

Gavin Sutherland, 65, singer-songwriter and bassist, describing his reaction to listening to the tape reel, which he vaguely recalled someone handing over to the band after he, his brother, Tim Renwick and Willie Wilson came off stage, said: “The immediate thing that struck me was the energy of the band and the crowd.

“When you’re playing live there’s this utter feeling of freedom you don’t get in a studio. We were enjoying ourselves, gigging hard.

“The stand-out song from that performance was Iain’s song ‘Real Love.’ I thought to myself ‘we weren’t too bad.’

“We always had a good crowd but the American crowds really get involved. The Winterland Ballroom is an iconic gig, a “must do” with rock bands.

“We played places like Madison Square Garden, the Hollywood Bowl, the Cavern in Liverpool and the Apollo in Glasgow a couple of times, The Glasgow crowd was always magic.

“Willie Wilson found the old reel-to-reel quarter-inch stereo tape in a box his attic a few months ago. There was nothing written on it but out of interest it got played and narrowed down from the set list where it was recorded.

“It was still in good shape and we got it mastered for release as a download so people can listen to it on things like iTunes, Amazon mp3, and Spotify.”

Sutherland, who composed a host of songs including ‘Sailing’ which became a worldwide hit for Rod Stewart in 1975, has just released Wireless Connection, a new solo album on the MIG Music label.

He said it was a more reflective body of work about how people connect with one another.

“When my kids hear the words ‘wireless connection’ the first thing they think of is the internet. With me it was me and my brother listening to the Radio Luxembourg hit parade on the transistor on a Sunday night in the bedroom we shared.

“It connected me to the big, bad world and while I was listening to people like Little Richard, the Stones and the Beatles, I thought ‘that seems to me to be an acceptable kind of job’ and I left school at 16.

“When you’re young there’s more angst in your songs.

“I’m a different person now, I’ve become more mellow, more positive and this shows in these new songs. An angry young man is quite cool, an angry old man is just a pain in the arse

Sutherland added: “One of the new songs, The Thistle And The Rose, is about me having an English mum and a Scottish father and being somewhere between the thistle and the rose. For a football match I’m blue all the way.”