Teenage Fanclub have produced timeless music on a par with Bill Forsyth's films and Billy Connolly's comedy – Euan McColm
It’s 1986 and, as a schoolboy with pretensions of becoming a journalist, I spend my spare time writing for a pop fanzine. At the time, Glasgow is the centre of musical attention, with a new generation of performers making waves on late-night radio, so I request interviews with members of the local bands whose records I love.
Everyone I meet is kind and patient in the face of my cluelessness. I go for cheeseburgers with Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream, who sends me home with a list of records he reckons I’d be into (thanks, Bob, you were right about “Forever Changes” by Love), I have fish and chips with Jim McCulloch of The Soup Dragons who is funny and gentle as I bumble through my list of questions, and I drink milkshakes in a Wimpy burger bar with the hugely entertaining Duglas T Stewart of BMX Bandits, who has brought with him his band’s new drummer.
The articles that flow from these meetings are uniformly dreadful but I spark tentative friendships with some of those who give me their time. McCulloch and Stewart are now good pals, still making fantastic music. That BMX Bandits drummer goes on to be a confidante who has cheered my own successes and consoled me when times have been tough.
He’s Norman Blake and, three years after we meet, he and his pal Raymond McGinley form Teenage Fanclub, a band still revered by contemporaries and critics. I feel the need to declare this potential conflict of interest because I would like to put it to you that Blake is now Scotland’s greatest living songwriter (if he has competition for this accolade, it comes from McGinley).
On Friday, Teenage Fanclub release their new album, Nothing Lasts Forever. and – predictably – the reviews are uniformly and justifiably excellent. It contains all of the ingredients that make the band so special. It is, at turns, uplifting and melancholy. It tells the truth about love and about getting older and it’s quietly political at times.
Some lines in McGinley’s I Will Love You ring especially clearly, right now. “I will love you,” he sings, “until the flags are put down and the exceptionalists are buried under the ground… I will love you until the puritans smile at something somebody said that they can’t reconcile.”
When their first album, A Catholic Education, emerged in 1990, it was clear Teenage Fanclub had something special but their artistic achievements have outstripped all expectations. This is not just great pop music, this is great, timeless art that we should celebrate just as we do the films of Bill Forsyth or the comedy of Billy Connolly.
There are few perfect moments in life but, so far as I’m concerned, standing at a Fanclub gig in Glasgow Barrowlands while 2,000 people sing their debut single, Everything Flows, back at the band is about as close as you can get. Teenage Fanclub are correct – nothing does last forever – so while we have them, let’s cherish them. Do listen to their new record if you get the chance. I simply cannot imagine that you will not love it.
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