Let’s be frank: people probably don’t come to Glasgow to make it big. DJ forums aren’t clogged up with people asking for advice on how to move to the Dear Green Place (a sort of wet, mouldy green right now, given the amount of rain we’ve had over the last few months); it isn’t London or Berlin or Chicago, and the Macdonalds and Burger Kings aren’t full to bursting with producers from middle America or mitte Europe anxiously waiting for the opportunity to slip a copy of their latest demo under Ben Klock’s happy meal. We aren’t hanging around on the terraces of converted power stations at 7AM as the sun rises (for a start, there are only about three days a year you could do this without freezing to death). But that’s enough of the Glasgow’s good points – let’s get down to business.
Only joking. While people probably aren’t coming to Glasgow with thoughts of stardom burning in their souls, it remains livelier and more influential than any city its size, and with its history, probably has any right to be. Its industrial heritage – now almost gone – came from the shipyards and fed directly into the city’s nightlife. It’s maybe something of a cliché that hard industrial cities live for the weekend and the opportunity to escape the daily realities for a few hours, but it is also a truism. Beyond that, the heavily socialist politics of the yards fed into what was perhaps Glasgow’s first really important scene. For decades the back rooms of countless pubs would play host to folk music; social awareness and protest songs. Not for nothing was the city known as Red Clydeside.
No, people don’t come here to get famous, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come. They do, and in numbers. But the city has always had a curious gift for giving its own a platform to excel. It sometimes seems that Glasgow is a city where every second person is hustling for their art: Producers, painters, writers, designers and DJs (especially DJs) and a host of others all trying to make it. And while it’s not a huge place, and everyone tends to know each other, its large enough that there always seems to be something new, something unexpected.
As far as electronic music is concerned, Glasgow has always punched above its weight. I don’t think I could possibly list every act, every band, everyone who has done something special. Weekends are full of gangs of nights crowding out a score of venues, despite the best attempts of a thuggish council to cut the cultural throat. And despite the fact that it is the fey, jangly, indy pop of the 80s and 90s that the city probably remains best known for in the wider world, it is house and techno that far better captures the town’s quickened pulse.
Slam, Subculture, Optimo the big hitters, the most famous. Beyond that it gets silly. It still feels like a place where the concept of the Underground still has some meaning, full of people who just decided to start a night to see what happened, to play records they liked to people who might also like them. There were and are great nights elsewhere in Scotland. I’ve fantastic memories of clubs in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, but Glasgow always combined quality with quantity. The table overfloweth.
And of course, there was Club 69. Not in Glasgow – in Paisley, a few miles out to the west. In a dingy wee room beneath a curry house was and is one of the best clubs you could ever hope to find, and it still boggles the mind that such a thing could exist in a place like that. You can blabber all you want about Fabric, or Berghain, or Smart Bar. It doesn’t matter; I don’t care because I know – and so does everyone else who ever attended 69 – that the music played on Club 69 nights was next generation insanity and defined the musical tastes and loves of countless people without snobbery or elitism, or the sense that it was trying to be a cultural landmark. It achieved that with nothing more than incredible tunes and a few cans of Red Stripe.
And the cornerstone has always been Rubadub. I don’t get into the city centre often enough these days, and when I do, I don’t get much time to go record shopping, but without Rubadub electronic music in Glasgow would be a vastly different proposition. Actually, electronic music would be vastly different in the wider world too – you just have to pay attention to the DJs and producers who began paid employment there, the record labels that came together under its tutelage, to know that.
Funk D’void’s Blootered on Byres Road gets the nod tonight. Byres Road is a street in the city’s west end – a thoroughfare bordering Glasgow University, and ten minutes walk from my house. I’ve been blootered, I’ve been drunk, I’ve been mad wi’ it on Byres Road many times over the years and the tune remains a fitting tribute to two of Glasgow’s favourite things: getting jaked and listening to twisted, life affirming house and techno. I might get sick of the rain, Glasgow, but I’ll always be proud of the nonsense we’ve gotten up to together. Gaun Yersel’!