I love Scottish Pop. If Spearmint hadn’t already written a song about it (it’s on their 2001 LP A Different Lifetime) I would have. But it’s fair to say that Scotland’s role in the development of punk and indie bands has been largely swept under the carpet over the years. Big Gold Dream goes a long way to rectifying this and sets out the vitally important part Scottish independent labels Fast Product and Postcard Records played between 1978-82. It takes mavericks to start bands and record labels alike. Throughout this film, Big Gold Dream shows us that Scotland had more than its fair share of both.
Film maker and music lover Grant McPhee has assembled a stellar cast of talking heads to reflect on what exactly did go down during more chaotic and idealistic times. Davey Henderson (Fire Engines/Win) cuts a particularly enigmatic figure as he explains, with some regret, just how his music career never quite happened the way it should have. Fast Records supremo’s Bob Last and Hilary Morrison are (rightfully) cast as visionaries of the rapidly-evolving late 70’s Scottish music scene, although it’s fair to say that some of Bob’s more controversial ploys have caused divisive reactions over the years (his pivotal role in the breaking up of the original Human League is covered here with a great Martyn Ware interview). But Bob was onto something and the Edinburgh-based label gave the world The Gang of Four, Fire Engines, The Mekons and perhaps most importantly, Scars-one of the most influential Scottish bands of this period. I wasn’t particularly aware of them before watching the DVD, but their story is told via former band members detailed recollections. It’s heartbreakingly great.
A short while later, and operating on the East coast of Scotland, Alan Horne launches Postcard Records from his Glasgow flat. As the story progresses, the two labels quickly become intense rivals. Alan Horne was famed for his dislike of the London music industry, but disdain for the bands on his own label is somewhat harder to fathom. Aztec Camera’s Campbell Owens observes this whilst casting a weary eye over goings-on at Postcard HQ in the early 80’s.
Big Gold Dream traces a line through to Factory and Creation Records, with Joy Division’s Peter Hook and Creation label boss Alan McGee giving their own thoughts on the influence of both Fast and Postcard. Built more for the short term than major chart success, the legacy of Scottish indie pop is proudly proclaimed over this wonderful ninety-minutes. An illuminating watch even if you don’t religiously know all the bands.
Grant McPhee treats his subject with warm-hearted respect and the story cracks along at a fair pace-never lingering too long over uncomfortable subject matter although grievances do get aired. In places the story is horribly poignant as some of the artists were woefully ill-served by their tenures on the indie scene. But, this being a documentary about Scottish bands, there’s also humour and pathos. Nobody seems to feel too sorry for themselves-even if careers were dashed horribly quickly. As a musician myself, I was left with a feeling of what could have been for a lot of the acts involved. Interestingly, the film’s stronger characters are revealed as both tyrants and saviours. Ego can carry you a long way in the business of music. But you’ll always need a good song. And the sound of young Scotland had these in spades.
As soon as the new Vinyl Revolution record shop opens its doors in 2017 you can bet we will be stocking this DVD. Long live the Big Gold Dream!