Douglas MacIntyre reflects on Glaswegian post punk outfit Jazzateers and many of their peers, in the year the Rough Traders gear up for a performance at Glasgow Jazz Fest and see their Rough 46 LP given the deluxe makeover treatment.
The first time I heard the name Jazzateers was when one of my pop educators and the singer in my group Article 58, Gerri M, told me he’d seen Postcard’s newest signing playing at his school the previous night. The school in question was Holy Cross in Hamilton, the gig also featured Postcard secondnd generation group, the Bluebells doing a set. It was all uber-nascent – Gerri’s opinion was that the Jazzateers “were pish”.
However, as Alan Horne was managing and assuming a cultural svengali role with Postcard’s new sensation, it was only a matter of time before Jazzateers went national. Although they’d only played a few gigs in restaurants and schools they had determinedly bypassed Glasgow’s pub gig circuit, and were soon being fawned over and appearing in the weekly music press with NME, Sounds, Melody Maker writing features (as did The Face and many others).
Around this late 1981 period, Postcard was splintering, with Orange Juice moving to a major deal with Polydor, Josef K splitting up shortly after their debut album (The Only Fun in Town) and the GoBetweens moving to Rough Trade… However, anticipation and support for The Sound of Young Scotland ticket was high in the London media and the major label bloodhounds were sniffing more than just cocaine. Their interest in the second-gen Postcard movement was hot; and soon they were chasing anyone strapping on a Gretch Country Gentleman accompanied with an Edwyn fringe and a tartan shirt. The nouvelle vague Postcard groups were led by the magnificent Aztec Camera, who prior to their signing to Rough Trade and subsequent High Land, Hard Rain LP were a different sonic beast; incredibly young, existential, well turned out in their tartan ties, tweed jackets and riding boots, musically and literately mature. Along with Jazzateers and French Impressionists, this new Postcard sound was aping Vic Godard in his Radio 2 jazz/lounge persona.
Jazzateers in particular were wearing their bossa-nova influences as vigorously as their VU shadings. Postcard events tended to be held in obscure non-rock restaurants and cocktail bars like the Spaghetti Factory and Bensons. One of the Postcard event nights was called Bourgie Bourgie (a name that would be regurgitated by Alan Horne when he rebranded Jazzateers a year later) another night was named Apres Ski (the same name also became the title of different songs by James Kirk and Jazzateers). At these Postcard nights it would be common to see the French Impressionists singer Paul Quinn crooning (with Aztec Camera backing him) on Sinatra and Tony Bennet classics. My favourite moment was when they played the Lee Hazlewood penned single by Nancy Sinatra, Sugar Town. The French Impressionists debut recording, My Guardian Angel, was released by Le Disques Du Crepuscule on their Fruits of Original Sins compilation LP, and featured Paul Quinn on vocals, the mercurial impressionistic kingpin Malcolm Fisher on Satie-piano, Roddy Frame on guitar and Campbell Owens on bass. However, Paul Quinn was soon to become lead vocalist in Jazzateers v2.
Anticipation and support for The Sound of Young Scotland ticket was high in the London media and the major label bloodhounds were sniffing more than just cocaine.
Jazzateers v1 featured the fragile honeyed vocals of Alison Gourley, who mixed the cold aura of Nico with the distant warmth of Astrid Gilberto. This version of the group was a high point both musically and aesthetically, something I believe adroit cultural commentator Kevin Pearce will soon write about. The first time I saw Jazzateers was at a Postcard event curated at Night Moves in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street. I was somewhat nonplussed – I couldn’t make up my mind if they were really amazing or dreadful. I remember the song Moon Over Hawaii, other than that Jazzateers seemed like something you would have read about in Interview or Warhol’s From A to B and Back – urbane, intelligent, foxy and shambolic. They could’ve been the house band in Catcher in the Rye. The line up at Night Moves was impressive; Jazzateers opening the evening followed by the first Orange Juice gig after the split with James and Steven. The OJ line up for this show was Edwyn and Malcolm Ross on guitars, David McClymont on bass with Jazzateers’ Colin Auld doing a double shift by sitting in on drums. Aztec Camera were arguably at their peak during this period with their Just Like Gold and Mattress of Wire 7” singles and unreleased gems like Green Jacket Grey all in the repertoire.
The evening was headlined by the Bluebells, who at this point were the embodiment of the Lovin’ Spoonful/Byrds/Monkees pop ethos. I really loved their shows around this period, it seemed like the media and public had caught up with Postcard by this point and the Bluebells were the perfect exponents of this suede-jacketed and Donovan-capped pop aesthetic. Thus it was proved when they went on to become the most popular singles artists of all the Postcard Movement groups (something not to be sniffed at). It was exciting watching the Bluebells go overground with Dave McCulloch articles in Sounds and front covers in Melody Maker. Best of all was seeing them perform three songs on The Old Grey Whistle Test as an ‘unsigned’ group. After their appearance, drummer David McCluskey had to zoom back to Scotland for his school class in Hamilton early next morning. They were asked to support Haircut 100 on tour, playing to screaming schoolgirls and fending off advances from every major label in London. Eventually they recorded their songs with Elvis Costello in producer role, he was so impressed he asked Bluebells to support him and the Attractions on tour.
Jazzateers v1 parted company with Alison after a tortuous recording session experience for the whole group (with Giorgio Moroder’s co-writer Pete Bellote). Jazzateers had recorded a version of a song written by Moroder and Bellote called Wasted, a great disco tune originally released by Donna Summer. Edwyn Collins produced an earlier version of Wasted with Jazzateers – the recording was scheduled to be their debut release on Postcard. However the chance to re-record the song with Bellote was too good to turn down (something in retrospect they should have done)…
The first time I saw Jazzateers was at a Postcard event curated at Night Moves in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street. I was somewhat nonplussed – I couldn’t make up my mind if they were really amazing or dreadful.
Alan Horne reconfigurated Jazzateers with a new vocalist from the camp, Paul Quinn. Jazzateers v2 recorded an album with Horne producing (Lee). Again the songs of guitarist Ian Burgoyne and bassist Keith Band were the base-core of the group, with Quinn and the Rutkowski Sisters on vocals. Lee is a great record, tuning into Postcard’s avowed country and western and MOR influences, along with more outré touchstones. Sadly the album was never released, a recurring theme in the complicated and contrary ‘career’ of le Jazzateers. The story of Horne abandoning Lee and Postcard; and transmogrifying Jazzateers into Bourgie Bourgie with a Quinn/Burgoyne/Band/Auld line up to tempt major labels is another story to be told another time…
Postcard had folded with both Aztec Camera and Jazzateers signing to Rough Trade. On a personal level, I left my rural South Lanarkshire village and headed to the city. I was aged 20 and had been through the teenage existential blues with my group Article 58. We recorded an Alan Horne and Malcolm Ross produced single, released on erstwhile Josef K manager Allan Campbell’s Rational Records label. We toured England with Josef K and fell apart. Too much speed – not enough time.
Through a series of synchronistic phone calls with Steven Daly and other even stranger synchronistic connections, I was asked to move into the Holyrood Quadrant flat in Glasgow’s West End that had recently been vacated by Paul Quinn, Alan Horne and Edwyn Collins as they moved upwards and onwards to London Town. In April 1983, I had my 21st birthday party in the Quad, an event at which I met some individuals for the first time who would go on to be constants in my life thereafter. Ian Burgoyne, Keith Band, Grahame Skinner and Paul Quinn turned up at the party after a recording session for the Jazzateers debut album for Rough Trade (catalogue no.-ROUGH 46). Skinner had joined as the group’s lead vocalist when they signed to Rough Trade – his modus operandi was a cross-breed mongrel take on Lou (Coney Island Baby) and Iggy (The Idiot). Quinn’s backing vocals were equally spectacular and in the early 1990s he finally made the records he’d always promised, The Phantoms and The Archetypes and Will I Ever Be Inside of You, both recorded with the Independent Group (aka the Postcard alumni all-stars) and released on the resurgent Postcard Records.
The arch Jazzateers attitude prevailed on the inner run-out groove message on the vinyl – “home taping is killing the whale”. This statement and others seemed strangely antagonistic towards Rough Trade. The group felt Travis was less than impressed with the album and would’ve preferred a bossa nova version…
These recordings for Rough Trade manifested themselves on Jazzateers’ only release, ROUGH 46 (catalogue number). When Ian played me the tracks I was totally and utterly blown away – the influences were obvious, the humour was arch, the intelligence was obvious as was the dumb-bubblegum pop. Grahame’s Iggy vocal trip was pivotal and was the equivalent of James Williamson’s guitars on Kill City. The ROUGH 46 guitars were pure sonic speed – an amphetamine rush of Quine, Reed, Verlaine – a total Ayler attack. The arch Jazzateers attitude prevailed on the inner run-out groove message on the vinyl – “home taping is killing the whale”. This statement and others seemed strangely antagonistic towards Rough Trade. The group felt Geoff Travis was less than impressed with the album and would’ve preferred a bossa nova version more akin to Jazzateers v1. Who knows?
Upon the release of ROUGH 46, Jazzateers seared apart once more and split, like Josef K – one album and a young corpse. Quinn rejoined as lead vocalist and the group rebranded again as Bourgie Bourgie (sans Horne), with Skinner hooking up with moi to execute our Byres Road take on New York loft culture and No Wave detritus. Our new group was called White Savages after a track on James White and the Blacks Off White LP – a constant aural companion piece to the speedy goings on in the Quad. We were equally nihilistic and burned out before we set alight.
In an even greater twist of weirdness, Jazzateers were invited to perform ROUGH 46 for the first time ever at Glasgow’s ever eclectic Jazz Festival. After some preliminary communication, the original line up on the Rough Trade album decided to reconvene for the first time in 30 years.
Jazzateers will be performing at Stereo, Glasgow, on Thursday 27th June. Vic Godard will be opening the evening as special guest, and will be performing a set of jazz standards and Velvet Underground numbers backed by members of Postcard’s Independent Group – Mick Slaven and James Kirk on guitars, Campbell Owens on bass, Andy Alston on piano.
ROUGH 46 will be given a redux/deluxe gatefold sleeve, 180g reissue later in the year via The Creeping Bent Organisation.
Jazzateers play The Glasgow Jazz Fest on Thursday 27th June with special guest Vic Godard. Go see ‘em.