The things enjoyed at thirteen years old rarely prove satisfying when we grow older but I’ve always liked Glasgow band The Bluebells, strong melodies and the whisper of melancholy in the lyrics squeezed my heart then as they still do now, apparent to me even at such a tender age. Some people smile when I say I like The Bluebells, I can’t be certain why but can imagine. Pop isn’t a dirty word to me, it’s a joy. Pop is neither hip nor cool, but I myself never slotted in either category anyway so it suits me fine, we get on together well.
Fine pop music indie or commercial, is like a genre book to be loved as much as any high art. Who says what is high or lowbrow art anyway? I listen to no one’s opinion on that but I’ve been listening to The Bluebell’s first album, the flawed and messy “Sisters” (what might have been if only...) for the last thirty years or so and enjoy the songs still. “Sisters” was the only material available to me apart from a nice compilation album of the singles and b-sides, random Old Grey Whistle Test clips on YouTube, any other snippets leaked and released in Japan (everything gets released in Japan) never made it to me. So it’s just been “Sisters” and the compilation for me until this summer when “Exile On Twee Street”, the 20 song CD (or 10 song vinyl edition) of demos from 1980 – 82 landed on my doormat.
I was always going to love this album, of course I was, there’s a delicious inevitability to these things. Clever indie pop, yes pop goddammit, with tunes and everything, the sound of working class youth albeit from a generation ago. There’s a real thrill to it for me; the working class, non-Camden voice is silenced and mocked more now as ever was, told to get back in its box and know its place, I find that sad, it’s beautiful to be reminded things haven’t always been this way, and we can speak.
We made the trip to Exile On Twee Street’s launch at Mono in Glasgow last weekend because we’ve never been to the city, just passed through, and I’ve never seen The Bluebells play, they split up by the time I was fifteen or thereabouts. Glasgow reminds me of Liverpool so much, its river and architecture, its people not afraid to express an opinion – and every record shop has Scott Walker albums in it; the ones with no remote trace of a single hit.
We ate at Mono, I asked if everything on the menu was vegetarian.
“Yes it is. Don’t worry,’ smiled the waiter. ‘You’re safe here.’
The Bluebells sound checked, I sipped wine as they sang, and ate the best veggie burger in the world ever, then had the best of nights afterwards, a gig I’ve waited thirty years for. I have a vinyl copy of the album now (it’s blue vinyl, of course; I’d expect nothing less) to sit happily alongside “Sisters” and be played and loved, often.
I love Glasgow, me; and my home too. I live happily on Twee Street wherever I find myself.