By Jonathan Trew’s own admission, Edinburgh is often regarded as playing ‘second fiddle’ to its more musical big brother along the M8. Since 2015 his company’s Glasgow City Music Tours have proved so successful that an Edinburgh equivalent has now been developed and continues to evolve, impressing upon its visitors that there is still plenty of heritage here to celebrate.
Marketed under the umbrella of the National Museum of Scotland’s Rip it Up series of affiliated events, a comfortable stroll on foot takes in the city’s keynote keystones. Stories revolve around various venues on and around our well constructed route.
Firstly, Forrest Road as “folk music central” where Sandy Bell’s is introduced as a ‘staging post’ for a thriving scene as well as erstwhile Oddfellows, now McSorley’s. The Jazz Bar brings only a brief discussion of the genre “as every music tour, by law needs a jazz section”.
Trew’s anecdotes are enlightening and entertaining, even when admittedly apocryphal (whether Trew or false!) Why did 1972’s Eurovision Song Contest end up at the Usher Hall? How did Nirvana come to play at the Southern Bar?
We stop in Laurieston Place flanked by the site of the Royal Maternity Hospital where ‘5th Beatle’ Stuart Sutcliffe was born, opposite the ECA where Bowie first became Ziggy and the Rezillos formed. Meanwhile Mike Scott and Mark E Smith chose Edinburgh University for their alma mater. Along the Cowgate more topically, Young Fathers are said to have met at Bongo Club and Liquid Room has played host to Joe Strummer, Franz Ferdinand and Arthur Lee freshly out of prison, to name but a few.
Next to 2 Keir Place, recently showcased in Grant McPhee’s Big Gold Dream as home to Fast Product of Fire Engines fame. No sirens today; instead Trew’s story is briefly interrupted by Hearts scoring in the simultaneous Edinburgh derby, the roar from Tynecastle being carried over us by the wind.
Trew happily humours any such interruptions as well as those from his audience choosing to reminisce or interject with their own reflections and cheerfully describes how this helps the tour’s script to evolve. It is the characters past and present at the centre of these stories and accounts of their time here that remain the stars of today’s show, after all.
Another record label, Zoom, was started by Bruce Findlay, famously nurturing Simple Minds while running the city’s most influential record shop, always a place to be seen for those who wanted to be heard. Lesser known ‘nearly men’ Jackie Dennis and Tam White are afforded the spotlight before the Bay City Rollers roll into town and we view the venues that platformed their platforms.
Finally the timeline is rolled right back to Scotland’s first ever ‘gig hotspot’ as our tour reaches its coda at the historic St. Cecilia’s Hall. Bookended by music Auld and Neu we leave with an upbeat feel for Edinburgh’s musical fortunes.
Photo courtesy of Jannica Honey.
For more on the Edinburgh City Music Tours click here.