Tuesday, 27 September, 2022 in Book Reviews, Books, Music

Into Books Review: Hungry Beat: The Scottish Pop Underground (1977-1984)

Book: Hungry Beat: The Scottish Independent Pop Underground (1977-1984)
Authors: Douglas MacIntyre and Grant McPhee with Neil Cooper
Publisher: White Rabbit Books

It many ways it was inevitable that this book would see the light of day after the success of the music documentaries Big Gold Dream and Teenage Superstars which Grant McPhee was behind and the Big Gold Dreams five CD boxset to which McPhee and Neil Cooper also contributed. So, when Douglas MacIntyre pitched the idea to White Rabbit, the green light was promptly given. 

And the book certainly hits the mark, covering a vital period in the evolution of music in Scotland but also the reach in particular of two independent record labels during that time, Fast Product in Edinburgh and Postcard Records in Glasgow. 

Hungry Beat is an incredibly well researched book, tapping into many of the unused recordings McPhee undertook for those aforementioned documentaries but also so much more. The two Svengalis who masterminded and plotted the success of Fast (Bob Last) and Postcard (Alan Horne) are covered well as are the myriad of bands who played on the labels or were directly (and indirectly) influenced by the post punk scene at the time such as Orange Juice, Josef K, Scars, The Bluebells, Stephen Pastel, Aztec Camera, Human League, Joy Division, The Go-Betweens and many others.

Key moments in the lead up to this period are highlighted including the White Riot tour by The Clash and the impact that had on would be musicians in the audience who went home and decided to form bands as a result of watching the punk pioneers and support groups, Subway Sect and The Slits. 

Acclaimed author Ian Rankin penned the forward to the book and said: 

‘Hungry Beat is the story of an all-too-brief era where the short-circuiting of that industry seemed viable. But hell, the times were luminous as was the music these artists made. The songs and many of the players remain, and here they tell their story and lick their wounds’.

There is passion, creative spark, rock, roll and an abundance of magical moments in this book. It showcases how important the Scottish independent music scene was as post punk exploded while similar albeit different scenes were sprouting up elsewhere in the U.K. through the likes of Rough Trade, Stiff, Zoo and Factory. 

This is already a contender for book of the year, buy it now, you won’t regret it. Hungry Beat: The Scottish Pop Underground (1977-1984) is available to purchase here


John Welsh






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