Bagpipes

February 18, 2012

I keep seeing some television commercial, touting some MMA bout.

With bagpipes blaring over fight footage, some participant is in the frame spouting Irish proverbs in an accent that I’m not quite sure is Irish or Scottish.

The commercial always causes me to lose the next ten minutes to two hours pondering whether this cat is supposed to be Irish or Scottish and, if he’s Irish, should his speil be accompanied by bagpipes.

I think of bagpipes, I think Scotland.

I also think of a trek to work one summer day. I must have had the four-to-midnight shift at the record store where I worked. The store was located across the street from a large college campus and there was a small meadow that I would often cut across to get there.

On this particular afternoon, I stopped, hearing bagpipes mixing with whatever I was listening to on my Walkman. I pulled the ear buds out as I shuffled through the grass and past a girl, sitting underneath a tree, playing bagpipes.

I thought to myself that it wasn’t every day that you see a girl sitting under a tree playing bagpipes.

(and it isn’t)

Here are four songs by Scottish acts…

Altered Images – I Could Be Happy
from Pinky Blue (1982)

Altered Images released a trio of albums in the early ’80s and even managed a handful of hits in the UK, but the group had little success in the States.

I don’t recall if I heard I Could Be Happy back in the day, though it’s entirely possible that 97X played the song. Produced by Martin Rushent, who had recently helmed Human League’s breakthrough Dare, I Could Be Happy is shiny New Wave reminiscent of New Order, with Clare Grogan’s perky, playful vocals juxtaposing the dark lyrics.

It’s ridiculously catchy.

Primal Scream – Movin’ On Up
from Screamadelica (1991)

There are a handful of songs that never fail to make me smile. Movin’ On Up is one of them.

Snow Patrol – Run
from Final Straw (2003)

I’ve lost track of most of the music world since the odometer hit this century for various reasons (time, or lack of, being partially responsible). However, Snow Patrol is one act since the millenium that has often caused me to prick up my ears.

There’s a brooding tension about Run that draws me in, almost hypnotically, and, when it pops up on the iPod, it’s rare that I don’t listen to the song five or six times.

Big Country – Steeltown
from Steeltown (1984)

Though just a year after becoming a sensation in the US with In A Big Country, Steeltown was greeted with a yawn in the States. It got excellent reviews and deservedly so as, even without a hit, it’s a better album than their debut.

The title track has a thunderous cadence reminiscent of In A Big Country.

It’s bone-rattling.

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