Rip It Up – Inside the Simple Minds of Scotland’s Musical Geniuses

When thinking of popular music in Scotland, what comes to mind? Does one wonder about those extra 500 miles you’d be willing to walk just to be the man who walks a thousand miles to fall down at your door?

Maybe you reminisce about being around loved ones belting out Loch Lomond Hogmonay or the Paulo Nutinis and Simple Minds of the world come to mind. These are all great examples of what makes music in Scotland great, but they are just a few drops in a great ocean of musical magic, and diving beneath the surface reveals a vast magnitude of songs, genres and artists dating back to the dance hall days of the 1930’s. Enter Rip It Up, an exhibition celebrating Caledonian musical creativeness.

Working alongside BBC Scotland, the National Museum of Scotland has put together an exhibition that takes audiences on a journey through popular music history in Scotland. One of the foremost surprises about this exhibit is discovering all of the bands and artists that were born in Caledonia. It may surprise fans of legendary Australian rockers AC/DC  to learn that the iconic Young brothers were born in Cranhill, Glasgow, alongside original singer Bon Scott, who grew up in Ayr.

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AC/DC Guitarist Angus Young, who was born in Glasgow. Photo by Ed Vill.

Walking through the decades, this exhibit features many interactive portals, from jukeboxes to music videos, giving the visitor a chance to learn about the early days of Scottish folk, with key figures such as Hamish Imlach, to Billy Connelly’s short-lived group The Humblebums. 

Scotland is a great ocean of musical magic, and diving beneath the surface reveals a vast magnitude of songs, genres and artists dating back to the dance hall days of the 1930’s.

As the exhibition travels forward in time, the faces and names become more recognisable. Instruments and memorabilia from bands who became successful worldwide are proudly displayed behind thick glass and “no photography allowed” signs, from custom Bay City Rollers guitars to the sunglasses Ultravox singer Midge Ure wore during the iconic Live Aid event. It features striking visuals, from old punk rock posters to stadium gigs projected on walls, and the ever-changing playlist of great Scots artists, from In a Big Country to Many of Horror.

Rip-It-Up curator Stephen Allan explains why it is relevant to start at the very beginning and work towards where we are now in music history: “Between the objects, the AV and the music, people will be able to learn more about their favourite artists and see their treasured objects up close, but also to discover music that is new to them in a whistlestop tour of over six decades of Scottish pop.”  

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Musical Scots legends Simple Minds. photo by Stefan Brending

Many of the artists included in the exhibit were interviewed and feature on various videos played there. A continuous theme that emerges from these interviews is the sense of community and respect bands had for one another. Anyone who has lived in Scotland will be painfully aware of the cold, wet nights that can plague many of our months. Along with boredom, unemployment and creative energy, this seems to have sparked many bands that started in the working man’s clubs of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and went on to perform on the prominent stages all over the world.

Allan explains why this exhibit will relate to a wide audience: “Popular music is a shared experience and a really important one in many people’s lives. We want the exhibition to capture people’s imagination and allow them to reflect on their own experiences of listening to and enjoying music.”

Shirley Manson from the bands Garbage and Goodbye McKenzie applauds the National Museum of Scotland for recognising the depth and influence of Scottish artists: “Scotland has long deserved an examination of its rich musical heritage, the effects of which can be heard all over our globe today. While music is universal, and Garbage is an international band, being Scottish is a large part of who I am and has had a huge bearing on my work and our career.”

Scotland has inspired many bands that started in the working man’s clubs of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and went on to perform on the prominent stages all over the world.

A visit to this exhibit is essential for any young musician looking to turn their talent into a lifelong adventure or for the die-hard music fans who grew up with posters of these musicians hanging on their bedroom walls. Those who came before, and continue to create, are all represented under the banner of creative Caledonia. The exhibit will close on November 25, so be sure to catch it, before they rip it up and start again.

More Information on Rip It Up can be found here

As well as the main exhibition itself, students from our very own Napier University will be performing a night of Scottish songs from artists featured at Rip It Up, on Thursday 25th October. Tickets for the event, held at Summerhall, can be found here

 

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