Rip It Up: A Scottish Music Timeline

We look back on the history of Scottish pop music, from Lonnie Donegan and Lulu to Young Fathers, Belle & Sebastian and Mogwai

Feature by Tallah Brash & Rosamund West & National Museums of Scotland | 21 Jun 2018

The 1950s and 1960s in Scottish Music

1955: Lonnie Donegan’s Rock Island Line is released. Originally recorded by the American blues singer Leadbelly, Glasgow-born Donegan’s version is an overnight sensation and inspires a generation of musicians. “He was the man,” says Paul McCartney.

1960: Glasgow's Barrowland Ballroom opens after complete rebuild following a fire in 1958.

1964: Lulu is the first Scottish artist to appear on BBC TV’s Top of the Pops, performing her cover of The Isley Brothers' single Shout.

1964: Glasgow blues and freakbeat band The Poets release Now We’re Thru reaching number 31 in the UK singles chart.

1966: Cream, featuring lead singer and bassist from Bishopbriggs Jack Bruce, along with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker release their debut album Fresh Cream reaching number six in the UK album chart and 39 in the US.

1967: Bruce Findlay and his brother Brian open their first record shop – Bruce's – in Falkirk in 1967, going on to establish a chain of independent record shops. Its slogan was emblazoned on bags and badges until the 1980s. In 1977 Bruce Findlay sets up one of Scotland’s first independent labels, Zoom, and goes on to manage bands including Simple Minds.

1968: Donovan releases his sixth studio album The Hurdy Gurdy Man.

1969: Lulu wins the Eurovision Song Contest with Boom Bang-a-Bang.

The 1970s in Scottish Music

1970: Barbara Dickson releases her debut solo album Do Right Woman before going on to record a world famous duet with Elaine Paige for I Know Him So Well from the musical Chess in 1984.

1972: The Sensational Alex Harvey Band release their debut album Framed, which was a massive influence on Nick Cave who used to perform many of its songs in his band The Birthday Party.

1973: Gerry Rafferty and Stealers Wheel release Stuck in the Middle With You, reaching number eight in the UK singles chart. The single is perhaps best known for soundtracking the famous ear cutting off scene from Quentin Tarantino’s 1993 film Reservoir Dogs.

1975: The Bay City Rollers release their version of The Four Seasons’ hit Bye, Bye, Baby hitting the top spot of the UK singles chart and remaining there for six weeks.

1975: The Average White Band are the first Scottish band to have a US number one single and album simultaneously, with Pick up the Pieces and AWB topping the charts Stateside in February 1975.

1976: First recorded by The Everly Brothers in 1960, Dunfermline rockers Nazareth find fame with their power ballad cover of Love Hurts. Their version found further fame when Cher covered their version for her 1991 album of the same name.

1978: The Rezillos appear on Top of the Pops performing, you guessed it, Top of the Pops.

1979: Named after the protagonist from Franz Kafka’s novel The Trial, Scottish post-punks Josef K are active for just a few years from 1979, releasing singles on Postcard Records, a label launched in the same year, founded by Alan Horne and Edwyn Collins. Edinburgh post-punks The Fire Engines form in the same year.

1979: Dunfermline band Skids release Into the Valley, going on to perform it live on Top of the Pops that same year.

1979: AC/DC bring their Highway to Hell tour to Glasgow Renfield Street’s The Apollo.

1979: Weddings are never the same again after Runrig release their version of traditional Scots song – originally published in 1841 – Loch Lomond this year.

The 1980s in Scottish Music

1981: Vienna, taken from the Ultravox album of the same name is released and spends four consecutive weeks at number two in the UK singles chart never quite reaching the top spot like it did in Ireland, Belgium and The Netherlands. Oh Vienna.

1981: Altered Images release Happy Birthday, reaching number two in the UK singles chart.

1982: Cocteau Twins release their debut album Garlands peaking at number five in the UK album charts and gaining support from Radio 1 DJ John Peel.

1982: The Associates release their second album and critical and commercial breakthrough, Sulk, the final recording by original pairing Alan Rankine and Billy Mackenzie.

1983: Scottish music exec Alan McGee launches Creation Records, which goes on to release music by Primal Scream, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Teenage Fanclub, The Pastels and BMX Bandits.

1983: Orange Juice release Rip It Up, reaching number eight in the UK charts and going on to perform it on Top of the Pops.

1983: Avalanche Records opens its doors in Edinburgh, going on to close in 2016 after various location changes.

1984: Big Country release their sophomore album Steeltown; recorded at ABBA’s Polar Studios in Stockholm, Sweden, it tops the UK album charts for a week.

1984: Midge Ure co-writes Band Aid hit Do They Know It’s Christmas? with Bob Geldof.

1984: Annie Lennox is the first ever Scot to win a Brit Award, taking home the prize for Best British Female Solo Artist, going on to win that particular accolade a further four times in 86, 89, 93 and 96. To date, Lennox has picked up eight Brit awards making her the most successful Scottish person in history to be part of these proceedings.

1985: Marillion, fronted by Dalkeith-born Derek William Dick aka Fish, release Kayleigh reaching number two in the UK singles chart.

1985: Simple Minds release Don’t You (Forget About Me), made famous as it features in an iconic scene from John Hughes’ film The Breakfast Club.

1986: Edinburgh’s Finitribe release their Let the Tribe Grow EP, via Glasgow label Cathexis Recordings, featuring seminal Balearic dancefloor anthem De Testimony.

1986: The Vaselines fronted by Eugene Kelly form in Glasgow going on to release their debut album Dum-Dum in 1989 via Rough Trade.

1987: Glasgow pop band Deacon Blue release their debut album Raintown featuring the hit Dignity which peaked at number 20 in the UK singles chart.

1987: Hue and Cry release Labour of Love, from their debut album Seduced and Abandoned, which peaks at number six in the UK singles chart.

1988: The Proclaimers release Sunshine on Leith featuring the hit single I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) reaching number one in Australia, New Zealand and, er Iceland. It finally gained a UK number one in 2007 as it was repurposed for Comic Relief.

1988: Fairground Attraction, fronted by Eddi Reader, release their hit single Perfect reaching number one in the UK singles chart.

1989: Del Amitri release Nothing Ever Happens reaching number 11 in the UK charts.

The 1990s in Scottish pop

1990: Named after a character from 1970s show Clangers, Belshill band The Soup Dragons release their cover of The Rolling Stones single I’m Free which hits number five in the UK singles charts.

1991: Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl play an acoustic set in The Southern Bar in Edinburgh.

1992: Primal Scream win the first ever Mercury Prize in 1992 with Screamadelica.

1993: Oasis are signed by Creation Records' Alan McGee at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut after he sees them perform in the venue.

1994: Chemikal Underground is launched by The Delgados going on to release records for Arab Strap, Mogwai and RM Hubbert. 

1994: Edwyn Collins has worldwide success with A Girl Like You taken from his third solo album Gorgeous George charting in 15 countries and reaching number four in the UK singles chart.

1994: Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty of The KLF burn a million pounds on the Isle of Jura after quitting the music industry on stage at the 1992 Brit Awards by firing machine gun blanks into the crowd.

1994: Wet Wet Wet spend 15 weeks at the top of the UK singles charts with their single Love is All Around, as featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral, making them the longest running Scots ever to grace the top of the chart.

1995: Boards of Canada release their debut EP Twoism on their own Music70 label.

1995: Glasgow post-rock outfit Mogwai form, going on to release their debut album Mogwai Young Team on Chemikal Underground in 1997 which features a guest appearance from Arab Strap’s Aidan Moffat. The band also launch their own label, Rock Action, which shares its name with their third album.

1995: Garbage release their eponymous debut album featuring breakthrough hits Only Happy When It Rains and Stupid Girl, the latter reaching number four in the UK singles chart.

1997: Texas release White on Blonde featuring hits such as Say What You Want, Halo and Black Eyed Boy, skyrocketing them to number one in the UK album charts.

1997: Anstruther's Fence Records is founded by Kenny Anderson, aka King Creosote. The label, as well as putting out a number of releases including Randolph's Leap and Kid Canaveral, also hosted a number of festivals including Homegame, Away Game and Hott Loggz.

1998: The Beta Band release The Three E.P.s including the single Dry the Rain which featured heavily in the film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity starring John Cusack, Tim Robbins and Jack Black.

1999: Belle and Sebastian win a Brit Award for Best Newcomer, controversially beating Steps in a popular poll… and in the same year host their famous Bowlie Weekender festival at the Pontins Holiday Camp in Camber Sands featuring performances from The Delgados, The Amphetemeanies, Camera Obscura, The Pastels, Bill Wells, Snow Patrol, Mogwai and Teenage Fanclub amongst others.

1999: Travis release The Man Who featuring their hit single Why Does It Always Rain On Me? When the band went on to perform this at Glastonbury Festival that same year, it begins raining when the first line of the song is sung. In 2000 Travis win two Brit Awards for Best British Group and Best British Album.

Scottish Music: The year 2000 to the present day

2000: Idlewild release 100 Broken Windows which features four top 40 singles. In 2009 the album is ranked the number one in The Skinny’s Scottish albums of the decade list.

2002: James Yorkston releases Moving Up Country via Domino featuring additional vocals and accordion from King Creosote.

2002: Edinburgh's La Belle Angele situated in the city's Cowgate suffers from a major fire and is destroyed. The city centre venue is rebuilt from scratch and reopened in 2014.

2002: Glasgow's Monorail record shop opens.

2003: Karine Polwart releases her debut album Faultlines and wins Best Scots Singer in the Scots Trad Music Awards. Since then she’s gone on to win several awards including BBC Radio Folk Awards in 2005, 2007 and 2018.

2004: Franz Ferdinand win the Mercury Prize with their eponymous debut featuring to-this-day banger, Take Me Out.

2004: KT Tunstall releases her debut album Eye to the Telescope, going on to sell five million copies worldwide. In 2006 Tunstall goes on to win the Brit Award for Best British Female.

2004: Mylo releases Destroy Rock and Roll featuring hit single Drop the Pressure. 

2005: Edinburgh 50,000 – The Final Push is part of the worldwide series of Live 8 concerts and takes place at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium featuring performances from The Proclaimers, Annie Lennox, Midge Ure, Texas, Snow Patrol and more.

2006: Paisley’s Paolo Nutini release his debut album These Streets featuring the hits Last Request, New Shoes and Jenny Don’t Be Hasty. The album reaches number three in the UK album charts reaching 5xPlatinum status selling over 1.5 million copies.

2006: Edinburgh live music venue and multi-storey nightclub The Venue closes its doors.

2007: The Sexual Objects, featuring Davy Henderson of The Fire Engines release their 7” single Full Penetration going on to release their debut album Cucumber in 2010 partially produced by Boards of Canada.

2008: Frightened Rabbit release seminal album The Midnight Organ Fight via FatCat Records.

2009: Sneaky Pete’s reopens on the Cowgate, now as a live music venue.

2011: King Creosote and Jon HopkinsDiamond Mine album is nominated for the Mercury Prize.

2012: The Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award launches, with the first prize being snatched by Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat's Everything's Getting Older.  

2013: Lost Map Records launches from the ashes of Fence Records via Pictish Trail’s Johnny Lynch.

2013: After eight years of silence, Boards of Canada release Tomorrow’s Harvest preceded by an elaborate cryptic advertising campaign launched on Record Store Day of that year. The band premiere the album via YouTube on their website and subsequently crash their site due to high demand.

2014: Young Fathers win the Mercury Prize for their debut album Dead.

2015: Assai Records opens in Broughty Ferry, going on to open an Edinburgh branch two years later just in time for 2017's Record Store Day.

2016: The Twilight Sad hit the road with The Cure for their world tour.

2017: Optimo celebrate 20 years of throwing parties and releasing music with an all-dayer at Glasgow’s SWG3.

2017: Ripping Records closes its doors after 41 years of trading.

2017: After 29 years of being closed, Edinburgh’s grand Leith Theatre once again reopened its doors.

2018: Tracyanne Campbell (Camera Obscura) releases Tracyanne & Danny with Danny (Crybaby), produced by Edwyn Collins and recorded in his studio in Helmsdale.