They burst onto Top Of The Pops with a pulse quickening call to arms for the post punk generation.
Thirty years ago, The Skids took the anthemic Into The Valley into the Top 10 and into the hearts of an army of fans. The chest busting chorus with its “Ahoy! Ahoy!” refrain and kinetic guitar lines raised a million air punching fists aloft.
But behind the Dunfermline band’s joyous energy was a serious message about the plight of young soldiers who enlisted to escape the worst of recession hit Britain only to find themselves under fire on the streets of Northern Ireland.
Now, three decades on, Skids frontman Richard Jobson, who’ll lead the band back onstage in a special reunion for this weekend’s Homecoming Live, insists the song is more relevant than ever.
“It’s come full circle,” he says. “Back in 1979 when Into The Valley was released, what was on my mind was what happening to a lot of kids from all over Scotland. The local industries were failing, there were no jobs and, in desperation, these kids signed up to the Army hoping they’d at least learn a trade.”
“In fact, they ended up dodging bullets on the Falls Road or the Shankill. Some of them didn’t come back, all because they didn’t want to sponge of the state and today teenagers just like those I wrote the song about are trying to escape the recession by signing up. Only instead of a career in computing or logistics, they find themselves heading into Afghanistan’s Sangin Valley.”
Richard was just 17 years old when he wrote the lyric for the song, which was originally titled Depersonalised but it wasn’t until some months afterwards, late in 1978, when Skids were in the studio recording The Saints are Coming – covered in 2006 by U2 and Green Day – that the music began to take shape.
Recording engineer Mick Glossip was on hand to help capture it. “ That was the first time I’d worked with The Skids” he recalls. “I was immediately impressed with their creativity. They were definitely in the premier league of UK punk bands along with The Clash and Sex Pistols.
“From the beginning Into The Valley seemed like a hit to me. David Batchelor, who was producing those sessions, was of the same opinion and the track got a lot of attention from him. I remember sitting with Richard and having him explain the lyrics. It all made sense after that.”When The Skids take the stage at Glasgow’s Clyde Auditorium on Saturday night, alongside Deacon Blue, Lloyd Cole and their old pal Midge Ure, Into The Valley will be the centrepiece of the set and Richard insists he’ll have no problem summoning up the passion he felt when he originally penned the words in 1978.
“I feel as angry now as I felt when I was 17,” he confesses. “The Skids were always a fiercely anti-establishment outfit. When Stuart Adamson and Bill Simpson started the band in Stuart’s bedroom in Crossgates, Fife, they were driven by the desire to do something different. In Stuart’s guitar playing we had something really unique but people forget that he also wrote the band’s earliest songs, tracks like Nationwide, Sick Club and Johnny Wants, and they were very political, very passionate songs about challenging authority and the status quo.
“They set the scene for us so as the band developed, there was no question that my lyrics also had to be meaningful and from the heart.”
Alongside Bill on bass and drummer Mike Baillie, will be Big Country’s Bruce Watson, standing in on guitar for his former band mate Stuart who died, aged just 43 in 2001.
Saturday night’s show will mark the first Skids performance since their extraordinary main stage show at T in The Park in 2007. “We’re planning something a bit special,” confides Bruce who’ll be joined by his son Jamie on the night.The gig also coincides with EMI’s release of two incredible download releases – the band’s first ever John Peel session from May 1978 and it’s follow up from August of that year. They capture the band in transition from the furious punk onslaught of their early days in 1977 to the ambitious, experimental new wave outfit that influenced U2, Joy Division and many more.
“Nothing would have happened for us without Peel’s support,” says Richard, “He was absolutely crucial in bringing us to the attention of the music industry, which was very much focused on London at the time.”
Along with live favourites such as Of One Skin and Contusion, the first session includes the notorious Skids classic TV Stars. “We invented that song during the session,” recalls Richard.
“It was part of our energy and confidence at the time that we could come up with new songs on the spot.”
That track- which featured the names of a host of 1970’s small screen celebrities including Coronation Street legend Albert Tatlock – became a highlight of Skids sets for months afterwards.
But they moved on quickly. By April 1979, just two months after the release of Into The Valley they were back in the studio with Be Bop Deluxe and Red Noise star Bill Nelson working on the single Masquerade. Soon after they reconvened at Rockfield Studios in Wales – fitting around sessions by Iggy Pop for his Soldiers LP – to record the Days in Europa album.
“As soon as we got there,” recalls Bill, “it seemed they were on the cusp of something new and adventurous .” The record that emerged traded the dense, guitar heavy style of Scared To Dance for a sound that layered synthesisers alongside Stuart’s inventive playing.
“Even though Scared To Dance became a very big album,” explains Richard, “rather than tour that to death, the record label encouraged us to follow it up quite quickly. They were all set for us to carry on with the gung-ho guitar sound of Into The Valley but by then our interests were already in other places.”
By October 1979, the band, who had scarcely signed their record deal a year earlier, had two albums in the shops and another hit, Working For The Yankee Dollar, primed and ready to go.
“That could have been much more of a Clash style song,” says Richard. “We were big fans of theirs and we’d played with them quite early in our career, but it was something else entirely. There was always a real fearlessness about the band, we weren’t scared of experimenting.”
“There was never a dull moment with The Skids,” remembers Ali Moore, who joined the band on keyboards for the Days in Europa tour. “They were a very innovative band with a great deal of energy. Playing tracks like Animation, Working For The Yankee Dollar and Charade live was a pretty unforgettable experience.”But even before Christmas 1979 they were moving on again. With new drummer Mike Baillie officially recruited, The Skids were already looking forward to a third album.
“By the time I joined, they were really firing on all cylinders,” recalls Mike. “I’d been in a few bands before that but I’d never really experienced the kind of situation I found myself in The Skids where things moved at a very intense pace. At that point, I think very few bands could have kept up with them.”
By spring 1980, they were installed in Richard Branson’s Manor Studio in Oxfordshire working on The Absolute Game, with Mick as producer.
“Stuart and I talked about what we liked from the previous work,” recalls Richard “and we started to mix the sound of Scared To Dance with the experimental elements of Europa and it resulted in what was, I feel, our best work.”
Stuart in particular was on brilliant form, delivering some of his best playing of his career. "He was improving all the time,” remembers Mick. “Stuart was on a mission to find a new style of playing, one that rejected all the clichés. He preferred to concentrate on great melodies.”
Incredibly, by the time of The Skids last hurrah – 1981’s ground breaking Joy album – the band had split, packing in four LP’s, a string of hits and hundreds of explosive gigs in just four years.
But the reaction to their 2007 reunion was so overwhelming that the organisers of Homecoming Live couldn’t resist coaxing them back on stage one more time.Richard, who’s now an acclaimed movie director, has just finished filming a project with Emma Thompson called The Journey. The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft has written the title song for the film, about human trafficking from Eastern Europe.
After the Homecoming Live gig, Jobson will begin work on his next big screen project – about young soldiers returning home from Afghanistan. It will be called, what else, Into The Valley.
“ I think it’s important to talk about decent people who are taken into a horrific situation,” says Richard, “and then find themselves treated appallingly when they come home. I’ll shoot it for zero money if I have to but it’s a story that need to be told. I’ve been thinking about this stuff more and more recently, It’s what The Skids were rebelling against back in 1977.”
“Now it’s worse, people have become so judgemental. It’s all about four people sitting behind a desk saying, you’re ok, your shit, you’re going home. That shouldn’t be what life has become so, this weekend, The Skids will be going back Into The Valley, and believe me, we’ve all got something to say about that.” Tim Barr
GLASGOW BELONGS TO THE SKIDS Since the magnificent Skids 3oth Anniversary celebrations in that magical week in July 2007, I have come to expect the unexpected from The Skids.
To be honest, The Homecoming show did not appeal to me in the slightest, then whilst sitting in a local pub in Dunfermline, after suffering the madness of a weekly shop in Asda, my mobile phone rang. It was the mighty Michael Jobson, brother of Richard and managing director of MJM.
Michael informed me that The Skids had been approached to play The Homecoming show and had of course, accepted the invite.
The Skids were to play a short, and to the point set and would be joined on stage by The Gospel Truth Choir.
As a rule of thumb, Smid and I attended a couple of the rehearsals at The Substation, Rosyth, which are always a blast, with the band on top form, you could physically feel the excitement in the room.
Richard, was full of fun and mischief when speaking about the show claiming he would “kick the shit out of Hue and Cry and steal their slot.”
On the day of the show, the faithful met up in Glasgow around lunchtime and enjoyed the usual mad banter over a few lemonades. To be fair, we were all excited to be seeing our favourite band again, even if it was only a short set, we’d savour every minute.
We arrived at the Clyde Auditorium around 15 minutes or so before The Skids were due to take the stage, and if my memory serves me correctly, it was James Grant that was playing as we took to our seats.
I recall saying to Elaine, “are we in the right place?” I mean, you could hear a pin drop, it seemed so prim and proper to me.
Then the lights dimmed, and that familiar intro to Of One Skin started ringing out, then absolute bedlam. I remember a mass of people jumping from their seats (including me) and racing down to the front of the stage.
The stewards, in a panic, were trying to stop fans but eventually gave up, The Skids had arrived and boy, didn’t Glasgow know about it.
Jobson had the crowd in the palm of his hand as the band belted out the hits such as Masquerade, Into The Valley and a stunning version of A Woman in Winter.
When leaving the stage, Richard said, “I wanna do this again,” leaving fans wondering if he ever would, I mean, he did insist that T In The Park would be, “for the last time.”
As you would probably expect, the troops left the Auditorium straight after the Skids set and headed to the bands hotel for more lemonades.
A short time after, the band arrived to a rapturous applause, they knew they’d nailed it that night. After chewing the fat with the band for a while, the troops, still buzzing from the show, made their way back to their hotels.
Checkout the video below from the show taken by Malcolm Button.
Thursday, 17th December, 2009
Skids Frontman to Head City Arts Festival
AN ARTS festival in Dunfermline is to be headed by Richard Jobson, singer, film director and TV presenter.
The Skids vocalist will be curator of the Fifer Festival in March, part of a year-long programme organised by the council entitled, 'Celebrating Fife 2010: One Year of Culture'.
The event is described by the council as, "An eclectic, exciting, not to be missed, 'once in a lifetime' programme of music and arts events, workshops, master classes, 'an audience with', and film showings, celebrating and showcasing the illustrious career of Richard Jobson - presented by Richard and supported by special guests."
Richard Jobson and his band came to prominence during the punk explosion of the '70s and enjoyed hits such as 'Test Tube Babies', 'Masquerade' and 'Into the Valley'.
He enjoyed a successful career later as a TV presenter before moving into film direction with movies such as 'Sixteen Years of Alcohol' and 'New Town Killers'.
The Skids reformed in 2007 for home town concerts at the Glen Pavilion and then a performance at T in the Park. They were back in action recently for the Homecoming Scotland concert in Glasgow.
Other events planned in Dunfermline include an exhibition of local heroes in the Carnegie Library and art in shop windows, where artists will display their work in unused shop fronts.
'The Bruce Festival', a celebration of the life of Robert the Bruce will be held in Pittencrieff Park in August and promoted by Events Scotland around the world.
Councillor Joe Rosiejak, chair of the City of Dunfermline area committee, said he hoped the events would appeal to all ages throughout the whole community.
"2010 will be a fantastic year for the city of Dunfermline and indeed for Fife and there really is something for everyone on the programme," said Mr Rosiejak.
"I hope people support our year of culture and help make it a year to remember and I'd like to thank everyone who has been involved in organising these events."
Launching the year of culture, council leader Peter Grant said, "2010 is for everyone.
"There are events for all ages, tastes and interests.
"Fife Council is proud to have made a substantial investment in the year-long programme.
"I am sure this will help attract many more visitors to the Kingdom and I hope they will take time to discover our many hidden gems while they are here."