Filmmaker Grant McPhee’s excellent documentary Big Gold Dream told the story of the Scottish independent music scene of the late 70s and early 80s, and focused on two indie record labels, Edinburgh’s Fast Product and Glasgow’s Postcard Records. McPhee found he had many hours of interviews that he couldn’t use in the film, but they didn’t go to waste. Instead, they became the inspiration behind Hungry Beat, written together with musician and Creeping Bent label owner Douglas MacIntyre and arts journalist Neil Cooper. The story of Postcard Records has been told before, but not as in depth as it is here.
We learn more about the Holy Trinity of Orange Juice, Josef K, and Aztec Camera, and the bands in their orbit, like The Go-Betweens, The Bluebells, Altered Images, Jazzateers/Bourgie Bourgie, James King & the Lonewolves,
But it’s the story of Fast Product, and particularly the central figures Bob Last and Hilary Morrison, that intrigues most, not only because it’s a lesser-known one but because of those involved. They include not only local bands The Dirty Reds, Scars, and The Fire Engines, but also music legends The Human League, Gang of Four, and The Mekons. Set up to be similar to Andy Warhol’s studio, The Factory, and in turn influencing UK indie labels such as Manchester’s Factory, Liverpool’s Zoo, and Newcastle’s Kitchenware, Fast was as much about their manifesto as it was the music.
The book is structured around interviews, which works wonderfully as it offers various points of view. Though this leads to some repetition of information, it gives you agency in making up your own mind as to what really happened. Hungry Beat doesn’t tell just one story, or force you to believe any single version of events, and is all the better for it. Most of all, it gives great insight into a time when Scottish independent music was so influential that the rest of the industry had to sit up and take notice.
Hungry Beat: The Scottish Independent Pop Underground Movement (1977-1984) is out now, via White Rabbit Books