On the eve of its famous Festival, and after our recent post about the punks of Paisley, tonight we’re off to Edinburgh to take a further peek at Scotland’s girl band history.
Imagine the screen’s just gone all swirly, and we have to peer back through the mists of time, because we are now in full flashback mode.
Way back in 1964, at the height of Beatle-mania, when young girls were supposed to spend a decent amount of their spare time screaming and fainting at the Fab-Four, Edinburgh sisters Shelia and Jeanette McKinley had other ideas. Instead of screaming at the Fabs, they decided instead to form their own singing group, and after performing at Hamburg’s Star Club, the duo signed a record deal in big old London Town. Over a Spector-like wall of sound, they were, for a short time at least, Scotland’s answer to the Shangri-la’s and even appeared on the BBC television show “Ready Steady Go!” with their single “Sweet and Tender Romance”. Although they never managed to dent the charts, The McKinleys is where this trail begins, and it’s not the first time we shall hear the word, Shangri-La’s either.
By the late 1970s, punk bands were starting to leak out of every part of the UK, including Edinburgh, so it seems only appropriate that the next new girl band on the block, once again had two sisters at its core.
The Twinsets formed by Rachel and Gaye Bell combined their own love of 60s girl groups, (yes…like the Shangri-Las), but with the added attitude, and swagger of Punk. They did at least one John Peel session, and self released a cassette only single “Heartbeat” in 1983.
Rachel and Gaye Bell of The Twinsets in 1981 – pic Simon Clegg
Next up, The Ettes, Anne (guitar, vocals), Trash (bass, vocals) and Teen (drums) emerged in April 1979, and although hailing from slightly north of the city, were another of Scotland’s all girl Post Punk contenders. They claim on their slightly dusty MySpace page that they,
“Wanted to be involved in the Edinburgh band scene rather than being mere bystanders, to stand out because they were taking part in making music not because they were female”.
It almost seems too obvious to write, but this is such a common and overarching thread that seems to run through almost every post punk girl band, from whichever country and across the full spectrum; from the Runaways to the Rubella Ballet. The Ettes even wrote a track called “Cosmo Girl” to prove their point, which laid into girls magazines, especially the sort of articles that gave tips on attracting gentleman callers – purely by means of your looks. Imagine.
The Ettes were contemporaries of The Scars, The Fire Engines and Boots for Dancing.
In 1984, an Edinburgh band originally called Buba and The Shop Assistants, shortened their name, swapped the soon to be Pastels Annabel Wright, for singer Karen Parker, and released an EP called “Shopping Parade”. The track, “All Day Long” was described by Morrissey as his favourite single of that year. The track itself certainly took no prisoners, short sharp and to the point, The Shop Assistants were part of the growing post-post Punk scene delivering fast paced songs, but with melody. Shopping Parade was followed in early 1986 with another single Safety Net which peaked at number two in the UK Indie Chart, and earned them a Janice Long Session, along with a second for John Peel. In 1986, The Shop Assistants were featured on the NME’s compilation cassette C86. but split up a year later.
Another Scottish girl band we have to mention is, Sophisticated Boom Boom. Although not actually from Edinburgh, they will always be remembered for delivering a surprise post punk version of the TV Theme to “White Horses” as part of a 1981 John Peel session. AND…would you also believe that they even named themselves after a song by Scotland’s favourite, easy to reference, go-to, all-purpose girl group -The Shangri-Las!
Well they did!