Okay, so The Beach Boys’ seminal Pet Sounds is fifty years young this year, but we at Glasgow Music City Tours are minded to celebrate an album anniversary which strikes closer to home. Belle & Sebastian’s debut album Tigermilk was released twenty years ago this summer, heralding the arrival of a special Glasgow band, irrevocably linked to their city of origin.
Just as The Smiths got under the skin of Manchester like no other chronicler, so Belle & Sebastian portrayed their native Glasgow with an idiosyncratic urban romance, far removed from the city’s bygone hard man image. Twenty years on, there is still no one else who sounds quite like this group.
The abridged origins legend goes like this: frontman Stuart Murdoch had been writing and demoing songs for a number of years before stealth recruiting a crack team of musicians to play them. “Have you ever seen The Magnificent Seven?” asks the Tigermilk sleevenotes. “It was like that, only more tedious.”
Our guide Fiona talks about attending Belle & Sebastian’s debut gig in this short Visit Scotland film. Held in a flat which was home to assorted band members, the gig was “sold out”, so she listened in from the hallway. It was muffled, but still impressive.
For a brief moment, in her capacity as a music reviewer, she was permitted to hold and even play the test pressing of the group’s debut album, recorded as part of Stow College’s music course and released on the college’s fledging indie label Electric Honey, in a limited vinyl edition of 1000.
Given the indie baroque brilliance of the music and Belle & Sebastian’s instant cult status, copies of the album from that original pressing run quickly became desirable collector’s items. We are tickled/proud/smug to say that all three GMCT directors each own original editions, and you can see us clutching them possessively below Check out The State We Are In.
But with the album’s 20th birthday looming, we got to wondering where are our fellow Tigermilk travellers? Inspired by the fabled Blue Monday Owners’ Club we would like to put out a call to the other 997 members of what we have chosen to christen the Tigermilk Owners’ Club. We imagine it to be an exclusive but friendly body, defined partly by a love of lyrical indie pop whimsy and probably also by residency round and about Scotland’s Central Belt in the mid-1990s.
But where are you all now? And what did/does the album mean to you? Did you buy it at the time? Or sell your grandmother to acquire an original copy at a later date? Is it gathering dust, or never off your turntable?
If you feel you can claim membership of the Tigermilk Owners Club, please send us a picture of you posing with your beloved platter – accompanied, if you like, by a few lines of associated memories/stories.
Send your pics to firstname.lastname@example.org and, once we have a few, we’ll set up a Tigermilk Owners Club page on this site.
And don’t be trying to pass off any of those mass-produced 1999 re-issues as 1996 originals, or we shall be mildly miffed. We’re looking forward to meeting you all, and will post an update on the anniversary — June 6th.