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Guest Blogger: Francis Macdonald

francis macdonald

We’re delighted to welcome the first of our guest bloggers: the multi-talented FRANCIS MACDONALD – Scottish BAFTA nominated composer and songwriter, record label manager, and general music gentleman around town, who’s worked with everyone from Alex Chilton, Edwyn Collins, Belle & Sebastian and The Pastels to Kevin Ayers, Kate Rusby, Max Richter and the Cairn String Quartet. Oh aye: he plays drums in Teenage Fanclub, too.

We asked Francis what his favourite Glasgow music venue was. We’re running his answer in two parts this week. Part Two – in which Francis reveals his favourite venue, and why – is right here. Over to Francis.

My best Glasgow venue? Hmm. I could go for Steve Earle’s favourite venue in the world – Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom… Playing a sold out ‘Barras’ for the first time in Oct 2000 with Teenage Fanclub remains a personal career highlight. Indeed it goes some way to softening the forlorn memory of the ruination, in December 1987, of my beloved dark green houndstooth Harris tweed jacket, bought for £3 from my school classmate Danny O’ Connor whose sister had bought it for him at the old Paddy’s Market. I think I thought it made me look like a Kink or a Smith and I wore it to see The Pogues at The Barras but, saturated with post gig sweat – mine and seemingly that of my 1,899 excited fellow revelers (well it was Christmas and Kirsty MacColl came onstage for the best Christmas song ever, and no I don’t mean Mistletoe and Wine, then Joe Strummer popped up with London Calling…) – I ignored the Dry Clean Only advice and stuffed it in the washing machine. Tragic. It was a great jacket.

Where was I? Oh yes. I could go for the good ol’ 13th Note Café where my one time country band Radio Sweethearts held a fortnightly club for what felt like a modest eternity. The highlight of our run was the Glasgow solo debut of the late, great John Herald. The late, great Alex Chilton was the catalyst. Alex made me a compilation tape that included some tracks by John’s Greenbriar Boys. This version of Alligator Man continues to knock my socks off.

Radio Sweethearts once supported the late, great, teetering Townes Van Zandt at the esteemed King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut. We had a wee Hank Williams two-song sing-song with him at the side of the stage after the show (another wee vignette with which to bore my grandkids). Apparently Townes had asked the promoter for an American ‘pint’ of some kind of white spirit, but was supplied with a Scottish draught pint glass of vodka or gin or whatever it was. Judging by the nick of him he seemed to make a good fist of it either way.

Or there’s Glasgow Royal Concert Hall where, in my mature years, I have supped on more refined pleasures: various Celtic Connections opening concerts; Philip Glass’s live soundtrack to Dracula; or the sublime Randy Newman who graciously accorded with a note I left for him at the stage door. I asked him to dedicate “Jolly Coppers On Parade” to the lead singer-songwriter of Camera Obscura (whom I manage). Thus spake Randy during the second half, “This one’s for Tracyanne who’s learning it – all six chords of it”).

You could have heard a pin drop but for the sound of the unsuspecting Ms. Campbell’s jaw skelping the floor. Thanks, Randy…(To be continued!)

 Part Two of Francis’s blog is right here. In the meantime, check out his website, where you will find details of his latest, widely acclaimed and quite gorgeous, new album “MUSIC FOR STRING QUARTET, PIANO & CELESTE,” featuring musicians from the renowned SCOTTISH ENSEMBLE, which was recorded here in Glasgow at Mogwai’s Castle Of Doom studio.

Francis will also be playing live on Friday as part of BBC Music At The Quay.