Sometime in the early 90s I'd flown to Madrid in an attempt to rekindle a romance with a Spanish girl I'd met in England. Things were going well until we turned down a backstreet one day, and, plastered on a wall, was a poster advertising a Teenage Fanclub gig at a club in the city. Woah, this was too good to be true. I'm in a foreign country, beautiful place, beautiful food, beautiful girl and one of my favourite bands are playing in two days. What more could I want?
'What do you mean it's the same night as your friend's birthday?’ I ask. I didn't know her friend let alone she had a birthday coming up.
The gig was blinding. The Fannies were bang on form as usual and I'm glad to report that the love affair is still blooming. I've no idea what happened to the girl though.
Teenage FC's forward line of Norman Blake, Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley have been banging out classic guitar pop for getting on for 30 years now. Drawing on such influences as Big Star, The Velvet Underground, Neil Young, Orange Juice et al, they have continued, albeit sporadically, to produce a back catalogue of soaring melodies, rock-out mosh pit fillers and subtle, intelligent, nod along charmers.
Here's a look at the many facets of the best Scottish export since McEwan's.
God Knows It's True
Where it all started for me. I happened across this on some indie music TV show in 1990 and loved it's hook and clanging guitars and bought the EP it's from the next day. Never heard anything by Teenage Fanclub before? Start below, press play and there's no going back.
The Fannie's debut album, A Catholic Education was heavy on the grunge vibe and they were being favourably compared with the likes of Dinosaur Jr. This beauty though stands apart from other tracks on there with a simple, blissful guitar sound that remains a gig encore favourite and Teenage Fanclub’s unofficial anthem.
Taken from their breakthrough 1991 album after having signed to Creation, this slab of perfect pop is one of a number of brilliant, humour-filled tracks on there. By now they were getting name checked by the likes of Kurt Cobain and U.S music mag, Spin, voted Bandwagonesque album of the year ahead of Nevermind. With labelmates Primal Scream and My Bloody Valentine also releasing their own stonkers in the same year, the Creation label was flying.
Power-pop guitars and sweet vocals combine to make this a real highlight from 1995’s Grand Prix. After the lukewarm reception to the previous offering, Thirteen, they upped their game and came roaring back. With songwriting duties being spread around the band this is one of Gerard Love's finest efforts.
Big Star you say? This is The Fannies doing what they do best. Pure, unabashed and exhilarating. This is Teenage Fanclub.
Ain't That Enough
From Songs From Northern Britain, a track so sun-drenched you have to apply Factor 50 before playing it. With more than a passing nod to The Beach Boys this is where Caledonia meets California and proves that sweet Scottish pop doesn't have to mean a warm can of Irn Bru.
I Don't Want Control of You
Feeling uncomfortable being lumped in with the Britpop crowd after Grand Prix, the band deliberately took the piss with the tounge in cheek title of the album, Songs From Northern Britain. A magnificent collection of maturing songwriting. This is a great example of a band at the top of their game.
Another Songs From Northern Britain classic. Layers of guitars and blankets of vocals thrown on top of each other. It's all about the harmonies man. Just joyous.
Buried as a B-side to 'Ain’t That Enough’, this was written by Norman Blake and ranks amongst the best things the band have ever recorded. Far removed from the grunge and noise of their early days it's a simple piece with a repeated mantra of lost love threaded through its core, ‘Your heart has been broken again, it's broken, it's broken’
I Need Direction
This is a Byrds, Big Star, mid 60s Dylan organ lick mash-up. The harmonies are closer than a Glasgow football rivalry. The Gerard Love penned opening track to Howdy, their only release on a major label.
My Uptight Life
Bringing it down a touch with another plucked from Howdy. Raymond McGinley takes the credit here telling of life being a shitload better than it once was.
From the band's eighth album, Man-Made, which they released on their own label. A gentle acoustic introduction leads to a folk rock Crosby Stills & Nash trip and culminates with a sprinkle of Spanish-like guitar. Juliana Hatfield would later cover this.
He'd Be A Diamond
Of all the magnificent noises The Fannies have ever made, it's a cover version that really is as good as it gets. They've covered a wide array of artists down the years, The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd, Madonna's 'Like A Virgin’, Big Star of course. That Madrid gig? Big Star's 'Free Again’ was a thing of beauty. This rare gem however, originally by The Bevis Frond somehow shimmers more than others. If you only have time for a couple of things today then listen to this. Twice.
I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better
This is a live performance from the mid 90s TV show, The White Room. It captures everything I love about Teenage Fanclub - acknowledging a band who have been a huge influence on their career. They're having fun up there, the crowd are smiling and with Norman donning a black turtleneck I reckon this just about out- Byrds The Byrds. Jangle on.
Darkest Part Of The Night
And finally, from the new album, Here, instantly recognisable Fannies. Sentimental without being syrupy. It's a guitar and harmony combination that could slip effortlessly into any of the last five albums. They're still making wondrous sounds with shorter/less hair and conservative knitwear as the Teenagers slip comfortably into Middle Age. Flows magically - doesn't everything?
Teenage Fanclub have just released their new album, Here. Buy it on their website.