In 1989 I was on tour with Deacon Blue when we played at the Royal Court in Liverpool almost a month after the Hillsborough disaster. People in that city were clearly in shock and we received many letters in the dressing room from members of families who were grieving. Some of the people had been planning to come to our gig that night never made it and we were asked to remember them at the show. When we went on stage the standing crowd started to bombard us with flowers until the apron at the front was covered. Half way through the show I felt we had to deal with the emotion running through the hall. We played a song called Take Me To The Place and, even as I write this, the tears are coming to my eyes. There was a raw emotion in that room which, once we named how much we were all shaken by what had happened to the whole city, rose to the surface. Our song barely over the entire theatre sang us ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.” We stood and listened. As it ended I turned round to see if the band were ready to get the gig going again as, by now, I was in pieces at the front of the stage. I’ll never forget turning round to my fellow musicians and seeing they were as emotionally wrecked as I was. It took an almighty push but we managed to get through that show and , as often happens, peoples’ spirits seemed lifted by the power of music.
I write this because the memories of that night have flooded back to me over the last few days when I happened to be in Liverpool on Wednesday morning as the city waited to see if their long search for the truth had finally borne fruit. What have I have found humbling in these intervening 23 years is how accepting people have been of any support at all. Often I have felt that anything I add in the way of solidarity is hardly going to make any difference. That is to misunderstand the nature of this people-led commission. Simply by telling their story as widely as possible they have brought together parents, brothers, sisters, friends and fellow travellers to join with them on their search for the truth about what happened to those they loved. I’m very glad of the welcome Liverpool has always given me and I want them to know how much I admire them for keeping faith that justice will finally prevail.
As I talked about all of this to various friends in the city yesterday I was reminded of how important songs are in keeping people going. On Friday we’ll play something for the people of the one of the world’s great musical cities.
Centres of musical excellence are a common theme on our show. We’ve featured Portland Oregon, Brooklyn and, of course, Nashville but this week we’re taking in Stockholm. When I first went there a few years ago I tapped into a thriving music scene with writers, producers and artists all burrowing away in studios. Not only that but it was great to discover that instead of electronica background muzak filtering from hotel stereos I distinctly noticed a great mixture of acoustic and roots music being played. I have to say that spoke volumes to me. Here was a culture that clearly valued the thing which brings us all together round the radio every Friday; the song.
This week we get to catch up with two artists from Sweden who epitomise the creativity of that great epicentre of pop music. First Aid Kit have made two albums and are creating a stir around the world. Like us, and unlike their parents they love country music. They came in to AC Towers and played us live versions of songs from their latest album and a few weeks ago I caught up with them for a chat. We talk about the records they listened to, meeting and working with Mike Mogis and get the truth of how to rebel when your parents love punk rock and you dig Hank! In keeping with the spirit of First Aid Kit we’ll celebrate with some great country duets.I’m sure you can suggest a few yourself on the Facebook too.
Not only that we’ll hear some great new music from Houndmouth, State Broadcasters, Calexico and one of our favourite friends, Tift Merrit. We will, of course, celebrate country and Americana and play tribute to one of the country greats who sadly passed away while we were off air during the summer – Kitty Wells. It all starts at five past eight on BBC Radio Scotland at five past eight.
This is Americana Awards time in Nashville. Because of that the great Bob Harris is over in Nashville. I’m delighted to say I’m sitting in for Bob on his early Sunday show for the next two weeks. This Sunday my special guest is Karine Polwart who will be playing tracks from her new album Traces and picking some music she’s been listening to recently. I’ll play music by BB King, We Are Augustines, Chuck Prophet and Those Darlins. Do listen in if you are up…..it’s on BBC Radio 2 from Midnight on Saturday.