Friday, 19 September 2008

The Big Dish - Edinburgh 20 August 1988

The 'Creeping Up On Jesus' era of the band is probably the most bootlegged. That's not to say there are a plethora of superior quality recordings out there, merely decent ones like the one from Edinburgh on 20 August 1988 (venue unknown - any ideas?) This one, recorded by a mobile unit, is very listenable and took place one month before the release of the album.

The set opens, as was typical for that tour, with the opening track from the new record, 'Life', followed by 'Christina's World' complete with false ending. It's noticeable however that the band is considerably tighter than in the Liverpool show of 1985. Ignoring calls for 'Prospect Street', they debut several new songs including 'Burn', 'Jean', 'Where Do You Live'. Lindsay introduces current single 'European Rain' by suggesting the audience "may have heard it on the radio" and it receives the biggest cheer of the night. However, sections of the audience appear restless between songs and continue to holler boorishly for older numbers. Lindsay reminds the hecklers that the show is being recorded and they "should be on their best behaviour" before launching into 'Slide'. He eventually declares it's "time for some older songs" and the band offer up 'Loneliest Man', the much requested 'Prospect Street', and 'Swimmer' before rounding the show off with 'Swansong'. 'European Rain' from this show is available below.


Christina's World
Wishing Time
European Rain
Where Do You Live
The Loneliest Man In The World
Prospect Street

Thursday, 21 August 2008

The Big Dish - Liverpool 19 May 1985

I have amassed a number of Big Dish live recordings which were sourced from various places over the years. This show is the earliest Big Dish performance I could find, recorded in Liverpool in May 1985, several months before the release of the band's debut album 'Swimmer'. This early Big Dish rarity captures an exciting time for the band, about to embark on the release of their first single 'Big New Beginning' for Virgin Records. I'm not sure whether this set was a support slot for Lloyd Cole due to the its brevity. I know the band toured with him in its early days. If anyone can provide more information on this or the exact venue, please get in touch.

The gig is a soundboard recording and, as with all such shows, it's unfair to make an ultimate judgement on the performance due to the limitations of the quality. The set opens with 'Swimmer's opening track 'Prospect Street' and immediately it becomes apparent that the band's sound lacks the expansiveness of its later live shows. In fact, the sound is fairly uniform throughout with jangly guitar and bass riffs dominant. This becomes rather wearing after a few tracks.

Next up is the bouncy 'Justice' followed by a somewhat plodding 'Everlasting Faith' where the band seem out of tune. Things take an upward turn with 'Another People's Palace' with the keyboards and guitars truly complimenting each other for the first time in the set. The uptempo 'Presence', the eventual b-side to 'Slide'. maintains the monentum nicely, even if it does feature a guitar riff scarily reminiscent of Ultravox's 'Vienna'.

The set continues with an interesting paradox, a fast-paced 'Jealous' followed by 'Swimmer', introduced by Lindsay as "another slow song". The former is perfectly listenable but lacks the intimacy of later live versions (check out the live b-side to '25 Years' recorded at Barrowland), however 'Swimmer' is somewhat ponderous with lacklustre keyboards and the mid-point guitar break which is so integral to the song's appeal had yet to be devised.

The set climaxes on two high points, the band's single at the time 'Big New Beginning' and the closing 'Beyond The Pale'. Lindsay's vocal performances on these two tracks are his best of the evening and both sound vibrant and coherent.


Prospect Street
Everlasting Faith
Another People's Palace
Big New Beginning
Beyond The Pale

Brian McFie - post Big Dish

For most of their eight year tenure, The Big Dish were essentially a duo. Other than Lindsay, the other constant was guitarist Brian McFie, the band's sound being as synonymous with his playing as with Lindsay's voice. Since the band's split, McFie has remained active, playing and touring with a number of musicians including Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Marianne Faithful, Hue and Cry, Carol Laula, and Hollow Horse.

In 2007 McFie contributed guitar to one track on the Button Up album 'No Dancin' On The Tables', which also featured contributions from Justin Currie, Joseph Malik, and Ken McCluskey. McFie also plays with Chris Glen and The Outfit, an evolving group of classic rockers from Glasgow.

Steven Lindsay - post Big Dish

For ten years after the band's split Lindsay was busy working as a manager, producer and television soundtrack composer. He returned to the fold in 2002 to provide vocals on 'Let It Be Love', a stellar piano ballad on former Big Dish keyboard player Craig Armstrong's album 'As If To Nothing'. The album also contained contributions from Bono, Evan Dando, David McAlmont, and fellow Scots Mogwai.

Lindsay returned to the fold properly in late 2004 on his own Seminal label with the piano-driven 'Exit Music' featuring string arrangements by the Scottish Ensemble. Lindsay played and programmed all other instruments and the album, which received widespread acclaim. Critics noted its sparse nature was closer to the sound of The Blue Nile and was a marked contrast from the glossy feel of much of The Big Dish's work. The Guardian commented that "after a couple of spins the music starts to seep into your pores and play tricks with your emotions" while The Independent offered "Exit Music is a gloss-free, coffee-table pop record". I'm not sure if the latter is a compliment. Lindsay played a handful of gigs on the back of the album, instead preferring to concentrate on writing more new material.

Lindsay signed to Chrysalis and in 2007 his second solo CD 'Kite' was released, with the lead single a cover of The Pixies' 'Monkey Gone To Heaven'. Reviews for 'Kite' have been slightly more mixed than for 'Exit Music'. The List magazine commented that the songs were 'uniformally mournful but pleasant' and that the aforementioned Pixies cover "shows the Smiths-murdering Mark Ronson how to reinterpret a classic". However, CD Times noted that 'Kite' "for all its artfulness and lofty good intentions, is dreadful". Prior to the album's release, Lindsay gave a short interview to Londonist and this can be found here.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The Big Dish on Youtube - updated March 2009

For those who have never heard the band and those who wish to take a trip down memory lane, here a few active Youtube links for the band's singles.

The Big Dish
'Christina's World'
'Miss America' (audio)
'Prospect Street' 7" (audio)

Steven Lindsay
'Monkey Gone To Heaven'
'Let It Be Love' (with Craig Armstrong)

The Singles

Around the late 1980's there seemed to be a plethora of Scottish bands competing for a small slice of chart action, some more successfully than others. The Big Dish's prominent early singles 'Prospect Street' (released twice) and 'Christina's World' were certainly catchy enough to have maken inroads to the charts.

Furthermore, 'Faith Healer' and 'European Rain' from the band's second record 'Creeping Up On Jesus' were extremely commercial in nature, radio friendly poprock with jangly guitar and horns very much to the fore but they still didn't have the desired impact.

The Big Dish's then label Virgin Records became restless during the recording of the band's second record 'Creeping Up On Jesus', and couldn't hear the 'smash hit' they were looking for. They tried to force the band to include a cover version on the album but the band refused. By way of comprimise Lindsay wrote the commercial 'European Rain' to order for the record company and when it, and the follow-up 'Faith Healer' both failed to chart, the band's days at Virgin were numbered. A third single 'Burn' was scheduled for release at the time when the band were dropped from the label.

How ironic it would prove then that the band should have it's first Top 40 hit with 'Miss America' in January 1991, their first single for the East/West label (a subsidiary of Warner) peaking at #38. Although the follow-up singles 'Big Town' and '25 Years' failed to chart, the band appeared to be on solid ground both critically and comercially when they called it a day in 1992. Their final album 'Satellites' received considerable acclaim and reasonable sales and the band were maintaining a relatively high profile with a support slot for Level 42 and an 2 song appearance on the short-lived Friday Night At The Dome television show.

The Big Dish - Singles

* 1985 "Big New Beginning" b/w "Jealous", "I Must Be In Love"
* 1985 "Prospect Street" b/w "Something from Nothing", "Tours"
* 1986 "Slide" b/w "Reverend Killer", "Presence"
* 1986 "Prospect Street" (Re-Release) b/w "From the Neighbourhood"
* 1987 "Christina's World" b/w "Everlasting Faith", "Prospect Street '85"
* 1988 "European Rain" b/w "Voodoo Baby", "Time On Your Own"
* 1988 "Faith Healer" b/w "Be My Friend", "Country Song", "Things Fall Into Place"
* 1990 "Miss America" b/w "From The Mission Bell", "Town Celebrity", "Roll Down The Flag"
* 1991 "Big Town" b/w "Good Way", "He Stumbled On Some Magic", "Medicine Jar"
* 1991 "25 Years" b/w "Swimmer" (live), "Jealous" (live), "Refugee" (live)

Monday, 18 August 2008

He Stumbled On Some Magic

I remember hearing The Big Dish for the first time in 1988. I used to frequent Glasgow's Barras market regularly to buy the latest bootleg cassettes from unscrupulous market traders (how times have changed for the better in that regard). For whatever reason I was already attracted to many Scottish bands of the era, Love and Money, The Silencers, Hipsway, and The River Detectives to name a few. A couple of people advised me that The Big Dish was sort of the missing link between those bands and that I ought to give them a listen. So an additional £3 was spent on a decidedly average quality audience recording of one of their gigs from Barrowlands. However, I was impressed enough to purchase their second record 'Creeping Up On Jesus' shortly thereafter.

A few months later a friend taped a Radio Clyde broadcast from the Glasgow Pavilion and I was pretty much hooked from then on in. This show still features in my collection to this date and serves as an interesting overview of the band, showcasing tracks from all 3 records. The set broadcast from the 1989 Pavilion show:

Christina's World
Birdland (this track was never officially released)
Where Do You Live?
European Rain
25 Years
The Loneliest Man In The World

The band came across as fairly nervous at the time, something admitted by Steven Lindsay in subsequent interviews about the band's early live performances. However, their musicianship certainly shone through and it was a solid gig, even if Lindsay did manage to forget the lyrics to 'Burn', their proposed single at the time. It was interesting to hear 'Bonafide' and '25 Years' more than two years before their eventual release on 'Satellites'. The rarity 'Birdland' was also played, a quirkly little number presumably pencillied in for inclusion on 'Satellites' but never to be heard again. This version of this song has been posted on the band's Myspace site, which is otherwise fairly thin on the ground.

Big New Beginning

The Big Dish were formed in Airdrie, Scotland in 1983 and throughout the 1980s and early 1990s became one of the most celebrated bands in Scotland before disbanding quietly in 1992. The band polarized critics (didn't every Scottish band of that era?) but gained considerable critical acclaim for their subtle, sophisticated sound. They eventually charted with what was to be one of their final single releases on the East West label, 'Miss America', reaching number 38 on the UK hit parade.

Locating information on The Big Dish has become increasingly difficult with no dedicated website for the band. My intention is to put together a small blog celebrating the band's existence with links to interesting online articles and some of my own views on their music.

For the uninitiated, the band's Wiki entry. largely composed by myself, can be found here. It contains a short history of the band including track listings for its 3 studio albums, 'Swimmer', 'Creeping Up On Jesus', and 'Satellites' as well as the compilation 'Rich Man's Wardrobe' spanning the first two albums. The Wiki page did contain a raft of information on rare material but in typical Wiki fashion, this was considered superfluous and removed. I will endeavour to repost it on here in due course.

The other link worth a mention at this stage is to vocalist Steven Lindsay's website. Although this blog will focus primarily on his work with his former band, he has continued to make fine music, producing two noteworthy albums to date, 2005's 'Exit Music' and his most recent release 'Kite'. Among many glowing reviews 'Exit Music' gathered the Album Of The Year accolade from the Scotland On Sunday publication.