DAVIE Scott returns with a new series of ‘Classic Scottish Albums’ – on BBC Radio Scotland and providing among the most illuminating anecdotes behind the nation’s best-loved albums.
Series Five comprises four programmes and covers three decades, kicking off in the early ’70s, with Stealers Wheel’s self-titled debut album, followed by a trip through the ’80s, with Love and Money’s Strange Kind of Love and Danny Wilson’s Meet Danny Wilson. It ends the late ’90s, with White on Blonde, by Texas.
The programmes are being broadcast from today and each day until Thursday, at 1405 on BBC Radio Scotland.
Producer, Esme Kennedy, answers the questions…
Who commissioned the series?
Jeff Zycinski, Head of BBC Radio Scotland. And it was made by the Radio Features department in Edinburgh.
Explain the thinking behind the production’s ‘sound and feel’
Davie and myself went through the previous programmes and were relieved to discover there is still a long list of albums which would make the grade as being both ‘classic’ and ‘Scottish’. Our criteria was to find the right balance between great music and great stories and I think, in this series, each programme delivers on both counts.
Each programme focusses on the stories behind the making of the album but often a bit of context, as to how the band arrived at that point, is also relevant. I tend to structure the programmes so the listener goes on a journey through each stage of the process, culminating in the completion of a ‘Classic Scottish Album’.
Who are the key personnel? How were they recruited?
Davie is the presenter and I am the producer. In radio, the production credit list is very short.
Lynsey Moyes is the senior producer.
Early on, I got a bit of research help from Cairi Swainson, one of the ‘BBC apprentices’, who spent a few weeks in our department and did some initial fact-finding.
But I researched, set up and recorded all the interviews.
Davie does the majority of the interviews and, as a musician, gets fully motivated by the music and is able to get the best out of his interviewees.
Each programme has a final mix with an audio engineer, and for this series they were Martin Griffin, Lee McPhail and Paul Sumerling.
What kit and software?
All of the interviews were recorded in BBC studios, except two.
Davie recorded A&R’s Ronnie Gurr from the University of the West of Scotland’s campus studio in Ayr and we also recorded some material at Cava Studios in Glasgow using my own Olympus LS-11.
Most of the interviews were recorded at Pacific Quay in Glasgow with contributors either in situ or recorded remotely via circuit or ISDN.
The interviews were recorded into VCS Highlander and then edited on SADiE, now fully integrated with VCS, which means material can be easily transferred between the two.
What have been the main production challenges?
Pinning down the best interviewees is always the hardest part.
Some of the contributors were either in studio, recording, or were on tour when I had hoped to get hold of them. So there had to be a fair bit of flexibility around interview dates. This means working across all four programmes in tandem, so it can feel like a bit of juggling act.
One of the most challenging interviews to record was with former head of A&M Records, Larry Yaskiel, who signed Stealers Wheel to his label.
Larry lives in Lanzarote and put me in touch with a local radio station whose manager, Raquel, only spoke limited English. On the day of the recording we were having difficulty connecting the line via ISDN only to discover that their ISDN unit had been removed from their studio the day before and not been returned. We had to wait until they tracked down the culprit, got him back into the studio and plugged it back in. However, Larry was great and worth the extra hassle.
What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?
I learned that people in the music business – or these contributors at least – are among the most obliging people you can work with.
When I was trying to track down a demo of Mary’s Prayer from Danny Wilson, I had three versions in my inbox within about half an hour from each of the band members. When I suggested getting hold of a multi-track of a Love and Money track, Paul McGeechan sourced exactly what I needed and when it was clear Texas had commitments of their own finishing off their eighth album, Sharleen Spiteri and Johnny McElhone still managed to free up the necessary time.
The most enjoyable stage of the process for me, however, is the edit. Once I have all the material recorded, I enjoy going through all the interviews, teasing out the story and using the album’s soundtrack to illustrate the speech.
On iPlayer, tune into the shows here.