Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
- David Pollock
- 22 June 2018
Fun, comprehensive and rich illustration of contemporary music in Scotland
'I didn't expect to become a museum exhibit while I'm still alive,' joked Emma Pollock, formerly of the Delgados and still one of the directors of highly regarded Glasgow indie label Chemikal Underground, while we were discussing this exhibition shortly before its opening. She also made a poignant and not inaccurate point about a show like this – which bears a remit covering the last half-century of changing musical styles – signifying an era which is now on the wane, of pop stardom for quirky outsiders and indie labels forging international success for themselves because they've managed to press a bunch of vinyl records.
Yet in a museum setting, Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop feels not just exciting and current, but every bit like the blockbuster which the National Museum of Scotland intends it to be. It's fun, comprehensive and rich in detail, marrying stories of the artists involved with well-sourced artefacts which illustrate something of their sound and personality. As bland a point as it is to make, there really is something here to keep at least every adult entertained, with the timeline taking in Lonnie Donegan in the 1950s and beat groups the Poets and the Beatstalkers, through significant artists of the 1980s, '90s and '00s like Deacon Blue, Simple Minds, the Chemikal Underground stable and those names associated with King Creosote's Fence label.
Significant exhibits include the raincoat which Midge Ure wore in Ultravox's Vienna video; a striking flower-patterned playsuit worn by Shirley Manson of Garbage; a couple of frankly fearsome can-can girl automata with stage lights for heads which Franz Ferdinand used as props; the large, red-lit banner of their own name which Texas took on stage; and a pair of cymbals which have rather worryingly been pounded to bits by Young Fathers' drummer Steven Morrison (who, we are told, has regularly dislocated his arms due to his playing style).
There is much social history to be discovered, from communal elements including the old ballrooms of Glasgow and Edinburgh, to the closing diorama of live video performances from T in the Park, to a very welcome appearance by Glasgow's Optimo (Espacio) and the Sub Club. There are also pieces on song in a Scottish accent and from a political perspective – each element focused around the Proclaimers – and it's pleasing to see the part on Scots folk history translated into Gaelic.
One notable omission of a show which is otherwise comprehensive appears to be the Numbers stable, and artists including Hudson Mohawke and Rustie; but it draws a tear, to be honest, when Scott Hutchison and Frightened Rabbit appear near the end. Otherwise, no stones have been left unturned, no sounds dismissed, and anyone with an interest in music – regardless where the physical and cultural borders lie around it – is thoroughly advised to see this show.
Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop is at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, until Sun 25 Nov.